5 Places To Explore the Great Outdoors Near Lancaster, PA

This article is written and contributed by Sparefoot.com.

Nestled amid miles of beautiful rolling farmland, Lancaster, Pennsylvania offers nature lovers boundless opportunities, from a myriad of hiking and biking trails to a day spent paddling the nearby Susquehanna River. Located only a short drive from Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Lancaster’s natural beauty makes it a perfect spot for a peaceful getaway. While Lancaster is probably best known as the center of Pennsylvania Dutch Country with its thriving Amish and Mennonite communities, the city of Lancaster and surrounding Lancaster County are full of natural wonders for you to explore.

Chickies Rock County Park

Just a short, 20-minute drive from downtown Lancaster, Chickies Rock County Park sits on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The 422-acre park is best known for Chickies Rock, a huge quartzite rock outcropping looming 100 feet above the river and offering views of three counties. Hikers and bikers can take advantage of trails to Chickies Rock, Breezyview Overlook in the park’s southwest corner, as well as the fourteen-mile Northwest Lancaster County River Trail that runs along the banks of the Susquehanna through Chickies Rock County Park.

Lancaster County Central Park

Lancaster County Central Park, located in southern Lancaster, is the largest park in Lancaster County at 544 acres. The 12 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails pass through fields, into woods and alongside creeks. Environmental and outdoor education programs are offered by naturalists at the park’s Environmental Center. Visitors can take advantage of the recreational facilities, including a swimming pool, skate park and pavilions, as well as the Shuts Environmental Library, featuring more than 3,000 books about nature. The park is also home to the Kurtz Mill Covered Bridge, one of Lancaster County’s 29 covered bridges.

Columbia Crossing River Trails Center

The Columbia River Trails Center is a great launching point for paddlers and boaters wishing to spend time on the Susquehanna river. During warmer months the center, which sits right at the river’s edge, has an outfitter that rents canoes, kayaks and bikes, and offers shuttle services. In addition to boat rentals, visitors can learn about the river’s historic, scenic and recreational stories through the center’s rotating educational exhibits. The center is located in Columbia River Park, only 20 minutes from downtown Lancaster.

Horse-Shoe Trail

For hikers and equestrians looking to cover some serious mileage, look no further than the 140-mile long Horse-Shoe Trail. The trail, open to both foot and horse traffic, stretches through five counties in Pennsylvania. The Lancaster County portion runs between Route 501 and Route 322, north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This section is a mostly wooded trail that features a view at Eagle Rock lookout, small waterfalls and beautiful rock formations. Travelers can find maps and a trail guidebook through the Horse-Shoe Trail Club’s website, hstrail.org.

Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve

The 85-acre Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve is about a 25-minute drive from Lancaster and is a haven for wildflower hunters and bird watchers. In the spring, the preserve sprouts over 100 varieties of wildflowers, including yellow and white trout lily, trillium, hackberry and white wood aster. In the summer, there are over 20 types of ferns and summer wildflowers. Bird watchers will delight in the over 50 species of birds sighted on the preserve including the Eastern Wood-Pewee, Pileated Woodpecker and Yellow and Black-Billed Cuckoos.

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Rachel Vogel