Go Take A Hike
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 11:57

Written for Harrisburg Magazine
Spring, 2004


Hike 1Unless you toss down 6 teaspoons of cod liver oil per day or take Vitamin D supplements, your body is probably deficient of the sunshine vitamin, particularly after a long winter of an early setting sun and considerable amounts of cloudy days.

Sunlight is our leading supplier of vitamin D. And why, you ask, do we need vitamin D? The sunshine vitamin, nicknamed this because our bodies use ultraviolet radiation (UVB) from the sun to make vitamin D, has been found to prevent prostate, breast, ovary, bladder, and stomach cancers, just to name a few. Severe vitamin D deficiencies are linked to Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, soft teeth, slow healing, insomnia, rickets and muscle cramps.

What function does vitamin D have in our bodies? Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and carries it across cell membranes. (www.nlm.nih.gov) This ensures strong bones and teeth, and a happy nervous system, which is why sunshine-free people are often, depressed people… we’ve all heard of the winter blues.

Well good news, my low-level vitamin D companions, the spring equinox has arrived and with it, she has returned with sunshine, greenness, and generous opportunities to absorb vitamin D while burning calories and checking out some beautiful places not very far from home.


Even if you aren’t the outdoorsy type, Pennsylvania is a naturally captivating state and you should venture to the forested, scenic areas to see what is being freely offered for your mind, body and spirit. You don’t have to be an experienced backpacker, or even a backpacker for that matter, to explore the great outdoors. Below are some descriptions of just a few of my favorite places in Central Pennsylvania to catch some Vitamin D…

"Leave nothing but footprints, Take nothing but pictures, Kill nothing but time."

Longer Day Hikes

Pine Grove Furnace State Park (Southern Cumberland County)
Hike: Tumbling Run Nature Preserve
Difficulty (1-10): 6
Location: Just off I-81 on Rt. 233, Gardners, PA 17324
Website: www.dcnr.state.pa.us, www.michauxrecreation.com
District Ranger’s Office at Michaux (717) 352-2211
State Park at (717) 486-7174

Tumbling Run

Tumbling Run, located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, is one of many trails located inside the 85,000-acre Michaux State Forest. This portion of Tumbling Run is a 2-mile hike, round trip, with roughly a third of that being uphill. The trailhead is located off Route 233 and is easily spotted by the parked cars, and a white sign marking the county line boundary between Adams and Cumberland Counties. You’ll know you’re on the right path when you walk across the creek over a small, handmade bridge that usually consists of a few logs lashed together. After crossing the main creek there will be a small side stream that flows from the top of the mountain and which is the source of all the delights up ahead. You will want to cross this little creek about 50 feet up from where you crossed the bridge so that the creek is on your left as you walk up.

Tumbling Run 2The walk along the creek soon reveals the voice of the water as it dashes over increasingly large falls until the forty-foot crescendo of the main falls is revealed near the top. If you enjoy the sound of water, Tumbling Run is a must. You can stay on the trail and enjoy a shady walk amongst dense foliage or maneuver in and along the creek and rocks toward the same destination, Lewis Rocks. Tumbling Run has a wide range of scenery to enjoy, including sunny meadows where wild flowers grow, slow-moving pools of water with rocks and trees, and shaded groves of pines rising along mountains ridges.

Bring a snack for your rest atop the Lewis Rock boulders so you can enjoy the view of the South Mountain Range while replenishing your energy for the easy stroll back down. Supplies? Wear hiking boots, sneakers will work, but boots are better for ankle protection, and dress comfortably. Pack a small backpack with a water bottle (I suggest two), some snacks, and a camera.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park exists today as the remains of the Pine Grove Furnace Iron Works, a thriving stone blast furnace community from 1764-1893. The park offers a diverse experience for the whole family as well as individuals with features such as two lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing, and numerous trails, including the famous Appalachian Trail (AT), for hiking. Don’t forget to visit the ironmaster’s mansion, the general store, the old stone furnace, and the International Youth Hostel (IYH).

The Pinnacle
Hike: The Pinnacle overlook off of the Appalachian Trail (Hamburg, PA)
Difficulty (1-10): 7
Location: Hamburg, PA off I-78 (Old Route 22 to Reservoir Road)
Website: www.localhikes.com or www.hikepa.com


The Pinnacle Trail, located in the town of Hamburg in Berks County, PA, is widely considered to be the best view from the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. The trailhead begins near the city reservoir, and takes you to the Pinnacle, an area that boasts an elevation of nearly 1,200 feet and a 200-degree arc of far-reaching views, all while standing atop huge boxcar-like boulder outcroppings. This hike will take 5-7 hours, round trip, with moderate levels of hiking.

Pinnacle Trail HeadPark at the gate of the reservoir, and head up the gravel road. You’re on this for about a quarter mile until you see the AT trail coming in from the left and heading right. Follow the AT to the right across a small bridge over a creek. Here the AT will head right, but you will continue straight on past the reservoir, which should be on your left, to where you will begin the uphill climb. Tall pines and a mountain stream make this fairly steep 2-mile section, an enjoyable first half of the walk. When you arrive at the open meadow, the climbing part of the hike is over. After a break, head right on the AT for an easy walk along the mountain ridge. At about three miles from the field, a 200-foot blue-blazed path bends to the left toward the Pinnacle. Pulpit Rock outlook (AKA, Dan’s Rock) is another 2 miles to the right continuing on the AT, so if you have time, return to this spot and work your way to this smaller but still impressive vista along the AT.

Walking out onto the large boulders that make up the Pinnacle, which extends beyond the trees is a breathtaking experience. These rocks make for a nice napping spot, but the air can be considerably cooler than the parking lot, so pack a light jacket or sweater in cooler weather. The bird’s eye stance provides a view of charming PA farmland, the Blue Ridge, a view east to Allentown, and north to the Poconos. If you’re lucky, a hot air balloon will float by against a backdrop of blue sky. Bring lots of water, some good snacks, a camera, and wear your hiking boots.

Ricketts Glen State Park (Pocono Mountain Region)
Hike: Glens Natural Area
Difficulty (1-10): 7
Location: 30 miles north of Bloomsburg on PA 487
Park Manager (570) 477-5675.
Website: www.dcnr.state.pa.us or www.visitccpa.com

Ricketts Glen State Park, located in beautiful northeastern Pennsylvania, is a full day’s adventure, and a perfect weekend getaway. The 13,000-acre state park shelters Glens Natural Area, a registered natural landmark that weaves hikers in and out of rock clefts surrounded by cascading falls, lush vegetation, old growth timber, bald eagles, and a variety of wildlife. Fallen trees have unveiled rings indicating 900-year-old lifetimes for some. The largest in the series of waterfalls is Ganoga Falls, a 94-foot “wedding cake” waterfall, because it resembles the tiers of a wedding cake as it falls.

There are a series of trails around the falls that total five miles and offer hikers a variety of ways to enjoy the magnificent landmark. You may choose to hike .7 miles on the Evergreen Trail or nearly 2 miles to Waters Meet (the location where two branches of Kitchen Creek meet and move through Ricketts Glen). Hiking the loop around the entire area takes 2-3 hours, depending on how often you stop to shoot photos. Hiking boots, rain gear, and a camera are all recommended pack items. If you want to get close to Ganoga, put on a raincoat—the mist at the bottom of the falls will drench you. Even if the sun is out and temperatures are reaching the high 70’s, the air is significantly cooler around the falls. Be sure to layer your clothes!

Some of the features of Ricketts Glen State Park include, but are not limited to camping, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, and boating. A weekend of camping and hiking would be an ideal springtime getaway, whether in a tent or one of the rental cabins. But don’t take my word for it; Ricketts Glen is considered one of the most scenic areas in all of Pennsylvania so go see for yourself.

Shorter Hikes/Other Local Trails (Perfect for after work or a Saturday morning)

Pole Steeple Trail: Difficulty (1-10): 7
Located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the Pole Steeple trail has a significant amount of steep hiking, but round trip, the trail is less than 2.5 miles. Once you are at the base of the rock cliffs, there is an easy 75-foot rock scramble up through a natural cut in the rock. You’ll occasionally spot climbers on the face of the rock and sometimes a snake or to basking in the sun. The entire state park, including Laurel Lake and the South Mountain range, is seen from the gorgeous vista atop the rocky quartzite of Pole Steeple.

Waggoner’s Gap: Difficulty (1-10) 3
Waggoner’s Gap, “Hawkwatch” is no more than a ½ mile walk, guided by yellow hawk feet. The hawkwatch itself is situated on narrow rock ledges that offer few comfortable seats but an outstanding view across the great Cumberland Valley. Bring something comfortable to sit on and a camera. Located 6 miles northwest of Carlisle, PA, Waggoner’s Gap is off route 74.

Waggoner's Gap

Hawk Rock: Difficulty (1-10) 4
This trail moves along a portion of the AT. The scenery along the climb is enjoyable, though steep, and leads you to an extraordinary view of the Juniata River flowing into the Susquehanna. You’ll also spot Sherman’s Creek, which flows into the Susquehanna below Duncannon. The trailhead is located 15 miles north of Harrisburg at the Duncannon exit off of 15 North.

Peter’s Mountain: Difficulty (1-10) 3
This short, easy hike is snuggled into a pleasant part of the AT. Parts of the trail to Peter’s Mountain are miles long and very difficult. I recommend the mile hike to the first outcropping where the beautiful view from this ledge overlooks the Susquehanna. Follow 322/22 North to the exit for Rt. 225 North toward Halifax to the signs for the trailhead.

Peter's Mountain

Governor Dick Tower: Difficulty (1-10) 2
Located in Governor Dick Forest near Mt. Gretna in Lebanon, Governor Dick Tower is at the end of a ½ mile, easy hike through pinewoods of fern and fungi. Climb inside the nifty 66-foot double-laddered tower to the “birdcage” at the top to catch the sunset and to enjoy a far-reaching view of five counties on a clear day. The trailhead is about a ½ mile from downtown Mt. Gretna off Pinch Road.

Gov Dick Tower

Chickie’s Rock: Difficulty (1-10) 2
Chickie’s Rock offers a fantastic view of a large bend in the Susquehanna River from a cliff on which you’ll occasionally spot climbers. The trail itself is brief and easy, with honeysuckle and wildflowers, and a great view of the sunset. The trailhead is located close to York, PA off of Route 30, about a 30-minute drive from Harrisburg.

Chickie's RockChickie's Rock Outlook