(Above photo taken by Amanda Staley at Shawnee State Park.)

No matter the season, no matter the time of day, a run around a lake is always incredible.

At least, that’s what I found while I attempted to run one mile at all 121 Pennsylvania State Parks in 2021. My so-called 121 In 21 Challenge took me to so many beautiful trails in the commonwealth. Some of the most splendid were around lakes.

Lakes are always teeming with life, below and above the surface. The beautiful surroundings make miles fly by as you take in the best nature Pennsylvania has to offer.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most magnificent trails around lakes I found.

Codorus State Park – La Ho Trail
Codorus State Park’s La Ho Trail is a great place to rack up some miles without ever being far from bathrooms, water and supplies.

The 1.5-mile trail is fairly easy with limited rocky and rooty sections. The trail is primarily a single-track path that hugs the hillside following the shoreline of Wildasin Flats.

Be sure to wear sturdy trail running shoes as a few trail sections ascend steep terrain and portions of the trail can be muddy. Matter of fact, maybe bring an extra set of socks just to be safe.

Cowans Gap State Park – Lakeside Trail
Located in Fulton County, Cowans Gap State Park provides 13 miles of trails. The most popular is the Lakeside Trail. Runners along the 1.5-mile trail will find a mostly fun and flat area perfect for fast runs.

Cowans Gap Lake and the surrounding natural beauty provides amazing scenery no matter what season you run the Lakeside Trail.

Photo by Josie Smelko taken at Canoe Creek State Park

Canoe Creek State Park – Beaver Pond Trail
Ok. Yes. The Beaver Pond Trail at Canoe Creek State Park isn’t around the lake per se, but it is great. This easy 0.9-mile trail takes runners around ponds located along the east side of Canoe Lake.

The well-worn trail meanders through thickets and fields along gentle slopes. If you want to crank up the mileage, you can connect the Beaver Pond Trail to others in the Blair County park.

After you’re done, break out the binoculars for great birding opportunities.

Locust Lake State Park – Bike Trail
Schuylkill County’s Locust Lake State Park provides visitors with so much. Hiking, boating, swimming and campgrounds are just a few of the amenities. One of my favorites is the 1.3-mile Bike Trail that surrounds Locust Lake.

Be sure to bring your road running shoes as the trail is paved. If you’re looking for more challenging terrain, the park contains miles of running trails. After soaking in the incredible views of the lake, take a dip in the lake.

Varden Conservation Area – Pond Loop Trail
At just 0.73-miles, the Pond Loop Trail at Varden Conservation Area is easy to miss. And even if you knew about it, most runners need more than 0.73 miles for a workout. But trust me, make the trip to Wayne County for this trail.

Located on the Tannery Tract of land in the conservation area, the Pond Loop is awesome. The easy, flat trail winds through a variety of scenery. You’ll run through forest and prairie areas around Middle Creek. Add multiple loops to get your mileage up.

Little Pine State Park – Lakeshore Trail
Unlike the other trails on this list, the Lakeshore Trail in Little Pine State Park is neither short nor easy. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources warns visitors that “These trails require a hiker to be in good physical condition.” It labels the Lakeshore Trail as “most difficult.”

This flat but challenging trail is 5.5 miles long and features smooth undulating curves perfectly cut into the landscape. Instead of a trail on the land, this is a trail in the land. The shaded trail parallels Little Pine Lake and features some rocks and roots to avoid while running. Though I only ran one mile on this trail, it turned out to be one of my favorite.

Photo taken by Maggie Murdoch at Shawnee State Park

Shawnee State Park – Lakeshore Trail
Nothing will put spirit back into your weary running legs like an excellent lakeside trail. That’s exactly what the Lakeshore Trail at Shawnee State Park did for me one March morning. The 3.4-mile wide, flat trail showcases everything this great park has to offer. Natural beauty, historic buildings and plenty of opportunities to enjoy your surroundings.

This comfortable run is a great place to set a trail personal best or fast trail loop. Then again, maybe you take it slow and enjoy the ever-present beauty.

Christian AlexandersenChristian Alexandersen ran one mile in each of Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks in 2021 and has been sharing with us stories and tips from his journey!  To read more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers, visit our News page.

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Pennsylvania Lakeside Trails Perfect for an Afternoon Run