There is nothing quite like having running water as the soundtrack for your hike or run.
The sounds of a nearby creek, stream or river provide a rushing and whooshing rhythm that brings up thoughts of exploring untamed lands. During my 121 in 21 Challenge, I ran a mile at all 121 Pennsylvania State Parks. My favorite runs were often those that were within ear-shot of running water.
Here’s a breakdown of my favorite trails near running water:
Ohiopyle State Park: Ferncliff Trail
One of the coolest places to run or hike in the state is the Ferncliff Trail in Ohiopyle State Park.
This rocky, difficult trail brings runners and hikers within feet of the Ohiopyle Waterfall as well as several rapids in the Youghiogheny River. Beware of the slippery boulders as you make your way. Be sure to bring your phone for some great photos along the cliffs.
Oil City State Park: Gerard Hiking Trail
There’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of Oil City State Park — which makes it a hidden gem for Pennsylvania hikers and trail runners.
With 52 miles of trails, Oil City State Park is the perfect place to soak up Pennsylvania’s natural beauty. The moving water of Oil Creek — which bisects the 6,250 acre park — is just what you need to hear after too much time in cities.
Though I missed out on running on it when I was there, the Gerard Hiking Trail is a 36-mile long trail encompassing the entire park. Oil Creek runs along the entire trail, giving you a chance to spot wildlife and early-morning fisherman.
If you don’t want to hike or run that far, use the five connecting loops that split up the trail.
Jennings Environmental Education Center: Black Cherry Trail
Jennings Environmental Education Center has more than 300 acres of forests and prairies for those looking for hikes and runs.
The half-mile Black Cherry Trail follows Big Run, a small stream that flows through the park. You can hear the gentle movement of the stream as you make your way through the park. Want a longer trail? No problem.
The trail system was designed as a series of loops, with trail signs at every intersection. That means you can choose a variety of hiking and running experiences to make your run as short or as long as you like.
McConnells Mill State Park: Hells Hollow Trail
For most Pennsylvanians, McConnells Mill State Park is out of the way. Located in Lawrence County, McConnells Mill encompasses 2,546 acres of the spectacular Slippery Rock Creek Gorge.
Hells Hollow Trail provides runners and hikers with a half-mile path that goes along Hells Run and ends at Hells Run Falls — a spectacular waterfall. The groomed trail offers great opportunities to take pictures and take in the beauty of the area. This is the sort of trail I wish was 20 miles long. It’s amazing.
If you want something a bit longer with more difficult elevation, take the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. Both can be accessed from the Hells Hollow Falls parking lot.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park: Creek Trail
In my opinion, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is an underrated park. It has places to run, hike, bike, ski, skate, swim and camp. And while there are several miles of trails to experience, I really enjoyed the Creek Trail.
Located along the western edge of the park, the Creek Trail winds past vernal ponds aside the Mountain Creek. The bubbling of the creek is the perfect accompanying music to your heartbeat as you make your way through the pine-covered trail.
While short at just a half-mile, pair this trail with other trails for a longer run or hike.
Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center: Henry’s Woods Trail
I absolutely fell in love with the Henry’s Woods Trail when visiting the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center.
Big beautiful trees tower over the trail that runs along Bushkill Creek. The immensity of your surroundings are only felt when you get onto the trail and away from civilization. It is just magnificent.
At 1.6 miles, the trail is good for all skill levels and used primarily by hikers and runners. Feet hurt after a long run or hike? Take a dip in the creek at one of it’s access points along the trail.
Reeds Gap State Park: Unnamed trails
Aside from awesome camping, Reeds Gap State Park provides well-maintained trails and a great place to lose your cell phone signal and enjoy your run.
Follow marked trails along Honey Creek for a fun run covered by large hemlocks and white pines. Ferns and mushrooms are located along the sometimes rocky and rooty trails.
While there’s only 3 miles of trails, you can loop them together for a much longer distance.
Christian Alexandersen ran one mile at each of Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks in 2021 and has been sharing with us stories and tips from his journey. To more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers, visit our News page. Stay tuned for more!