If you’re interested in hiking or trail running, it can feel quite intimidating to take your first steps in the woods.

But just because you may not yet be comfortable in Pennsylvania’s 2.5 million acres of park and forest land, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience amazing natural beauty. There are plenty of trails that don’t require a knowledge of orienteering, equipment or trekking into the woods.

Here are some great trails to check out if you’re new to hiking and trail running:

Kinzua Bridge State Park: Knox & Kane Rail Trail
In addition to offering one of the most spectacular views in the Commonwealth, Kinzua Bridge State Park also serves as the trailhead for the Knox & Kane Rail Trail.

The 7.5-mile crushed limestone surface trail is an easy trail for beginners as it has limited elevation, a comfortable surface to walk, hike or run and a very defined path. While the path will be much longer when completed, the current trail provides a great opportunity to get out in nature for first-timers that are not yet ready for a deep forest hike.

Delaware Canal trailDelaware Canal State Park: Delaware Canal Towpath
You will have ample opportunities to see wonderful scenery and wildlife during a hike or run along the nearly 60-mile long Delaware Canal Towpath in the Delaware Canal State Park. Paralleling the Delaware River between Easton and Bristol, this diverse park contains miles of shoreline, 11 river islands and a 50-acre pond.

The crushed stone trail was once used by mule teams that pulled boats along the canal. During a brief run on the Towpath, I saw a family of turtles sunbathing on a log and a giant-winged heron taking off. Keep your eyes peeled for stunning wildlife.

Swatara State Park: Swatara Rail Trail
One of the easiest ways to get into hiking or trail running is by taking a stroll along one of Pennsylvania’s awesome rail trails. The Swatara Rail Trail in Swatara State Park provides 10 miles of a relatively flat and easily navigable trail.

While the trail has variable surfaces — like dirt, gravel, and pavement — it offers a great opportunity to runners and hikers to be surrounded by nature without ever leaving “civilization.”

Lehigh Gorge State Park: D&L Trail
While I was running a mile at all 121 PA State Parks in 2021, one of the standout parks for me was Lehigh Gorge State Park. The park features a deep gorge carved by a river, thick vegetation, rock outcroppings and waterfalls.

The D&L Trail gives runners and hikers the chance to see beautiful scenery and wildlife. Instead of worrying about running between roots and rocks, the abandoned railroad grade provides the perfect surface for those just getting into hiking and trail running.

Presque Isle State Park: Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose National Recreation Trail
Though I would recommend any of Presque Isle State Park’s dozen-plus trails to first-timers, the best for those just getting into trail running and hiking is the Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose National Recreation Trail.

The 13.5 mile paved trail is ADA accessible and is popular with bikers and runners. Located along the main park road, this trail is great for seeing the incredible beauty the park has to offer without ever getting lost in the woods.

The trail can be a bit breezy since it’s located along the shores of Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay. Bring a light jacket to stay warm.

Christian Alexandersen

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!

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Want to hike without going into the deep woods? Try these!