Top 16 Trails for Hiking, Biking & More in Lancaster County, PA
Your guide to rail-trails, nature preserves, and hiking spots
Home to well-maintained rail-trails, preserved natural spaces and challenging hikes, Lancaster County is a year-round destination for active travelers. Below is our guide to the best hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and more in Lancaster County.
5 Year-Round Trails to Explore
Paralleling the Susquehanna River for 11 miles, the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail is one of the most well-developed and maintained in the region. Start your journey at the Columbia Crossings River Trail Center and head north through the towns of Marietta and Bainbridge. Ideal for cycling and running throughout the year, the trail opens to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
The Conewago Recreation Trial runs five miles along the former Cornwall-Lebanon rail line. The trail connects with the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail at the borders of Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, creating a 19-mile trail network that’s perfect for hiking, running, cycling, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
The recently completed Warwick-to-Ephrata Rail Trail connects three of Lancaster County’s most vibrant downtowns – Lititz, Akron and Ephrata – via an eight-mile trail along the former Reading and Columbia rail line.
The largest public green space in the county, Central Park features more than 13 miles of interconnected multi-use trails. Hiking and snowshoeing are permitted on all trails while select trails are open to off-road biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
Stretching from the Susquehanna River in the west to Atglen, Chester County, in the east, the Enola Low Grade Trail features 29 miles of trails built on a former railroad bed. A few gaps still exist, but the five mile western section along the Susquehanna is ideal for bikes, while the 10 miles from Quarryville east to Atglen are open only to hikers, walkers and runners.
3 Seasonal Trails to Enjoy
Bikeworks offers guided bike tours around the quaint small town of Lititz, PA. For those looking for a more adventurous ride, the Lititz Bikeworks is home to a cyclocross course – an off-road course that is open from spring until late fall.
Located along the border between Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area was created to help boost Pennsylvania’s waterfowl population. It features 16 miles of hiking trails, including more than eight miles of the famed Horse-Shoe trail that connects Valley Forge to the Appalachian Trail. Access is restricted during fall and winter when the game lands are open to hunters, reopening every March for the annual waterfowl migration.
Open to hikers only, the Conestoga Trail system offers more than 60 miles of trails that cut a north-south path through Lancaster County and to the Maryland border in York County. The orange-blaze trails are maintained by the Lancaster Hiking Club. Sections of the trail cross state game lands and should be avoided during hunting seasons.
8 Open Space Preserves to Wander Through
The Lancaster Conservancy is dedicated to preserving natural lands throughout Lancaster County. Many include hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties. Be aware, hunting is permitted in designated areas of select tracts. Below is a partial guide to the open spaces managed by the Lancaster Conservancy.
1. Climbers Run Nature Preserve, Pequea
Includes 2.0 miles of trails lined with native wildflowers and trees. Waterways in the preserve are open for fishing seasonally but hunting is not permitted at any time.
2. Ferncliff Wildlife and Wildflower Preserve, Drumore
A 1.4-mile hike to the river and back is easy along an unpaved road that’s closed to motor vehicles. Wildflowers are plentiful along the walk in spring, summer and fall. Because it is a wildlife preserve, hunting is prohibited at all times.
3. Kellys Run Nature Preserve, Holtwood
Kellys Run features some of the most difficult hiking in the county. The Conestoga Trail System runs through the preserve for 1.6 miles and is part of a 3.5 mile loop trail that climbs from a low of 180 feet to more than 700 feet at its highest point. The preserve also features connections to other trails in the Pinnacle Scenic Overlook and Holtwood Nature Preserves. This preserve is open to hunters in-season.
4. Pinnacle Scenic Overlook Nature Preserve, Holtwood
Home to one of the best views in Lancaster County, the preserve offers 2.75 miles of interconnected moderate-to-difficult hiking trails. (You can skip the trails and go right to the scenic overlook, but where’s the fun in that?). This preserve is open to hunters in-season.
5. Reed Run Nature Preserve, Pequea
Reed Run offers a 3.1-mile loop in the highlands along the Susquehanna River and connections to the Conestoga Trail System. Extend your hike by taking the CTS to House Rock Nature Preserve and the incredible scenery of the House Rock Overlook. This preserve is open to hunters in-season.
6. Texter Mountain Nature Preserve, Cocalico
At 1,180 feet, Texter Mountain is the highest point in Lancaster County. The namesake nature preserve offers more than two miles of hiking trails that cross streams and springs. The preserve is open to hunters in-season.
7. Turkey Hill Nature Preserve, Columbia
Though only 27 acres, the Turkey Hill Nature Preserve features a 3.5-mile trail with two scenic overlooks along the Susquehanna River. Hikers can return via the Enola Low Grade Trail, an easy 2.5-mile walk in the flatlands along the river. The trail is open to archery hunters in-season.
8. Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve, East Earl Twp.
The four miles of trails at Welsh Mountain also connect with more than three miles of trails in Money Rocks County Park. The preserve is open to hunters in-season.
3 Preserved Farmland Bike Routes
Grind that gravel beneath your bicycle’s wheels and take in the countryside with a ride through rural Lancaster County. Lancaster Farmland Trust’s savviest cycling friends helped create unforgettable bike routes on some roads less taken for more scenic and peaceful rides alongside preserved farms.
The 18-miles route travels through the heart of Lancaster County’s Amish. There are a number of opportunities along the way to stop at roadside stands, shops, and more. With miles of quaint country roads and bustling main streets, you’ll certainly appreciate the work of Lancaster Farmland Trust in maintaining and preserving the open spaces and farming heritage of our beautiful region. There are some decent hills on this route, most notably on Mentzer Rd. after passing your last ice cream opportunity…so eat at your own risk!
The 27-mile ride, which starts at Donegal High School, features history, culture, and most importantly, the fertile farmland of western Lancaster County. When riding along and seeing a landscape of farms as far as you can see, it probably indicates an area of many preserved farms. A bicycle is a great way to explore Mount Joy and better appreciate preserved areas, like this one. There are many roadside stands on route, so you might want to tuck a few dollars in your shoe and bring a packbasket!
This 30-mile ride starts in Lancaster City and has tremendous variety, including wonderful city neighborhoods, some city bike lanes, and a scenic ride through the countryside passing by covered bridges, historic sites, and many preserved farms. It does have some challenging hills, especially in the vicinity of the County Park. The ride sweeps out into the countryside and passes through the historic town of Strasburg, which is in the heart of Amish country.
Experience Lancaster County’s natural beauty with biking, hiking, covered bridge tours, hot air balloon rides and the best outdoor Lancaster activities.
Parks & Preserves
Lancaster is home to eight county parks, totaling 2,003 acres.
Lancaster County is home to many excellent bird watching locations including Brunner Island and Holtwood Environmental Preserve.
Explore the great towns and activities along the Susquehanna River.