Parks & Preserves in Lancaster, PA
Lancaster is home to eight county parks, totaling 2,003 acres.
All Lancaster County parks have hiking trails and parking lots. Central, D.F. Buchmiller and Chickies Rock parks have pavilions, picnic areas, and ball fields. Central and D.F. Buchmiller parks have tennis courts. Central Park has an Environmental Center and library, The Garden of Five Senses, and the county pool. There are two overlooks at Chickies Rock Park offering incredible vistas of the Susquehanna River and one at Money Rocks Park that views the Twin Valleys of eastern Lancaster County. All Lancaster's open space is perfect for having fun and getting active - just remember to social distance!
The Lancaster County Conservancy protects more than 2,900 acres of land for the health of the ecosystem and the enjoyment of the public. Eight of these nature preserves are highlighted below, including what is quite possibly the premiere natural area in Lancaster County, Tucquan Glen.
1. Ferncliff Wildflower & Wildlife Preserve (65 Acres)
Trail Length – 0.62 miles, Easy to Moderate, with one stream crossing
A National Natural Landmark, Ferncliff’s old growth forest and wooded ravine are home to a profusion of plants common to the River Hills. The wildflowers of Ferncliff are what make this area most special. On the hillsides and ravines are some of the best examples of River Hills timberland. Transient and nesting bird populations are varied.
GPS location: 39.78271, -76.242654
2. Fishing Creek Nature Preserve (168 Acres)
No official trail. Approximately 3 miles of dirt road follows stream, with three fords.
This preserve is located in one of the most remote areas of Lancaster County. It is bisected by a dirt road that closely follows the stream and fords it in several places. In wet weather, however, vehicle traffic is difficult. More than 20 tree species exist, as does an impressive array of ferns.
GPS location: 39.79509, -76.259361
3. Trout Run Nature Preserve (198 Acres)
Trail Length – 1.5 miles, Moderate, with three stream crossings
This beautiful ravine is well known to nature-lovers and biologists, and is a favorite destination for field trips from local schools and colleges. The heavily wooded glen has almost everything a naturalist would want to preserve: a well-named stream whose clear water tumbles along a fairly steep gradient with pools along its length. Tall, mature trees shade the stream; stands along the hillsides are varied and impressive.
GPS location: 39.911448, -76.283319
4. Homewood Nature Preserve (40 Acres)
Trail Length – 0.85 miles, Easy over varied moderate terrain
Homewood offers a mix of forest and field, gentle rolling hills, cultivated and grassy fields, an old barn, and a woodland valley overlooking Eshelman Run. Mature black walnut, oaks, tulip poplars, beech, and birch cover the hillsides, with flaming red maples in the fall. More than 115 plant species exist, and 25 documented bird species.
GPS location: 39.9692, -76.107702
5. Rannels-Kettle Run Nature Preserve (81 Acres)
Trail Length – 0.94 miles, Moderate due to steep slope
Adjoining State Game Lands and the Horseshoe Trail, this preserve includes the hillside between Kettle Run and the top of the ridge. A small tributary of Hammer Creek meanders through the woods. More than 10 species of ferns grow on the property, a fine example of a mixed hardwood forest, uncut for 60+ years.
GPS location: 40.23344, -76.348658
6. Steinman Run Nature Preserve (264 Acres)
Trail Length – 2.5 miles, Easy to Moderate
Open easy well established trails through a wood of mixed hardwoods with giant oaks, towering tulip poplars, and stately old beeches, along with spicebush and mountain laurel. The melodic wood thrush is commonly heard here. Steinman Run traverses the property with many wetland plants along its course.
GPS location: 39.89639, -76.277846
7. Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve (336 Acres)
Trail Length – 2.32 miles, Moderate
Quite possibly the premiere natural area in Lancaster County. The most attractive and perhaps the most pristine of the seven ravines or glens which open into the Susquehanna River in this area. A PA Wild and Scenic River, lush and green in spring and summer, colorful in autumn, and beautiful all year round. Extensive rhododendron thickets and over 40 species of trees. In its middle section, the stream rushes headlong into huge boulders and through narrow crevices.
GPS location: 39.864425, -76.339666
8. Turkey Hill Trail (63 Acres)
Trail Length – 3.3 miles, Moderate due to steep slope
Spectacular vistas and secluded paths through a somewhat dry deciduous forest, varying from early successional species to fully mature hardwoods with scattered mountain laurel. Great views of the Susquehanna River. Of special note is the world’s largest paw paw patch north of the 39th Latitude. A round trip walk will take 4 hours.
GPS location: 39.96676, -76.455363
More detailed information on all the preserves can be found in the Lancaster County Conservancy publication, Guide to the Nature Preserves of the Lancaster County Conservancy, available for purchase from the Conservancy Office, and free to Conservancy members.
For more recommendations on how to enjoy the outdoors in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, visit the Lancaster County Department of Parks & Recreation.