This past weekend was beautiful, so we decided to add another Pennsylvania state park to our list.
15 out of 121 so far. I think we have a good way to go.
The park that we chose to visit on this beautiful day was Swatara State Park. This park is situated in the Swatara Valley, between Second and Blue Mountains, and is about 45 minutes from the state capitol of Harrisburg. The only bad thing about this drive this day was we had to take god-awful and boring I-81.
After taking the exit to head to the park, we couldn’t seem to find the entrance, so we ended up taking Sand Siding Road to one of the trailheads of the Swatara Rail Trail. The road was gravel and some parts of it were washed out, but we had no problem navigating our low Ford Focus ST through this road. The parking lot was pretty empty and we were hungry. There were no picnic tables in sight so we utilized the hatch of our hatchback and ate our lunch. (Who said hatchbacks were useless?!)
After our lunch, we decided to hike down the rail trail that ran right beside of the parking lot. The birds were singing, the butterflies were butterflying, and the bees were buzzing. The Swatara Rail Trail runs through two counties in Pennsylvania and is 10 miles long, with the surface being a mixture of asphalt, gravel and dirt.
We didn’t hike far, but what we discovered from our time on this section of the rail trail was how peaceful and quiet it was. We enjoyed walking through the canopy of trees and listening to the birds sing and tweet in the trees. The fresh smell of the forest was a delight to our nose.
About a half mile down the trail, we came to where the rail trail and Sand Siding Trail meet and go across a foot bridge that crosses the Swatara Creek. We were trying to make our way to the main part of the park and see a part of the Appalachian Trail that meanders through it.
The bugs were BAD after crossing over the creek. Then we were turned around at the intersection of Sand Siding Trail and Bear Hole Trail because Bear Hole was closed due to weather-related issues.
Bring bug spray and DON’T wear perfume or anything that attracts bugs here. You’ve been warned.
We made our way back the car and decided to try and find the park entrance. On the way there, we passed Twin Grove RV Resort & Cottages. While we used it to just turn around (because the sign for the main entrance to Swatara State Park is easily missed) it looked like a nice place to camp. There was mini golf and a HUGE restaurant and it didn’t look that packed to us.
Once we found the entrance (Finally) we pulled in and found it was just a big dirt lot in the middle of a forest with trails running through it. Nothing that interesting to say the least.
1 out of 5, would not recommend unless you plan on biking or hiking the rail trail. Or perhaps are hiking the Appalachian Trail.
So we headed back toward our home, taking the scenic route through Fort Indiantown Gap, home of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
5 out of 5 would recommend taking this route and NOT I-81.
On the way back to good ol’ Cumberland Valley, we decided to stop by Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch. The gates were finally open, so we parked in the main lot and began our short ascent up the rocky trail to see if we could see any hawks flying through the gap.
While all we saw was a turkey vulture, we took a seat on a boulder and enjoyed the view of the beautiful Cumberland Valley below. There is also a nice view behind you of the Pennsylvania moutains that seem to go on forever.
What a great end to a great day!
Freelance Graphic Designer based in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. I enjoy creating digital art, illustrations and photography. I also enjoy hiking, birding, cooking, reading, traveling and a nice bourbon or two.