Best Hikes near Harrisburg

Looking to get out for a hike near Harrisburg? Check out this round up of the best hikes in Harrisburg!

Hawk Rock, overlooking the Susquehanna River
Table of Contents
- Why Harrisburg is a Great Hiking Destination
- Best Hikes Near Harrisburg
- Appalachian Trail - Hawk Rock
- Appalachian Trail - Peter's Mountain
- Wildwood Park
- Detweiler Park
- Cove Mountain Preserve
- Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area
- Joseph E Ibberson Conservation Area
- FAQs about Hiking Near Harrisburg

Why Harrisburg is a Great Hiking Destination

When you think “state capital”, you’re probably not thinking of scenic vistas, beautiful forests, and amazing hiking. Yet Harrisburg is one of the best places to visit to combine a city experience with awesome hikes in the entire state. I’ve been to Harrisburg a handful of times and every time, I am so surprised about the incredibly beautiful nature I experience around this city.

Whether you’re an avid hiker who wants to rack up miles and elevation gain on the Appalachian Trail or a casual walker who prefers a stroll around a county park, the Harrisburg area has a hike for you. I’ve rounded up the best hikes in Harrisburg with everything you need to know to visit – parking, hike length, insider tips, and more.

Read on for more information about the best hikes near Harrisburg!

Disclaimer - This is a sponsored blog post by the Visit Hershey Harrisburg tourism bureau. As always, my opinions are unbiased and my own. I want to thank the Visit Hershey Harrisburg tourism board for their generosity!

Best Hikes Near Harrisburg

As always, follow the principles of leave no trace when you're out exploring! Pack out all trash, leave wildlife alone, and generally leave it better than you found it - for more information visit the Leave No Trace Center.

Appalachian Trail – Hawk Rock

Hike Length: 1.7 miles

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~25 minutes

Description: Nothing is more iconic than hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 2000+ mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. The Hawk Rock section of the AT is a short section located in Duncannon, PA that can give day hikers a taste of the iconic trail (and why thru-hikers refer to Pennsylvania as “Rocksylvania”). While the trail is very rocky, the views of the Susquehanna River and surrounding area are absolutely worth the visit. If you only have time for one hike while in Harrisburg, this is the one I’d recommend. The trailhead is only 25 minutes from downtown Harrisburg and is a relatively short hike, so is pretty easy to squeeze into a quick visit!

Insider Tip: Don’t let its length fool you – this hike climbs 700 feet in under a mile to an iconic overlook. The trail is very rocky so wear shoes with good tread. Leave more time than you think you need (I recommend at least ninety minutes, depending on your ability). You will work for your view!

For more information on visiting this iconic hike, check out my detailed guide to Hawk Rock!

Appalachian Trail – Peter’s Mountain Loop

Hike Length: 3.5 miles if following AllTrails or 4.2 if you add in the extra spur to Clark’s Ferry shelter

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~20 minutes

Description: Peter’s Mountain Loop is a moderate length hike that combines a section of the Appalachian Trail (white blazes) with the Susquehanna Trail (blue blazes) to create a challenging yet awesome loop on the east side of the Susquehanna. There are two scenic overlooks here, but my favorite part of this trail was the beauty of the rock formations. Because this hike involves a lot of rock scrambling, I recommend bringing a little snack with you to enjoy as you rest and take in the views!

USE CAUTION! To get to this trail, you’ll need to cross active train tracks from the parking area at Clark’s Ferry Park and Ride (located at GPS coordinates 40.39666842918678, -77.00863391534538). Do not ever climb over a moving or stopped train. Cross the tracks at your own risk.

Insider Tip: This hike has some challenging sections with rock scrambles. Pick a clear day with no rain to do this hike as the rocks are VERY slippery when wet. If you’re in thru hiking season, make sure to say hi to the hikers! Most of them walked from Georgia or Maine to this trail!

Did you know?! When hiking long distance trails, thru-hikers often adopt a “trail name” or a nickname that they go by when they are on trail. The logic behind this is that you leave your “real life” behind when you’re on trail. What would your trail name be?

Wildwood Park – Wildwood Way and Canal Towpath

Hike Length: 3.1 miles 

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~10 minutes

Description: If you had told me that one of my favorite hikes of 2023 was going to be located in a major metropolis area, I probably would have called you a liar. But hear me out – Wildwood Park is an awesome county park located right in Harrisburg. This park has an adorable boardwalk and is an amazing place to check out at sunrise. I was so shocked at how much wildlife I saw in this park including frogs, turtles, and all kinds of birds, within Harrisburg city limits. Because it’s relatively flat, it’s a great one for kids. While this loop is not fully ADA accessible, other trails in the park are including the boardwards – check out the park’s site for a map of Wildwood Park trails and more detail about each one.

Insider Tip: From approximately April to September, the park features Art in the Wild – an outdoor art exhibit by using natural materials to blend in with the natural setting. When I visited, I had no idea this was going on but it was awesome to see such impressive art designed to withstand the elements. For more information about Art in the Wild and to see if it’s running during your visit, check out the Art in the Wild page.

Cove Mountain Preserve – Pink and Yellow Trail

Hike Length: 2.8 miles 

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~15 minutes

Description: This 2.8 mile hike looks kind of crazy on a map (its a lollipop with a spur) but it’s for good reason! This hike has two viewpoints that are both worth visiting as they showcase two iconic Harrisburg landmarks – the Susquehanna Statue of Liberty and the Rockville Bridge, the longest stone masonry arch railroad viaduct ever build (pretty cool!) This hike has some decent elevation gain right off the bat to the viewpoint to see Lady Liberty but is worth the climb. This trailhead is located 15 minutes from downtown Harrisburg

Insider Tip: This trail is best visited when the leaves are more sparse for the best views (and maybe bring binoculars if you want to see the Statue of Liberty close up).

Looking for more activities, places to eat or stay in Harrisburg? Check out my guide to the best weekend itinerary in Harrisburg!

Detweiler Park – Meade’s Mountain Loop 

Hike Length: 2.7 miles (by my measurement – AllTrails says 2.9 miles and the official website says 1.6 miles so be prepared to hike anywhere from 1.6 to 2.9 miles!)

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~15 minutes

Description: Detweiler Park is a great hidden gem of a county park that I felt held its own against the state parks in the area (looking at you, Big Boyd). I visited on a beautiful rainy morning and the piney trails were giving a Pacific Northwest vibe. This trail is one of the more moderate hikes in the park, but I would still categorize it as easy. There is a bit of elevation gain, so if that’s not your speed, check out the flat Airstrip Loop trail instead.  For a map of Detweiler park, visit the Dauphin County Parks website.

Insider Tip: The parking lot for the park is also the parking lot for the Dauphin County Conservation District which focuses on conservation. Check out all the signs at the parking area to see all of the awesome conservation initiatives, like a pollinator garden, porous concrete, a rain garden and more! 

Joseph E Ibberson Conservation Area – Evergreen Trail

Hike Length: 1.1 miles

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~30 minutes

Description: Even though it doesn’t have “state park” in the name, the conservation area is one of the 124 Pennsylvania state parks. I loved the Evergreen Trail, because as its name suggests, the trail is filled with evergreen trees. There are both older and younger trees so it’s a great view into the life cycle of a pine tree. This would be a great trail for younger kids as it’s short and flat enough for little legs to handle. 

Insider Tip: The trails are really well marked with colored blazes and signs. Grab a paper map on the bulletin board in the parking lot before you hit the trail to test your navigation skills (only one of the park’s trails is on AllTrails).

Love visiting Pennsylvania state parks? Check out my guide to State Parks Near Harrisburg!

Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area – Pond, Creek, Coach, Janie, and East Trail Loop

Hike Length: 2.4 miles

Distance from Downtown Harrisburg: ~15 minutes

Description: This hike combines some of the park’s main trails into one manageable loop. I’d rate this hike as easy. There was only ~500 ft of elevation gain throughout the entire hike and it was mostly in one climb. It would be a great park to take kids as there are a ton of different length hike options. 

Insider Tip: I think this park would be best visited in fall. I was holding this park to state park standards and therefore was a little underwhelmed but I imagine that the trees are amazing when the foliage is popping. 

For more information about visiting Boyd Big Tree, check out the PA DCNR website.

Not the most scenic park sign, but I am trying to get pictures of all of them as I try to visit all 124 PA State Parks!

FAQs about Best Hiking Near Harrisburg

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. I only recommend things I've tried myself or that a trusted peer has recommended and all additional income goes into keeping this site running smoothly! 

What to pack when hiking?

When packing for a hike, take into account weather, trail conditions, and your hiking ability. It’s better to over pack than under pack!

Here are some items that are always in my hiking backpack:

Does the Appalachian Trail go through Harrisburg?

The Appalachian Trail does not go through the city of Harrisburg but goes through towns very close to Harrisburg, including Duncannon (home of Hawk Rock) and Boiling Springs. 

What is the best hike to do near Harrisburg?

This would be like asking me to a pick a favorite state park – it’s just not possible. However, I have some categories that each of the hikes would fit in below if you’re looking for more guidance. 

  • Best Hike for Young Kids – Wildwood Park
  • Best Views – Hawk Rock
  • Most Challenging Hike – Peter’s Mountain Loop
  • Best Hike for Beginners – Joseph E. Ibberson

What’s your favorite hike near Harrisburg? Let me know in the comments below!

Updated May 18, 2024

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