Hiking Challenges in Pennsylvania and Ohio

Looking to start your new year off on the right foot by finding a hiking challenge to work towards? Read on to find the perfect goal for your training!

A sunrise view from Southside Park, discovered during one of the trail challenges

I got into hiking as a former D1 athlete, meaning that I am very competitive. Before I liked hiking, I didn’t understand it. Why would people walk in the woods? For fun? without it being a competition? It didn’t make sense to me.

Then in 2021, a friend told me about the Full on CVNP (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) challenge. While it wasn’t a race, the challenge required participants to hike 115 miles in CVNP over five months. The organizer provided maps and guides to all the trails. I was fascinated! I had always been intimidated to pick a trail but with the challenge, everything was already laid out for me. Completing the challenge felt like an amazing accomplishment and got me hooked on hiking.

To help you feel the same sense of accomplishment, I’ve compiled a list of hiking challenges in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Note: this post does not include any running challenges, only hiking challenges. Some of the events listed below can involve running but I have excluded any “running-only” challenges, like trail ultra-marathons.

Wondering what to take with you on your hiking challenges? Check out my post on 10 Essentials for Day Hiking!

Timed Event Hiking Challenge

A timed event hiking challenge takes place over one to three days and is a singular event. I only have two in this category but would love to see more in the area!

Rachel Carson Challenge, PA

The RCTC is a once-yearly hiking endurance challenge that occurs on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice. Individual participants complete either a 36ish miles or 18ish miles on the Rachel Carson Trail. (The reason I say ‘ish” is because the trail is often rerouted slightly every year and the distances vary). The direction of the challenge flip flops every year, alternating heading west or east. In 2022, I completed the half challenge, also known as the Homestead Challenge and it was a great experience. For my tips and tricks about training for the challenge, visit my post here! For more information and to sign up, visit the Rachel Carson Challenge official website.

I didn’t take many pictures during the RCTC but this popscicle was important enough for photo op

Allegheny 100 Challenge, PA

The Allegheny 100 is a weekend-long challenge that offers multiple distances. Hikers start on a Friday night at 6pm and ending at 8pm the following Sunday. The available distances are 25, 50, 75, and 100 miles. This challenge is largely unsupported and hikers completing distances of 50 or more miles need to be comfortable with night hiking. For more information and to sign up, visit the official A-100 website.

Extended Time Hiking Challenge

These challenges are meant to be done over a period of multiple hikes. If you’re new to hiking and want to explore new trails, these challenges are a great place to get started! All challenges come with maps for each trail and a way to track online. There’s two categories – “the multiple trails over a set amount of time” type of challenge (Oboz Pittsburgh and Full on CVNP) and the “more miles over the same trail system” challenge (Rachel Carson 100 Mile Quest and North Country 100).

Read on to find a hiking challenge for you!

Oboz Trail Challenge – Pittsburgh

The Oboz Trail Challenge is a multi-hike challenge around Pittsburgh, co-sponsored by Public Lands and Oboz Footwear. In 2022, it consisted of 19 trails making up 100 miles around the Pittsburgh area. Participants need to track their participation via smartwatch or app, as the challenge only gives credit if the trail is completed to GPS specs. There are multiple locations for this challenge – to learn more about 2023 Oboz Challenges, visit the Oboz Website here.

I would have never discovered Churchill Valley without participating in the Oboz Trail Challenge.

Full on CVNP / Green Jewel Challenge, OH

Held by Western Reserve Racing, this challenge gives participants five months to hike on every trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (for a total of over 100 miles). This event holds a special place in my hear, as it was the first consistent hiking I had ever done in my life – read more about my experience here!. Unlike the Oboz Trail Experience, participants attest online that they completed the trail and don’t need to submit any GPS files. Note: In 2020, 2021, and 2023, the challenge was called Full on CVNP but in 2022 was called the Green Jewel Challenge. For more details and to sign up, click here.

Beaver Marsh was one of the Full on CVNP trails that I likely would have skipped without the challenge

North Country Trail 100 Mile Challenge

The goal of the North Country Trail 100 mile challenge is for participants to hike 100 miles on the North County National Scenic Trail in a calendar year. People who complete the 100 miles earn a badge and completion certificate.To learn more about the NCT 100 Mile Challenge, visit the NCT website here.

Rachel Carson 100 Mile Quest

Most people know about the Rachel Carson Challenge event, but don’t know about the 100 mile quest. This challenge asks participants to hike 100 miles on any of the Rachel Carson Conservancy trails (the Rachel Carson Trail, the Baker Trail, and the Harmony Trail) in a year. Unlike the NCT 100 mile challenge, the Rachel Carson 100 mile quest doesn’t have to be completed within the confines of a calendar year, but rather in 365 days after the participant signs up. I signed up in March 2022, so I have until March 2023 to complete my 100 miles. If you complete the challenge, you earn a cool patch!

If you hike the section of the Baker Trail that overlaps with the NCT in Cook Forest, you can count the miles for both 100 mile challenges listed above!

KTA 100 Mile Challenge

The Keystone Trails Association (KTA) recognizes hikers that travel 100 miles between Sept 1st and Aug 31st of any given year. Hikers must be KTA members and secure sponsorship to cover at least $1 for every mile hiked. This sponsorship goes directly into supporting the KTA’s mission to maintain PA trails. What’s cool about this one is that any hiking trail in Pennsylvania is eligible to count for the challenge. For more information and to sign up, visit the KTA website here.

If you have participated in any of these challenges, let me know what you think!

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