Off Grid Adventures in PA
Wendy Royal Summer 2020
What is the very first thing you do in the morning? For most of us, our morning routine has changed over the last few years. Do we even use a traditional alarm clock, or do we depend on our cellphones to wake us up? If checking your social media is among the first things you do in the morning, it may be time for a reboot. We’re raising a generation of kids who may never know a world where this isn’t the case.
Whether it’s a personal goal or a family goal, disconnecting may be the best way to reconnect with your spouse, your family, or just your inner voice. For some of us, stepping back from technology and back into the natural world will be an adjustment. Once you’ve talked to someone across a campfire rather than your network provider, you’ll see what you’ve been missing. You can take your cell along on your wilderness excursion, of course, but this is an adventure, after all. Preparation is key when heading on an off-grid adventure. At some of the destinations, a technology blackout isn’t a choice, because there is no cell service.
1. Reeds Gap State Park | 1405 New Lancaster Valley Road, Milroy, PA 17063 | Mifflin County | 717-667-3622 | dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks
Reeds Gap State Park is 220 acres of wilderness in the New Lancaster Valley of Mifflin County. Honey Creek, which flows through the park, is flanked by giant hemlocks and white pines. Spring is the perfect time to fish in Honey Creek, which has some native and stocked trout. Hiking trails offer access to the creek.
The Reeds Gap Spur Trail is a 9.4-mile loop trail that is considered a moderate-level hike. Starting near the intersection of State Park Road and New Lancaster Road, the trek will take you along the scenic Reeds Gap Run to Knob Ridge Road. Expect the trail to be rocky and rugged at places.
Tent-only camping is available at Reeds Gap at a 14-site campground, which is accessible from Campground Road off Reeds Gap Road. Though the campground allows tents only, it has some amenities, including water, restrooms, hot showers, a picnic area, and a playground. Bring Daisy because pets are permitted on all sites.
2. Tracy Ridge Recreation Area | Bradford, PA 16701 | 41°56’39.0”N, 78°52’34.0”W | McKean County | 814-368-4158 | fs.usda.gov/recarea/allegheny/recareatrails.dcnr.pa.gov
Located within the Allegheny National Forest, Tracy Ridge Campground is roughly 15 miles from Bradford and just minutes from the Allegheny Reservoir. This tent-only campground has more than 70 sites. Each contains a picnic table, a campfire ring, hand-pumped water, and vault toilets. The campsite sits atop a hill at an elevation of 2,245 feet.
The 33.69-mile Tracy Ridge Trail System includes the 12-mile Bullis Hollow Trail. The single-track, non-motorized trail is recommended for hikers looking for a back-country experience that crosses two brook trout streams. Bullis Hollow Trail can be accessed from the campground and connects Marilla Springs Trail to the North Country Trail. The trek, which takes hikers through scenic Chestnut Ridge, is marked with white diamonds. The trail can be challenging, and hiking with a partner is recommended.
3. Majestic Trails | PA-46, Smethport, PA 16749 | McKean County | 814-465-9979 | majestictrails.com
Just 9 miles south from Tracy Ridge Campground on Route 46, Majestic Trails offers hours of fun for off-road enthusiasts. There are trails for ATVs, UTVs, dirt bikes, three-wheelers, mountain bikes, hiking, and horseback riding. People of all experience levels, from novice to advanced, are welcome.
From April to November, rustic campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, except for holiday weekends, when reservations are accepted.
4. Hyner Run State Park | 86 Hyner Park Road, North Bend, PA 17760 | Clinton County | 570-923-6000 | dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks
The 180-acre Hyner Run State Park and 6-acre Hyner View State Park are in the heart of Sproul State Forest. Camping is available from mid-April until the end of the Pennsylvania deer season in December. Hyner Run State Park Campground has 30 wooded sites for tent or RV camping.
The moderate to rugged Donut Hole Trail System winds its way through Hyner Run. While the entire trail is 50 miles, a smaller hike, the Long Fork Trail Loop, is just over 4 miles long.
One of the most scenic overlooks in Pennsylvania is found in neighboring Hyner View State Park. Stunning views of the West Branch of Susquehanna River and surrounding mountains have made this vista a sought-after destination year-round. Hang gliding is popular in Hyner View. Glider pilots take flight from the overlook and soar over the mountains and river below, adding to the already picturesque view.
Every year the Hyner View Trail Challenge welcomes trail runners to challenge their bodies in the grueling 25K and 50K races. The 25K accepts 1,000 runners, and the 50K is open to the first 400. The April 18, 2020, trail challenge is already sold out. If you want to test your endurance, registration for the 2021 Challenge opens on Friday, May 1.
The Hyner View Trail Challenge is not for the leisure runner or hiker. The 25K has three significant climbs and descents covering 4,000 feet of vertical elevation. The 50K tests runners with five major inclines with approximately 6,500 feet of vertical. One of the top runners in the world, Zach Miller, called the 25K “one of the ‘funnest’ courses in the world.” The course is designed to challenge people both physically and mentally.
5. Worlds End State Park | 82 Cabin Bridge Road, Forksville, PA 18616 | Sullivan County | 570-924-3287 | dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks
Worlds End State Park, located in the valley of the Loyalsock Creek, is surrounded by more than 100,000 acres of the Loyalsock State Forest. The campground in Worlds End State Park is located just a mile from the park office along Route 154 in Forksville. Half of the 70 tent and trailer sites have electric hook-ups. The campsite also has rustic cabins, water, and shower houses.
Adjacent to the campground, the Canyon Vista Trail will take you on a challenging journey to a destination well worth the effort. The Loyalsock Canyon Vista affords expansive views of the Endless Mountains at an elevation of 1,750 feet. The rocky and, at times, steep 4-mile loop trail is marked with blue blazes. There are a total of 20 miles of trails within Worlds End State Park and more than 200 miles of trails in the Loyalsock State Forest.
A swimming area in the Loyalsock Creek is located east of the campground, on Route 154. The cold mountain water is invigorating, especially during hot summer months. Swimming is only permitted from sunrise to sunset from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
6. Yellow Creek State Park |170 Route 259 Highway, Penn Run, PA 15765 | Indiana County | 724-357-7913 | dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks
Yellow Creek State Park surrounds Yellow Creek Lake. The 720-acre lake is a popular destination for boaters and anglers. Pontoon boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards can be rented at Yellow Creek Rental and Supply. Swimming is permitted off the 800-foot beach. The beach features a changing house with an outdoor shower, as well as a snack bar.
For those who prefer staying on land, 5 miles of hiking trails and 18 miles of mountain biking trails offer hours of recreation.
From April through October, the Yellow Creek State Park office offers a variety of environmental and recreational programs to help visitors understand and appreciate the park’s natural resources.
The park’s McFeaters Cover Overnight Area has six camping cottages and four yurts available to reserve.
7. The Lannding Campground & Event Center | 13531 Route 422 Highway East, Penn Run, PA 15765 | 724 840-7664 | facebook.com/thelannding
A few miles away from McFeaters Cover Overnight Area, the Lannding Campground is an excellent destination for off-roaders, with plenty of trails for ATVs, OHVs, and dirt bikes. Primitive camping is available on-site for riders who can’t get enough of the mud pits, steep climbs, rough terrain, and backwoods excitement.
8. Pinchot State Forest | 1841 Abington Road, North Abington Township, PA 18414 | Lackawanna County | 570-945-7133 | dcnr.pa.gov/stateforests
Named for Gifford Pinchot, recognized as the Father of Conservation, Pinchot State Forest encompasses nearly 45,000 acres of forested land in the Poconos. The 26-mile Pinchot Trail offers short hikes and overnight backpacking to remote areas, like the Thornhurst Tract.
Smaller trails within the Thornhurst Tract includes five shorter loop trails, including the Pine Hill Trail, which offers access to the Pine Hill Vista. From the Pine Hill Observation Deck, a sweeping 360-degree view of the Pocono Plateau is worth the journey.
Three remote campsites are available in the tract. Though there is no charge to use them, reservations are required.
When venturing into any of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests, always visit the park office to get information and find out the park regulations. And please practice Leave No Trace ethics. Most of the time, you’ll need to make a reservation or obtain a camping permit, so check out the destination website to see what is required.
Maybe you’re not ready to go off-grid and need to take baby steps in your venture. If so, Pennsylvania has hundreds of family campgrounds and resorts that are not as remote and have great amenities. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they create tons of opportunities to engage in the lives of those we love. As for me, having a conversation around a campfire is still my favorite way to be social.
If you do take your cellphone along, use it to take photos of the beautiful wilds of Pennsylvania. But wait until you get home to post them to social media and tag us at #whereandwhenPA.