Berks County ranks in the top 20% in Pennsylvania for best outdoor activities, and top 15% Nationally in the same category. With its vast diversity of hills, woods, lakes and mountains, there's no shortage of hiking. With some easy, short trails, and others long and challenging, let's take a look at the top ten, with my YouTube video followed by the corresponding article and illustrations.
10. Neversink Mountain
Offering views of the Schuylkill River and the old 'witches hut' at the top, the parking lot off Klapperthal road is a good place to start- and end- your loop on this well marked trail system.
9. Nolde Forest
A vast network of trails make good use of every single piece of this small forest between route 625 and Oregon Road near Mohnton. Great for dogs!
8. Horse-shoe Trail/French Creek State Park
French Creek State Park is known for its two lakes (Hopewell and Scotts Run), camping and numerous hiking trails. The yellow blazed Horse-shoe Trail spans the length of the park and skirts two lakes: Hopewell and Scotts Run, before continuing beyond.
7. Sand Spring Trail
Accessible from Northkill Road off the Shartlesville exit on interstate 78, this blue-blazed trail originates from the parking lot at the dead end and follows Northkill creek up the hill to near the top of the mountain. The hike can be a loop by making a right on the white-blazed Appalachain Trail and following it to the dirt road, then making a right on that and back down the hill to the parking lot. Beautiful rhododendron lining the creek is a highlight!
6. Antietam Lake Park and Mount Penn
Spanning from Antietam lake to Skyline Drive at the Pagoda and in-between, the Antietam trail system is great for hikers, mountain bikers and all ages. Sometimes gentle near the bottom, sometimes technical towards the top, start from the parking lot at Antietam lake and explore! Great for mountain bikes, too.
5. Blue Marsh
The Nationally renowned trail system around Blue Marsh lake is some of the finest you'll see anywhere. Very diverse and accessible from several road crossings around the lake, you'll see your fill of woods, meadows, farms, hills, technical single-track, gentle doubletrack and of course, lake views.
4. Monocacy Hill
The view from the top of Monocacy Hill offers expansive views of the French Creek hills and the Oley Valley, stretching far on a clear day. What's great about this trail is it's length- a rather gradual climb that's under a half mile!
3. Hawk Mountain
Enjoy a very short, easy, gentle and accessible trail to the South Lookout. If you're feeling adventurous, take the more challenging rocky trail to the boulders and the North Lookout. Either way, it makes for a fabulous day with amazing views. Except for service animals, pets are not permitted. There is a trail fee to access this trail, but worth it!
2. The Auburn Lookout via the "secret" mountain road
The Appalachian Trail spans the entire northern border of Berks County from north of Fredericksville (Lebanon County) all the way to Blue Mountain just short of the route 309 crossing. The trail crosses five roads: routes 645, 501, 183, 61, and Hawk Mountain Road near Eckville. Except for hiking from those roads and other lesser known dirt roads, there's no other way to get to the mountain top part of the trail or any of it's views without hiking to it....except for one.
Each year from around late September to late December or early January, the PA Game Commission opens up the gate to the gravel road leading from the State Gamelands 110 parking lot off of Mountain Road a few miles west of Hamburg. What would be a long, steep windy road hike can now be a much easier drive to the top. The gravel road, which is passable with just about any regular clearance automobile, leads to the top of Blue Mountain to another dirt road at a "T". When you've arrived at the "T" at the top, a slight right leads to a trail just straight ahead and to the left, leading a very short distance into the woods to Appalachian trail and the majestic, boulder laden Auburn Lookout. On a clear day, view stretch panoramically and far north towards Hazelton. To extend the hike, head either way on the white blazed trail as far as you'd like to go.
The road then continues on for a few miles before exiting left down the mountain to the Sand Spring Trail. You may see another car or two, but most likely you'll have the entire road to yourself. For the adventurous automobile or motorcycle explorer- try it out! You can also hike to it from Port Clinton.
1. The Pinnacle
Accessible from Reservoir Road East of Hamburg, Pine Swamp Road near Eckville or Blue Rocks Campground, the Pinnacle just might be the best view in Berks County. On a clear day, views stretch far panoramically toward Delaware Water Gap, and north as well as south. The hike up from Reservoir Road or Pine Swamp Road is about five miles but quite easy and not terribly rocky. The trail follows mostly wide double-track the whole way from both parking lots if you take the blue-blaze trail from the reservoir. A big map is posted in the parking lot to help guide the way. The hike can easily be converted to a loop by including Pulpit Rock in your adventure which is another majestic view, but a rockier commute. The Pinnacle is a great and often less crowded (and free) alternative to neighboring Hawk Mountain, and pet friendly!