SNYDER: It's a perfect time to go hiking in Pennsylvania


It's the perfect time to go for a hike.

The weather is great and we're in the middle of Pennsylvania's annual Hiking Week. Thanks to cooperation by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Keystone Trails Association, there are more than 100 organized hikes set to help celebrate the state's many trails.

"For 13 years now, this event has become increasingly popular as we reach out to the uninitiated and offer a wide variety of highly organized hikes," said DCNR acting secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. "The 'welcome mat' is out to novices and trail-hardened veterans alike, inviting them to hike in our state parks, forests and municipal greenways in this annual salute to healthy exercise and the serenity of those very special outdoors places."

With so many hikes on the docket, the trails that slice through our state parks and wild lands will be bustling with activity to celebrate the event. But what if you don't feel like traveling?

Don't worry. There are plenty of great hiking trails available in York County that are perfect for anybody looking to get outside.

One of the most popular and easiest trails is the Heritage Rail Trail County Park. This scenic 21-mile trail starts at the Mason-Dixon Line and runs through New Freedom, Glen Rock and Seven Valleys on its way to downtown York. The well-maintained trail is nearly flat through its entire length, and is suitable for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding.

While this trail is suitable for hikers of all abilities, it may not be challenging enough to satisfy the needs of hardcore hikers. If you enjoy tackling tougher terrain, you may want to explore the over 190 miles of trail that the Mason-Dixon Trail has to offer.

The snakelike Mason-Dixon Trail connects the Appalachian Trail in Cumberland County to the Brandywine Trail near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

The Mason-Dixon Trail bisects York County before it runs through Maryland and Delaware on its journey back into Pennsylvania. This trail offers a wide variety of terrain for hikers of all abilities. On some sections, hikers are forced to trek over steep ridges on extremely narrow paths. On other sections, hikers find themselves on spacious, well-manicured trails.

And don't forget the numerous shorter trails zig-zagging through our county and state parks. If you're looking for a simple hike that's close to home, simply head to your local park. The trails are well maintained and offer beautiful outdoor scenery.

Finally, this week's events serve as a good reminder that an excellent way to get started in any activity is to join a local club. The state's trail system would fall apart without the gracious efforts of numerous clubs.

The York Hiking Club is a great organization for hikers of all abilities. The club offers organized hikes almost every week. Most of the hikes are on local trails, but the club does offer trips to northern Pennsylvania and Maryland. The club even maintains a section of the Appalachian Trail just north of Harrisburg.

Take advantage of this unique week to get outside. If you can join one of the dozens of organized hikes, absolutely do it. If not, lace up your boots and hit a local trail.

You won't be disappointed.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at