I’ve sung the praises of the Lancaster County Conservancy on this page before, and I’m about to do it once more. As stewards to so many great nature preserves in Lancaster County – the organization manages and maintains 5,000 acres – there is much to explore and enjoy as the weather begins to warm, especially in the southwestern portion of Lancaster County, which is often regarded as “wilder” than other areas due to less development and a high concentration of nature preserves, parks and hiking trails. Wildlife abounds.
One of my favorite destinations is House Rock Nature Preserve in Martic Township, which offers a gorgeous vista of the Susquehanna River and natural beauty throughout all four seasons. Set high over the eastern banks of Lake Aldred, the preserve is comprised of 95 acres. Its woodland includes an experimental American chestnut tree planting in partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation. Streams, such as Brubaker, Reed and House runs, make their way to the Susquehanna.
The river view takes in Duncan Island, providing an especially interesting perspective for anyone who has enjoyed the view of the island further south at the Pinnacle Overlook. However, a word of caution about House Rock’s overlook: Due to the fact that there is less traffic than at other overlooks, and being located within a nature preserve, there are no railings or markers to indicate the edges of the features. Visitors are reminded to exercise caution and hike within your capabilities while enjoying the preserve.
There are three main ways to get to House Rock. The easiest is to park at the small three-car parking area at Reed Run Nature Preserve on House Rock Road. The area around the parking lot is marked with no parking signs and strictly enforced, but I’ve never had a problem parking there. Once parked, you can follow the trail – look for the blue markers – into neighboring Reed Run Nature Preserve (148 acres) until it intersects with the Conestoga Trail. Turn north onto the Conestoga Trail for a short distance and you’re there.
If you’re looking for a shorter and slightly less strenuous trail, you can head through the previously landlocked House Rock Nature Preserve. This is the approach recommended for younger and less avid hikers. It is a much more direct approach with considerably less elevation change. From the same parking area, you take a short walk to the end of House Rock Road where a grassy dirt road provides access to the preserve. As the road reaches the Lancaster County Conservancy property, an informative bulletin board awaits you with more information about the preserve and the history of the land. From there the trail leads directly to House Rock.
The final route to House Rock is via the Conestoga Trail System (CTS). The entire CTS is 63 miles long and covers a substantial amount of ground in Lancaster County. This is the approach I’d recommend for experienced hikers. If the three miles of trail between Pequea Creek and House Rock are within your capabilities, you will see a number of interesting sights, including the infamous Wind Cave in Pequea.
For more information about the nature preserves and other areas managed by the Lancaster County Conservancy, visit lancasterconservancy.org.