As snow continues to fall here in Lancaster, I increasingly find myself dreaming of everything turning green again and warm sunshine. One of my favorite things to do in the spring and summer is spend time in nature, whether that’s going for a hike or putting up hammocks with some friends at a park. As a college student who is relatively new to the area, it has been so exciting to be able to explore as many of the trails, preserves and parks that Lancaster has to offer in the four short years that I have been here. Here are some of my favorites.
Lancaster County Central Park | 1050 Rockford Road, Lancaster
Although located right outside of downtown Lancaster, this park still gives city dwellers a chance to spend time in nature. Lancaster County Central Park is made up of 544 acres that offer opportunities for a diverse amount of activities. You can run, walk, cross country ski, ride horses or bike the trails that run throughout the park. You can visit the Garden of the Five Senses, Rockford Plantation, the Environmental Center or the pool. There are playgrounds, campgrounds and gardens where people can rent plots. Or you can always just lay down a blanket and sit along the Conestoga River or Mill Creek. My favorite time to go to Lancaster County Central Park is in late spring when the buttercups bloom and the park grounds look like a sea of yellow.
Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve | State Route 3017, Holtwood
Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve is probably my favorite place to hike in Lancaster. The trails meander through the woods under the shade of many trees and follow the curves of Tucquan Creek. In the summer, you can follow the blue trail to a small waterfall and swimming hole deep in the forest. The hike is moderate and may involve crossing the creek via fallen trees, which can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if you are afraid of heights.
Chickies Rock | 802 Route 441, Columbia
Chickies Rock is one of the most popular hiking spots in the area and for a good reason. The hike to the lookout is an easy walk from the parking area. If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can climb the rocks on the side of the cliff to find a more secluded spot away from the crowded lookouts. Regardless of where you hike to, the view from Chickies Rock never ceases to leave me in awe. From the lookout, the Susquehanna River surges below, and you can observe the town of Marietta up the river. I recommend going around sunset because the sun will descend right in front of you. Plus, it is less crowded later in the day.
The Pinnacle Overlook | Off of Pinnacle Road W, Holtwood
I’ve only been to the Pinnacle Overlook once, but the view left an impression on me. The Pinnacle is also very popular in this area and boasts similar views of the Susquehanna River as Chickies Rock. You don’t even necessarily need to hike to see the beautiful view, but the area also contains several trails to hike.
Long’s Park | Bluebird Drive, Lancaster
Another park in the area, is Long’s Park. I always feel a strong sense of community when I come here. In the summer, the park hosts a concert series at its Amphitheater and an Arts Festival in early September. Along with picnic pavilions, playgrounds, petting farms and tennis courts, there is a lot to do at Long’s Park. Also located in the park is a small lake with a road that circles it, which is perfect for jogging, walking or cycling.
Turkey Hill Nature Preserve | 2501 River Road, Conestoga
Located along the Enola Low Grade Trail, visitors can choose to walk the rail trail that runs beside the Susquehanna River or hike up to the windmills located at the top of the hill. The hike is a little steep, but the view from the Turkey Hill Outlook is really beautiful and the sheer size of the windmills is pretty amazing too.
White Cliffs of Conoy | 107 Race Street, Bainbridge, PA 17502
The White Cliffs of Conoy are one of the most interesting places I’ve hiked in Lancaster. The cliffs are located along the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail in Bainbridge. I usually park at Koser Park and follow the trail until I get to the cliffs. The trail runs beside train tracks and several abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. When you eventually arrive at the cliffs, it is a pretty interesting sight. The white cliffs are made out of byproducts from operations at the quarry. Over the years, excess sediment accumulated to create the “cliffs” along the river. I could sit on the edge of the cliffs and listen to the river flow for hours.