Backpacking in Pennsylvania: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Pennsylvania: A hiker on a rocky trail in PA, wearing a red backpack

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Pennsylvania is a fantastic way to explore the state’s stunning and varied landscapes. Known for its rolling hills, lush forests, and picturesque rivers, Pennsylvania offers a wide array of environments for outdoor enthusiasts to discover.

From the challenging trails of the Allegheny National Forest, which spans over 500,000 acres in the northwestern part of the state, to the scenic paths along the Appalachian Trail, which stretches 229 miles through Pennsylvania, the Keystone State provides a wealth of incredible backpacking experiences.

In this guide, we’ll share essential tips and the TOP 5 multi-day trails to conquer in Pennsylvania. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker looking for a new challenge or a beginner eager to embark on your first wilderness adventure, Pennsylvania has something to offer every skill level.

Ready to explore? Let’s dive in.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Pennsylvania

  • What to expect: Well-marked trails offer serene escapes into lush ferns, rocky outcrops, streams, and waterfalls of the Appalachian landscape. Disconnect, find solace in nature, and enjoy rewarding vistas near trailside campsites.
  • Essential gear: For a successful trip, make sure you have good shoes, rain gear, layered clothes, and a water filter. Also, check if you need a bear canister for the area you’re going to.
  • Wildlife: While Pennsylvania’s forests are home to wildlife like black bears, venomous snakes, ticks, and poisonous plants (e.g., poison ivy and poison sumac), backpackers who exercise proper precautions are unlikely to encounter issues.
  • Wild camping: You can camp in Pennsylvania state forests and along the Appalachian Trail, but not in most state parks. When camping, stay at least 100 feet from roads and water in state forests and some park backcountry sites. Follow Leave No Trace rules, use designated fire areas, and keep noise and site impact low.
  • Best times to go are from April to November, covering spring, summer, and fall. Summer offers warmth, but watch out for high humidity and bugs. Late spring and early fall have mild temperatures and scenic views, but be prepared for cold nights. Winter trips are possible but demand careful planning for frigid temperatures and snow. Avoid backpacking during late fall hunting seasons.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Pennsylvania

Here are the best multi-day backpacking trails in Pennsylvania:

1. Gerard Hiking Trail

Oil Creek winds its way through the lush landscape of Oil Creek State Park

Jason Pratt, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Length: 33.9 mi / 54.5 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 4996 ft / 1523 m
Location: Oil Creek State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 12 200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Explore a challenging 33.9-mile loop trail near Rouseville, Pennsylvania, open year-round for backpacking, camping, and hiking. Enjoy solitude, vistas, and waterfalls on the well-maintained Gerard Hiking Trail (GHT), marked with yellow blazes. Camping is only allowed at the equipped shelters with fireplaces. Cross-connector trails offer shorter loops. Spot oil boom remnants, but be cautious of wildlife. Winter visits provide better views, and creek crossings are required. 

2. Old Loggers Path

Two backpackers cross a rustic bridge spanning a river, immersed in the tranquil beauty of Pennsylvania's forests during their outdoor adventure

Length: 27.1 mi / 43.6 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3805 ft / 1160 m
Location: Loyalsock State Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 9700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Explore the challenging 27.1-mile Old Loggers Path loop trail near Shunk, Pennsylvania, best visited from April through October. This well-maintained and marked trail offers solitude, dense woods, creeks, and scenic overlooks in Loyalsock State Forest. Perfect for a 2-3 night backpacking trip, the trail features shelters, wildlife sightings, and manageable elevation gain. With water sources, waterfalls, vistas, and shelters, it’s highly recommended for all skill levels, despite some muddy and rocky sections.

3. Black Forest Long Loop

The Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County, along the Black Forest Trail, offers a stunning southeast view of the Naval Run drainage area and the serpentine path of Pine Creek Gorge carving through the lush landscape

Nicholas_T, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 42.2 mi / 67.9 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8421 ft / 2567 m
Location: Tiadaghton State Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 17 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Take on the challenging 42.2-mile loop trail near Slate Run, Pennsylvania, best visited from April through September. Enjoy solitude, steep climbs, scenic views, and dense forests along creeks. Spot wildlife like rattlesnakes, deer, and black bears, and follow best practices for bear country camping. Expect gorgeous scenery, long descents and ascents, and ample water sources and campsites, but plan for sections without water.

4. Allegheny Front Trail

A young man wearing a backpack and cap hikes along a winding trail through the lush forests of Black Moshannon in Rush Township, Pennsylvania, USA, embracing the serene beauty of the surrounding wilderness

Length: 43.6 mi / 70.1 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 5019 ft / 1530 m
Location: Moshannon State Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 16 505 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Explore the challenging 43.6-mile loop trail in Moshannon State Forest near Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, best hiked clockwise from April through October. This well-marked trail offers solitude, diverse landscapes, and 2-4 night backpacking opportunities. Prepare for overgrown sections, downed trees, and varying water availability. The west side is the best-maintained, but the lack of maintenance may make it unsuitable for beginners.

5. Loyalsock Trail

Loyalsock State Forest's unmarked vista showcases the Allegheny Plateau's dissected landscape, featuring drainage areas and prominent peaks

Nicholas A. Tonelli from Northeast Pennsylvania, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Length: 56.9 mi / 91.6 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 10 324 ft / 3147 m
Location: Loyalsock State Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 24 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Explore the challenging 56.9-mile Loyalsock Trail near Laporte, Pennsylvania. This year-round, point-to-point trail offers solitude, streams, scenic views, and forests. Follow yellow discs with red LT or old yellow and red blazes. Expect wet feet and varying creek crossings. Perfect for backpacking, camping, and hiking, with stealth campsites near water. Plan for more than 3.5 days.

Annual Weather Averages

Pennsylvania experiences a variety of weather conditions throughout the year, so be prepared for different seasons. Here’s a general overview:

  • Spring (March to May): Spring can bring mild to cool temperatures with occasional rain. It’s essential to be prepared for varying conditions, including wet and muddy trails.
  • Summer (June to August): Summers in Pennsylvania are generally warm, with temperatures ranging from mild to hot. However, humidity can be high, especially in July and August. Be prepared for bugs and carry sufficient water during hot days.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall brings cooler temperatures, and the foliage can be stunning, especially in October. Nights can be chilly, so it’s crucial to bring layers. Fall is a popular time for backpacking due to the pleasant weather.
  • Winter (December to February): Winters can be cold with temperatures often dropping below freezing. Snow is possible, especially in January and February. Winter backpacking requires special gear and preparation for cold conditions.

Before making your gear selection, take a look at the weather statistics for Pennsylvania (Easton):

High °F374050627280848275635242
Low °F232432425260656356453628
Rain/Snow (D*)7789111111108878
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Pennsylvania is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Ohio and Maryland.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Pennsylvania?

Campfires are usually allowed in many places, but make sure to check the rules for any limits or bans on fires. If there are no restrictions, you can use a designated fire ring or make your own rock circle to keep the fire contained. Just remember, in Pennsylvania state forests and parks, keep your campfire at least 25 feet away from any buildings and 10 feet away from things that can catch fire.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Pennsylvania?

When you come across animals while hiking, stay calm and give them enough room to go away. Speak in a calm manner so the animal understands you’re a human and not a danger. Don’t make sudden moves, avoid staring directly at them, and definitely don’t run – doing any of these things might make them attack. Slowly step back without turning your back. Be especially careful during early morning or late evening hikes when animals are more active. It’s a good idea to bring bear spray just in case, but make sure you know how to use it properly before you go. If you encounter aggressive animals, leave the area safely and report it to park rangers.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Pennsylvania?

Journey into the forests, mountains and meadows of Pennsylvania for a backpacking adventure immersed in nature, but prioritize safety. Before following winding trails, acquire a map and inform others of your route. Pack bright clothing, first-aid supplies, flashlights, whistles, and bear-resistant food canisters. Watch your step on rocky and uneven ground. Make noise to avoid surprising bears or other wildlife. With adequate precautions taken, you can revel in the Keystone State’s natural splendor while backpacking. Stay alert, be prepared for the unexpected, and focus on caution so your Pennsylvania backpacking trip can be the rewarding outdoor adventure you envision while keeping safety first.

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At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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