Backpacking in Pennsylvania: Tips & 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 iconic, as the state offers abundant options for backpackers of all levels, especially along the 229-mile section of the Appalachian Trail that traverses forested mountains and valleys.

In this post, we’ll explore backpacking in Pennsylvania with a focus on ultralight packing. We’ll offer key tips to assist you in getting ready for your upcoming outdoor expedition.

We will showcase the TOP 5 trails in Pennsylvania, dividing them into two categories: day hikes covering less than 30 miles and multi-day trips with convenient water resupply points spaced every few days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Pennsylvania

  • What to expect: Pennsylvania’s backpacking 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. From the Pinnacle to the Delaware Water Gap, these trails provide a diverse, scenic experience for backpackers.
  • 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 time to go: The ideal time for exploration in Pennsylvania is 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 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

Embark on these top day hikes, where your ultralight gear will truly come in handy:

  1. Mount Minsi via Appalachian Trail (4.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Pulpit Rock and Pinnacle Loop (9.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Hawk Mountain Loop (5.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Furnace Creek Trail to Pinnacle Trail Loop (8.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Trexler Border Trail (8.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Explore these fantastic backpacking trails in Pennsylvania, where you’ll find water points every two days to keep you refreshed on your journey:

  1. Gerard Hiking Trail (33.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Montour Trail (30.4 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Black Forest Long Loop (42.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Allegheny Front Trail (43.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Loyalsock Trail (56.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

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):

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

FAQ

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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