Best Outdoor Activities in Lancaster, PA
After growing up in Southern Lancaster County and spending a lot of time in nature, our co-owner and graphic designer, Ryan Keates, has gained inspiration for his designs from local outdoor areas. Today, we’d like to share some of those places with you, as well as several others.
With its scenic green spaces and waterways, Lancaster County offers an abundance of exciting adventures for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking and biking to kayaking and camping, there’s no shortage of fun things to do outside in Lancaster, PA!
Whether you enjoy spending your time out on the water or exploring on land, you have endless options for outdoor entertainment! However, if you need some narrowed-down choices, here are 6 of the best outdoor activities in Lancaster, PA.
1. Hiking in Lancaster County, PA
Slip on some hiking boots and fill up your hydration pack—it’s time to hit the trails! Lancaster boasts a host of trails ranging in length and difficulty so you can elevate your heart rate while enjoying the great outdoors. Here are seven favorite spots to go hiking in Lancaster County, PA:
Hiking Trails in Lancaster, PA
Conewago Recreational Trail—5 Miles
Located outside of Elizabethtown in Northern Lancaster County, the Conewago Recreation Trail follows along the Conewago Creek for five miles. With its flat, crushed-limestone surface, this trail is ideal for those who want to take a stroll through picturesque countryside and woodlands.
If you’d like to extend your hike beyond five miles, the Conewago Recreation Trail connects to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail which continues nearly 15 miles north through the city of Lebanon.
Turkey Hill Overlook Trail—6 Miles
The Turkey Hill Overlook Trail is a six-mile-long scenic loop in Washington Boro that meanders along the Susquehanna River. As the terrain varies between flat and steep, this hike is strenuous at times. Fortunately, the trail offers two scenic overlooks at its northern and southernmost ends—a reward for your hard work!
Lancaster County Central Park—1-4 Miles
Lancaster County Central Park is located on the southern edge of Lancaster City in West Lampeter Township. Spanning 544 acres, the park features nine hiking trails that range from one to four miles in length.
None of the trails are difficult to navigate, making them all great options for families with small children. Then, after your hike, go explore the Garden of Five Senses, Historic Rockford Plantation, or splash around in the community pool.
Nature Preserves in Lancaster, PA
Slow down and soak up the beautiful scenery at one of Lancaster’s many nature preserves, including:
Trout Run—2.2 miles
Located in Pequea Township, Trout Run Nature Preserve is a 239-acre, heavily-wooded ravine that’s well-known for its diverse flora and fauna. The 2.2-mile hiking trail through the ravine is moderate with some difficult terrain—perfect for experienced hikers and beginners who are up for a challenge. In addition to the stunning wildlife, this preserve also features tumbling riffles and clear pools for hikers to cool off in during the summer months.
Ferncliff Wildlife & Wildflower Preserve—0.62 miles
Ferncliff Wildlife and Wildflower Preserve is nestled beside the Susquehanna River in Drumore Township. It is one of only 602 National Natural Landmark sites due to its outstanding biological and geological features. The hike to the river is mostly easy with some steepness. As the trail requires a stream crossing, be sure to plan your attire accordingly!
Overlooks in Lancaster, PA
There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of the Susquehanna than by visiting one of Lancaster County’s scenic overlooks. Here are two of the most popular vistas to enjoy while hiking in Lancaster County, PA.
The Pinnacle Overlook provides one of the best riverscapes in Lancaster County. Visitors will experience breathtaking, panoramic views of the lower Susquehanna Valley and Lake Aldred from the towering outcrops. The preserve also offers 2.7 miles of moderate to difficult hiking trails of varying lengths and access to the Conestoga trail system.
Between Columbia and Marietta Boroughs lies Chickies Rock Overlook, a massive quartzite cliff, hanging 100 feet above the Susquehanna River. The vista offers impressive views of the river, York County, and Lancaster County farmland. The ridge is also a popular destination for outdoor rock climbers. As the overlook is easy to get to via a short trail, it’s great for visitors of all ages.
2. Biking in Lancaster County, PA
With its rolling hills and scenic trails, Lancaster is a great place to go biking. Whether you prefer leisurely or more adventurous rides, there are a variety of options for experienced and beginner cyclists in the area. So, buckle up your helmet and get ready to ride! Here are some of our favorite spots to go biking in Lancaster County, PA.
Biking Trails for Leisurely Riders
The following trails are well-graded and flat, making them an excellent choice for beginner bicyclists and those looking for a smooth ride.
- Conestoga Greenway Trail (1.3 miles)
- Enola Low-Grade Trail (27.6 miles)
- Northwest Lancaster County River Trail (14 miles)
- Warwick-Ephrata Rail Trail (6-7 miles)
If you don’t have a bike of your own, Lititz Bike Works offers a Bike Share Program in both Lititz and Ephrata for people to rent a bicycle for an affordable, hourly fee. Both locations bookend the Warwick-Ephrata Rail Trail (WERT), so riders can hop right on the trail after they pick up their bike. Just be sure to bring your own helmet!
Biking Trails for Adventurous Riders
If you’re an experienced rider who’s up for a challenge, we recommend the following locations for mountain biking in Lancaster:
- Lancaster County Central Park
- Money Rocks Park
- Landis Woods
- Camp Mack
For those getting started with mountain biking, we suggest visiting Ephrata Bike Park at Heatherwood. Created by the Susquehanna Area Mountain Bike Association (SAMBA) and community partners, the park is a dedicated area for beginner mountain bikers to develop their skills and gain confidence. It features 1.5 miles of beginner and advanced trails, a pump track, a balance station, two bridges, three dirt jumps, and three skills areas.
3. Fishing in Lancaster, PA
Do you enjoy freshwater fishing? Then you’re in the right place! Lancaster County offers several great spots to drop a line. Whether you're looking to reel in trout, bass, or walleye, you’re bound to catch something in our abundant waters.
Where to fish in Lancaster County:
- Susquehanna River:
- Safe Harbor
- Fishing Creek
- Conowingo Creek
- Conestoga River:
- Rock Hill Boat Launch
- Conestoga Pines Park
- Windolph Landing Park
- Lake Aldred
- Hammer Creek
- Muddy Run Lake
- Climbers Run Nature Preserve (Fly Fishing)
Before you head out fishing in Lancaster, PA, be sure to get the appropriate licensure and registrations required by the PA Fish and Boat Commission. You can also find information about fish stocking and boating safety on their website.
4. Water Sports
Adventure awaits out on the water! If you aren’t interested in fishing, there are many other activities that you can enjoy on Lancaster’s waterways. Here are a few ideas:
- Spend a day boating on the Susquehanna River
- Go canoeing at Speedwell Forge Lake
- Take a guided kayak tour with KayakLanCo
- Rent a jet ski from Nolt Ventures
- Try tubing at Sickman’s Mill
5. Bird Watching in Lancaster
Another way to appreciate the local wildlife is to go bird watching! Lancaster is home to several incredible spots to observe birds, many of which are well-known for specific species. Here are six of the top 100 places to go birding in Pennsylvania, all of which are located in Lancaster County:
- Middle Creek
- Octoraro Reservoir
- Muddy Run Reservoir
- Conowingo Reservoir
- Washington Boro
- Safe Harbor
For more birding sites, visit the Lancaster Bird Club website.
6. Camping in Lancaster, PA
Lancaster County has numerous campgrounds for locals and tourists to spend an evening in the great outdoors. Whether you prefer pitching a tent, staying in an RV, or renting a cabin, you’ll be one happy camper in Lancaster, PA! Some favorite local camping sites include:
- Muddy Run Campground
- Pequea Creek Campground
- Olde Mill Stream Campground
- Tucquan Park Family Campground
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort
There are so many fun things to do outside in Lancaster, PA for people of all ages and interests. But, the best outdoor activities in Lancaster leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. We often find inspiration for our designs while hiking, biking, and exploring the area.