Fall Hikes in and around Bucks County

Taste fall– bite into a crisp Solebury Orchards apple
See fall – hike the trails at High Rocks for a breathtaking view
Hear fall – as the leaves crunch beneath your feet at Peace Valley

Pack up the car, lace up the hiking boots or tie on the sneakers and join me as I explore 10 amazing places  in and around Bucks County to see brilliant fall colors. I’ve included our chosen path – many of these places were new to us and so we just printed a map before arriving (good idea) and followed the markers.

1.Tyler State Park: Visiting this park brings back the best memories.  As a youth we lived nearby to this park and walked the trails, bike on the paths, and canoe down the creek.  And one of the most beautiful times to visit Tyler is Autumn.  With plenty of paved trails and rolling hills this a perfect place to visit on a wet weekend when you have limited time and just want some amazing quick leaf peeping.

Click here for our Favorite Loop at Tyler

2.High Rocks/Ralph Stover State Park: This is was one of the most popular and well know places in Bucks County for seeing the beautiful fall leaves.  At High Rocks one can look out over a 200 foot sheer rock face cliff overlooking Tohickon Creek. If you can find the parking lot and a place to park, then  it is just a short stroll from your car to see this amazing view.   However we prefer to park at Ralph Stover State Park at the base and  hike up to High Rocks.    The approach of first crossing the creek and climbing up the hill to the vista makes the view all the more spectacular and extends this to a good workout hike.

3.ChesLen Preserve:   At the time of visiting this Preserve it was not yet fall, but it is such a wonderful place to visit that I included on the list and hope that we can make it out there again.  I can only imagine how amazing the Peter O. Hausmann Trail would be at this time of year.  Many families were out enjoying  a moderate trail through rolling golden meadows.  We felt like we were wandering through someone’s private property. At the time we did not realize this was part of Natural Lands Trust and only made the connection on a later hike.   We now search out the other preserves found on site & have visited 2 others so far!!

4. Gwyneed Wildlife Preserve:   The second preserve we visited that is part of the Nature Lands Trust.  A perfect place to visit on a SUNDAY in November. I stress Sunday for other days hunting is permitted.   Very easy trails through Tunnel Farm Woods on 1 side of the road & through meadows on the other. There is a total of 7.5 unpaved trails at this delightful little preserve.

5.Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary:  The 3rd preserve we visited that is part of Natural Lands Trust. Because of the local, perched on the steep slopes of Bougher Hill overlooking the Delaware River,   you can get in a strenuous 3 mile hike.   We did not visit this one until just last weekend & at this point the leaves have almost all fallen from the trees.  This provided spectacular scenery but slippery slopes!   Next year I want to return earlier in the season.   I’m just a hiker admiring the beauty however the blog on their site provides great info about what is growing at the park.

6.Pennypack Trust:    We created a wonderful loop by starting at the beginning of the Pennypack Trail which bisects the park.  We enjoyed wandering through trails found in the 812 acres of protected meadows, woodlands and floodplain forest and seeing the historic sites along the way which are listed on the park map.  The park has expanded since I last visited over twenty years ago!

7. Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center:   There are 18.5  miles of trails at this park.  Due to hunting permitted in the park we decided to stay on the East side  in and around the area where hunting is not allowed.   There is a little bit of everything at this park:   The rollings hills provided a good moderate hike,  Jacobsburg National Historic District provides an opportunity to explore historic buildings and take a self-guided trail that interprets the life of the Henry Family and the Boulton Gun Works, and for wonderful leaf peeping on a family friendly trail a walk down Henrys Woods, an old growth forest surrounding Bushkill Creek is a must!

8. Trexler Nature Preserve:  There is not much on their site and so visit google maps where you can see the trails before you head out.  We decided to hike the east side of the park near the Education Center.  The Elk Ridge Trail climbs high up on a ridge allowing you to see the Lehigh Valley Zoo (I never even knew the zoo existed) on your left and the Elk grazing on your right.  It was a good strenuous hike and beautiful fall leaves especially down by Jordan Creek. (There is no admission to hike the preserve but if you want to enter the zoo there is a fee.)

9.Valley Forge National Park: I do not think of this place as somewhere to get a good walk in the woods but was surprised to find there is a series of trails tucked into the woods.  I found this on a trail map online . We  parked near Washington’s Headquarters, explored the historic area then crossed the street to hike the Mt Joy Trails  not a full loop but there are a few different ways to go providing a strenuous uphill slope, variety by taking the smaller loops, and still a beautiful fall hike of around 3 miles.

10. Peace Valley:  This is a wonderful place for either exploring either the Peace Valley Nature Center – 14 miles of nature trails in the woods and meadows at the eastern end of Lake Galena or for a rainy day walking the paved loop around Lake Galena. Although you can bike here,  there are a lot more walkers.  Keep in mind if walking it is about 6 miles to go all the way around the lake!

 

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Experiencing Yellowstone

There is no comparison between the Tetons & Yellowstone National Park.  They may be close to each other but that is about it.  The two complement each other – one offering quiet hikes and the other offering amazing never seen before natural wonders… and I am so glad we explored both on one vacation.

Hiking boots ~ sneakers is the best way to describe it.  

You can see a million pictures of Old Faithful or Grand Prismatic but until you are there to see the bold bright colors, smell the sulfur, hear the bubbling mud pots … there is nothing like experiencing Yellowstone.   How fortunate we are in the United States to have National Parks that preserve and make some of those wonderful sites accessible to everyone

In preparing for a trip to Yellowstone, you will find hundreds of sites listing out the best things to see.  By the end you will have a list so long that it would take you years to see, hike, explore, and visit all those things. As stated before, best not to have a plan. When my daughter and I reflect on our trip we remember the events that occurred at those amazing sites… the moments that turned into lasting memories.  Here our are favorites for the time it was just her and I:

DSC00357Staring into the beautiful Abyss Pool at West Thumb Geyser Basin –  This is the best place to stop when coming in from South Entrance to get your first Amazing Moment!

Walking the Boards around Old Faithful in the cool evening hours when the crowds have gone… best reason to stay at Old Faithful Inn!

Encountering our first Bison:   One way road with a drop to the right and a wall to the left and him staring right at us…DSC00487

Relaxing in a nature made hot tub where the boiling water meets the river:  Just outside of Mammoth – Gardiner

Having an afternoon picnic Nez Perce Ford

Missing Old Faithful countless times but instead watching it erupt in the dark as kids shined flashlights on it

DSC00425_1Rising early (at my daughters request) to hike the small unnamed path that is between the old cabins at Canyon Village to see the sun just beginning to shine over the Canyons

Leaving the crowds behind midday to hike Fairy Falls (Old Faithful Area), Beaver Ponds Loop (Mammoth Hot Spring Area) and Mount Washburn (Day Hiking in Yellowstone)

Exploring in the evening hours when the crowds are gone:DSC00397

*Around the Lake….Hiking Pelican Creek Trail

*At the Canyon Area …driving the North Rim  and watching the sun set just me and my daughter

*At the Forts…Doing the historic tour of the Fort at Mammoth Hot Springs Area when the only other visitors are the elk

And of course our experience on Washburn …….will be the one adventure we will never forget!

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Hiking in the Tetons for Casual Hikers

Lake-Creek Woodland Trail Loop Plus Phelps Lake

We woke up early before the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve even opened (opens at 9 am) in order to avoid the wait in a car line (there is no other parking anywhere in the area  –  street parking is not permitted and so you literalDSC00062ly sit in line in your car until spots open up) and so I cannot emphasize how important arriving early is.  8:30 am was perfect.DSC00053  Our plan was to the Lake-Creek Woodland Trail Loop which is a nice family friendly even with little ones hike of 3.4 miles  – As fate would always determine our course — in this case I got a little excited and began hiking around Phelps Lake not realizing this would add on an additional 4 miles… however I highly recommend for it is not a difficult hike but instead a nice long and very pleasant loop around the lake.  Best to take long hikes for once you leave a parking spot good luck at finding another one.   I felt the scenery around String Lake was prettier as you looked up at the mountains but still a very nice trail.  My recommendation would be bringing a bathing suite and a lunch (we did not).  A lot of people were swimming in the lake…looked like fun! It would be a great place to just relax for the day.

Jenny Lake – Hidden Falls – Inspiration Point

Oh my.  Be sure to understand the total distance of this hike for it is incorrect on the signs – even with the corrected hand written mileage taped over the original trail sign it was still unclear.  We knew the trail was closed from TDSC00135he Falls to Inspiration Point and would require descending from the falls and ascending again to reach but because we failed to stop at the ranger station beforehand we did not know just what that extra distance was like.  The hike around the lake to the falls is a very pretty way to reach the falls,  in some points right along the water.  Hidden Falls was like being on a Disney Ride due to the trail closures all around it.  You had to literally wait in line to get into the area.

My favorite picture of the trip.
My favorite picture of the trip.

I am sure when this re opens it is fine… but oh my. To reach Inspiration Point at this point of time (Aug 2015) you are required to use a horse trail not on the map –  additional two miles of strenuous switchbacks. More then once we almost turned around.  This climb was our most difficult in the Grand Tetons however the views both down and up in the canyons were the amazing (see picture on the left) . By 2016 this will all be fixed but until then I recommend taking the boat one way.   I believe we clocked this hike in at around 11 miles but now looking at it that may be a bit higher then it really was.  But it sure felt like it. (as you can see we just kept getting higher each day!)

Taggart Lake-Beaver Creek Loop

No wonder this hike is so popular…. One of our favorites, too. You get a lot of scenery for an easy hike. Right away you pass an amazing waterfall.   DSC00166And then you come upon another wonderful glacier lake. I highly recommend doing the loop  — Although we saw no beavers it was beautiful.   However the descent was amazing – a steep climb over a glacial moraine looking back at the Tetons and Avalanche Canyon were truly amazing!

Moose Pond

We chose this short hike on our last day even though I did not have the map printed out DSC00237for it and did  not know where it began. I had seen on our long hike around Jenny Lake signs for a turn off for this trail. It is a nice short hike – just tricky to find the trail at first.  It is at a pullout on Lupine Meadows Road –  we parked and walked the road until we found it.  Just a very pleasant easy hike   – perfect on a rainy morning and after a long week of getting up early and doing long hikes.

Other hikes…

We had a bunch of others that looked appealing but chose not to drive up to the northern end of the park.    Planning to me is preparing. It is not setting the entire course of the trip.  Days just need to happen naturally when in nature!

Exploring the Tetons by Foot

Resources: Two excellent resources that provided a wealth of information and inspiration  that I highly recommend:

  • Grand Teton National Park – Hiking: The first place where the planning started…
  • Teton Hiking Trails:  The day I stumbled across this I knew I hit the jackpot!   Well organized, descriptive, and it includes elevation gain and difficulty rating. I just printed out lots of trail maps of fun hikes and let fate work its course for where we would go each day.

Trail Difficulty Level:  We are moderate level hikers –in good shape but live in an area offering trails with minimal incline and limited distance.   About 7 miles on a moderate hike is perfect for us. There is plenty of this type of hiking in the Grand Tetons.  Yes – there are also plenty of hikes that are strenuous leading you into the Canyons but for us we wanted to hike everyday.

Tip: It may be vacation but you’ll relieve a lot of frustration by getting up early and arriving before 10 at the trail-heads. That seems to be the turning hour when parking lots fill up and roads get busy. Packing a lunch is also a great idea.  Well worth the $20 cooler we bought for this purpose.

1st Hike String Lake Loop

Nothing more glorious then recounting our first hike in the Tetons.   The bright blue sky with the most amazing clouds just above the mountain peaks. Fate chose this hike… first two trail head parking lots were filled so we just kept going… We almost gave up on this one due to theDSC00030lack of parking but found a spot at the Cathedral Group Turnout about 1 mile down the road.  At first we were overwhelmed by the crowds in the area, swimming & boating in the lake and assumed the trail would be crowded. (Which for our first hike I emphasize overwhelmed but due to this being unfamiliar territory with bears being a possibility we were not disappointed to know others were around). However when we got ¼ mile into the trail we left that all behind us – and as we slowly inclined the voices from the water below began to fade. The views were absolutely amazing – both looking up at the mountains and down below to the lake. DSC00016We passed at most four other groups until the final stretch of the hike.   Our favorite spot was the crossing over the footbridge of the Leigh Lake Outlet.  It was just spectacular scenery in every direction!  We decided to add on an extra stretch and hiked over to see Leigh Lake – We did not take the loop around however it would be a nice add on to make a longer hike if we had started earlier and had not parked so far away..

This ranks as one our most favorite hikes for the amazing scenery and our first up close views of the mountains away from the paved roads. It was an easy hike that was just enough elevation change as we began to adapt to the higher elevation.

Hickory Run State Park

Our visit here was an overnight trip for we had a place to stay at the Lake Harmony Community.  However I was amazed what a quick drive this was from our home in Bucks County – just a little further then we’d usually go on a day hike and so I added to our list of day trips close to home.

We did several nice hikes at Hickory Run State Park –  great place to visit especially with a family for scenic hiking.  We chose one very quiet hike where we did not pass a single person (but not scenic until we hit the dam)-  Fourth Run Trail 

On day two we woke up early to see the beautiful falls (for it had rained recently)- Hawk Falls Trail – this is a very popular hike  for you get a wonderful waterfall view with just a .6 mile hike.  However the lot fills up quickly so arrive early.  Do not try to approach from the back-end – we tried from the Orchard Trail turnoff and  ended up turning around.

A nice stop on the way home was Jim Thorpe – definitely returning there with our bikes and a stop for good beer and delicious Polish Food – by far the best brew pub food I ever had — Red Castle Brewery – great and unusual beers which we brought home a few bottles.

 

 

Hiking through Stokes State Forest

Let’s begin that we our casual hikers.  A good hike for us is 4-5 miles and a long hike is 7 miles…We clocked this one  in at between 9.5 and 10 miles on our FitBit.  Our longest hike together and probably the longest hike I have been on for fifteen years. Capture Moderate/Difficult is what it is listed at.  We agree. Map – Best to print out the one from the site the hiking trail map Stokes State Forest North.  I did not and used the general one which was not as helpful. Critters along the way:  Birds, and eastern (red-spotted) newt (please correct me reader if I am wrong in my identification). I loved getting down at ground level at taking pictures of him – apparently they are pretty common in this area. Starting Point – Follow Skellenger Road over a bridge (closed to cars) that connects the cabin area to the main camping area. At the junction of Skellenger and Skellenger (confusing) follow signs for the one that take you to the NJ State School of Conversation.   Stay on this road until you see the turn off for the Tinsley Trail to your right. It is about .8 miles from cabins to trail. Follow Tinsley Trail (Yellow) to Swenson Trail (Red) and turn left.  (It was suggested from another hiking site that this approach was better – and I agree). Then take Swenson Trail to a right on to the Catwright trail (Brown Red Trail.  (along the way you pass the neat old cabin) The Cartwright trails along the Kittatinny Mountain Ridge  is where the image was taken looking west to the Delaware River. Be forewarned Cartwright is rocky and overgrown. ridge Eventually you meet up the with the Appalachian Trail and hike that past the Sunrise Mountain Overlook until turning right unto Tinsley. Ending Point:  We then followed Tinsley back to Skellenger road to our cabin. End Report:    It was nice starting at the campgrounds – right  from our cabin.  It was certainly more difficult then our past hikes – It is rocky both in the flat areas and when going uphill causing difficult for those with knee trouble.  However, once reaching the summit of Sunrise Mountain looking West- the view is amazing and well worth the climb.    It is also a nice loop,   meeting up with the Appalachian and checking out the view at Sunrise Mountain looking east to  Kittatinny Valley.

Stokes State Forest

Less then a two hour drive from home on the less busy side of the Delaware Water Gap – NJ side – is a wonderful State Forest.   Cabin rentals are weekly but they open up the reservations for any time period one month out – so we really lucked out getting this cabin for a Saturday and Sunday night.

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Unfortunately the forecast was rain all weekend. We only lasted one night and then went home so not much to report on this trip but our hike through Stokes State Forest.  But wow what a hike it was!

A Very Green Grand Canyon

We left the lowest elevation of the Gorge and climbed upward to the scenic view at  Leonard Harrison State Park. Amazing.   Looking out at the Canyon below and to think at what time this land had been stripped of its trees for lumber and bark for tannins.

This is obviously a different canyon then the Grand Canyon we visited in Arizona… but still very beautiful.

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Distance not Steepness this time on the AT

Arriving at the trail access for our second AT hike, driving past the main lot, the overflow lot, and then finally finding  a spot in the second overflow lot — I was overwhelmed by the number of hikers to this area. I had not ventured beyond the recently found AT website ( amazing site showing trail access and parking) and did not realize that the trail crossed through the Dunfield Creek Natural Area – where multiple trail heads through Worthington State Forest start.  What a beautiful spot and a wonderful place to explore with young hikers!!

Hike Two on the AT

My worries of a crowded trail quickly ended.  Upon taking the left towards the AT, you will quickly realize how few of those visitors venture unto the AT.  Although we had our packs full, we had not set expectations of how far to go  (around five miles being our goal).  We quickly learned we could do a nice loop – about 9 miles if we included the pond, or skip the pond and do 7.25 (that was far enough for us).  A challenge but I will take a loop anytime it is offered even for an extra few miles.

Loop Back

Note – Hike on the AT was nice, however after a rocky descent on the green blazed Dunnfield Creek Trail, it then begins to level out and follow the Dunnfield Creek.  A very scenic and fun hike skipping across the creek – by far our favorite part of the journey.  Looking forward to returning to the area to the do hike around Sunfish Pond!

Breaking it in

New hiking shoes that is. And getting ourselves in shape, too. We are just about 3 months out from our trip and have decided we needed to do something a little more challenging then our easy hikes so we hit the Appalachian Trail in Port Clinton.

Its a bit of a drive for us but well worth it.Port Clinton Hike

Perhaps slightly over ambitious on our first hike – straight up climb of an elevation gain from less then 600 feet to 1400 feet – very rocky and steep until you hit the ridge – then flattens out.  I’ve got some serious work to do before we head to the Grand Tetons!

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