The midway point of the Appalachian Trail is a high point for natural outdoor beauty and deeply fascinating American history. The south-central Pennsylvania region of Cumberland Valley is a getaway destination with a unique mixture of mountain scenery and captivating cultural significance. A serene and stunning region packed with rustic gems waiting to be discovered, Cumberland Valley is a can’t-miss choice for overnight and weekend visits.
There are a few standout attractions off the beaten path along the Appalachian Trail in Cumberland Valley. Here are some of the inspiring natural and historical finds that this distinctive destination has hidden in its hills. If you’re looking for dazzling discoveries in the great outdoors, you’ve #FounditinCV.
The Mansion at Kings Gap
One of the most stunning sights in the Appalachian Mountains is the unexpected appearance of a regal, 100-year-old mansion sitting among the forest peaks. Known colloquially as “the mansion,” this landmark is now called the Kings Gap Environmental Education Center and offers one of the most breathtaking panoramic views in the whole Cumberland Valley. The mansion is surrounded by nearly 1,500 acres of picturesque mountain terrain and more than 20 miles of hiking trails that are open year-round with free admission.
Pine Grove Iron Furnace
An awe-inspiring monument, the Pine Grove Iron Furnace at Pine Grove Furnace State Park dates way back to before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Now nearly 250 years old, the furnace is steeped with fascinating folklore and history. The park features nearly 700 acres of unspoiled nature and hiking trails, including a Pole Steeple lookout point that lets you see almost the whole park.
Everyone’s a bird watcher at Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch. The Hawk Watch is a 125-acre rock outcrop that as many as 20,000 raptors pass through each year. The magnificent ridge atop Blue Mountain gives you the same “as the hawk flies” view enjoyed by the red-tailed hawks, bald eagles and more than a dozen other species of birds who also fly through the area.
Cumberland Valley Rail Trail and Cumberland Valley Railroad Museum
What was once the path of the old legacy Cumberland Valley railroad corridor has been reborn as the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail, a 13-mile trail that’s terrific for biking and horseback riding. But a new attraction recently opened at the Shippensburg Station trailhead. The Cumberland Valley Railroad Museum is housed in a restored 1956 Penn Central 50-foot boxcar and adds another signature find to the Cumberland Valley.
Carlisle’s LeTort Nature Trail and Fly Fishing Museum
Fly-fishing season is underway, and LeTort Spring Run is nationally known as one of the finest limestone trout streams in the country. Cumberland Valley’s pedigree as a premier fly-fishing destination is enhanced by the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum in Carlisle, a one-of-a-kind museum packed with fly-fishing memorabilia, photos, and history.
Outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts will find an idyllic paradise at Opossum Lake, a 59-acre lake that sits on a larger 275-acre public recreation area. Whether you love boating, hiking, fishing or birdwatching, Opossum Lake makes for an unforgettable day or weekend. Its four-mile trail offers a peaceful, easy-to-moderate hike through woods and fields with access points to the lake.
Appalachian Trail Museum
There’s only one museum in the United States devoted exclusively to hiking and, of course, you’ll find it on the nation’s longest hiking trail. The Appalachian Trail Museum in Gardners is an enthralling deep dive into the history of the trail, its founders and more than 100 years of photos taken along the iconic hiking path. The basement of the museum, inside a 200-year-old grist mill, even includes an educational “children’s version” of the Appalachian Trail, perfect for future hikers. Five new exhibits opened in 2019 including a "Night on the Trail" designed to give children a sense of what it's like to spend a night on the A.T.
Army Heritage Trail at USAHEC
The history of the U.S. Army, from the French and Indian War to the current day is powerfully captured along the Army Heritage Trail at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. A fun and fascinating walk through time is accentuated by unforgettable sights like a Huey helicopter and an M18 Hellcat tank destroyer on a one-mile outdoor trail loop.
Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, lives up to its name at Children's Lake, a crystal-clear, man-made lake where the water really does bubble. But the lake is still perfectly suitable for boating, fishing and feeding the ducks or swans, and really captures the special magic of Cumberland Valley with the Appalachian Trail on one side and charming downtown Boiling Springs on the other.
The uncommon wonders make for wonderful outdoor experiences in Cumberland Valley, so find a place to stay and make an overnight or weekend trip of it. Steeped in history that goes back to before the birth of this nation, the majestic mountains of the Cumberland Valley always have more spectacular secrets to reveal.
Plan your #WeekendEasy adventure at visitcumberlandvalley.com.