Cumberland Valley’s self-guided walking tours provide the perfect opportunity to dive deeper into the history of this region. Meander and explore at your own pace as you follow routes through both town and country locations that provide a delightful peek into the past.
A Walk Around Boiling Springs
Boiling Springs packs a lot of history into its small size. The seven-acre man-made Children’s Lake dates back to the 1750s, when it was originally used to power the iron industry. In the mid-1800s, the village was the site of an Underground Railroad stop, and then in the early 1900s, it became a popular recreational destination. Today, Boiling Springs is an ideal location for outdoor lovers. The Appalachian Trail runs along Children’s Lake, and the village is a designated Appalachian Trail community, one of only five in Pennsylvania. Fishermen flock to Yellow Breeches Creek for some of the world’s best fly-fishing, and visitors can enjoy a leisurely paddle on the lake. (TIP: If you are interested in a guided outdoor adventure, contact Adventure Explorations, based in Boiling Springs.)
To learn more, download A Walk Around Boiling Springs brochure for a guide to more than 20 stops that attest to this town's charm and historical significance. (NOTE: The lake was drained in September 2022 for a restoration project that will last approximately one year.)
Walking Tour of Carlisle’s Wayside Markers
Over the years, Historic Carlisle, Inc. has installed 25 markers in downtown Carlisle to highlight the town’s rich history dating back to the 1700s. Stroll through town, read the markers, and learn more about locations such as the Old Graveyard (see below), the Old Prison, and Carlisle’s role in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. You will find welcoming storefronts and delightful restaurants and breweries along the way.
To learn more, download the brochure, which also features a map and a list of markers placed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and other organizations. (TIP: The Cumberland County Historical Society occasionally offers guided tours of downtown Carlisle. Take time to visit their Museum, located on N. Pitt Street, for a comprehensive overview of the history of Cumberland Valley.)
Carlisle's Old Public Graveyard
The Old Public Graveyard was Carlisle’s first burial ground and one of colonial Pennsylvania's original seven public graveyards. The oldest surviving marker dates to 1757. It is also the burial site of Mary Hays McCauly, better known as “Molly Pitcher,” and recognized for her bravery during the Revolutionary War. Other prominent graves include those of General John Armstrong, Dr. Charles Nesbit, Esther Groome, and veterans from the Revolutionary War through the Korean War.
Download the guide here, which highlights 20 locations. The graveyard is open daily to the public from dawn to dusk.
Pine Grove Furnace Iron Works Historic Walking Tour
The abundant beauty of Pine Grove Furnace State Park hides the fact that this area was, for many years, a hub for the iron industry. It was left as an unattractive industrial wasteland in the late 1800s when that industry went bankrupt. With its natural resources now restored and preserved, visitors to this state park can still see signs of the area’s past, most notably the iron furnace, paymaster’s cabin, and the Ironmaster’s Mansion, which now serves as a hostel.
This walking tour features information about 11 landmarks important to the iron industry and the community who lived and worked here. (TIP: The shiny blue stone you may see on the ground is called slag, an unwanted byproduct of iron-making. It was disposed of in large piles around the furnace but is now considered a historical artifact. Please leave what you find.)
Two miles northwest of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Camp Michaux has a colorful history as a church camp, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp, a secret POW camp during WWII, and a working farm with links to the iron industry dating back to the 18th century. Today, several building ruins are still visible. As you walk along the trails of this quiet location nestled in the ridges of the South Mountain, look for the concrete remains of structures such as the original CCC barracks renovated into a German POW dining hall, the pump house, and the church camp swimming pool, among others.
To learn more, download the Camp Michaux walking tour brochure with information on more than 25 markers located throughout the site. (TIP: The Cumberland County Historical Society offers guided tours of Camp Michaux each spring and fall.)
If you want to delve more into the unique history of Carlisle, both The Barefoot Historian and TimeKeeper Tours offer options for public and private group tours featuring ghosts, legends, murders, mayhem, and more.