Cumberland Valley's scenic landscape is ideal for families who love outdoor activities, especially hiking. Nature beckons on an array of trails crisscrossing our charming towns, rolling fields, and quiet forests. In Cumberland Valley, families can create unforgettable memories as they slow down and explore the great outdoors.
Here are some of our best kid-friendly hiking trails.
LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail, Carlisle
This 2.3-mile out-and-back trail follows a small section of the Old South Mountain Railroad bed that stretched from downtown Carlisle to Mt. Holly Springs. Most of the trail winds along LeTort Spring Run (except for a short portion of the trail that runs along South Bedford Street) and offers an easy hike on a 6-foot-wide crushed stone path. The trail is ideal for birdwatching and wildlife viewing. As a bonus, the trailhead is located in LeTort Park, where families can picnic, feed the ducks, and play on the large play structure.
Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, Carlisle
A scenic 15-minute drive from downtown Carlisle, Kings Gap offers hiking for all skill levels on 20 well-marked trails that meander through the forest. Near the entrance, follow the orange blazes for an easy .6-mile loop on soft pine needles along the Pine Plantation Trail. The trail circles through the heart of a 42-acre coniferous plantation from the 1950s. Or try the shorter .3-mile Whispering Pines Trail, a paved ADA-accessible trail into the pine plantation. Little ones will enjoy reading a seasonal book on the Story Walk posted along the Whispering Pines Trail. For families wanting a little more challenge, head further up the mountain to the Forest Pools Trail. This relatively flat 1.2-mile loop trail travels through mixed forest and takes hikers past several vernal pools.
Angler's Access Trail @ Opossum Lake, Carlisle
The 4-mile Angler's Access Trail loops around the 47-acre Opossum Lake, which is located within a larger 247-acre recreation area. The location is popular with outdoor enthusiasts for hiking, boating, fishing, and birdwatching. This quiet trail is relatively narrow with uneven surfaces and offers easy to moderate hiking through woods and fields. Glimpses of the lake are never too far away. The trail has several access points, including the grassy park area, on either side of the dam, and the two parking areas on the northwest side.
Cumberland Valley Rail Trail, Newville
The 13-mile Cumberland Valley Rail Trail follows the abandoned Cumberland Valley Railroad corridor from Newville to Shippensburg. The trail is flat and wide and features a crushed limestone surface (except for a ½-mile section in Newville that is concrete and asphalt). The corridor of woods and shrubs adjacent to farms and grassland provides plenty of opportunities for observing wildlife. Before or after your adventure, kids can explore the small playground area at the Newville trailhead. NOTE: Hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians share the trail.
Pole Steeple Trail @ Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Gardners
Kids will "ooh" and "ahh" at the incredible views from the rock outcropping at the top of Pole Steeple. You can take the challenging .75-mile climb over rocks or a slightly longer trail that heads around the cliffs to the south side and avoids rocks. Whatever choice you make, you'll be rewarded with a view of the entire park, including Laurel Lake, nearly 500 feet below in the valley. If you prefer to stay more grounded, try the much easier Mountain Creek Trail. This bucolic pathway follows Mountain Creek downstream to Laurel Lake through lush forests and wetlands where deer, heron, waterfowl, and beaver can be seen.
Appalachian Trail Along Children's Lake, Boiling Springs
The short, paved section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) runs along the side of the charming and scenic Children's Lake, located in the heart of the small village of Boiling Springs. It is ideal for young children and families with strollers. If you are looking for a more challenging section of the A.T. for older kids, cross the street at the end of the lake, continue south past the historic iron furnace, through a small area of riparian woodland, and into agricultural fields. This is an out-and-back trail, so give yourself plenty of time to return to your starting point. (Note: Construction for a repair project at Children's Lake began in early April 2022, and the lake was drained in mid-September 2022. The expected completion date is summer 2023.)
With more than 200 miles of trails throughout Cumberland Valley, there are hiking opportunities that match the skill level of all family members. However, if you are not ready for a hiking excursion, take a leisurely stroll along short walking paths in many of our community parks.
After your day of outdoor exploration, check out more family fun options.