Kings Gap Environmental Education Center
Kings Gap Environmental Education Center is well known for the four-mile road that winds through its 2,531 acres to the historic Italian villa-style stone mansion atop of South Mountain. Kings Gap focuses on natural and cultural interpretation and education. Lifelong learners will appreciate both self-guided interpretive trails and guided hikes. Kings Gap is free and open year-round, from dawn to dusk.
Twenty-five miles of trails interconnect three main day-use areas: Mansion, Pine Plantation, and Kings Gap Hallow. Begin your journey at the Mansion Day Use Area, where center offices and an adjacent education center are located.
Be sure to take in the view from the patio, wander through the mansion garden, or hike the Ridge Overlook Trail to the sweeping vista of the Cumberland Valley.
Kings Gap Hollow
Traveling back down the mountain, this day-use area offers trails that explore this habitat for songbirds, wildflowers, reptiles, and amphibians, created by the presence of Kings Gap Hollow Run.
Continuing down the road, this area is the site of another trailhead, a half-century-old conifer forest, and is also a haven for many resident bird species, including owls.
Things to Do at Kings Gap
Twenty-five miles of trails provide ample opportunities to explore chestnut oak forests, blueberry patches, and trickling streams and to encounter wildlife such as various birds, white-tailed deer, and the eastern box turtle. Trailheads are located in the three-day use areas. Sturdy footwear is recommended due to the rock footing on most trails. Trails are well marked, but taking a trail map on your hike is strongly recommended.
- Black Gum Trail: 1.1-mile linear trail (more difficult) View Details
- Boundary Trail: 1.5-mile linear trail (most difficult) View Details
- Buck Ridge Trail: 6-mile linear trail from Kings Gap to Pine Grove Furnace (most difficult) View Details
- Cold Spring Overlook Trail: .05 miles (easiest) View Details
- Forest Heritage Trail: 1.8-mile loop (more difficult) View Details
- Kings Gap Hollow Trail: 2.8-mile linear trail (more difficult) View Details
- Locust Point Trail: 1-mile loop (most difficult) View Details
- Maple Hollow Trail: 1.3-mile loop (more difficult) View Details
- Nature Trail: .2 mile loop (easiest) View Details
- Pine Plantation Trail: .6 mile loop (easiest) View Details
- Ridge Overlook: .8 mile linear trail (most difficult) View Details
- Rock Scree Trail: 1.9-mile linear trail (more difficult) View Details
- Scenic Vista Trail: 2.5-mile linear trail (more difficult) View Details
- Watershed Trail: 1.9-mile loop (more difficult) View Details
- Whispering Pines Trail: .3 mile loop (easiest, paved, ADA accessible) View Details
- White Oaks Trail: .3 mile loop (easiest, paved, ADA accessible) View Details
- Woodland Ecology Trail: .6 mile loop (easiest) View Details
- Irish Gap Hollow Trail: .4 mile linear trail (easiest) View Details
- Two Hollows Trail: .9 mile linear trail (more difficult) View Details
- Forest Pools Trail: 1.2-mile loop (easiest) View Details
The Irish Gap Hollow Trail and Two Hollows Trail can be accessed from the Boundary Trail or from the Irish Gap Access Area.
The park also recently added 68 acres to provide more accessible hiking opportunities and conserve the amphibian habitat threatened by the impacts of climate change. The property contains several vernal pools and a section of Kings Gap Hollow Run, which has a native brook trout population. Vernal pools are temporary springtime wetlands that host and nourish globally rare salamanders, frogs, and other woodland species before drying up by summertime. The property borders several thousand feet of Kings Gap Road at the entrance to the center. The forest habitat of the property is more diverse and accessible than the majority of the center's land. With the newly added land, Kings Gap now encompasses almost 2,600 acres.
Trail Difficulty Ratings: based on the technical challenge, not physical exertion.
- Easiest (Interpretive) – Elevation gain or loss is minimal, less than 5% slope, maximum 20% up to 100 feet
- More Difficult – Elevation gain or loss is moderate, less than 12% slope, maximum 30% up to 300 feet
- Most Difficult – Elevation gain or loss is usually severe, less than 18% slope, maximum 30+% up to 500 feet
The change in elevation from the bottom to the top of the mountain provides two distinct forest habitats.
On the lower slopes of South Mountain is a forest habitat of white oak, red oak, tulip trees, and sparse undergrowth. In the tree canopy, birds like scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, and vireos hunt for insects to feed their young. Ovenbirds, eastern towhees, and wood thrushes scour the ground for insects. Sharp-shinned hawks hunt for songbirds, reptiles, and amphibians.
The dry ridge tops of South Mountain are a forest habitat of chestnut oak trees, with an understory of mountain laurel, blueberry, and black huckleberry. Pileated woodpeckers, eastern wood-peewees, brown creepers, and kinglets thrive in the dry forest.
View bird-watching hotspots in Cumberland Valley.
Bike the 4-mile windy road leading up to the mansion. Be sure to stop along the way at scenic vistas of the Valley below. NOTE: Bikes are prohibited on the trails. View more bike routes in Cumberland Valley.
During established seasons, 1,860 acres are open to hunting, trapping, and training of dogs. Dog training is only permitted from the day after Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. An additional 633 acres are listed and posted as no hunting. However, this area is open to deer hunting (both antlered and antlerless) from the first Saturday after Thanksgiving through the third Saturday after Thanksgiving -- the traditional deer season. This area is closed to all types of hunting during the remainder of the year. View hunting areas.
Friendly Reminder: During hunting season, please wear bright orange viewable from all directions when hiking. Don't forget orange for your pets.
A permanent orienteering course is located at Kings Gap. Orienteering is a sport that involves using a map and compass to find your way on a course. Introduction to Orienteering programs are offered in the fall and spring.
If there is enough snow cover, snowshoeing is permitted on all trails, although the more level trails in the Pine Plantation Use Area are recommended.
The peaceful setting and the vibrancy of its colorful blooms create a garden to be experienced and enjoyed in all seasons. This outdoor classroom inspires and teaches about plants while demonstrating sustainable gardening practices. Surrounded by a low stone wall, the garden is divided into three sections: an herb garden, a wildlife habitat garden featuring native plants, and a compost demonstration garden.
Take time to view the garden and experience solitude while you commune with nature. Guests will also get ideas on native plants to use in their own gardens to attract butterflies.
Guided Hikes and Programs
Self-guided and guided programs range from historical tours of the mansion to interpretive walks through the gardens, grounds, and trails. Check our online events calendar for a list of guided hikes and other programs.
Stay the Night
Weekend Stays at the Mansion -- Spend the weekend at the historic Cameron Masland Mansion from late April through mid-November. There is a two-night minimum stay (Friday & Saturday nights). Continental breakfast is included in the cost. All suites and rooms come with a queen bed (plus a queen sofa bed for the suites), mini-fridge, Keurig coffee maker and coffee/tea, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, linens, and toiletries. There are four suites with a maximum capacity of 4 people each and three rooms with a maximum capacity of two people each. Each two-person room features a private full bathroom with a clawfoot tub. Each four-person room features a private full bathroom with a clawfoot tub or shower. Check-in time is between 3 pm and 7 pm on Friday, and check-out time is 11 am on Sunday. To book a room, call 888-PA-PARKS or visit https://pennsylvaniastateparks.reserveamerica.com/.
Groups -- The Mansion is also available to rent for meetings, retreats, training sessions, weddings, receptions, and other special events.