Hiking & Biking
Lasting memories often come from things like challenging hikes, long family bike rides, or running in a race with your significant other. These experiences can bring us laughter, joy, and sometimes even tears of frustration. But ultimately, they bring us closer together. The reward is always there at the finish line or at the top of the mountain for those who are driven to succeed. Part of that reward is the incredible memories that we have from these adventures. In Columbia & Montour counties, we challenge the outdoor enthusiast to find their own special memories on our trails or in our competitions.
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Find a park or trail in our area that suits what you’re searching for using our interactive map! Click on an individual park outline, trail line, or point of interest for more information about that asset.
Hiking & Biking Trails
For some of the top hikes/walks in our area, check out our “Five Great Central PA Hikes to do This Season” article.
Visitors looking to return to their roots and get out into nature will delight in the multitude of hiking, biking, and walking trails in Columbia & Montour Counties. Leisurely walking trails can be found at various sites around the two county region, including at the Montour Preserve outside Washingtonville, Kocher Park outside Bloomsburg, Briar Creek Lake Park near Berwick, and at the Bloomsburg Town Park, among other sites. Berwick’s Test Track Riverfront Park is great for both casual bicyclists and walkers alike.
In Bloomsburg, the Columbia County Trail starts on Railroad Street and continues north for several miles where it ends just prior to meeting Route 42. The trail is constructed on portions of an abandoned Reading Railroad line and Pennsylvania Canal towpath. It connects to the larger Bloomsburg Rail Trail. which spans portions of downtown including a crossing of one of Columbia County’s many famous covered bridges, the Rupert Bridge. Further east at the Susquehanna Riverlands near Berwick, hikers and bicyclists can traverse the 12.5 mile Susquehanna Warrior Trail that runs along the mighty Susquehanna River.
For the moderate biking enthusiasts, several State Gamelands are the places to go. State Gameland #58 (near Catawissa), State Gameland #226 (northwest of Bloomsburg), and State Gameland #329 (near Aristes) all offer more rugged mountain biking trails. State Gameland #13 covers 49,500 acres and is one of the largest Gamelands in Pennsylvania. The forest spans several counties including Columbia County. Several hiking trails connect for an approximate seven mile trail system. In the winter, portions of the nearby forest roads are opened exclusively to snowmobiles.
At the Montour Preserve, various trails totaling approximately 8 miles are open from dawn til dusk. The majority of these trails are intended for casual walking, but visitors are encouraged to get more information by stopping at the Preserve’s Visitors Center before hitting the trails. Looking closer toward Danville, the Robbins Trail at the Hess Recreation Area is the oldest known rail-to-trail in the United States and provides a scenic 3.9 mile walk or bike.
Right down the road at Hopewell Park, the challenging series of mountain biking trails are a cyclist’s dream (or nightmare). Built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, the Hopewell Park / Danville Borough Farm Trail network is designed to challenge experienced riders while still allowing beginners to enjoy a great day on the trail. The trails make use of the varied terrain and feature both manmade and nature-made twists and turns that will keep you coming back for more. With more than 11 miles of trails built so far and more in the works, there are plenty of options to keep you riding. Plus, a specially constructed jump park by the parking area is a great place for the mountain bike enthusiast to test their skills. The Geisinger Stewardship Trails in Danville also boast vigorous hiking and mountain biking trails. There are eight miles of marked, single-track loop trails.
In the southern part of Columbia County, Weiser State Forest – Roaring Creek Tract offers perhaps the largest trail system, including an eight mile hiking/biking trail which is ideal for families out for a casual weekend jaunt. Weiser State Forest is also home to four historic miner trails from the 19th century that were recently restored to allow for present-day explorers to “walk in the footsteps” of miners from days past. In total, there are approximately 40 miles of shared use trails for hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing at the Roaring Creek Tract.
For the true outdoor adventurer, the trail system at Ricketts Glen State park offers a rigorous and challenging adventure. In total, 26 miles of trail are available for hiking. The Falls Trail in particular provides some of the most spectacular hiking scenery in the state. The trail stretches approximately 7.2 miles and takes hikers past 21 stunning waterfalls. The trail weaves over and around free-flowing waterfalls and takes travelers through rock-strewn clefts and old growth forest. As per the PA DCNR website, the terrain is rocky, can be slippery and descends steeply on both the Ganoga and Glen Leigh sides of the Falls Trail. Hikers should take extra precautions with trail conditions, wear proper footwear, stay on the trail and be in good physical condition before attempting to hike the loop. Diverse wildlife, including bald eagles, will have visitors scrambling for their cameras. Snowmobile and cross-country skiing trails also exist in the park boundaries. Ice climbing on the Falls Trail is even permitted with special approval during the winter months!
Throughout the counties, there are also a myriad of country roads that make for great road cycling. Many will wind through rolling farmland or pass through peaceful woodlands, and some will even provide an added bonus of a picturesque covered bridge.
To create a cycling trip specifically with the covered bridges in mind, be sure to check out these great Bike Routes, laid out by Jared Fenstermacher.
For shorter “half” options:
COVERED BRIDGES – NORTH LOOP
COVERED BRIDGES – SOUTH LOOP
For additional bicycle routes in the area, check out our specialty “Biking Trails” brochure and get some good ideas for your next ride!
Also, check out a complete list of all trails in Montour County.
Following in the Footsteps of a Miner
The mountains of Central Pennsylvania are home to many superb trails – the Appalachian Trail runs into the central part of the state and then turns east just north of Harrisburg, and the Mid-State Trail allows travelers to traverse the entire state from north to south or vice versa. Many State Parks and State Forests dot the landscape and provide additional trails for all ages and skill levels.
One such State Forest provides visitors the opportunity to experience a bit of Pennsylvania history while at the same time enjoying some quality trail time in the woods. Weiser State Forest, specifically the Roaring Creek Tract part of the Forest, is home to four historic miner trails from the 19th century.
In the 1800’s, coal mines were a main source of work for many Central Pennsylvania inhabitants, and the industry is a big part of the region’s history. At the time however, advanced road systems had not been invented. To get to work, miners in parts of today’s Columbia County would meet in the early hours of the morning and walk in groups up over the mountain on footpaths into the main production towns of Natalie and Wilburton. Each neighborhood had its own little meeting place in the morning – whether it was at someone’s house or just a tree on the edge of town. In the evening when the miners came home to their families, the wives and children would count the strings of helmet lights to make sure everyone came back safely from a hard day at work.
Eventually, with the invention of automobiles, a road system came into place. At the same time, as other industries rose and many of the coal mines slowly closed, these once vital paths for miners slowly disappeared into the obscurity of the forest.
In 2004, the Roaring Creek and Catawissa Valley Historical Study Group was reviewing old maps of the area, and noticed the old abandoned miner trails that seemed to transect the valley in a North to South direction. The group approached the Bureau of Forestry to seek permission to reestablish the trails and was granted authorization to do so.
With the assistance of local scouts and other interested individuals, the group worked diligently for many months to re-establish the trails. Many of the trees contained visible hash marks from past trail blazing so finding the trails were easy; cleaning them to make the paths passable was the hard work. In 2005, the trails were completed and a night hike commemorated the project. A group of over 200 people gathered to hike the trails and feel what it was like to be one of the miners that hiked to work in the early morning darkness on those trails almost 200 years prior.
Today, there are four historic trails that are open for visitors to explore. They are referred to as Natalie #1 East, Natalie #1 West, Natalie #2 and Old Natalie Road. The four trails are approximately six miles in length. In total, Weiser State Forest – Roaring Creek Tract has around 40 miles of shared use trails for hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing.
For those with a competitive edge, Columbia & Montour counties offer exceptional races throughout the year. One of the signature events of the year takes place on Thanksgiving morning in Berwick – the Run for the Diamonds. Since 1908, this race has tested participants with chilly temperatures and a winding course. However, diamond rings await the winners!
Also in Berwick is a holiday favorite: the annual Berwick Holiday Speedo Run. Participants are encouraged to wear speedos and holiday costumes. In June, the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds plays host to the Greater Columbia County Relay for Life. This 24 hour event offers music, food, vendors, themed laps, and live entertainment – all for a good cause.
In early March, the Humdinger Trail Races are designed to test your early season stamina while shaking off the cabin fever. Annually, over 300 participants enjoy racing through the snowy and muddy area forests and fields in any one of three different distance categories. The Dinger Lite is 4.7 miles and is a bit flatter and less-demanding than the other choices. The course will still have ice, snow, mud, and/or water, but anyone can do it if they put their mind to it. The classic Humdinger is a longer 7.1 miles and involves all of the above and also some possible bush-whacking through underbrush! The Dinger Plus offers two loops of the classic Humdinger. In June, the Old Forge Brewing Company 5k Beer Run incorporates beer, a giant slide, beer pools, and a keg carry/toss/roll.