I travel Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey with my trusty sidekicks, Bella and Bond, searching for the best hikes in the area. This weekend, we found one for the books.
French Creek State Park near Reading, Pennsylvania is a bit of a hike (pun intended) for us. I was excited but after the day prior (See Tyler State Park) I wasn’t getting my hopes up. We pulled into the parking lot near Turtle Creek Trail. It wasn’t near any picnic pavilions and it was close enough to the Fire Tower that we wouldn’t have to hike all day to make it to that landmark. Bella and Bond were raring to go after the long drive. We set off, my brother accompanying us on this hike.
There are several different trails to choose from and coming up from the parking lot, we immediately decided on Turtle Trail, because it was close, it was about four miles, and we figured we could hop onto other trails from Turtle. The hiking is fairly easy to start with, which was a great warm-up. We quickly realized that Turtle Trail is only a very short section (white blazes) before it moves to a combination of Horseshoe and Boone trails (yellow and blue blazes, respectively). This was fine with us, it was a beautiful day and we were headed for Scott’s Run Lake. Along the way we ran into some interesting plants and fungi so this is definitely a great place to be if you’re an avid naturalist. Unfortunately, with the drive we had arrived a bit too late for the morning bird rush. Boone trail turned to the left (follow blue blazes) but we decided to stick with Horseshoe Trail so we could see the lake.
We made it to the lake and crossed a small dam. Here we found the first evidence of fellow humans for the day. We had the opportunity to chat with some families about the fish in the area and then we continued on, easily picking up our yellow blazes on the other side. I was extremely pleased with how well these trails were blazed. Though we had a map and compass, it’s never easy to get Bella and Bond to stay still long enough to consult these, so the blazes made life a lot easier.
We continued wrapping around Horseshoe trail, hitting a few roads on our way, which aren’t heavily traveled but worth looking out for. An hour and a few water breaks later, we reconnected to Boone trail, which we decided to take, so we could head up towards the fire tower. This is where the real fun began. After an easy hour or so hiking Horseshoe trail, Boone trail provided a great challenge. In the southward direction we were heading, Boone is all uphill and very rocky. I would make sure you’re physically fit to tackle this one – all of us were winded by the time we reached the next marker. At marker eight turn east and you’ll find yourself in a parking lot. At first I was disappointed, because it looked like a service area. But keep walking and you’ll find the fire tower, which has been dedicated to the folks who help keep our forests safe from fires (excluding fire ecology necessities, but I digress). There are some shaded picnic tables in this area so we stopped for a photo op and to eat a quick snack.
Back down Boone trail, using a cut-over onto Horseshoe trail, back onto Turtle Trail, and we were back to the car; all in all, an easier hike then the way up. There are a few downhill portions that make me strongly recommend a good hiking boot. Otherwise, beware twisted ankles. In all, our hike was 4.5 miles long and we still only saw less than half of the park. I am seriously considering making this trek again and camping this time, to give us more time to explore. French Creek State Park offers several campgrounds and one is open to dogs. If you’re not much of a primitive camper, no worries, cabins are also offered and bathrooms are available at all campsites. Bella and Bond love to rough it – no, I’m sorry, correction, they will be snuggled up in their doggy sleeping bag inside the tent, with their Collapsible Kurgo food and water bowls, topped off to the brim… My dogs aren’t spoiled, I swear.
This was such a beautiful late summer day, temperatures were in the high 60’s, low 70’s, and the leaves are just beginning to hold a hint of gold. Though I love summer, fall and spring are best hiking seasons, full of colors and interesting flora and fauna. I was lucky to spend this day at French Creek State Park with my brother, Bella, and Bond, and I hope to do so again very soon.