Ap­palachian Trail of­fers great views, col­or­ful fo­liage

Au­tumn of­fers su­perb set­ting for those along the Ap­palachian Trail

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Demko

A hiker walks along the Ap­palachian Trail near the Danielsvil­le Trail Head in Le­high Town­ship on Tues­day. Pan­cho, his trail name, is walk­ing the length of the 2,190-mile trail, start­ing in Maine and fin­ish­ing in Geor­gia. The Ap­palachian Trail runs for nearly 50 miles in the Le­high Val­ley and fea­tures scenic over­looks and, at this time of year, col­or­ful fo­liage.

It’s the grand­daddy of all hik­ing trails and it passes right through our back­yard.

Run­ning from Maine to Geor­gia, the Ap­palachian Trail spans 2,190 miles as it passes through 14 states. The long­est hik­ing-only foot­path in the world, the trail covers 227 miles in Penn­syl­va­nia, in­clud­ing nearly 50 in the Le­high Val­ley, travers­ing the Kit­tatinny Ridge through the Delaware Wa­ter Gap Na­tional Recre­ation Area be­fore cross­ing into New Jersey.

One of the most beau­ti­ful times to hike the AT is au­tumn, as the leaves be­gin to change and the days be­come cooler. In many stretches, you’ll also find that the crowds of sum­mer have di­min­ished, mak­ing for an even more en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you’ve never spent any time hik­ing this amaz­ing out­door re­source, here’s what you can ex­pect:

Where to start

The Ap­palachian Trail is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble in our re­gion, cross­ing sev­eral roads in­clud­ing Route 309 north of New Tripoli, Blue Moun­tain Drive near Danielsvil­le, Route 115 out­side of Wind Gap and Route 191 be­tween Ban­gor and Strouds­burg.

For new­bies, one of the eas­i­est hikes is the 0.8-mile round-trip stretch that goes from Bake Oven Road in Hei­del­berg Town­ship to Bake Oven Knob look­out, which of­fers sweep­ing vis­tas of the Le­high Val­ley be­low. The 8-mile stretch be­tween Wind Gap and Fox Gap at Route 191 also gives hik­ers the chance to ex­plore Cherry Val­ley Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, one of the two wildlife refuges the trail passes through.

“With the ex­cep­tion of the climbs from the two rivers — the Delaware at the north end and the Le­high in the mid­dle — and a lesser one from the road cross­ings in Wind Gap, much of this sec­tion [of the trail] is ac­ces­si­ble from roads that go across the top of the ridge and there­fore is rel­a­tively level,” Ap­palachian Trail Con­ser­vancy re­gional man­ager Bob Sick­ley said. “That be­ing said, hik­ers need to be pre­pared for Penn­syl­va­nia’s fa­mous rocky stretches, where foot­ing can be chal­leng­ing.”

Bill Stein­metz, a vol­un­teer leader with Ap­palachian Moun­tain Club who has spent nearly four decades hik­ing and work­ing on the trail, rec­om­mends the area where the Le­high River flows from Car­bon into Le­high and Northamp­ton coun­ties as an ex­cel­lent place to con­sider a hike.

“The Le­high Gap area on the south or west side has some very nice trails,” he said. “There are some loop trails there that are main­tained and there is park­ing at the Le­high Gap Na­ture Cen­ter on the west side [of the gap]. They have trail maps and [other re­sources]; that’s a good place to start.”

What to take

With­out a doubt the most im­por­tant piece of equip­ment needed for hit­ting the trail is a qual­ity pair of sturdy hik­ing boots.

“It’s go­ing to be a lit­tle bit harder than a hike in the state park,” Stein­metz said. “There are sec­tions that are a bit rocky, so good footwear that will support your an­kles is the pri­mary thing.”

Other es­sen­tials include wa­ter and a back­pack to carry items such as snacks, first aid kit, cell­phone, com­pass, map, light rain gear and ex­tra clothes. Morn­ings and evenings will be on the cooler side, so wear lay­ers that you can add or re­move as tem­per­a­tures change. The Ap­palachian Trail Con­ser­vancy rec­om­mends tak­ing at least one liter of wa­ter per per­son, more if it’s on the warmer side.

Great van­tage points

Stein­metz said when he en­coun­ters AT hik­ers in other states, one of the first things they re­mem­ber about Penn­syl­va­nia is the Le­high Gap be­cause of its spec­tac­u­lar views and the rocky climb.

“I think Le­high Gap has more views [than nearby Bake Oven Knob], and if you want to do some­thing very stren­u­ous, you can do each side,” he said. “You can do the rocky climb in the morn­ing and then head over to the south or west side and do a loop along the north trail up there. It just has spec­tac­u­lar views of the grass­lands. You can spend all day there on both sides.”

Other great vis­tas in the re­gion include The Pin­na­cle in Berks County, which can be ac­cessed via a 10-mile hike start­ing on State Game Lands 106 north of Kemp­ton; Wolf Rocks, which are reached via a 4.8-mile trail off Route 191; and Delaware Wa­ter Gap Na­tional Recre­ation Area in north­east­ern Northamp­ton County.

“The trail on the Penn­syl­va­nia side is just beau­ti­ful,” Stein­metz said of the recre­ation area. “You can do a hike up there to the top of Mount Minsi. There are great views in sev­eral lo­ca­tions on the way up. That’s very pop­u­lar.”

Other things to know

The Ap­palachian Trail Con­ser­vancy and its part­ners are re­lo­cat­ing the trail in the Palmer­ton area be­tween Le­high Fur­nace Gap and Lit­tle Gap. Sick­ley said the goal is to take the foot­path to view­points that will re­main as re­me­di­a­tion ef­forts on the Su­per­fund site con­tinue and to con­struct a more sus­tain­able foot­path, min­i­miz­ing fu­ture trail main­te­nance needs.

It’s also worth not­ing that au­tumn means hunt­ing sea­son in Penn­syl­va­nia, so it’s a good idea to wear flu­o­res­cent or­ange cloth­ing, es­pe­cially dur­ing the pop­u­lar firearms bear and deer sea­sons.

Shel­ters

For any­one who plans to em­bark on some­thing longer than a day hike, there are sev­eral shel­ters in the re­gion, start­ing in east­ern Berks County with the Eckville Shel­ter east of Hawk Moun­tain. Oth­ers are lo­cated in Lynn Town­ship, the Bake Oven Knob area and Wash­ing­ton Town­ship in Le­high County, as well as Bushkill and Up­per Mount Bethel town­ships in Northamp­ton County.

“Most of the shel­ters have camp­ing ar­eas that are nearby and are lo­cated in lo­ca­tions where wa­ter is avail­able,” Stein­metz said. “The one thing to stress about shel­ters is that if you pack things in, then pack them out.

“If you take your trash out, it’s a real help to the [trail] vol­un­teers and it helps im­proves the ex­pe­ri­ence for the peo­ple who come after you.”

More info

Ap­palachian Trail Con­ser­vancy www.ap­palachi­antrail.org/

Delaware Val­ley Chap­ter of Ap­palachian Moun­tain Club www.am­cdv.org/

RICK KINTZEL/THE MORN­ING CALL

TOM DESCHRIVER/ THE MORN­ING CALL

The view from the 1,600-foot-high Pin­na­cle near Ham­burg has the best views on the Penn­syl­va­nia seg­ment of the Ap­palachian Trail.

MORN­ING CALL FILE PHOTO

Bake Oven Knob look­out is a fa­vorite stop along the Penn­syl­va­nia por­tion of the Ap­palachian Trail.

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