Keystone Trails Association Announces New Hike Fest Event to be Hosted in Johnstown, PA [PRESS RELEASE]
Mechanicsburg, PA: Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels are invited to mark their calendars and save the date for Keystone Trails Association’s very first Hike Fest to be held October 20-22, 2023 in Johnstown, PA.
The Keystone Trails Association is a statewide organization committed to providing, protecting, preserving, and promoting hiking trails and hiking opportunities in Pennsylvania.
“Hike Fest is a true expression of what PA’s trails can accomplish for our state,” shares Brook Lenker, Executive Director of KTA. “We’re coordinating with businesses and organizations from around Johnstown to come together and create a community-wide outdoor recreation experience that focuses on caring for the environment, enjoying nature sustainably, and developing meaningful connections with people - all centered around PA’s hiking trails.”
Hike Fest will include excursions to popular and lesser-known hiking trails of varying distances and difficulties; educational sessions for Wilderness First Aid, trail care, and trail running; opportunities to explore the variety of local museums and shops in the heart of Johnstown; optional camping; plus other activities like kayaking, yoga, and biking.
Thousands of tourists gather in Johnstown, PA, every year to set foot on its Ghost Town Trail (a DCNR Trail of the Year award-winner), cruise through the mountains during the Thunder in the Valley Motorcycle Rally (now in its 25th year), and dance the night away during Polkafest (celebrating 25 years).
In recent years, Johnstown and the surrounding region have channeled significant investments toward trail development and outdoor recreation amenities. The area is becoming a noteworthy trails destination.
“With its tourism momentum, signature trails, and history of hosting successful community events, Johnstown was a natural fit for our inaugural Hike Fest,” says Lenker, “We’re grateful for the warm welcome from the many businesses and organizations involved in making, what we believe, will become an annual traveling event in KTA’s offerings.”
Partners and sponsors participating in Keystone Trails Association’s Hike Fest include Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Visit Johnstown, Lorain/Stonycreek Hiking Trails, Venture Outdoors, Johnstown Running Club, Quemahoning Family Recreation Area, Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc., Friends of the Inclined Plane Trail, PA Parks and Forests Foundation, Friends of Yellow Creek State Park, and the Lancaster Conservancy.
Registration for Hike Fest is now open at https://www.kta-hike.org/fallhikefest.html
Interested in getting involved with Hike Fest? Contact Casey Schneck, KTA Manager of Events and Publications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is funded in part by Community Foundation for the Alleghenies Robert Waters Economic Development Fund.
About Keystone Trails Association: The Keystone Trails Association offers a robust trail care program with volunteer opportunities available on PA trails, serves as the statewide voice of the hiking trail community and trail advocate in PA’s capital, and offers a wealth of hiking opportunities throughout the year that both long-time hikers and the next generation of hikers can enjoy together.
We’re partnering with awesome local businesses and organizations to bring special deals, discounts, and offers to our KTA members!
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During the month of July, there was one Trail Care event, July 6-9 on the remote Chuck Keiper Trail (CKT) in Sproul State Forest. On Friday and Saturday, determined crews tackled the >120 reported downed trees over the CKT in a 5-mile stretch from Petes Run Road to Grugan Hollow Road (as well as some brushcutting).
Unfortunately, due to a number of factors (high humidity, lower than ideal turnout), our two crews did not meet in the middle. A short stretch of blowdowns remains, including the worst part near Boggs Run where the trail has been rerouted from the original path.
On Sunday, a crew scouted a possible reroute around the swampy area on the Chuck Keiper cross connector trail south of PA 144 in the East Branch Swamp Area. We found a very plausible path that will keep hikers' feet dry! Sproul State Forest is working to submit this for approval from DCNR. We continued to hike the East Branch Swamp loop and discovered the western half of the loop to be very overgrown.
Stay tuned for a possible KTA Trail Care Code Orange workday in the Fall, finishing the chainsaw work in Boggs Run and brushing and re-blazing the East Branch Swamp Trail. Many, many thanks to the hearty volunteers who logged a tough 100 hours on the CKT: Tom Bastian, Woody Loudenslager, Tom O'Donnell, Tony Robbins, Dave Updegrave, and Jenn Ulmer, as well as two members of Forestry staff.
If you were thinking of trying Trail Care, but have not yet, consider joining us for a day or weekend! Upcoming August events include:
Check out the links above for more information about each event, including camping options, logistics, etc.
Many hands make light work -- let me know if you can offer yours!
Manager of Trail Maintenance & Training; email@example.com
Hiking in a group is often an underrated experience. Heading out on a trail in community offers numerous benefits that can add value to your hike and help you grow as a hiker.
10 Benefits of hiking in a group (or with a club)
Why do KTA members enjoy hiking in a group?
Here are five stories from a few of our hiking/trail club members.
Pradip (Chester County Trail Club)
"Before joining Chester County Trail Club (CCTC), I was a lone walker. Although, it was peaceful, soon it became boring since I did not know very many new places to hike. I joined CCTC and since then things are much better. Collective experience makes you aware of beautiful places to go hiking, and teaches subtle details of hiking practices. Besides enjoying the physical benefits of hiking, which everybody knows about, hiking in a group gives one extra and very valuable benefit of social interactions. I have yet to see a “frowny” hiker. Even when they are facing misery (tongue and cheeks) of physical exertion they still have a precious smile on their face.
Cynthia (Lancaster Hiking Club)
“First, when I moved to the area I didn't know where to hike, and going with the Lancaster Hiking Club has shown me so many cool places. Second, as a woman who often hikes solo, it is really nice to go with a group and not worry at all about being on my own. Third, I've made really good friends from hiking in a group, including people both considerably older and significantly younger than me whom I wouldn't otherwise engage with easily. These friends have encouraged me to challenges such as hiking much of the Appalachian Trail and big hikes abroad like the Tour du Mont Blanc.”
Jeffrey (Lancaster Hiking Club)
“One of the things I like about group hiking is the knowledge I've gained over the years: knowledge about such myriad topics as what to pack/what not to pack, identifying fauna and flora, what's new in hiking gear, how to take care of myself when I"m in the woods, and getting to places that I may not have visited before and or even heard of. I like the feeling of safety I feel when I hike with experienced hikers because if I have an accident or medical situation I'll have plenty of help. Someone always has a bandage or aspirin in their pack. And of course, there's the camaraderie and life-long friendships.”
Kathy (Chester County Trail Club)
“I think hiking with a club/group is beneficial in a number of ways and the first one that comes to mind is there's safety in numbers. Another bonus is the opportunities that can be presented with more individuals involved and contributing to the group. Be that a variety of hikes or places to go, helping to lead us to more experiences in the outdoors. In that same sense, the knowledge and experiences of others can be shared, making us stronger physically, spiritually, and mentally. Learning from this and making us more aware of our surroundings and ourselves. Lastly, we can't deny the friendships that can be made and grow from within this group experience, especially with like-minded individuals.
I, myself, have gained a lot in the club/group experience in so many ways that I'm a better person because of it. Some of my best friends are from the hiking community and sharing these experiences with them is meaningful.”
Krista (Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club)
“Hiking in a group exposes you to fascinating stories and experiences of other hikers. You can choose sections of trails that require car spotting. Being in a group gives learning opportunities to hear about favorite trails, cultural sites, hiking and gear tips, birding, animals, insects, and plants.
Joining a club gives you more chances of finding hike leaders that match your preferred pace, distance, and difficulty levels. And, you can try harder hikes when you want to be challenged or want to see something special.”
Try hiking with a club!
How to find a hiking group
You don't have to go far to find a group of hikers in Pennsylvania!
Guest Post by: Laura Brenner, Running Coach - laurambrenner.com
By exploring the path less traveled – trail running – you can boost dopamine levels and avoid the sun and traffic this summer while improving your physical and mental health. Hikers and road runners can easily transition to trail running this summer with some trail-tested advice.
The allure of avoiding traffic and the growing science behind nature therapy draws some 9 million Americans to trail running annually. Pennsylvania is home to thousands of miles of trails across diverse and beautiful landscapes inaccessible by vehicle. The best way to appreciate the Keystone State is – in this trail runner's opinion – by foot. So, to help more folks try their hand, er, foot, at trail running, I’ve compiled a few tips and tricks from my years kicking up dirt. I promise these will help you enjoy trail running this summer.
Trail Running Gear
Being “prepared” for a trail run and having the right gear depends on the length of the run, proximity to civilized resources, and your personal preferences. The old saying “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” probably came from a trail runner.
Choosing the right footwear is essential; trail running sneakers offer deeper tread for gripping dirt, mud, rocks, etc., and might provide some ankle stability depending on the model. If you plan to use your retired road sneakers, be prepared for some foot slips, especially in wet conditions. Wet rocks are the leading cause of bruised shins. Trust me.
Since trail runners encounter more elevation and traverse mud, rocks, and roots, trail running is often slower than road running. Which means a typical distance on the road will take longer on trails and runners should plan their hydration and nutrition accordingly.
Consider bringing a modest first aid kit of Vaseline for blisters, a few bandaids, and some medical tape. This website suggests a more robust kit if you’re the “always be prepared” type. At 90 minutes or longer, you’ll also need to carry water and calories. Trail runners often wear hydration vests or carry hand-held water bottles. Browse your local running or outdoor store for options, or roll with the gear you already know and love. Regardless - be very aware of the chafe potential of anything you wear.
Lastly – and this is the hill I will die on – leave the headphones at home. Trails are not the place for headphones or music. You should be able to hear someone approaching from behind you, the scamper of squirrels, deer, and whathaveyou just off the trail, or the sound of the wind snapping a tree branch free from its trunk just above your head. So for safety, leave your ears open to the sounds of nature. Whistling a tune of your own can make the miles move faster and provide entertainment for anyone else using the trail.
Trail Running Safety
Part of proper attire on the trail may also include your cell phone for navigation or in case of emergency. Bonus points for learning trail blaze markings and downloading a map of the area (hi, AllTrails)!
Running in the woods also means you should find out if your trail is open to hunters and when hunting seasons begin and end. Hunting season doesn’t prohibit folks from recreating on trails, but it does mean recreationalists must wear “safety orange” any time they are in the woods. You can find exact dates for each season at the PA Game Commission’s website or by clicking here.
It’s also a good idea to know what kind of wildlife and plant life you might encounter and how to protect yourself if needed. Ticks are the ever-present danger in Pennsylvania woods. Some summers are worse than others, but no summer is without ticks and the many diseases they may transmit. Wear a tick-repellant or thoroughly check yourself right after your hike and later in the day.
The best, and often most fun, way to explore trails is to do it in good company. Bonus points for connecting with fellow running-curious hiker or a veteran trail runner friend for a few runs to boost your trail confidence and tap into their knowledge.
5 Best Running Trails in the Susquehanna River Valley
Pennsylvania trails range from casual river-side toepaths to relentlessly rocky climbs and descents. The trails listed below offer a bit of both, and something in the middle.
1. Appalachian Trail (Hawk Rock & Peter’s Mountain)
Pennsylvania claims more than 220 miles of the Appalachian Trail, including the halfway point of the trail. The Susquehanna River acts as a dividing line between the north and south sections of the trail. It’s also where you’ll find two incredible hikes on either side of the river. Hawk Rock to the south and Peter’s Mountain to the north. Both loops include steep and rocky climbs to commanding views of the mighty Susquehanna. May the best side win.
2. Turkey Hill Trail / Chestnut Grove Natural Area
In Lancaster County, just south of Columbia, the Enola Low Grade’s northern terminus meets a Conservancy trail that packs a punch. Rolling climbs, a creek crossing, and ample wildlife sightings make this a favorite. The Turkey Hill Trail also connects to the Chestnut Grove trails, which are one part cross-country course and one part nature preserve. Chestnut Grove offers rolling terrain and primarily grassy or gravel trails that tend to be a bit wider. The trails are not well marked, truly getting lost would be a challenge.
3. Mason Dixon Trail (York County)
This 200-plus mile trail extends from Boiling Springs to Chadds Ford, dipping into Maryland and Delaware for a bit in the middle. However, York County is home to some of the best sections (in my opinion). For a gentle climb that’s not hard to get to, start in Wrightsville and ascend to High Point. When you’re looking for a challenge, tackle any section between Lock 2 at Long Level and Lock 12 in Airville. Be warned - these sections are TOUGH and often include as much hiking as running, even for experienced trail runners.
4. Conestoga Trail (southern section)
Like the Maxon Dixon Trail, the Conestoga Trail is a 63-mile behemoth that nearly stretches the length of Lancaster County. Again, the best section is the 8 miles between Pequea and Holtwood. Follow the Susquehanna River from a bird’s eye view on this trail, and find your reward in high and low places along the way.
5. Susquehannock State Park
When you’re short on time and want to get a great workout-to-mile ratio, Susquehannock State Park is where you want to go. You won’t find many (any?) sections of flat trail here. But you are treated to incredible trails, beautiful river views, and the most picturesque stream since the b-roll in Lord of the Rings. Treat this gem with care, please.
As a final note – and something often left out of conversations with new trail runners – trail running can often be a misnomer as there is a lot of “power hiking” what we dub “unrunable” sections of trail. Listen to your body and enjoy the scenery as your comfort and fitness improves.
If you’re feeling ambitious, consider a goal trail race as a motivator to log miles and explore more. Keystone Trail Association hosts their annual KTA Challenge in September. It’s a hiker friendly race that covers some of the trails listed above. Learn more about the event on the KTA event page.
This edition included a special dedication to Maurice Forrester, Jr. who was a long time editor of this guidebook in addition to his many other contributions to the success of KTA.
We wish to thank the Audobon for providing a Kittatinny Ridge Mini-Grant to the Keystone Trails Association to assist in the printing of this edition of the guidebook.
Wayne E. Gross
PA AT Guide Editor and
Chair, Publications Committee
KTA is proud to partner with RepresentPA, a small business working to unite and energize Pennsylvania pride—specifically pride in the PA outdoors—through their Symbol of Pennsylvania. KTA members can save 20% on RepresentPA gear and contribute a portion of their sales to support KTA’s mission. Read on to find out more!
RepresentPA founder and owner, Avery Peechatka, shared about the origins of their Symbol of Pennsylvania with Keystone Trails Association in this Q&A:
KTA: Creating a symbol that captures all the charm and wonder of Pennsylvania is quite a task! What inspired you to take on this project?
Avery: We were far from Pennsylvania, hiking through a wildflower and prickly pear cactus meadow, watching prairie dog heads curiously pop out of their burrows, when it struck us: the more we explored far from home, the prouder of home we became. We were proud that our formative trail miles were blazed in beautiful PA, winding around the mountain laurel and hemlocks, hopping from rock to stump to avoid the mud from a recent rain shower. But in that pride, we found frustration that we didn’t have a recognizable, distinctive way to show our home state pride.
KTA: Almost like a team uniform! A way to show that you are part of a specific community and share a common story.
Avery: Right! So we created a Symbol of Pennsylvania that proud Pennsylvanians could wear and display; a logo that tells the world we are from the Keystone State and proud of it! The RepresentPA Symbol of Pennsylvania that we created highlights the classic PA keystone, our beautiful rolling mountains that we love to hike and explore, and sun-lit agricultural fields.
KTA: So many hikers can probably quickly and easily recall a moment of being on a PA trail that fits within that description! It’s great because even people who haven’t hiked many trails in PA can still relate to this image, knowing all that PA has to offer.
Avery: Agreed. We originally wanted to show pride in Pennsylvania’s natural beauty, incredible trails and waterways, and iconic wildlife, but—much to our delight—our vision for a Symbol of Pennsylvania has been enthusiastically received by Pennsylvanians with pride in all walks of life in the Keystone State: our vibrant urban communities, our rich agricultural history, and our passionate sports fan bases, (to name a few!).
KTA: That’s amazing! What’s it like seeing this symbol being worn out in the wild?
Avery: Our most enthusiastic support comes from our fellow Pennsylvanians that appreciate and love spending time in the woods, on the water, and on the trail. It’s a pleasure coming across a fellow hiker wearing a dirty, trail-worn, sweat-stained RepresentPA hat! There’s already a great sense of camaraderie with fellow hikers, but sharing that sense of PA pride is a real bonus.
KTA: This is such a great conversation starter for out on the trail! How can our KTA community get some RepresentPA gear?
Avery: Because we appreciate all the KTA community does to support and protect PA’s trails, we’re offering 20% off RepresentPA gear to KTA members! Shirts, hats, stickers, and more can be purchased online at RepresentPA.com. A portion of all sales using the KTA discount code will support KTA!
KTA: Thank you for supporting KTA’s mission and providing our members with such a generous offer!
Become a member of KTA today to receive access to this exclusive discount code offer from RepresentPA. If you are a current member, log in to the member portal to get the code!
Keystone Trails Association