Cascades on Thaddeus Stevens Trail are part of what Caledonia State Park has to offer outdoor enthusiasts.

We in Adams County are very fortunate to have many options for getting outside and going for a hike. Not only is the Gettysburg National Military Park full of hiking trails and low-trafficked roads, we are situated in the middle of a circle of five state parks. Each of these hiker havens are within 45 minutes of Gettysburg, and each have unique and beautiful characteristics.

Codorus, Caledonia, Gifford Pinchot, Kings Gap and Pine Grove Furnace all offer miles of hiking trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to most difficult. And all are free for hiking and general recreation.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, the main purposes of the state park system are to “provide opportunities for enjoying healthful outdoor recreation and to serve as outdoor classrooms for environmental education.”

This column will explore each local gem, with the hope of getting some people out on the trails. Today’s featured parks, Codorus State Park and Caledonia State Park, are each great places to hike, but there are many other activities to enjoy in each park as well.

Codorus offers, in addition to some fine hiking trails, fishing, boating, camping, swimming in its pool, picnicking, horseback riding, mountain biking, disc golf, cross country skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling and hunting. The park covers 3,500 acres, with 1,275 of those acres dedicated to Lake Marburg and its 26 miles of shoreline. Many of those shoreline miles are graced by trails.

Codorus State Park is located east of Hanover on Rt. 216 in York County. To get there, take Rt. 116 east out of the borough of Hanover (York St.), and turn right at the traffic light at Rutters to get on Rt. 216 (Blooming Grove Rd.). Follow that for four miles to Sinsheim Rd. and turn left. Six-tenths of a mile later, turn on the first road on the left to a nice parking area. There, one can easily access a series of trails that wind around grass fields, woods, ponds, and Lake Marburg, with 19 miles of trails to explore.

These are some beautiful, easy-to-follow trails, with rolling hills, isolation and nice views of the lake. The biggest hill is less than a 100-foot climb, but depending on the route, there can be a number of them to ascend or descend.

One caution: Hunting is allowed in this area of Codorus, so when hiking during hunting season, wear a blaze orange shirt or jacket so you are not confused with a deer.

The parking area is central to the entire trail network. One side of Sinsheim Rd. consists of gentler terrain and trails that go right along the lake. The other side of the road utilizes some hills, and in Autumn there are some nice views of the lake from higher up. All of the trails are wide, with good footing. They can get muddy after a lot of rain, and are occasionally decorated with horse manure, but watching your step will guarantee a nice hike.

If you decide to go, a visit to the Codorus State Park website might be helpful. There are some maps on the website, but the most effective maps can be found with a Google search of Codorus Park maps.

On the west side of Adams County, in Franklin County, lies Caledonia State Park. It is perhaps the best-known state park among Adams Countians, and is found 15 miles west of downtown Gettysburg along Rt 30. Turn right at the traffic light on Rt. 30 (Rt. 233), then take the first left to the parking area.

Caledonia is also a well-known park with Appalachian Trail hikers. The AT goes directly through Caledonia, and it is a popular stop for its hikers because of the pool and the snack bar. Coming down off of South Mountain into a beautiful park with people, food, and a refreshing pool can be attractive to most thru-hikers.

Those in search of outdoor recreation can find not only hiking, but fishing, swimming in the pool, camping, and picnicking in Caledonia. The park is stretched across 1,125 acres, but it is within 85,500-acre Michaux State Forest, so it seems much bigger.

Day hikes abound in and around Caledonia. The park features nearly 13 miles of trails, and even more if you follow a couple of trails, such as the Appalachian Trail and the Locust Gap Trail, out of the park.

The Ramble Trail is one of the easiest trails to hike and to follow. Marked by yellow blazes, the 2.2 mile trail winds through old growth pine forest, and follows the Conococheague Creek for about a mile. Often deer and many varieties of woodland birds can be spotted.

Some of Caledonia’s trails are steeped in history, since Caledonia Iron Works was once located there. The short Thaddeus Stevens Trail includes waterfalls, the old blacksmith shop, and nearly a mile of well-graded path.

If you are looking for something a little more challenging, there are two routes you may enjoy. The Charcoal Hearth Trail climbs from Rt. 233 up to the top of Graeffenburg Hill, and on the way down passes by four old sites of charcoal pits used in the production of iron in the early 1800s. The trail climbs up over 500 feet before leveling off and going back down over its nearly three mile course. It is steep at times, so appropriate footwear and a good sense of one’s physical conditioning is important.

On the other side of the park, the Appalachian Trail comes into play. The AT in Caledonia turns steep, and rises nearly 500 feet from the Conococheague Creek. This hike could be an out and back, and it could be however long you want to make it. You could alternatively turn left at the top of the hill at the well-signed junction of the Three Valley Trail, which will take you on a sharp descent down to the Waterline Trail and back to the main part of the park. The AT covers 1.8 miles in Caledonia, but of course, one could stay on it all the way to Maine to the north, or all the way to Georgia to the south!

The Three Valley is blazed blue, while the AT is always marked with a white blaze. The AT/Three Valley hike is about two miles in length, but seems longer.

Both the Charcoal Hearth Trail and the AT/Three Valley Trail are considered the most difficult in the park, and both give a good idea of typical hills in our area and a sense of characteristic hiking on the AT. None of the trails in Caledonia lead to good views, but the journey is the destination here!

As with Codorus, it is a good idea to check out the maps on the park’s website. The maps are topographic, show all the trails, and may give you some good ideas on how to combine some of them for longer hikes.

Also similar to Codorus, hunting is allowed in parts of Caledonia. Always check and be aware of hunting regulations wherever it is that you go hike.

A fun pursuit in any hiking situation is to explore. It is easy to explore the forests outside of the Caledonia boundaries. There are many trails that are not marked, but the most well-used ones are. If you choose to hike an unmarked trail, it can be exciting, but it can also be dangerous if you do not know where you will come out. Good directional sense and a map can be quite useful anytime you are in the woods.

Both Codorus and Caledonia have interesting wildlife, tranquil trails, and beautiful forests. By using the maps found on the websites and being prepared with water, snacks or lunch, good shoes, and knowledge of where you are going, you can spend most of a day checking out the trails.

Keep calm and hike on!

The next On The Trail column by Ed Riggs will appear in the September 13th edition of the Gettysburg Times.

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