10 Outdoor Activities to Do Right Now in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania
Two hours west of Philadelphia, Cumberland Valley is an oasis of forests, parks, lakes and streams. Those seeking an unparalleled excursion can explore more than 54,000 acres and 200 miles of trails for exhilarating hiking and biking. Or, for a relaxing escape, the Valley offers scenic vistas for picnicking, sightseeing and, ahem, Instagramming. In fact, there’s so much to do outdoors in Cumberland Valley that we’ve compiled it into one big ol’ comprehensive guide.
The Appalachian Trail Designated Community of Boiling Springs is a hiker’s dream. Forty-six miles of the trail pass through Cumberland Valley, and the friendly townspeople of Boiling Springs are known for welcoming hikers and promoting the trail. There are several options for day hikes, where you can see the famous springs that give the city its name.
The Sunset Rocks Trail in Gardners is also a fan favorite. Located in the Michaux State Forest, the trail is known for its views and the ruins of a top-secret World War II POW Camp. For a less strenuous hike, try the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle. The Army Heritage Trail is an interactive one-mile loop that tells the story of the U.S. Army.
Three of the world’s most popular fly-fishing destinations are located within the Cumberland Valley. Yellow Breeches Creek is designated as a “Pennsylvania Scenic River” and suits fishing fanatics of all skill levels. The mile-long catch-and-release section near Boiling Springs is full of trout, both stocked and wild. Meanwhile, Big Spring Creek in Newville is the fifth-largest spring in Pennsylvania and is known for its large, wild brook trout. For experienced fly-fishermen, LeTort Spring Run has a strong current and wild brown trout that love a challenge.
The Appalachian Trail runs along Children’s Lake in the center of Boiling Springs. In the lake, you can paddle in a boat or canoe. Opossum Lake in Carlisle contains 59 acres and is a popular recreation spot. Three boating access points are available to put in electric motorboats or unpowered boats. If you don’t have a boat of your own, rent one at Pine Grove Furnace State Park and take it out on Laurel Lake.
In Newville, Colonel Denning State Park has 273 acres of woodlands that are home to 100 species of birds. Hawks, woodpeckers, and warblers of various species dart in and out of the branches. Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch in Carlisle has one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the United States. Each year, 15,000 to 20,000 raptors pass through the rock outcrop on the Kittatinny Ridge. The fall hawk migration occurs from mid-August to December.
For the full Cumberland Valley outdoors experience, spend the night in the open air. Dogwood Acres Campground in Newville is family focused with 100 campsites, cabin and trailer rentals, and activities like volleyball and Frisbee golf. Colonel Denning State Park offers both tent and trailer camping. Picnic tables and fire rings at each site encourage quality time together. (BONUS: you can camp at all three state parks in Cumberland Valley!)
The 11-mile Cumberland Valley Rail Trail begins in Newville and continues to Shippensburg. The woods and shrubs that border the abandoned railroad corridor provide ample habitat for woodpeckers, owls, hawks and red fox. Cumberland Valley has more than a dozen preplanned routes that guide you through the Valley’s back roads and small towns. Each lists the distance and elevation and gives a description of sights and attractions along the way.
The Boiling Springs Pool & Waterpark has four pools, three waterslides, and a full-service snack bar. For the younger ones, two pools are specifically for children 4 years old and younger. Many of the state parks offer sandy beach areas at the lakeside. Check out Doubling Gap Lake, Fuller Lake, and Laurel Lake.
Don’t forget your clubs when you head to Cumberland Valley. Choose from 9 area golf courses. Liberty Forge Golf in Mechanicsburg is as pretty as it is playable. Yellow Breeches Creek runs alongside the 18-hole course that also has miniature golf, a lighted driving range, and a café.
There’s just something about spreading out a blanket, sitting on the ground, and enjoying food with friends and family that feels nostalgic and fun. In Carlisle, visit the Farmers on the Square market, open every Wednesday from May to December, to purchase a picnic-to-go. Negley Park in Lemoyne is a picturesque spot overlooking the Susquehanna River and the Harrisburg skyline. The kids can enjoy the playground while you put out the picnic.
One of the simplest and relaxing pastimes in the Cumberland Valley is enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Kings Gap Environmental Education Center in Carlisle has an Italian villa-style mansion atop South Mountain that overlooks the valley. Keep an eye out for owls, orioles, turkeys, turtles and deer as you lose yourself amid more than 2,500 acres and 16 miles of trails. Mount Holly Marsh Preserve in Mount Holly Springs is a 913-acre nature preserve. Trails are divided into short hiking loops that vary in difficulty. Along the way, you’ll find wild blueberries and bubbling springs.
To complement its outdoor attractions, Cumberland Valley has an assortment of dining options for an active vacation. For lunch or an afternoon snack, stop by Caffe 101 in Boiling Springs, known for its smoothies, cappuccinos, and ice cream. If you’re in Mount Holly Springs, enjoy a sandwich or salad for lunch at Crumbs Cafe. Enjoy the sunset while dining along the Susquehanna River at Duke’s Riverside Bar & Grille, Dockside Willies or RockBass Grill.
If you prefer a little more luxury than pitching a tent, 30 Timber Road in Mechanicsburg offers modern accommodations in a rustic setting. Carlisle, with its charming tree-lined streets, is home to an assortment of bed-and-breakfasts, including the award-winning Carlisle House located in the downtown historic district.
If you’re ready to hit the trail and get outdoors in Cumberland Valley, click here for details, directions and more.
This is a paid partnership between Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio