Outdoor Oasis

Greater Reading's access to the great outdoors makes it easy to become one with nature

By Keith Stamm, Director of Workforce Development, GRCA

Whether you make your home in the suburbs or cities of the Greater Reading area, there is easy access to the great outdoors. Connecting with nature is a mere hop, skip or short hike away. Here are 10 of the top outdoor activities Greater Reading has to offer.

Hiking in Greater Reading offers a captivating experience for outdoor enthusiasts seeking to explore the natural beauty of the region. Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, this scenic area boasts an abundance of trails that cater to hikers of all skill levels.

One of the most popular destinations is the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Known for its breathtaking vistas and worldclass, bird-watching opportunities, this protected area features over 2,500 acres of protected forest, which includes more than eight miles of well-maintained hiking trails. As you navigate through its lush forests and rugged terrain, you’ll encounter stunning overlooks that showcase the majestic beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Spanning over 6,000 acres, Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area offers an extensive trail system that winds through woodlands, wetlands and picturesque meadows. Hikers can choose from a variety of routes, including the Blue Marsh Lake Trail, which offers panoramic views of the shimmering waters and
wildlife watching.

For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock Loop is a must-visit trail. Located in the Hamburg Reservoir area, this nine-mile loop rewards hikers with awe-inspiring vistas from both the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock overlooks. The panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and ridges are breathtaking anytime of the year, but even more so during the fall.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature lover looking to connect with the great outdoors, Greater Reading’s hiking trails offer an array of options to satisfy your wanderlust. With its scenic landscapes and diverse ecosystems, this region is a haven for hikers seeking both tranquility and adventure.

Biking enthusiasts are in for a treat when exploring Greater Reading’s scenic landscapes. Known for its rolling hills, charming countryside and well maintained trails, this region offers a delightful biking experience for riders of all levels. With over 125 miles of award winning mountain bike trails, Greater Reading is a biking treasure.

One of the premier trails, the Schuylkill River Trail, stretches from Philadelphia to Pottsville. It follows the banks of the Schuylkill River—offering cyclists stunning views of the waterway, woodlands and historic landmarks. The trail is relatively flat, consisting of asphalt and crushed stone, making it accessible to riders of various abilities. Along the way, you can hop off and explore towns and enjoy quaint shops, local eateries
and cultural attractions to enhance your biking adventure.

For mountain biking enthusiasts, top spots include Antietam Lake Park, Neversink Mountain Preserve, French Creek State Park and Blue Marsh Lake. These rugged terrains offer a mix of singletrack and doubletrack trails, challenging climbs and exhilarating descents. As you pedal through dense woodlands and rocky paths, you can enjoy views of the surrounding countryside and serene waterways.

The area also is home to numerous rural roads and scenic byways that are ideal for road cycling. With rolling hills and picturesque farmland, these routes offer a mix of challenging climbs and soothing stretches. Whether you prefer a leisurely ride or a more intense cycling workout, Greater Reading has the roads to accommodate your preferences.

Fishing enthusiasts will find an angler’s paradise in Greater Reading. With an abundance of lakes, rivers and streams, this region offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities for both novice and experienced fishermen.

The Schuylkill River, a popular destination for fishing, is a scenic waterway home to a variety of fish species, including bass, catfish, trout and panfish. Anglers can cast their lines from the riverbanks or explore parts of the river by boat, enjoying the tranquility of the surroundings while waiting for the perfect catch.

Another notable fishing spot in the area is Blue Marsh Lake. This 1,150-acre reservoir offers year-round fishing opportunities. Anglers can
target numerous fish species, such as largemouth bass, crappie, walleye and muskellunge. The lake’s diverse habitats, including submerged structures and rocky shorelines, make it an ideal location for both shore fishing and boating.

For those seeking a more secluded fishing experience, Greater Reading is dotted with many smaller streams and creeks. Tulpehocken Creek, Maiden Creek and Manatawny Creek are just a few examples. These waterways are known for their populations of wild and stocked trout, providing ample opportunities for fly fishing enthusiasts.

Don’t forget to obtain the necessary fishing licenses to ensure compliance before you reel in a good time.

With scenic landscapes, lush forests and well-equipped campgrounds, Greater Reading provides a perfect setting for camping lovers.

Find yourself at French Creek State Park—nestled on over 7,500 acres of land—this park offers a variety of camping options, including tent and RV
sites, rustic cabins and yurts. Campers can hike the park’s extensive trail system, fish in the lake or simply relax in the peaceful surroundings.

Other notable spots include Blue Rocks Family Campground, Mountain Springs Camping Resort and Sill’s Family Campground. Each offers a mix of camping accommodations and amenities, such as swimming pools, playgrounds and organized activities, ensuring a fun-filled camping experience for families and groups.

Disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil retreat or an adventure-filled camping trip, Greater Reading has the camping options to make unforgettable memories under the starry skies.

Kayaking in Greater Reading offers a thrilling and immersive way to explore the region’s scenic waterways. With a mix of rivers, lakes and
creeks, the area provides a plethora of kayaking experiences for all paddlers.

As a prime destination for kayaking, the Schuylkill River offers a mix of calm stretches and mild rapids, making it suitable for both beginner
and intermediate kayakers. Paddling along the river, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous landscapes.

Or explore the calm waters of Blue Marsh Lake, which spans over 1,100 acres. The lake’s coves and inlets offer peaceful paddling experiences, while
its expansive open areas allow for more adventurous kayaking excursions.

For those seeking a bumpier ride, the Tulpehocken Creek is worth the time. Navigating through the creek’s twists and turns, paddlers will encounter stunning foliage, scenic bridges and historical buildings. Surrounded by the region’s natural beauty, this creek offers many spots to stop for a picnic along the way.

Experience the tranquility of the waters of Greater Reading and discover hidden gems along the way.

Golfing enthusiasts will find exceptional courses and a vibrant golfing community in Greater Reading. Rolling green hills, well-maintained fairways and challenging holes, punctuate over a dozen public courses that cater to both recreational and avid players. Some of these brilliant courses include Golden Oaks, the Manor, Blackwood and Willow Hollow. Each provides a blend of natural beauty and well-crafted fairways to create an enjoyable experience. Additionally, there are numerous top-notch private courses that offer challenging layouts and strategic bunkering to test your skills.

In addition to its renowned courses, Greater Reading is home to a thriving golfing community. There is no shortage of local tournaments, leagues and events, fostering a sense of camaraderie and friendly competition among players. Golfing facilities in the area provide practice areas, driving ranges and professional instruction to help golfers improve their skills.

Beyond the golf courses, Greater Reading offers a charming backdrop for the sport, with its lush greenery and scenic views that enhance the overall golfing experience.

With its sweeping hills, sprawling farmland and well-maintained equestrian trails, Greater Reading is a perfect setting to saddle up and embark on unforgettable horseback riding adventures.

Find your inner equestrian on guided trail rides, lessons and even opportunities for horse camping. Riders can choose their own adventure—from meandering trails through serene woodlands to open fields with stunning views of the countryside.

Check out French Creek State Park for 35 miles of multi-use trails, providing ample space for horseback riding. As you traverse the park’s trails, immerse yourself in the surrounding forests and the peacefulness of the park’s serene lakes.

Another notable riding spot is the Daniel Boone Homestead. While primarily known as a historical site, the homestead also offers horseback riding trails that wind through its scenic woodlands. The historic buildings and grounds provide a unique opportunity to step (or ride) back in time to colonial period.

With local riding clubs that offer lessons and events that bring together horse enthusiasts, Greater Reading has a vibrant and welcoming equestrian community.

Picnicking in Greater Reading is a delightful way to enjoy the region’s natural beauty and charming outdoor spaces. With its numerous parks, scenic overlooks and peaceful picnic areas, the region provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing and enjoyable picnic experience.

Again, French Creek State Park makes the list as it is equipped with tables, grills and scenic views of the surrounding woodlands and lakes. After a leisurely picnic meal, visitors can take advantage of the park’s hiking trails, fishing spots or simply unwind in the peaceful atmosphere.

With its sprawling grassy areas, shaded picnic groves and access to the lake, Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area offers a great setting for outdoor gatherings. Families and friends can spread out blankets, set up barbecues and enjoy a day filled with delicious food and outdoor activities.

Enjoy a more secluded experience in one of Greater Readings peaceful and intimate picnic spots. Antietam Lake Park, Grings Mill Recreation Area and Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center boast scenic trails, graceful meadows and peaceful picnic areas nestled amidst nature.

Grab your picnic basket and blanket to enjoy a riverside picnic, a lakeside gathering, or a quiet retreat in the woods. The opportunities are endless to taste the great outdoors.

Shred some powder at Bear Creek Mountain Resort. From gentle slopes for beginners to challenging runs for advanced riders, Bear Creek provides a well-rounded skiing and snowboarding experience. The resort also offers rental equipment, lessons and a terrain park for those looking to enhance their skills and enjoy freestyle riding.

Additionally, there are several ski and snowboard areas in the surrounding region. One of these options is Blue Mountain Resort, situated in the neighboring Lehigh Valley. With its expansive ski and snowboard trails, Blue Mountain is a favorite destination for winter sports enthusiasts in the region. The resort features diverse terrain, including beginner-friendly slopes and thrilling black diamond runs. It also boasts a terrain park, a tubing park and snowmaking capabilities to ensure optimal conditions throughout the season.

Cross-country skiers can head to French Creek State Park or Grings Mill Recreation Area for an exhilarating experience. Be sure to get out right after a snowfall as many of these trails are multiuse so the powder won’t stay fresh for long.

Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a beginner looking to hit the slopes, Greater Reading’s location provides easy access to exhilarating skiing and snowboarding experiences for those looking to enjoy the winter months.

Nature enthusiasts have the chance to peep wildlife in their natural habitats. With its abundance of parks, nature reserves and scenic landscapes, Greater Reading provides ample opportunities for wildlife watchers to explore and connect with the local fauna.

For prime wildlife viewing, visit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Renowned for its raptor migration, this sanctuary offers breathtaking opportunities to witness birds of prey, including hawks, eagles and falcons, as they soar through the skies. Dedicated observation points and knowledgeable staff provide visitors with insights into the fascinating behaviors of these majestic birds.

French Creek State Park, Antietam Lake Park and Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center provide other opportunities to discover wildlife. These protected areas feature diverse ecosystems, including woodlands, wetlands and meadows, offering habitats for a range of wildlife species. Patient observers may encounter whitetailed deer, wild turkeys, foxes, squirrels and numerous bird species.

For aquatic wildlife enthusiasts, Blue Marsh Lake offers opportunities to observe waterfowl, herons and other water-dwelling creatures. The lake’s diverse habitats—including wetlands and coves—attract a variety of bird species and serve as a stopover for migratory birds.

Whether a passionate birder, a wildlife photographer, or simply enjoy observing animals in their natural habitats, Greater Reading has a rich tapestry of wildlife to discover. With its scenic landscapes and diverse ecosystems, the region provides a captivating setting for memorable wildlife viewing experiences.