As we enjoy the fall and prepare for the winter, you may be getting a little bored of the standard options for outdoor fun in the colder months. Variety is important, after all, and you can only go to so many pumpkin patches before you start looking for something new. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is full of exciting and inventive opportunities to go outside and do something fun, either by yourself or with friends and family!
If you’ve never tried mountain biking, it’s definitely high time to give it a shot. What could be better than adding a shot of speed and excitement to a scenic hike at any time of the year? It’s a great hobby if you’re looking for something to help you stay fit, as it’ll give you a good cardio workout while being more low-impact than something like jogging. It’s also lots of fun to go mountain biking with friends, or you can make friends through mountain biking! Here are some options for groups to look into and places to explore on your bike.
BAMBA stands for Berks Area Mountain Biking Association. It was established in 2012 as an IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) Chapter in Berks County, PA. In 2015, the Greater Reading Trail System (GRTS), a group of interconnecting trails maintained by BAMBA, gained recognition as an IMBA Bronze Lever Ride Center. It is one of only 40 ride centers world wide. The non-profit educational association set a goal to create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for mountain bikers in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Throughout the year they hold events and rides to introduce and to educate the public about mountain biking. This includes kids and adaptive riders.
The group fastidiously maintains and enhances existing trails and works to build new ones. Thanks to BAMBA, mountain bikers in Berks will find trail kiosks with maps, information, pumps, and spots to repair their bicycles.
Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area, located Northwest of Reading, was initially built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control. Today it is a favorite sport for boating, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, and biking. It includes 36 miles of trail for all to explore. A loop encircles the whole lake is recognized as the National Recreation Trail, while other trails bring you down near the water’s edge. It’s a great place to strap on your helmet and go for a ride!
French Creek was once an early American industrial complex, supplying nearby iron furnaces with wood. It now serves as a beautiful area for Pennsylvania’s outdoor enthusiasts with facilities for camping, swimming, fishing, disc golf, boating, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. The French Creek trail parallels the French Creek itself and offers a wide range of terrain for more advanced bikers, including paved areas as well as dirt and grass. There are more than 20 miles of other trails around the park that climb hills, cross streams, and pass the fascinating ruins of the park’s origins. Most of the trails here are rated as difficult due to being very rocky, so keep that in mind when planning an excursion.
Many of the very trails used by mountain bikers are perfect for hiking too. You can easily find a trail that suits your level of expertise. Some of our trails provide history rich outdoor adventure, such as the trails surrounding Daniel Boone Homestead, French Creek State Park, Berks County Heritage Center and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Take an hour, a day, or more to hike and enjoy the natural beauty of Pennsylvania’ Americana Region’s great outdoors.
Hawk Mountain is a private, non-profit wildlife sanctuary that covers 2,500 acres of protected forests. Hiking is limited to 8+ miles of designated trails. There is trail fee for non-members, and hiking is only allowed from dawn to dusk. (Fees and or membership dues support our raptor conservation mission, sanctuary stewardship, and trails.) Hikers are encouraged to come equipped with proper footwear, attire, and hydration, and leave your pets at home. Trails lead to lookouts that provide spectacular views, especially in fall during the annual raptor migration and peak foliage times.
The Pinnacle is local high point on the Blue Mountain ridge of the Appalachian Mountains in the Hamburg, PA. Because of its location on the Appalachian Trail, and the views it affords, the Pinnacle trail is a very popular and heavily used trail. It is a challenging trail and can take about three hours to complete a round trip hike to the top and back.
Another popular spot for hiking in Berks County is Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center.
The environmental center was originally the home of local hosiery baron, Jacob Nolde. When he bought the land in the early 1900s, a single white pine grew amid meadow vegetation. Inspired by the tree, the German-born Nolde hired an Austrian forester to create a forest. In the mid-1920s a son of Jacob built the Tudor-style mansion which house education center offices today.
Nolde became part of the PA park system in the 1960s. It provides visitors, including dogs with over 10 miles of trails that meander throughout the park under tall trees and near creeks. Some trails are footpaths and others are remnants of old gravel roadways used by early settlers and the foresters who planted Nolde’s Forest.
The Union Canal, completed in 1827, was originally 80 miles long, connecting Reading to the Susquehanna River. Today, the Union Canal Towpath Trail follows the path mules trod through an area of Berks County, pulling canal boat cargo. It is part of the Schuylkill River Trail and connects various recreation areas around the river. Stonecliffe Recreation Area, Berks Leisure Area, Gring’s Mill Recreation Area, Red Bridge Recreation Area, Berks History Center are part of the Berks County Parks System that connect to Papermill, Reber’s Bridge and Switfwater Parking Lot and Stillings Basin Road, part of Blue Marsh Recreation Area. While work still needs to be done, the ultimate goal is for these trails to connect Philadelphia to Schuylkill County.