HOA LogoDestinationsTravel MallTravel LinksGlobal Travel

Pennsylvania's Outdoors Provide Extreme Experiences
Partake in the State's Outdoor Adventures
and Enjoy Philadelphia's  X Games

Those who are familiar with Pennsylvania know the beauty of its outdoors. Some take to the woods to view nature's glory from a distance, but many take to Pennsylvania's outdoors to compete and conquer. Pennsylvania is home to an abundance of extreme-adventure pursuits including biking, hiking, whitewater rafting and rock climbing.

In fact, Pennsylvania will showcase just how extreme it can be when the 2001 Summer X Games visit Philadelphia. ESPN's annual extreme sports competition will take place from Aug. 17-23. The X Games will be hosted in Philadelphia for two years and expect to draw an estimated 200,000 spectators for this year's event alone.

All of the events will be free to the public and most competitions will be held in and around the First Union Center.

Philadelphia Skyline
Philadelphia fromSchukyll R. (Photo: Terry Way


Whatever types of biking guests are looking to experience, the Commonwealth has its share of adventure and room to roam. Mountain biking trails can be found in 16 of Pennsylvania's 116 state parks. The trails vary in length and difficulty ranging from novice to expert challenges.

Mountain Biking
Photo: Mary Ginter

Those looking for a smoother ride can ride on one of Pennsylvania's many Rail-to-Trails. The second largest trail system in the country, Pennsylvania's rail-trails offer approximately 850 miles of active rail-trails with 116 new projects underway. The additional trails will increase the state's current program by 1,100 miles.

A rail-trail is an abandoned railroad bed that has been converted to recreational uses such as biking, hiking, jogging and cross-country skiing. The trails not only have a historical significance but also allow visitors to enjoy Pennsylvania's natural and scenic views of the countryside.


Pennsylvania offers an abundance of scenic hiking trails, with picturesque views and spectacular natural waterfalls. With almost 60 percent of the state covered in forest, visitors packing their hiking boots will get their money's worth in Pennsylvania. Hikers will find quite a variety of terrain to trek upon from mountainous to gentle.

Adventure seekers can backpack on hundreds of trails throughout the state including two designated National Scenic Trails, the Appalachian Trail and North Country Trail. Both trail systems provide many options for all levels of hiking including short day hikes, overnight trips or extended backpacking trips.

The Appalachian Trail meanders over 229 miles from South to North, passing through parts of Caledonia, Pine Grove Furnace (marks the halfway point along the trail) and Swatara State Parks.

The North Country Trail snakes through 104 miles of Northwestern Pennsylvania State Parks including McConnell's Mill, Moraine, Cook Forest (home to the largest remaining virgin white pine forest in the East) and Chapman State Park.

Presque Isle, Lake Erie
Presque Isle Sunset, Lake Erie

Rock Climbing

For experienced climbers, Pennsylvania has one state park that offers climbing areas. At McConnell's Mill State Park there are two climbing and rappelling areas, Rim Road Climbing Area and Breakneck Ridge, a more advanced technical option for properly equipped and experienced climbers.

For those looking for lessons on proper climbing and safety, Pennsylvania has several indoor climbing gyms throughout the state. One such facility is Go Vertical located in Philadelphia. Last summer, Philadelphia Magazine named this indoor rock climbing gym the number one best adventure in Philadelphia. A harness anchored by ropes keeps climbers from falling and a simple two-hour course teaches guests how to work the safety lines.

Whitewater Rafting

With its abundant and diverse waters, Pennsylvania is a paddler's paradise. More than 300 floatable rivers, streams and creeks beckon novices and experts alike. Besides a leisurely canoe ride, whitewater rafting is also available to extreme minded individuals. However, even the not so extreme can conquer the rapids with a trained river guide.

Pennsylvania Whitewater Rafting (Photo: Terry Way)

The Lehigh River Gorge is a moderate whitewater river with continuous Class II and III rapids. The Upper Gorge goes from White Haven to Rockport and is about 100 miles in length. The Lower Gorge stretches from Rockport to Glen Onoko and in rare instances can take paddlers all the way to Jim Thorpe and is about 12-14 miles long. The present day course of the Lehigh River was gorged out nearly 1.8 million years ago by melting glaciers. Many geological features are still evident in the gorge including fossils and mineral deposits along with scenic waterfalls and steep canyon walls.

The Lower Youghiogheny, or "Yough" for short, is the premier whitewater river in the Appalachians, and one of the most popular runs in the east. The dam-controlled Yough is canoeable through the year and most of the exciting runs are contained within or near Ohiopyle State Park. Experienced paddlers can challenge the rapids by themselves, while those new to the area might want to sign on with one of the numerous guide services/outfitters in the area.

Inline Skating

As rollerblading becomes more popular across the nation, more and more of Pennsylvania's state parks are accommodating skaters by providing paved trails. Inline skaters can take advantage of the multi-purpose national recreation trail at Presque Isle State Park in Erie. The paved trail, nearly 10 miles in length, begins at the park entrance following along the Presque Isle Bay shoreline and continuing to the eastern end of the park along the Lake Erie beach side. The trail is shared by joggers and bikers and is an excellent trail to exercise with breathtaking scenery as a backdrop.

Moraine State Park, in the Pittsburgh region, offers rollerbladers a paved, seven-mile trail that winds near the shoreline between the Marina Restaurant and the bike rental building in the northwest corner of the park. Visitors to Ridley Creek State Park, near Philadelphia can enjoy inline skating, bicycling or jogging on a 5-mile, paved, multi-use trail along Sycamore Mills and Forge roads.

A Camp for Extreme Kids
The Woodward Camp located in central Pennsylvania is a story in itself with a 200-acre training facility for in-line skating, skateboarding, bicycling stunts and gymnastics. This extreme camp is the largest permanent camp dedicated to teaching and improving athletes' skills in these new and exciting sports. Structured much like a traditional summer camp, kids stay in cabins and enjoy the unforgettable experience of summer camp with a twist.

Click here for details to plan your own trip to Pennsylvania.

Article Contacts: Scott Henry/Marlin Collingwood/Bozell Kamstra, (412) 402-0149
                          Barbara Chaffee/Holly Rys, Center for Travel, Tourism & Film, (717) 787-5453

All Photos by Commonwealth Media Services (CMS), Harrisburg, PA 17120, (717) 787-2095

HOA LogoDestinationsTravel MallTravel LinksGlobal Travel