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  • Cycling along the riverfront in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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    Pittsburgh: A Walk and Roll Adventure

  • Hiking part of the North Country Trail in Butler County, Pennsylvania
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    Butler County: Parks, Lakes and Varied Landscapes

  • Whitewater rafting tour in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania
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    Pocono Mountains: A Four-Season Destination

  • Gorgeous views of the Delaware Water Gap and Mt. Tammany from a hike in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
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    Lehigh Valley: Outdoor Adventures, Fast and Slow

A peaceful moment on a fishing trip in Butler County, Pennsylvania
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Jim Cheney

The Great Outdoors in Pennsylvania: On the Open Road from Cities to Mountains

By Heather Lalley

  • Route distance:
    683.00
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

From urban charms to lush mountains, this road trip will guide outdoor lovers on adventures big and small.

Pennsylvania is known for its charming towns steeped in U.S. history, its important landmarks, its world-class museums, big cities and quaint little villages. Hidden among and sprawling between all these stops, travelers will find plenty of opportunities to get outside and explore the state’s diverse landscapes.

01
Cycling along the riverfront in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Pittsburgh: A Walk and Roll Adventure

Pittsburgh was once known as the Gateway to the West, back when it was a frontier village. Today, this thriving U.S. metropolitan city, located at the juncture of three rivers, is still ripe for urban outdoor exploration on foot or by bike to visit its many neighborhoods. After landing at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and heading into town, grab your favorite mode of transportation¬ – be it feet or wheels – to experience the city’s 38 kilometers of beautiful riverfront trails with Instagram-worthy views of Pittsburgh. Looking for a quick way to zip from one spot to the next? Hop on one of the Healthy Ride Pittsburgh bikes, shareable two-wheelers readily available throughout the city’s neighborhoods. From Downtown Pittsburgh, ride across the picturesque Roberto Clemente Bridge, also known as the Sixth Street Bridge, a suspension span across the Allegheny River constructed in the 1920s. Once across, stroll Allegheny Commons, the city’s oldest park, and soak in the lush trees and calm waters of Lake Elizabeth. It’s a great place to people watch and relax before you head out on the road.

74 km
1 hour by car
02
Hiking part of the North Country Trail in Butler County, Pennsylvania
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Butler County: Parks, Lakes and Varied Landscapes

Named after American Revolutionary War hero Gen. Richard Butler, Butler County is known for its historic small towns dotted with natural wonders. Begin your nature tour at Moraine State Park. There’s plenty to do here on the shores of Lake Arthur, with two beaches, hiking and biking trails, and a disc golf course. Jump on an enclosed pontoon boat for a guided tour of the park’s history while learning about the area’s osprey reintroduction program. Make advance reservations to stay in a lakeside cabin on-site. Pennsylvania’s only protected prairie landscape is found at the Jennings Environmental Education Center, a prime spot for hikers. While there, stroll forested trails as well, and discover more about fossils, ecosystems, maple sugaring and diverse prairie species. For a taste of a truly epic adventure, hike portions of the North Country Trail in both Moraine State Park and Jennings Environmental Education Center. It's the only national scenic trail in the USA to run west and east across the nation (as opposed to north and south). If you see a long-distance hiker, you might get a chance to hear stories about their trek on this route that stretches from North Dakota to New York.

465 km
4.5 hours by car
03
Whitewater rafting tour in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania
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Pocono Mountains: A Four-Season Destination

Head straight east across Pennsylvania to be treated to the lush outdoor lover’s paradise of the vast Pocono Mountains. Make your basecamp the Blue Mountain Resort, an ideal spot for skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and a ropes course to explore four seasons of adventure and relaxation on 39 slopes. Need gear? Head to Edge of the Woods Outfitters to rent bikes to tour the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area or sign up for river float trips and team-building activities. Or, rent a stand-up paddleboard and other watercraft at Pocono Action Sports to take to scenic Lake Wallenpaupack, the third-largest lake in the state. For a true adrenaline boost, visit Pocono Whitewater Adventures to sign on for a whitewater rafting trip down the Lehigh River. Continue the thrills at Camelback Mountain Adventures, an adventure course with sky bridges, cargo nets, zip lines and other obstacles – all nestled amongst the gorgeous backdrop of the Poconos. Take a deep breath and take it all in; you’ve got one more stop before your journey comes to a close.

30 km
0.75 hours by car
04
Gorgeous views of the Delaware Water Gap and Mt. Tammany from a hike in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
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Jerry Reardon

Lehigh Valley: Outdoor Adventures, Fast and Slow

The postcard-pretty Lehigh Valley, just north of Philadelphia, offers a variety of outdoor escapes, from fast-paced to low-key. Warm up with a stroll through Jacobsburg State Park & Environmental Education Center with its wooded areas, fishing streams, and hiking, biking and horseback riding tails. Admire the boardwalk along Little Lehigh Creek at the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the Wildlands Conservancy’s main office. The Lehigh Valley boasts 77 kilometers of the 265-kilometer paved Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor path, where you’ll catch stunning Lehigh River views. In the mood for a bit more adventure? Grab some diving gear and head to Dutch Springs. The lake, fed from an underground aquifer, is a veritable playground for scuba divers, packed with underwater platforms, submerged vehicles and other treasures. The lake also offers swimming and snorkeling, as well as an aqua park and an aerial park. For those with a need for speed, don’t miss Valley Preferred Cycling Center, one of the world’s fastest outdoor cycling tracks. The Velodrome hosts a weekly summer racing series, as well as national championships and one-day clinics for various skill levels. Wrap up your outdoor adventure with a flight out of Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) or Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), about an hour south.