This trail ascends Blue Mountain via a forest road before connecting to the Appalachian Trail (AT) on top of the mountain. Once on the AT you proceed to The Pinnacle and from there on to Pulpit Rock, both areas overlook this small corner of the Great Valley. Being close to cities like Harrisburg, Reading, Allentown and Philadelphia this trail is a very popular day hiking destination for people looking to get out of the city on the weekend.
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 40° 34′ 59.763″ N, 75° 56′ 31.049″ W
Trail Length: 8.7 Miles
Trail Type: Loop
Required Equipment – Sturdy hiking boots, water, trekking poles,
Facilities: A pit toilet behind Pulpit Rock.
- The Cliffs and Bear Rocks Trail
- Appalachian Trail
- Bake Oven Knob Trail
- Cabelas Retail Store
- Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
- Locust Lake State Park
The key to this hike is getting here early, the earlier the better, on my most recent hike here I left the house at 2:00 am went to get something to eat and proceeded to drive an hour and a half before arriving at the parking area. On the trail by a 4:15 am I arrived at The Pinnacle in time for the one of the most amazing sunrise I’ve ever seen at 6:18 am. While you don’t have to start that early you want to be at the parking area by mid morning at the latest to find a parking spot and begin your hike, as the morning wears on the parking area will fill amazingly quickly.
Beginning at the parking area across from the Hamburg Water Authority Filtration plant, walk past the large trail map and closed road gate heading up the slightly rising gravel road. Continue following the road as it bends to the right and crosses Furnace Creek on a wooden bridge, immediately after the bridge is grassy area used by hikers on the AT to camp as they travel the 2,181 mile long trail. When the road splits turn left and follow the trail up past the gate and past the reservoir which holds 34,000,000 gallons of fresh drinking water for the city of Hamburg. Having anything to do with the reservoir besides looking at it from the trail is strictly prohibited and this area is patrolled by Game Commission deputies in the early mornings.
Enter the woods at the end of the reservoir following the forest road as it winds its way up Blue Mountain, you’ll find that the road is marked with blue rectangular blazes, and is quite easy to follow. The road isn’t particularly rocky or rutted and after rainfall will you find water running through the shallow ruts that occasionally cross the trail. To the left of the trail Furnace Creek winds though a ravine down the side of the mountain, the ravine below you is blanketed with rhododendrons and other woodland plants, occasional breaks in the bushes alongside the road allow to look down into the ravine. Your biggest hazard when hiking this road is that there are several exposed water drainage pipes that are broken that you definitely don’t want to step in. There are two stretches of the road that are a little steeper than the rest but they don’t last long before the road resumes its gently sloping rise up the mountain. Two forest roads intersect this road, one from the left and near the top of the mountain one from the right. Continue past both roads following the blazes until you reach the large grassy area at the top of the mountain which serves as a helipad. Here you connect to the AT, turn onto the road on the right or east side of the helipad and follow the white rectangle blazes along the road as it heads to The Pinnacle.
The road remains virtually unchanged from the one leading up the mountain except in some areas where there are seeps that make short stretches of the road muddy or briefly cover the road in shallow water. You’ll know you’re getting close to The Pinnacle when to your left you can see blue sky, the road abruptly ends before you reach The Pinnacle, continue following the trail blazes towards The Pinnacle. Immediately before The Pinnacle is a large stone cairn, continue past the cairn and arrive at the Pinnacle which sitting 1,000’ above the farmland below provides spectacular views of the countryside below. Be very careful on the rocks particularly in the area of the cave which falls roughly 20’ straight down, simply put one wrong step and you’ll be in a world of hurt.
Also these rocks and the surrounding woodlands are inhabited by snakes, including rat snakes and venomous Timber Rattlesnakes and Northern Copperheads. You’ll most likely not see them though unless you’re hiking here when they are emerging and entering their dens deep in the rocks in the spring and fall or when they are sunning themselves on rocks. Most of the time any snakes you may encounter will quickly proceed to hide in the rocks once they feel the vibrations of your approach. Any snake that is in the process of shedding its skin or has just shed its skin should be avoided as during this time they will feel threatened and will be extremely aggressive.
Other wildlife you’ll encounter include squirrels and chipmunks, song birds and large hawks, vultures and other raptors flying in the valley below, many times coming right along the cliff side below you. This section of Blue Mountain sits along the annual Raptor migration route which enables you to view the various birds of prey flying northwards. Sunrises can be viewed here throughout the year however in the fall and winter the ridge to your right may interfere a bit. A cobble lies on the opposite side of the mountain from The Pinnacle but doesn’t really provide much of a view.
When you’re done proceed back to the cairn and follow the trail on the right along the mountainside to proceed to Pulpit Rock. You’ll make excellent time along the trail which continues to be well-defined, level and only moderately rocky. About half way to Pulpit Rock you hit the rocks, lots of rocks, big rocks, small rocks, enormous rocks, rocks of every shape and size. In fact for long stretches of the trail you need not step on anything but rocks, but don’t worry it’s not that bad and doesn’t last for very long, besides who doesn’t like a little light rock hopping?
About where the mountainside bends to the southeast you come out to an exposed section of rocks with a view of pretty much nothing. Don’t worry this isn’t Pulpit Rock which on my first hike here I was quite disappointed and thinking that it was until I realized my mistake upon reaching Pulpit Rock further down the trail. When you get to Pulpit Rock there will be at least one group of hikers resting there so you’ll have to be patient if you’d like to get some pictures from the view. When you’re ready proceed down the trail directly behind Pulpit Rock which leads to a large clearing containing an observatory, you’ll find a pit toilet at the side of the trail if you need it. Follow the red stone path to the road and follow that down the mountain. The road drops around 800’ in a little over a mile making the road steep in some sections. At the intersection of the road leading to the reservoir turn south or left and head back down the road crossing the bridge and complete this hike by returning to the parking area.