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Near Lancaster

Outdoor Activities Near Lancaster

Quality time in the great outdoors can amplify any vacation. This is particularly true when you stay in Lancaster, where tranquil settings abound.

Whether your idea of the perfect day outside involves hiking, picnicking, or checking out the area's hottest events, you should have no trouble finding something unique to keep you and your loved ones occupied.

To help you develop the ultimate itinerary, we've highlighted a few of the finest outdoor activities Lancaster has to offer.

Water Activities

From pools to beaches, the Lancaster area provides plenty of chances to cool off. While nothing beats the simple joy or convenience of hitting up the resort pools with a drink in hand, there are also a few excellent places to visit when you want to swim offsite. Fishing, canoeing, and kayaking are also great options for a laid-back day of outdoor fun.

  • Lancaster County Central Park. This park arguably fits in all the categories highlighted thus far: as we mentioned, it's home to hiking trails, and there are also great spots for picnics and birdwatching. There is also a sizable pool with water fountains, slides, and a wading area.

  • Mt. Gretna Lake & Beach. Lancaster locals often head to Ocean City or Cape May when they crave time on the beach, but there are also a few options closer to town. Arguably the best? Mt. Gretna, which offers a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of amenities. The vast sand beach is perfect for building castles, while older kids can typically be found at the diving board or high dive. Kayaks, canoes, and even inner tubes are available for rental, as are beach chairs if you prefer to soak up the sun.

  • Boating on the Susquehanna River. The stunning Susquehanna River delivers the ultimate boating environment, with plenty of outfitters happy to provide all the equipment and insight you need for a great day on the water. Look to Chiques Rock Outfitters for single or tandem kayaks. For an especially intriguing river experience, take a historic tour aboard the Chief Uncas, which was originally constructed for the beer tycoon Adolphus Busch.

Local fishing. There are plenty of hidden gem fishing spots in and around Lancaster, but one of the best is arguably Hammer Creek in Lititz. This has long been the region's go-to for trout fishing. Other spots worth checking out include Lake Grubb and Lake Aldred. Keep in mind that you'll need a license to fish in Pennsylvania. There is a fishing tackle loaner program for the state parks, plus a few bait and tackle shops in and around Lancaster.

Playgrounds

Traveling with kids is a lot easier when you can rely on playgrounds to use up their excess energy. Many will be happy to hang out at the pool all day (especially if the pool also has a kids splash zone), but others may crave some time on land-based equipment.

Choose the right playground, and this doesn't have to be dull for parents. When your kids are desperate for playground fun, check out these parks near Lancaster PA.

  • Amos Herr Dream Park. This park is perfectly named, because visiting its quaint play equipment really does feel like entering a dream world. Fully fenced (to the relief of parents with young children), this farm-themed playground has something to offer for visitors of all ages.

  • Long's Park. If you want to stick around Lancaster, Long's Park is your best bet. Conveniently located near Park City Center, this sizable park is not only home to a cute playground, but also has a fountain, pavilions, and even a petting zoo. The park is known for hosting weekly concerts during the summer months.

The Tree House Playground. Undeniably whimsical, this Lititz favorite is largely regarded as a destination playground. It was purposefully designed to accommodate a wide array of children, including those with mobility impairments. This is a true community spot, as it was built by local volunteers.

Hiking

No list of outdoor things to do in Lancaster PA would be complete without a roundup of local trails. Whether you crave a casual stroll or a hardcore trek, you will be pleased to find plenty of interesting routes that expose you to the best scenery. While a few longer hikes are available, many are easy and span a few short miles, so you can easily fit a quick walk into your busy day. Favorites include:

  • Speedwell Forge Hiking Trail. This three-mile dirt trail near Lititz is a great option when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle to enjoy a truly peaceful (but somewhat short) hiking experience. Human visitors are minimal, but you'll likely encounter squirrels, deer, rabbits, and other wildlife along the way.

  • Five Sites Loop. If you want to dedicate a full day to hiking, there's no better destination than the gorgeous Trough Creek State Park. A quick half-mile trek will take you to the park's best scenery, but you'll definitely miss out if you skip the more demanding Five Sites Loop, which extends a full seven miles. As its name suggests, this trek takes you to the park's most important sites: Balanced Rock, Copperas Rocks, Ice Mine, Rainbow Falls, and even the remnants of an abandoned home.

  • Turkey Hill Overlook Trail. Bookended by scenic overlooks, this strenuous trail is not for the faint of heart. If you're up for a challenge, however, you'll be rewarded with some truly magnificent views of the Susquehanna River. This trek can extend over six miles if combined with a jaunt on the Enola Low Grade Rail Trail.

Wildflower Trail. This short Central Park route only takes ten minutes to meander, but you could easily linger for half an hour if you show up during the spring when the flowers are in bloom. This is where to head when you want to stick to Lancaster County parks. Combine with other Central Park favorites (such as the Warbler or Mill Creek Trails) for a longer excursion.

Biking

Lancaster is best explored on two wheels. There are many excellent bike trails in the area, several of which link the region's most noteworthy tourist attractions. Others simply provide a feel for what life is really like in Lancaster and surrounding communities.f

Don't worry if you're unable to bring your own bike; there are multiple rental companies in the area and even a bike-share program like Bike it Lancaster . Once you determine where you'll find wheels for the day, add these essentials to your Lancaster biking itinerary:

  • Conewago Recreation Trail. This multi-use gem follows what was once the Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad. At five miles, it's a modest option for a short ride, although you're welcome to continue on to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.

  • Enola Low Grade Trail. An essential for hardcore cyclists, the Enola Low Grade Trail extends dozens of miles, with by far the most beautiful section meandering along the beloved Susquehanna River. The trail is fairly flat, but conditions vary between sections.

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. Enjoy a leisurely ride along one of Lancaster's most interesting trails. Although technically deemed a multi-use route, it's primarily frequented by cyclists, who enjoy searching for archaeological remains along this 14-mile path.

Picnics

Finding an amazing place to eat out should never be a struggle in Lancaster, where down-home food promises to keep you satisfied. The best patios in town provide dinner with a view — but there's something extra charming about grabbing a basket and blanket for a classic picnic.

There are many scenic spots worth checking out, with several found along hiking trails or within the parks described above. Some are located near playgrounds, as is the case at Amos Herr and Long's Park. Otherwise, plan a picnic lunch for one of these top spots:

  • Breezy View Overlook. There are plenty of scenic picnic spots at Chickies Rock County Park, but the Breezy View Overlook is truly special. There, you'll find panoramic views of the river, plus a charming gazebo.

  • Climbers Run Nature Center. The historic Russo Barn provides a great setting for a memorable picnic, although you are also welcome to enjoy a lovely picnic lunch in the meadow or by the stream.

  • Amish Village. Although best known for its farmhouse and village tours, this local attraction also has lovely picnic grounds worth checking out. Invest in some homemade treats or pack your own meal to enjoy as you "set a while" in this gorgeous picnic area.

Perhaps you like the idea of a quaint picnic but don't actually want to put in the work of planning and packing. No worries: local companies will handle everything so you can enjoy a romantic day out. Lanc Picnic Co., for example, will bring your picnic to the most beautiful parks in town.

Birdwatching

A variety of spectacular species call Lancaster home. These can often be spotted while hiking, biking, or kayaking — but there's something to be said for dedicated birding sessions. There are many unique habitats worth checking out, such as:

  • Conejohela Flats Important Birding Area. The Susquehanna River's small islands and mud flats provide valuable habitat for thousands of shorebirds. These areas can be explored by experienced paddlers, who typically use the Blue Rock Access area or Zimmerman Center for Heritage as boat launches. While the rest of the river can be turbulent, this area is typically calm. Be prepared to spot egrets, cormorants, snow geese, and tundra swans.

  • Holtwood Environmental Preserve. You'll see more than just birds at this preserve, where the Butterfly Club of Lancaster County is known to gather. In addition to monarchs and zebra swallowtails, you can expect to see warblers, herons, ospreys, and bald eagles.

Octoraro Lake. This man-made reservoir attracts plenty of wading birds, plus hummingbirds and woodpeckers. While there are no hiking trails, this is a lovely spot for stationery birding. The space is vast, but the section by Mt. Eden Road will almost certainly provide the best birdwatching experience.

Enjoy the Sunshine in Lancaster

If you want to pack your vacation with relaxing or exciting outdoor activities Lancaster PA is sure to please. Set aside a day or two to explore the region's quieter attractions, where you can reconnect with nature. Better yet: make the most of every sunny day and book a hotel with a great pool.

The Eden Resort boasts multiple pools and a vast recreation complex, where you can soak in the sun as you relax in style. Should rainy weather take over, you can always hit up the indoor pool and whirlpool. Reach out today to learn more about our activities and amenities.

Book your stay with us.