Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania: 10 Facts You Didn’t Know

Written by Emilio Brown
Updated: August 14, 2023
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The Appalachian Trail has been around for about 85 years and is one of the longest hiking trails in the United States. This trail takes hikers through 14 states, including Pennsylvania. Every year, around 1000 hikers try their hand at completing this two-thousand-mile journey, but only around 25% actually finish.

Whether you’re hiking the entire trail or just going for a day trip, here are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

An overview of 10 Facts about the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

1. The Trail Runs Through Pennsylvania for about 229 Miles

The section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Pennsylvania is around 229 miles long.

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Starting in Waynesboro, PA, and ending in Delaware Water Gap, PA, the section of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Pennsylvania is around 229 miles long. Without stopping, that would take the average person about 76 hours (a little more than three days) to complete!

2. Various Pennsylvanian Organizations Maintain The Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy visitor center is located in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.

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Members of different organizations throughout Pennsylvania help protect and preserve the Appalachian Trail. This includes organizations like the Keystone Trails Association, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the York Hiking Club, and the Cumberland Valley Appalachian Trail Club. With the help of organizations like these, the trail stays clean and well-kept for everyone to enjoy.

3. Pennsylvania Has Some Of The Rockiest Sections Of The Trail

Mount Katahdin
Many parts of the Appalachian Trail are rocky, and some sections are dangerous.

©Michael Hotchkiss/Shutterstock.com

About 150 miles of the northern Pennsylvania portion of the trail is known as the rockiest part of the entire trail. This section may seem easy to traverse, but it can be dangerous. With so many rocks, the possibility of rolling an ankle is pretty high if you don’t watch your footing.

4. Half-Gallon Challenge At The Halfway Mark

A furnace stack on the grounds of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the location of the Half-Gallon Challenge.

©Zeete / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

In Cumberland Valley, not only will you find the halfway point for the Appalachian Trail but also the Half-Gallon Challenge. Located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park is the Pine Grove Furnace General Store. Here, thru-hikers stop and chow down on a half-gallon of Hershey’s ice cream. If you finish this challenge, you get a commemorative wooden spoon with the words “Member of the Half-Gallon Club” on it. Whether you finish or not, you can log your tale in the notebook filled with other stories of hikers trying their hand at this challenge.

5. Zinc Smelting Polluted A Portion Of The Appalachian Trail

Eighty years of smelting zinc led to the defoliation of 2,000 acres of land.

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In early 1900, Palmerton, PA, was home to a pretty big zinc smelting operation known as The Palmerton Zinc Pile. This zinc smelting site led to the defoliation of 2,000 acres of land and the pollution of what is now known as the most polluted water source on the Appalachian Trail. This water source is called Metallic Springs for obvious reasons, and hikers are encouraged to avoid this area. The smelting stopped in 1980, and the area was put on the National Priority List under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act in 1983. The Appalachian Trail used to take hikers directly through this site, but recently, the trail has been rerouted around the border to help the revitalization process. 

6. The Appalachian Trail Museum Is Located In Pennsylvania

Appalachian Trail Museum in Cumberland Valley, PA
The Appalachian Trail Museum is located in Cumberland Valley, PA.

©Zeete / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Pennsylvania is home to the only museum in the country dedicated entirely to hiking. The Appalachian Trail Museum is located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, near the midway point of the Appalachian Trail. The museum opened in June 2010. It was built inside an old building that can be considered a historical artifact itself. A grist mill built over 200 years ago was renovated and now houses the Appalachian Trail Museum.

7. Venomous Species Inhabit The Pennsylvania Section Of The Trail

Rattlesnakes While HIking - Timber Rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnakes can be found on the Pennsylvania portion of the Appalachian Trail.

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The Pennsylvania portion of the Appalachian Trail is home to timber rattlesnakes and copperhead snakes. This can be great for herpetologists hiking on the trail but not so great if you’re afraid of venomous snakes. Bites from these snakes are incredibly rare, and most claims are from hikers who only thought they had been bit. If you come across venomous snakes while hiking, the best way to avoid confrontation is to slowly back away and wait at a safe distance for the snake to move along.

8. Pennsylvania is Home To The Longest, Flattest, and Lowest Section Of The Trail

Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The lowest, longest section of the Appalachian Trail is located in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania.

©EWY Media/Shutterstock.com

Cumberland Valley, PA, is home to 46 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Along this 46 miles is a 13-mile stretch that is known as the longest, lowest, and flattest portion of the entire Appalachian Trail. This section is one of the most easily accessible areas to park near and take a short day trip to view the historic trail. You can view water birds such as herons along this section of the trail.

9. A Pennsylvanian Native Was The First To Complete The Appalachian Trail

Waimano falls
When Earl Shaffer first hiked the Appalachian trail, it wasn’t even ten years old yet.

©Jason Jacobs / flickr – License

A Pennsylvanian man named Earl Shaffer is the first reported person to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. He completed the hike in 1948, saying he was doing so to “walk the Army out of his system” after he returned from serving in World War II. He hiked the trail two more times, in 1965 and then again in 1998. In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of his first hike, he became the oldest person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail during the time at the age of 79.

10. The Appalachian Mountains Are Among The Oldest Mountains In The World.

The Appalachian Mountain range was formed around 480 million years ago, making it one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet.

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The Appalachian Trail takes hikers on a beautiful and sometimes treacherous journey through the Appalachian Mountains. What most hikers don’t know is that the Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest mountains on the planet. The Appalachian Mountains formed about 480 million years ago, making them older than the Atlantic Ocean.


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Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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