Lakeside Trail at Hills Creek State Park.

Hills Creek State Park

Hills Creek State Park is a beautiful place to camp and explore. The park is located near Wellsboro. It features a lake and miles of easy to moderate trails, including the longest trail in the state, the Mid-State Trail. The park is also an excellent base camp for those wishing to explore the Pine Creek Gorge region. A great loop you can hike at the park is along the Tauschers, Lakeside and Yellow Birch Trails. The Mid-State Trail follows part of the Lakeside Trail. The trails are blazed yellow, and the Mid-State is blazed orange.

This loop is easy to moderate with hilly terrain in places. It offers beautiful views of the lake along small bays and coves, streams, diverse forests of pine, hemlock and spruce, and wetlands. This loop is about 3.5 miles long.

Start at the parking area for the Tauschers Trail (41.805574, -77.191253) and hike it to the right. The trail explores pine forests and climbs to the cabin area before dropping down into a hemlock forest above a creek. Reach the park road and turn right. Turn right again on the Yellow Birch Trail. This short, hilly trail explores streams and offers a view over Tauscher Pond before climbing a ridge of large, open hardwoods, before descending back to the park road.

Now continue on the Lakeside Trail as it explores the shore with its bays and coves, offering many views over the lake. Scenic forests of pine and hemlock adorn the trail. Reach the north end of the lake, where the Mid State Trail joins from the right. Hike over some hills and then descend to a boat launch before entering a spruce forest. This is a beautiful section as the trail enters the spruce forests with views of the lake. Small streams drain into the lake, and in two places, the streams flow under large spruce trees! The spruce forest is particularly scenic after a fresh snowfall.

Pass a second boat launch; the dock here provides superb views of the lake and the mountains to the north. Reach the road, turn left, and cross the dam. The trail turns right off the road, climbs some steps, and passes along a picnic area. Before reaching the park office, cross the road, and proceed on a new, scenic trail that explores pines, an inlet and some wetlands, before climbing up to the parking area where you parked.

Other great hikes nearby are Sand Run Falls in the Tioga State Forest and the C. Lynn Keller Trail near Hammond Lake.

Jeff Mitchell is the district attorney of Wyoming County, and author of ‘Hiking the Endless Mountains,’ ‘Backpacking Pennsylvania,’ and ‘Paddling Pennsylvania.’

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