By Keith Williams, Vice President of Engagement & Education
Clark Nature Preserve
Follow the blue blazed Ralph Goodno Trail along the meadow’s edge and through the woods to House Rock Scenic Overlook. House Rock is a rock outcrop that gives a beautiful view of the Susquehanna Valley and the kaleidoscope of color the forest canopy turns in fall. The trail is 1 mile round trip and is moderate in difficulty with a rocky dirt tread and 200 foot elevation loss and gain. Climbing up on House Rock involves stepping on roots and rock slabs and can be challenging.
Mill Creek Falls Nature Preserve
The mile-long smooth crushed stone trail at Mill Creek Falls is universally accessible for visitors with strollers, wheelchairs, or other mobility devices. This is an easy hike that goes through oak-, beech-, hickory-, and maple-dominated forest. The canopy will be red, yellow, orange, and brown, and the spice bush and paw paw shrub layer will blaze yellow. For a more challenging hike, the red blazed Mill Creek Falls Trail travels down slope from the parking area along a creek and ends in a rhododendron glen at the 10-foot-tall Mill Creek Falls.
Climbers Run Nature Center
Climbers Run has a number of trails that afford different views of the forest canopy. From the Russo Barn, you can get a comprehensive view of both hills that comprise the preserve, and the oak, hickory, maple, cherry, and tulip poplar forests that turn yellow, orange, and red in fall. The yellow trail is a moderate difficulty out-and-back trail that takes visitors into a rocky gorge with a forest that is dominated by hickory, sweet birch, and tulip poplar, which will glow yellow at peak color. The 3/4-mile orange trail starts in front of the Russo Barn and leads visitors through the tulip poplar-, cherry-, and maple-dominated bottom land forest and fields that also turn mostly yellow in fall. From the bridge across Climbers Run, visitors can also follow the white blazed trail to the top of Mueller Woods. This is a challenging hike through a remnant oak forest that turns red and brown in fall. This trail also gives great views of the Climbers Run valley and gorge when the leaves finally drop from the trees.
Hellam Hills Nature Preserve
Take the blue blazed Mason-Dixon Trail south for a difficult 2-mile out-and-back hike to Buzzards Roost, a rock outcrop that provides great views of the Susquehanna and valley that extends to the Welsh Mountains. The forest turns yellow and red as the tulip poplars and maples shift color.
Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve
Welsh Mountain is a 940-acre preserve that is adjacent to Money Rocks County Park. There is an extensive trail system at Welsh Mountain that connects to the trails at Money Rocks. The forest at Welsh Mountain is dominated by oak, hickory, maple, and tulip poplar. Earlier in the fall, it turns yellow as the tulip poplar and hickory change, then red as the maples and oaks change later in the season. The blue loop is a 2-mile trail that will take visitors through these magical ecosystems. The whole world seems to glow yellow then red and orange as different species of trees adopt their autumn foliage. Those hiking the blue loop should be sure to take the 0.4-mile round trip white spur trail to the overlook that gives an amazing view of the valley.
A NOTE ABOUT HIKING IN FALL
Hunting is allowed on more than two dozen Lancaster Conservancy nature preserves. Hunters wear orange, and so should you. Make sure you are visible to hunters as you hike by wearing blaze orange. Here are some additional tips for enjoying the outdoors respectfully and responsibly this fall.