Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

June 18, 2016 – Kempton, Pennsylvania

Difficulty: moderate

Length: approximately 3 miles

Route type: out and back

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a 2,600-acre natural area in southeastern Pennsylvania that is famous as the world’s first refuge for birds of prey. As the world’s oldest wildlife sanctuary exclusively committed to the protection and observation of birds of prey, Hawk Mountain holds a unique place in geographic and scientific history. It is not owned or financially supported by the state; it remains entirely self-sufficient. In 1965 the sanctuary was registered as a National Natural Landmark.


Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Hawk Mountain is part of the Kittatinny Ridge or Blue Mountain, the prominent, southeastern most Appalachian ridge in the Ridge-and-Valley Province. Nine trails of varying difficulty are available to hikers and linked to the Appalachian Trail. They charge Trail fees to help offset their costs of maintaining the property as well as programs. At an elevation of 1521 feet it affords views that extend up to 70 miles.

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elevation of 1521 feet

I learned about this place through a website about the best views in Pennsylvania. It definitely had views. It had lookouts along many points on the trail with fantastic views that stretched for miles. I arrived early on a Saturday morning to beat any crowds there might be. I got there before the Visitor Center opened so there was no one to pay the trail fees to. Lucky me.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

entrance from the parking area

After not having to pay, I proceeded along a brick walkway to hit the trails. Luckily I had downloaded a map and printed it prior to my visit, which is always a good idea. You can’t always count on locating a map at the hiking site.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

on the way to the trails

I crossed the road to the trailhead and an empty kiosk. This place was very well done and very  aesthetically pleasing throughout. The trail that I followed for most of the hike was the Lookout Trail. Their trail system even connects to the Appalachian Trail.

First up was South Lookout, it was about 200 yards from the kiosk. A very short walk which made me feel like I didn’t really earn the view.

After taking in the view, I proceeded along the Lookout trail. It was already getting hot and except for the overlooks the trail was almost entirely shaded. I was really digging this place.


Lookout Trail

Next up was the Appalachian Overlook.

Appalachian Overlook

Appalachian Overlook

From there I continued up the trail to the next view, which was the River of Rocks Overlook. These massive boulder fields were deposited here during the last Ice Age, approximately 10,000-15,000 years ago.

River of Rocks

River of Rocks

I’ll skip to the Bald Overlook which had a little rock scramble to get to the view.

Bald Overlook

Bald Overlook

After the Bald Overlook the trail got quite rocky with an increase in elevation. It was time to concentrate on where I placed my feet. I’ve been on rockier trails so this wasn’t too bad.

On some of the steeper sections they installed some railings which made it a little easier on the ascent.

At this point I had worked up a sweat and decided to take a break on a bench that was right near this informational sign.

informational sign

informational sign

After a brief hydration break, I made the final push to the summit, or so I thought.

The Kettle View came first, which was pretty awesome.

Kettle View

Kettle View

After snapping a few photographs I was anxious to get to the money spot. One last push, I mean it this time.

Finally, the view I was waiting for. By this time I felt like I earned it.

North Lookout

I have to say that North Lookout did indeed have some impressive views. I snapped away to my heart’s content. This place rocks. Click on the ensuing images to enlarge.

I spent some time there just soaking up the view. A few groups of hikers came and went while I was there, but what a tranquil place to be. I was reluctant to leave, but all good things must end. I retraced my steps back to that informational sign to check out “The Slide.” It was a dead end with not much of a view, but with such a short walk I had to check it out.


The Slide

I back tracked to the trail junction to go check out the Sunset Overlook. After a little rock scrambling………


Scramblin’ man

I made it to the overlook.

Sunset Overlook

Sunset Overlook

I would have liked to explore the many other trails which are a little more challenging, but my time was limited. This is one place that I look forward to returning to. Until next time, happy trails……..

me at North Lookout

me at North Lookout

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