Hawk Mountain Sanctuary via Skyline Trail

HARD 74 reviews

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary via Skyline Trail is a 4.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Kempton, Pennsylvania that features a great forest setting and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
4.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1026 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

hiking

forest

views

rocky

scramble

no dogs

This rugged, ridge top trail follows the spine of the Kittatiney down over North Lookout, crosses East Rocks (a scenic overlook) and meets the AT 2.5 miles from North Lookout. This scenic hike is recommended only for experienced hikers. There is a 10 ft. vertical climb just off of North Lookout. Find the trail by way of the Lookout Trail from the visitors center. The Lookout Trail is blazed in orange, and the Skyline Trail is blazed in blue.

hiking
4 days ago

hiking
6 days ago

In my opinion, this trail is the crown-jewel of trails in Southeastern PA, both in difficulty and in beauty, however, you only get the most bang for your buck if you do the whole loop counter-clockwise.

(1) Start out going on the River of Rocks -- NOT straight to the lookouts -- and do the entire loop. You will encounter some amazing "rock valleys" that PA is famous for and trust me, your ankles will get a heck of a workout trying to avoid being twisted and contorted. The River of Rocks is the only part of the trail that I would highly recommend a good pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes. The first time I did this trail I was wearing minimalist running shoes. It was both a huge mistake borne of ignorance about the trail and it like hell for my ankles. The second visit was done in hiking boots, which was a far better experience.

(2) The River of Rocks will connect with the Golden Eagle trail. Take this trail until you reach the Skyline Trail. This is a rather steep ascent and will tax less experienced and conditioned hikers. You don't need to climb anything yet, but you will probably be tired (depending on your pace) due to the incline. Obviously, this is why I say Hawk Mountain can a great physical challenge, if done in the right way.

(3) Catch your breath for a second and then take the Skyline Trail. The beauty of this part of the trail is that although it is easily the most difficult (and fun) section of the loop, it starts out relatively easy, which gives you just enough time to get a breather before the boulder climbing and boulder hopping begins. The Skyline trail is heckuva fun time, but you need good shoes with treads. Hiking boots aren't necessarily needed here, but hopefully you'll be wearing them because you were smart enough to wear them on account of the River of Rocks. My advice for this section is that it is very important to think about where you are going. There are several boulder formations and luckily there is a recommended path if you follow the blazes on the rocks, but every now and then there are easier solutions if you are take a second to survey the particular formation you have just encountered.

The last stretch of the Skyline trail is straight up climbing rocks and you will no doubt be a little winded, but the reward (the lookout view) at the end is worth it. This steep section is yet another reason why I do not recommend doing the trail loop clockwise. It's not a good idea to be hopping down some of those rock formations. Climbing is harder physically, but less risky.

All that's left is path back to the visitor center, but it's sandy terrain and downhill and you can stop to take pictures of several of the great lookouts that are along the way.

7 days ago

One of my favorite hikes. Awesome for the experienced hiker. Skyline trail is crazy fun if you know what you're doing. Excellent view once you get to the lookout. If you got the right time of year, you will see lots of hawks flying around.
It is also worth mentioning the boulder fields located at Hawk Mountain. If you have the time check them out.

hiking
23 days ago

I was familiar with Hawk Mountain, particularly the short lookout hike and the River of Rocks trail. These trails are popular for school field trips. The lookout trail has a little bit of a climb, and the escarpment trail gives you some bouldering; the River of Rocks trail is scenic and a moderate hike. You could do these in sneakers, but after it rained I was slipping a bit in hiking boots!

This time I took River of Rocks to Golden Eagle to Skyline, and it ramped it up to difficult! I was nice and tired by the time I made the final push up to the end of Skyline at South Lookout. Lots of boulder scrambles on Skyline, and a good steady uphill climb on Golden Eagle. I encountered a couple of hawks while I was up on Skyline-- one launched itself into the air from five feet away, which was incredible.

The trails are well-marked, and there's a very clear and accurate map available at the visitor center. Very light traffic on Golden Eagle and Skyline (10am on a damp Saturday). Reasonable amount of parking. Worth paying for, in my opinion.

hiking
1 month ago

This is an incredible hike, easy 5 star. Their is a lot to experiance and you do not have to kill yourself to see some cool stuff. Check out my full write up along with directions and things to look out for.
http://www.eastcoasthiker.com/trails/hawkmountain

1 month ago

Thoroughly enjoyed this hike.

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

I had requested the staff guide direct me to the most challenging route as the guide I had looked at only listed it as moderate. That obviously had not included the Skyline Trail. So assuming its a moderate trail, I set off on my 92 degree day having eaten only a 100 calorie yogurt and a 20 oz bottle of water for the day. Shame on me. Anyhow, I made the hike counter-clockwise, heading down to the River of Rocks first. After going around both rock formations, I then proceeded to just be in my zone and cruised right past my exit. So I added 2 miles by having to turn around and go back to the Golden Eagle Trail. Unlike me, you smart people will just make the first right onto the Golden Eagle Trail. This is about a long steep path that will slowly suck your will to live, and seems to go on for approximately 800 miles. Then when you get to the top, you will begin your travels on Skyline Trail. This will make you rethink everything you have ever thought you knew about life. All the rock formations that the guide warns you about, seem worse when you are doing them in reverse toward the end of your hike. The Skyline Trail is probably the toughest I have done in the PA/NJ area. That being said, it was awesome. Views are fantastic, the workout is first-rate, and the feeling of accomplishment is great. I would recommend this trail to everyone who is in decent physical shape, and likes a challenge. I would however recommend that unlike me, you do it well hydrated with a good meal of protein in the AM. Definitely do it though. Its the first time I was happy to pay for a trail. Well worth the day. Peace.

hiking
1 month ago

Lots of climbing! Be prepared to climb boulders. Bring bug spray! There are tons of gnats that annoy you the whole time. The views are breathtaking at the top! Watch out for snakes though!

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Get ready, this hike will leave you knackered. Prepare to climb boulders for a few miles if you take the difficult route. But it makes getting to the lookout so much more rewarding!

hiking
2 months ago

It seems the views are more rewarding when you have to work for them this path will make them that much more rewarding. We came at it from the east via the river of rocks trail / golden eagle trail and hiked west to the north lookout. My daughter age 10 made it with only a minor shin scrape but she loved every minute of it, her eyes light up at every vertical climb.

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Great views, fun scrambles and your quads will feel it at the end. At the bottom, I was weak and everyone laughed at me, at the top my quads were huge and I couldn't keep the ladies off me. Quad/10, I'm a changed man.

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Beautiful loop trail, completed in about 3.5 hours. Well marked. Lots of rock climbing / scrambling on the Skyline portion of the trail, some of which is not for the young, faint of heart, or out of shape! North and South lookouts are both accessible from easier trails however, and might be worth the trip alone. The larger loop was great.