Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary Hike; Pennsylvania
Mileage: 5.4 Miles Directions
Hiking Time: 5.2 hrs 1 adult 3 kids (less without kids) Facebook
Rise: 955 Ft (200 ft if you only do the overlook trail) Hawk Mountain
Significance: Bird Sanctuary, Views, Boulder fields Weather
Here is some of what you need to know: Vistas are easy to access. Their is a fee of $6 for adults for $3 kids > 6 to hike the trails but the money appears to be put to good use with nice facilities, bathrooms throughout the park, and well marked trails.
Check out nearby Pinnacle Mountain, it is an awesome hike.
1. Scroll the mouse over the altitude line to see where it lines up on the map
2. Click on the flags for more information
3. Click on the pictures to make them large
This hike starts at the visitors center where you can learn about the history of the sanctuary and about bird migrations. The inside is filled with bird sculptures, books, and an interactive guide that shows the migratory path of hawks. The blue marker in the picture on the right shows the path a Peregrine Falcon takes on its migratory journey.
We begin at the Lookout Trail, and it is as nice a path as you can ever find. Wide, mostly smooth with easy to read markers at every point of interest. This trail runs from the visitors center to the top of the mountain. Along the way to the top their are several lookouts, the first one only a 1/4 mile from the parking lot. Each vista starting with the the South Lookout is like sitting in theater box seats: you get a great view of the big birds, the valley, and the surrounding mountains. Way cool.
The kids tolerated this part of the trail well, it was not as long and steep as I thought the park map made it out to be. The top offers several vistas and all are worth checking out. Sunset Rock has a cool rock scramble and is probably a good spot for sunsets, but the view is minimal due to trees. The Slide vista gives a nice look at the valley and the back end of North Lookout.
The main attraction for many hikers on this mountain will be from the North Lookout. It is like a rock jetty that gives a great panoramic view of both sides of the mountain. Since you are high up and their is no overhead foliage, the hawks and buzzards coast nearby low and slow. It is a great open place for you to pull up a rock, set up your camera or binoculars and watch the birds soar.
If this is where you stop I will not think anything less of you, it was a great hike. To go any further with kids will be pushing your luck. I have very forgiving kids so forward we went. The sign behind the kids (right) warns that the Skyline Trail is rugged and that you will need both hands. Immediately after this sign is a 12′ cliff that you need to climb down.
After assisting the kids in this climb we found one of the most gnarly trails we have ever been on. We endured long stretches of having to navigate over 3′ boulders; It was unreal and exhausting. This went on for about a mile, luckily it was only a slight uphill grade. This path will eventually lead to the Appalachian Trail, and that was my goal. Before you reach the AT you have 2 chances to get off of the mountain by taking the Golden Eagle Trail (GE). By the time we hit the second GE trail head it was clear we had enough so off the mountain we went skipping the AT. I think this part of the hike was worth experiencing , my kids disagreed.
At the bottom of the mountain lies one of the coolest rock formations you will ever see. These boulder fields left over from the last glacier period resemble vast lakes of rocks. As you walk on it you can hear water flowing underneath. The picture does not show how impressive this is. You do not have to hike the above to get to this if you come in from the River of Rocks trail. You need to see this once in your life at least.
From here we took the # 4 River Of Rocks trail. Be sure to have a park map and note the # of where you want to go because their a couple River of Rocks Trails. It is a little over a mile from the boulder field to the car with an elevation gain of about 700 ft. I am not sure if that last hill is the icing on the cake or the nail in the coffin but it was nice to be on our way to the car.
Fantastic hike with the views, rocks, and birds. The sanctuary has lots to offer between the museum and other programs they run. This trip was worth the couple hr drive to took us to get here.