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How to get to Swatara Falls in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Waterfalls: How to Get to Swatara Falls

One thing that really surprised me when I started looking for waterfalls to visit in Pennsylvania was the lack of waterfalls in South Central Pennsylvania. Given all the mountains we have in the area, I figured there would be some good ones to be found. Sadly, that’s not the case.

However, when I was looking for things to do along I-81 on my road trip to Centralia, Pennsylvania a few years ago, I stumbled across Swatara Falls.

How to get to Swatara Falls in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

Looking upstream at Swatara Falls.

Despite the lack of information online, I was determined to visit. So, equipped with a sense of adventure and some basic directions, I set off not knowing what to expect. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for information on how to get to Swatara Falls.)

Once I arrived at the completely unmarked trailhead, I headed into the woods. I must admit, I felt a bit hesitant following an unmarked trail. What if I couldn’t find my way out? Nevertheless, I headed deeper and deeper into the forest, following the directions I had found online.

After hiking for about fifteen minutes, I started to hear the familiar sound of falling water. Continuing down the trail a few more minutes, I rounded a bend and saw Swatara Falls before me. It was awesome!

A side view of the beautiful Swatara Falls.

A side view of the beautiful Swatara Falls.

Despite only having a height of roughly 25 feet, Swatara Falls is by far the highest waterfall for a good distance. During the spring thaw or after a lot of rain, Swatara Falls runs very nicely. However, if it has been dry recently, this waterfall can be little more than a trickle.

Swatara Falls is about two miles south of the headwaters of Swatara Creek, which runs about 70-ish miles before passing Indian Echo Caverns and draining into the Susquehanna River just south of Harrisburg.

Waterfalls near Harrisburg: Swatara Falls

Unfortunately, there is some graffiti on Swatara Falls. Such a shame people can’t respect nature.

In addition to being one of the only waterfalls around, there is a lot to explore around Swatara Falls.

There used to be a rope along the rocks to the left of the falls, but that is no longer there. While it’s still possible to scramble up the rocks, it’s much easier to cross the creek below the falls and climb up the far bank.

If you follow Swatara Creek upriver for about 200 feet, you’ll come to a second small waterfall. While I didn’t discover this waterfall during my first visit, I was excited to stumble across it during my second visit to Swatara Falls. Despite Upper Swatara Falls being only about 7 feet high, it is quite beautiful. This is definitely a great place to check out if you can, especially for photographers.

Upper Swatara Falls in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania

Upper Swatara Falls sits a few hundred feet upstream of the main falls.

While it may not be the most impressive waterfall in Pennsylvania and it has been marred with some graffiti in recent years, visiting Swatara Falls is still worthwhile. This is a very beautiful portion of Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna Region and offers a chance to enjoy some off-the-beaten-path nature.

How to Get to Swatara Falls

Getting to Swatara Falls is relatively easy if you have directions, but be aware that there are no markers to indicate any of the trails or turns. However, the trail is quite wide and should be rather easy to follow.

Swatara Waterfall along Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania

Taking the time to enjoy Swatara Falls.

From I-81, take exit 112 and head east on PA-25 (Turn right if traveling on I-81 North. Turn left if traveling on I-81 South).

After driving roughly 1.7 miles, you’ll come to a large dirt area on your right. There are actually two dirt areas where you can park that are separated from each other by a small wooded area. Park in the first area you come to if possible. For those that use them, the coordinates for the Swatara Falls parking area are 40.662384, -76.360125.

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    (Note: As of late July 2017, I’ve been informed that there are now “No Parking” signs at this parking area. Please respect the rights of the land owner. At this time, I’m unsure of where you can safely park along the road to see Swatara Falls.)

    [Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]
    The parking area for the trail to Swatara Falls in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

    The parking area for the trail to Swatara Falls.

    Facing the road, the trailhead is located across the road and slightly to your left. It’s not marked at all, but it’s obvious enough. (Note: There is another trailhead directly across the road from the second parking area. Do not take this trail.)

    The trailhead for Swatara Falls as seen from the first parking area.

    The trailhead for Swatara Falls as seen from the first parking area.

    Walk down this trail for about 500 feet. The trail you are on will end and intersect with another trail.

    Turn left and continue down that trail for about 200 feet.

    You will come to a four-way intersection (I’ve seen some directions that say it’s a five-way intersection, but I only saw four trails). Take the trail to your right.

    This is a wide trail and will start to go downhill. It’s somewhat steep in places and has a few switchbacks, but is pretty easy overall.

    How to get to Swatara Falls near Tremont, Pennsylvania

    A side view of Swatara Falls.

    You will continue on this path (Don’t take any side trails) for about 15 minutes until you get to Swatara Falls.

    The whole hike to Swatara Falls should take roughly 20 minutes each way.

    Want to see more of Pennsylvania’s best waterfalls? Check out our Pennsylvania Waterfalls page!

    See map below for other area attractions.

    AUTHOR - Jim Cheney

    Jim Cheney is the creator of UncoveringPA.com. Based in the state capital of Harrisburg, Jim frequently travels around Pennsylvania and has visited all 67 counties in the state. Jim has also traveled to more than 30 different countries around the world.

    23 Comments

    • Darren Landis

      Your directions were spot on to the waterfall very easy to find.thanks for the info

      • Jim Cheney

        Glad the directions helped you get to Swatara Falls. Hope you enjoyed your visit, Darren!

    • Kathy

      My husband and I are originally from Pennsylvania. We live in Arizona now, but make regular visits to PA to visit family and do genealogy. Thanks for all the great information for new and exciting things to do on our visits.

    • Dana

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you so much for sharing. I saw the post for 10 Waterfalls in PA if you hate hiking, but I LOVE hiking can you give me some others to explore? Thank you. Glad I found your site 🙂

    • Dana

      Thank you – I really appreciate it

    • Rya Smigel

      Jim,
      I wanted to thank you for the excellent directions to Swatara Falls. They were spot on. We went there today and it was beautiful! I never would have found it without your piece. Many thanks, again!

      • Jim Cheney

        That’s great to hear, Rya! Glad you had a good time.

    • Paul Baluch

      You must not have been there recently. Some as**oles with a paint can have graffiti all over the rocks. Hope you burn in hell whoever you are!

      • Jim Cheney

        Unfortunately, there has been graffiti and trash at Swatara Falls since before I first visited two years ago. In fact, I had to edit out graffiti in almost every photo of this waterfall. Haven’t been in a year or so, but it’s definitely not a new problem. I do wish people would grow up, though, and stop ruining beautiful places.

    • Maureen

      I keep hoping that organized hikes will improve stewardship of the trails. Alcohol and hiking are at fault here… Does anyone know how to remove graffiti?

      • Jim Cheney

        There are ways to do it from rocks. Unfortunately, the issue with Swatara Falls is that it isn’t owned by the state, so it hard to arrange anything official to solve the problem.

      • Dan Glass

        I hear you on the above. They are problems from self-centered people who don’t give a hoot and who should be banned from the woods altogether.

        Granted, beer cans are easily carried out, but that doesn’t change the fact hikers should leave no trace.

        As for graffiti, the answer is Taginator http://www.taginator.com/Default.asp?gclid=CKqg1_akkdYCFYKNswodmFgFFQ (PLEASE NOTE – I don’t own this company or shill for them – just an FYI) and physical strength mixed with gallons of water. Having heard horror stories of clean up at the top of the 1,000 Steps from trail maintainers (40lbs of water or so needed), I get a little more angsty about A) how disturbing of the environment it is, B) how hard it is to get equipment up and down to elevations C) how it wastes so much time to clean (when that time could be better used cutting back under and overgrowth on trails, and D) how stupid and ugly graffiti is. I’m sure anyone who went to the abandoned road in Centralia would agree (as well as Hawk Rock, which is now cleaned up and left in good shape – though some of the scars are still visible).

    • CECELIA LYDEN

      I WOULD LIKE TO ARRANGE A PLEIN AIR PAINTING OUTING TO THESE FALLS. COULD 4-6 PEOPLE SET UP EASELS TO PAINT THERE? ANY OTHER FALLS[ WE’VE PAINTED AT LETORT FALLS] TO PAINT? WE ARE IN THE HARRISBURG AREA.

      • Jim Cheney

        Mill Creek Falls in York County is fairly close to Harrisburg. Otherwise, there aren’t any other waterfalls within an hour or so of the Harrisburg area. There should be plenty of room to set up easels at Swatara Falls.

    • Tina H

      Your directions were SPOT ON! Thank you! Visited the falls for the first time on 6/28, and they were more spectacular than I imagined! One of my favorites falls I’ve visited in PA thus far 🙂

      • Jim Cheney

        That’s great to hear, Tina! Glad you enjoyed your visit and that the directions were helpful.

    • Lynn Geiger

      Have you been to the falls in St. Clair, directly off the Burma Road? I think they are called Wolf Creek Falls? Another beautiful place to hike and take photos. It is a two mile walk to the top of the falls with a short, fairly easy walk down the side of the falls.

      • Jim Cheney

        I haven’t had a chance to yet. It’s on my list, though.

    • Janice Moore

      the falls are beautiful but i wish people would take their trash along with them and stop defacing the rocks – also last weekend there was a man camping there which i’m guessing is ok.. but he took over the place with his tent and hammock..it looked as if he was going to stay a while

      • Jim Cheney

        I too wish people would treat the area with more respect. Unfortunately, it’s been a dumping ground for as long as I’ve known about it. As for camping, I’m pretty sure it’s not allowed.

    • Joseph Secoges

      You were informed correctly about the NO PARKING signs. Concrete highway dividers have been placed in the area where cars were once parked, The signs state anyone parking illegally will be subject to tow. Not wanting to waste the hour drive to the falls, I looked for an old road that might serve as a spot to park, There were 3 within a 100 yds of each other, only problem, seems there was a lot of broken glass and nails strewn about.

      • Jim Cheney

        Thanks for the update. Glad you found somewhere to park.

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