Located in Tioga County north of Route 6 between Wellsboro and Mansfield is Hills Creek State Park. While this park often gets overlooked by visitors heading to the regions many other destinations, namely around the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Hills Creek State Park offers a great opportunity for a peaceful hike.
Hills Creek State Park was opened in the early 1950s when Hill Creek was dammed to form a 137-acre lake. Today, visitors come here primarily to enjoy this beautiful body of water and to hike the park’s trails, as well as to camp in its large campground.
While the park only features 5.5 miles of trails, the three-mile Lake Side Trail that makes a loop around the lake and offers great views and the chance to see what this park has to offer.
I started my hike in the main recreation area near the park’s beach. If you don’t visit on a busy weekend, there is ample parking here, and the chance to take a quick dip in the lake after your hike makes this an ideal spot to start and end your hike.
From here, I opted to hike in a counterclockwise direction, though I don’t think it matters too much which was you go since there isn’t much elevation gain on this trail.
From the parking lot for the beach area, carefully cross the park’s main road and pick up the trail on the edge of the woods. The trail travels through the woods near the roadway for about half a mile, but always through the woods adjacent to it instead of on a sidewalk alongside it.
As the roadway and trail approach the campground at Hills Creek State Park, the road breaks away from the trail, and the trail continues to follow the shoreline of the lake.
From this point until returning to the dam near the end of the hike, the trail travels along the lakeshore and through the beautiful forest here. While there are a few parts that have undulating hills, the trail is relatively flat and makes for an enjoyable walk with great views.
When you reach the northern end of the lake, the trail passes quite close to a few cabins and briefly leaves the lakeshore. This is the one area of the trail where it’s a bit easy to get turned around, so make sure to look carefully for the signs as there are several trails that aren’t shown on the park map that crisscross this area.
When the trail reaches the western side of the lake, it passes through the edge of the park’s campground and then enters an area of very tall evergreen trees. The half of the hike that follows the western shore of the lake is my favorite part as you are somewhat away from the roads, the forest is incredibly beautiful, and there are frequent views of the lake.
When the Lake Shore Trail at Hills Creek State Park reaches the lake’s dam, the trail turns and follows the road over the dam and back towards the parking area. This final three-quarters of a mile features a decent amount of walking alongside the road, so it’s not the nicest part of the hike, but does continue to provide great views of the lake.
After crossing the dam and climbing a small hill, the trail returns you to the parking lot where you started. If you are hiking this trail in the summer, take a few minutes to relax and cool off at Hills Creek State Park’s beach or simply enjoy the views of the lake you just circled from the top of the hillside.
While the Lake Shore Trail at Hills Creek State Park is far from the best hiking trail in Tioga County, it offers a relaxing and easy hike that’s perfect for the whole family or those looking for a peaceful walk in the woods.
So, if you are looking for something different to do on your next visit to Tioga County and the PA Grand Canyon, spend a bit of time hiking in Hills Creek State Park.