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.
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!
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. It’s tributaries are also home to great finds like Sweet Arrow Lake Park and the covered bridges of Schuylkill County.
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.
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.
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. While parking used to be available here, there are now “No Parking” signs here. Unfortunately, the only option now is to pull off along the side of the road. There appear to be several places large enough for a car or two near the old parking area. Use great caution both when parking and getting in and out of your vehicle while along the side of the road.
While you can no longer park there, the old parking area is a good marker for finding the trailhead and knowing where to look for parking. It can be found at the following coordinates: 40.662384, -76.360125.[Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]
From the old parking area and while 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 open gravel area. Do not take this trail.)
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.
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!