Tucked away in the extensive wooded area along the Susquehanna River in lies Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve. Drive too fast on River Road, just off of Route 372, and you might miss its first parking lot, and its second, speaking from personal experience. But any backtracking or U-turning on this curvy road is worth it, because Tucquan Glen offers humble yet beautiful hikes that you won’t want to pass up.
Back in 2015, the popularity of its trails led the Lancaster County Conservancy to encourage hikers to visit other preserves in the county, like the Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve. But the public now seems more than welcome to visit Tucquan Glen, with the conservancy even renovating one of the visitor parking lots in April 2017.
If venturing to this preserve from Route 372, turn onto River Road and you will drive about three hilly miles until you reach the parking lots. The entrance to the first lot will pop up on the right before any signs for Tucquan Glen, and also serves as the start for the only trail on the east side of the preserve’s 336 acres.
The second lot is nearly visible from the first, located across the road and at the head of the other trails. In between those lots sit the largest signs for the preserve. The conservancy’s website also references a third lot which may be located further along River Road, but I did not stumble across it during my visit.
The second lot and trailhead has a box for maps, but it was empty on the day of my visit. You may want to look up the conservancy’s map for Tucquan Glen before arriving, as phone service is limited at the preserve.
Thankfully, Tucquan Glen’s trails are well-maintained, clearly marked and easy to follow even without a map. The most confusing part of my whole visit was figuring out where to start. I had hoped to go down on the Blue Trail West, but the entrance the map indicated was roped off with menacing No Trespassing and Private Property signs.
In order to avoid any legal issues or irritate any landowners, I decided to instead go down on the 1-mile Yellow Trail and hike up the 1.2-mile Blue Trail if there were no such roadblocks from that direction. After successfully completing that loop, I realized that the entrance to the Blue Trail had been repositioned slightly to a much less visible location at the second parking lot.
If you would like to start on that Blue Trail, go to the second trailhead lot, cross the ankle-deep water, and look for a path with blue blazes.
However, if you would like to start on the Yellow Trail, the entrance is considerably more obvious. I very much enjoyed the loop that reversed my original plan, going towards the Susquehanna River on the Yellow Trail and returning to the parking lot on the Blue Trail.
The Yellow Trail starts as a narrow path of dirt, small rocks, and tree roots. That path widens as it meets and curves with Tucquan Creek, a direct tributary of the Susquehanna River.
The occasional clearing could serve as a peaceful location for a picnic or a nap if you don’t mind sitting on the ground. One such clearing includes a wooden bench that offers a view of a tiny waterfall tucked away among the foliage on the other side of the creek. For more significant waterfalls, Mill Creek Falls and Duncan Run Falls are located just across the Susquehanna River.
As the trail naturally runs along Tucquan Creek, the first real need for the yellow blazes occurs at the split between the Yellow and Conestoga Trails. The orange blazes of the Conestoga Trail will tempt you back toward the creek, as the yellow blazes veer you a little to the right of the tranquil creek.
While I am confident any route within Tucquan Glen would be beautiful, I enjoyed this journey away from the creek. The Yellow Trail allows hikers to gain some elevation and look down on the creek below.
This peaceful path is actually shared by portions of the Yellow and Conestoga Trails, and thus contains both yellow and orange blazes. When the two trails separate completely, the Yellow Trail transforms into a rocky downhill. The decline is not drastic enough to be overly jarring, but it would present a challenge for those coming in the opposite direction.
The trail concludes at the Norfolk Southern Railroad, a surprisingly beautiful mix of industry and nature.
If you can see through the trees on the other side of the tracks, take a glimpse of the Susquehanna River. This was the only view of the Susquehanna on my loop, so if a spectacular overlook is something you are hoping for you might want to head to the neighboring Pinnacle Overlook or the nearby White Cliffs of Convoy or Chickies Rock.
Otherwise, turn left after reaching the railroad, walk across a rocky bridge, and the blazes will indicate the start of the Blue Trail. While this trail runs parallel to the Yellow, The Blue Trail offers a fresh experience just on the other side of the creek.
Here, you’ll see rhododendrons covering the hilly trail, sizable boulders, and a creek teeming with small waterfalls. I can only imagine how breathtaking the trail would be during full bloom in spring. As you maneuver the rocky outcrop that serves as the trail for this section, the most significant waterfalls from my Tucquan Glen experience create a peacefully deafening chorus.
This rocky trail presents a significant incline, but the beauty of the waterfalls and size of the rocks encourage you to take it slow. After the larger falls, the water stops dominating the melody of the woods and allows the birds and crickets to make their presence known. A wooden bridge and a couple of clearings later, the Blue Trail returns to the parking lot.
Overall, the Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve offers accessible yet interesting trails that evidence why this preserve is so popular. Some of the uphill sections and narrow paths might make it difficult for hikers with children, but those aspects are not extreme and should not scare off beginning hikers.
With clear blazes and diverse displays of natural beauty, the trails throughout the preserve are a joy to experience. I expect to return to Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve in the future, perhaps next time rhododendrons are in season.
Getting to the Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve
The Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve is located near Holtwood in southwestern Lancaster County. The parking areas can be found along River Road at approximately the following coordinates: 39.864264, -76.339685. **Please note that at the last update the parking area along River Road has been closed indefinitely. Alternate parking areas can be found on the conservancy site here.
[Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]