The Appalachian Trail is a 2,200-mile hike that begins (or ends) at Mount Katahdin in Maine and rolls through 14 states to its endpoint on Springer Mountain in Georgia. The trail itself can take the average thru-hiker five to seven months to complete. The bulk of the Appalachian Trail is mountainous, making the trek grueling and demanding. Throughout the trail though, the experiences, the wonderment, and beauty shine through. One place along the trail fits into this category. The Pinnacle.
Among states the trail winds through are Pennsylvania and eastern Pennsylvania is where the Pinnacle summit is located.
It stands close to 1,000 feet above the woodlands and surrounding valleys as the Pinnacle’s visitors pass through the tiny town of Hamburg, Pennsylvania to reach the trailhead. Hamburg’s close location to the trailhead makes it a great place for hikers to use as their “basecamp”. The Pinnacle is also relatively close to both Harrisburg and Philadelphia, so it has become a popular destination for those wanting a nice day hike. In fact, this portion of the Appalachian Trail’s accessibility is so favorable and it, along with its reputation as being one of the best views in Pennsylvania, has turned into a heavily used area by hikers.
This portion of the Appalachian Trail is located on the Blue Mountain Ridge and the Pinnacle trail itself is actually a loop. It’s 8.8 miles long that gains around 1,300 feet in elevation. The trailhead starts right outside the Hamburg Reservoir parking lot.
Depending on who you ask, the trail’s difficulty ranges from intermediate and moderately challenging to difficult.
The first part of the hike is the Appalachian Trail portion and is clearly marked with white blazes, ones seen the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. The first portion of the trail takes you to Pulpit Rock and it is this part of the trail where most hikers experience the most difficulty. The climb here is a steep and rocky slope with a series of switchbacks that leads to Pulpit Rock and an amazing vista. Pennsylvania farmland in the Leigh Valley is the sight that awaits. After enjoying the view and the well-deserved rest, the hike to the Pinnacle is your next goal. Unfortunately, the rocky portion of the trail doesn’t end after enjoying Pulpit Rock. Another mile or so of rocky terrain lies ahead. Making it through this rocky terrain to the Pinnacle will be well worth it.
Pennsylvania is not known for dramatic mountain peaks, but the Pinnacle offers hikers some of the most spectacular views. It towers one thousand feet providing incredible views as it looks south, east and north over the Lehigh and Berks County farmlands. Up on the Pinnacles, one may see Turkey vultures circling or perhaps even a rat snake or two enjoying the warmth of the sun. For those with a little more adventure in them, the summit also offers some fun. Situated below the summit, those with a taste for exploration will find a cave. There is a dangerous, wet and vertical entrance to this cave but taking this could end with a 20-foot fall. On the south side, less obvious, is a horizontal entrance. If creepy crawlers or flying rodents are not in your plans, entering the cave may not be in your best interest. What is in your best interest though, is enjoying the breathtaking scenery.
Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy nature’s beauty. Also, when reaching the top, the Pinnacle has a guest log for visitors to sign. After taking in the full effect, the second half of the loop is not as physically demanding as the first. The decent is gradual as it follows some old woods road and a hollow filled with Hemlock. The refreshing Furnace Creek also flows through here. The trail eventually leads to the original trail and the parking lot.
There are a few notes worth mentioning. The trail, mainly the beginning, is very rocky in nature. Its rough terrain so proper footwear is highly recommended, something with good traction and ankle support.
Hikers have attempted the trial in athletic shoes and regret doing so. The patches of rock are challenging so be sure to avoid under wet conditions. The trail is very well maintained but takes a good four to five hours to complete. The summer weather can be sweltering, so be sure to have proper hydration. While not regularly seen, hikers should be on the lookout for snakes, especially poisonous copperheads. If one is wishing to camp near the Pinnacle, unfortunately there are no established camping spots in the vicinity. The nearest spots are the Windsor Furnace Shelter located four miles to the south or the Eckville Shelter that is close to five miles north. Blue Rocks Family Campground is also in the area.
The Pinnacle Trail offers its visitors a challenging but ultimately rewarding opportunity. As with all hikes of this nature, plan accordingly. Don’t underestimate the terrain or the weather. Arriving properly prepared will ensure a safe and amazing hike.