Pennsylvania Views: The Pinnacle
Visit one of Pennsylvania's best viewpoints on the Appalachian Trail.
The hike to the viewpoint know as the Pinnacle is one of the best sections of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, and is one of my favorite local day hikes any time of the year. The well known vista is accessible to hikers of all skill levels, as well. I first reached the vistas here while thruhiking the A.T. back in 2009, and have returned numerous times since.
To get there, follow Old Route 22 to its intersection with Reservoir Road 2 miles east of Hamburg, PA, about an hour and a half from Philadelphia. At the end of the road you'll find parking for 15-20 cars. When the weather is nice on weekends, it's not uncommon for the lot to fill up early, forcing visitors to park along the side of the road leading to the parking lot.
Pass the yellow gate and follow the gravel road uphill (marked with blue blazes) until you reach the old site of Windsor Furnace. There you'll see several large wooden signs, the first of which marks mileage for the Appalachian Trail. My preferred route is to cross the small footbridge to the right and follow the A.T. (white blazes) north to the Pinnacle. You'll pass a side trail to the Windsor Furnace shelter and a privy shortly into the hike. The path continues to the right, winding through the woods before making a sharp climb towards the rocky ridge. After another 1.5 miles you'll arrive at the first vista of the hike, know as the Pulpit.
From here the trail levels out along the ridge, but grows even rockier, with one particularly tricky section where you'll be hopping from boulder to boulder. After another 2 miles, the Appalachian Trail turns abruptly left at the spur trail for the Pinnacle. You can't miss it. There's a 15 foot high rock cairn formed over the years by hikers relocating stones (no need to add to it). Follow the spur trail to the right to reach the Pinnacle.
The Pinnacle features a series of exposed cliffs overlooking the Pennsylvania countryside. Keep an eye out for Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes and Copperheads hiding in the rocks as you find a place to sit and enjoy the view. Vultures and hawks are common sights, riding the currents around the ridge.
To finish the loop, return to the A.T. and continue north. The trail opens into an old gravel road for some level and easy hiking. There are two blue blazed side trails that will lead back to the parking lot. The first is located across from a large clearing, and descends steeply through lush forest alongside Furnace creek. If you're looking for a shorter loop, this is your path. If you want to tack on an extra mile or so to the hike, remain on the A.T. until the trail veers right at a second side trail on your left. Follow the blue blazes along a shallow graded old woods road down past the reservoir to the parking lot.
Distance: 6-8 miles depending on route.
Difficulty: Moderate for the loop. For an easy out and back, follow the blue blazed side trail to the right of the reservoir until you reach the A.T. Turn right and hike to the Pinnacle, returning the same way.
Trailhead: Appalachian Trail at Windsor Furnace.
Route: Follow the Appalachian Trail north from Windsor Furnace, with a side trip to the Pinnacle vista. Continue north on the A.T. to the junctions with either of the two blue blazed side trails that return to the parking area.
Best Time To Go: Any time of year, though winter snow and ice will make the trail more challenging.