In the warmth of a radiant summer day, my husband and I take our mountain bikes to a trail he stumbled across while fishing in the Juniata River. As soon as we began our trek into the unknown, the smell of the Earth’s rich humus of dried leaves, soil, and decaying logs beckon us to continue onward. Towering trees lining the riverbank to the east, and the mountain range to our west makes a perfect emerald canopy of shade with their abundance of green leaves. The atmosphere is so quiet and peaceful, we hear the twigs snapping beneath our bike wheels as we make our way down the path.
After a short distance, the trail crosses over a little brook. We stop and listen to the water babbling over the rocks. We observe wildlife along the way: a deer grazing in tall grass at the edge of the woodland, a flock of turkeys, squirrels, and chipmunks. Although these sights were awesome, they weren’t the highlight of our ride.
After riding about 45 minutes, the trail enters a Pennsylvania State Game Land parking area. We take the dirt path to the right and cross a set of railroad tracks. The path ends at the cool, sparkling waters of the Juniata River. We pedal faster to reach the water’s edge as quickly as possible. Taking our sneakers off to dip our feet in the water, we look back at where we have just come from. The scene is breathtaking--our mouths drop wide open. Acres of vibrant green soybean fields, outlined by a dirt road against the backdrop of the enormous Tuscarora Mountain Range and bright blue skies, take our breath away. A coal train chugs along through the middle of it all, and for a moment, I thought I was looking at a postcard.
No one is ever around the area, so it’s a very romantic spot to spread out a blanket, take a dip in the river, and enjoy a picnic. Its nice to have a place to escape reality, if only for a little while, so close to home.
The trail has small rolling hills, but nothing to strenuous. Watch going down a few of the hills, because there are some rocky spots and a steep embankment on the east side. To find the trailhead, take Route 322 to Millerstown, Pennsylvania (about 45 minutes north of Harrisburg). Turn left at the square onto Route 17 West and cross the bridge over the Juniata River (1 block). Turn right on to Sugar Run Road and park at the bottom of the hill by the railroad tracks. Follow the gravel road that leads through a property with a green house and red barn. You will see the large gate in front of you. Anyone is allowed to use the trail, as long as you follow a few simple rules: no littering, no motorized
vehicles, and stay out of the farmer’s fields. Please don’t spoil it for others.
To reach the same area by car, take Route 322 to the Thompsontown Exit. Follow signs to Route 333. After crossing the river bridge, turn right and follow it to the end. There is a dirt road between two properties (unmarked), and follow up through the woods for several miles. It is quite a hilly, rough road. The drive is slow and takes about 20 minutes. You will end at the State Game Land parking lot. TIP: Know when the hunting seasons are - or go on a Sunday.