Monday, April 4, 2011

Kelly's Run - Pinnacle - Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve on the Conestoga Trail, Lancaster County, PA

PLEASE NOTE:  PPL no longer owns Holtwood Recreation area and as of 4/28/2016 Holtwood Recreation area is closed to the public per this article

Holtwood Preserve - Kelly's Run Pinnacle Area - (dead link, no longer owned by Pennsylvania Power and Light)
Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve - Lancaster Conservancy
     the above two areas connected by
Conestoga Trail System - Lancaster Hiking Club

GPS coordinates to Holtwood Recreation Area parking: 39.840816, -76.316856

View Larger Map
Holtwood Recreation Area Parking

Tucquan Glen - Conestoga Trail Rerout - Lancaster Hiking Club
Topo Map of Area - USGS (search for "Holtwood, PA", left click on red balloon, download 1990 map)

HIKE DISTANCE:  8.75 miles

This very rugged and strenuous hike with lots of rock scrambles, rock hops, steep uphills and downhills will reward you with incredible scenery and views. Trails are very well-blazed.

In the parking lot with your back to the road, head to the right corner of the parking lot where you will see orange blazes leading towards a small building (seasonal restrooms - still closed 4/3) across the way.
The trail turns right in front of the restroom building then left into the woods at a post which says "CONESTOGA TRAIL" on one side and "KELLY'S RUN TRAIL" on another side.
You will be following the combined orange (Conestoga Trail) and blue (Kelly's Run Trail) which will soon come to Kelly's Run.  Pay close attention to the terrain for the next 1.35 miles up to where a white-blazed trail goes to the right.  You will want to be able to determine if you want to take this as the return route or a less rugged but somewhat longer alternate route on your way back.  The most rugged part of the Kelly's Run Trail is beyond the intersection with the white trail but that won't be part of the return route.  Expect multiple rock hops over Kelly's Run.  With waterproof hiking shoes you should be able to do them all without getting wet. (Note - there will be a crossing later in the hike at Tucquan Glen where you should anticipate getting wet.)

At the end of Kelly's Run, watch for the orange Conestoga Trail to turn right up stone steps where the blue Kelly's Run Trail heads straight towards the railroad tracks and the Susquehanna River.
At the top of a rock scramble, the Susquehanna River comes into view:
A smoother, gentler orange/yellow trail along the top leads to the Pinnacle Overlook:

The orange-blazed Conestoga Trail continues beyond the Pinnacle to a quieter rock outcrop a short distance ahead.
The Conestoga Trail continues through rugged terrain with early wildflowers blooming and crosses several small creeks:
The trail descends to the railroad tracks where it makes a sharp right turn just before Tucquan Run and continues with orange and blue-blazes having joined with the Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve's blue-blazed trail.

Shortly after crossing the wooden bridge, you will have to ford the creek to continue on the orange-blazed trail to the other side.  Most of the rocks are under water far enough to fill even waterproof hiking shoes up.  I had anticipated this somewhere along the way with so many water crossings so I brought water shoes along and they came in very handy.
After crossing Tucquan Creek, continue following the blue/orange trail until the orange Conestoga trail leaves to the right.  Continue straight on the blue-blazed trail down to the railroad tracks.
This brings you back to the culvert where you can cross over Tucquan Creek and pick up the right fork of the orange-blazed Conestoga Trail on the left heading back the way you came down.  (If you take the left fork, you will be starting the Tucquan Glen loop all over again.)
Follow the Conestoga Trail all the way back to the Pinnacle Overlook.  Beyond the yellow barriers, take the yellow/white trail which forks to the left.
You will have hiked about 6 1/2 miles when you reach the point where the white trail leaves to the left.  Here is where you need to think back on that first 1.35 mile stretch and decide if you want to go back that way along the more rugged Kelly's Run Trail or back along the Kelly's Run Return Trail which, in comparison, is not at all scenic, but it's smooth and a steady uphill.  If you want to go back the way you came along Kelly's Run, turn left on white and then left on orange/blue when you reach that point back to the parking lot.  Otherwise, continue on.  You'll end up back at the bottom of the stone steps where the orange trail had left the blue trail earlier in the hike.  Turn right on the blue trail down to the railroad tracks, turn left towards the closed bridge, descend to Kelly's Run and rock hop over to the other side.
The blue-blazed trail now follows an old paved road (closed to traffic) steadily uphill for over 1 mile.
Finally, at the top, you cross through a hilltop corn field before a woods road leads back to the parking lot.

[  0.00]  With your back to road, follow orange blazes at the right corner of the parking lot towards restroom building; veer right then left into woods (blazed yellow/orange/blue, then orange/blue))
[  0.20]  Cross power cut
[  0.35]  Keep straight on orange/blue when yellow goes right
[  0.50]  Cross power cut
[  0.70]  Keep straight on orange/blue when red goes left
[  0.85]  Cross small creek
[  1.10]  Rock hop across Kelly Run to the right of huge rock wall; rock hop left over side stream
[  1.35]  Keep left on blue/orange when white goes right
[  1.40]  Rock hop across Kelly's Run
[  1.50]  Rock hop to the right
[  1.60]  Turn right on orange up stone steps; blue goes straight downhill
[  1.75]  Trail comes out on woods road
[  1.80]  Orange trail leaves woods road to right
[  1.85]  Trail veers left at fork at cable cut
[  2.00]  Trail turns left on woods road as orange/yellow where yellow joins in from right
[  2.30]  Keep straight on yellow/orange when unmarked trail leaves to the left
[  2.40]  Go beyond yellow metal barrier to Pinnacle Overlook on left; along picnic area on orange trail which follows woods road
[  2.55]  Orange trail leaves woods road to left
[  2.60]  Rock outcrop with river views
[  3.75]  At railroad tracks, turn right on orange/blue just before culvert
[  4.00]  Cross wooden bridge
[  4.15]  Left on orange as blue goes straight, ford Tucquan Creek
[  4.25]  Sharp left turn on orange as blue comes in from right and joins trail as blue/orange
[  4.45]  Keep straight on blue when orange/blue turns right
[  4.75]  At railroad tracks turn left, cross culvert, orange trail forks to the left, take right orange fork uphill
[  5.55]  Trail joins woods road briefly then leaves to right
[  5.90]  Keep right at split
[  6.00]  Rock outcrop overlook
[  6.15]  Pinnacle overlook; go beyond yellow barriers and stay left on yellow/white when orange/yellow goes right
[  6.40]  Keep straight on yellow when white goes left
     (OR left on white to left on orange/blue back to parking lot)
[  6.55]  When yellow makes sharp right towards orange, keep left on unmarked woods road
[  6.60]  When woods road makes sharp left turn, turn right on unmarked trail through cable cut to intersection with orange trail; left on orange
[  6.75]  Right on orange at intersection with unmarked
[  6.90]  At bottom of rock steps, right on blue when orange/blue goes left; left at railroad tracks,
[  6.95]  Go left of closed bridge to rock hop over Kelly's Run; continue following blue trail which is old paved road (closed to traffic)
[  7.40]  Trail goes left leaving paved road at two yellow barriers; benches on left
[  7.85]  Left at corn field; follow blue blazes on posts over mowed grass path
[  8.20]  Leave corn field on woods road; keep straight on blue when red goes left
[  8.45]  Power cut
[  8.60]  Power cut; head towards yellow barrier with ball field on left
[  8.75]  Back at parking lot


  1. Did this hike on Saturday and it was everything you promised... no joke! Absolutely beautiful and technically quite challenging, especially with 30 lb packs on our backs!
    We're training for Rainier in June and this was a fantastic training hike.
    Once again, you have succeeded in creating an enjoyable and challenging hike for us! Thanks!

  2. Has anyone ever heard of the story that gave Kelly's Run its name? I recently heard one about the little girl that lived on the farm, her name was Kelly. Apparently there are sightings of the deceased father on the trail.

  3. I am very familiar with these wonderful trails. The description and photos here are excellent. Thanks!

    1. Thanks! That was an outstanding hike, one I would most definitely want to do again!


  4. Is it safe to take your dog?

    1. Sorry, did not see your comment until now. Dogs are allowed on leash if that is what you mean.




  7. How long time wise should this hike take?


    1. You can usually estimate around 1.5 miles per hour depending on how fast you hike. I don't indicate a time because I stop a lot to take pictures and with most hikes, this one in particular, I actually hiked more than outlined here so my time would be irrelevant.


  8. Did this hike yesterday. It was absolutely gorgeous. Heed the warnings...this is an advanced trail with lots of wet rocky precipes and rough terrain. Be sure to wear good boots. We saw many snakes! Made a mis-step at (2.60). I thought that rock outcrop was optional and not part of the actual trail. Wound up following the Conestoga Trail northbound (orange blaze to the right) down a VERY steep and rocky decent. Course corrected by taking a footpath to the left which led down to the railroad tracks and then followed the tracks for about a mile until I found a footpath to the left that tied into a blue blazed trail just before the closed bridge. I don't reccomend taking the return trail. It is long, uphill and boring. Retracing your steps back through Kelly's run is the way to go. Plus you get to see the views hiking upstream which are better. Or you can take the return trail half way and then hook into a red blazed trail to the left and cut back to the Kelly's Run trail above the river for your return. All in all, this is an excellent, scenic hike and my new favorite trail.

  9. I took the Liberty of posting a link to your review on the hiking club's web page. Excellent photos! Thanks for helping to promote the Conestoga Trail!
    Also , The Susquhanna Super hike will be held again in September. 28 miles on the Mason-Dixon and Conestoga trails.
    Ken F

    1. Thanks, Ken, that is so nice of you! I wish I lived closer. Love that hike and thanks for making it possible!


  10. Did this exceptionally beautiful hike yesterday, June 8th. Just a few minor updates: At mileage 2.40 there's no longer a barrier, yellow or otherwise; at mileage 4.15 there are now enough strategically placed rocks that unless the water level of the creek is quite high you can ford it without getting your shoes wet; at mileage 4.25 the blue blazes are now yellow; and that cornfield on the return hike is now just a field of tall grass and the path has not been mowed, but enough hikers/bikers have gone that way so it is passable.

  11. This is one of my favorite... no make it my favorite hike in Pennsylvania. It can get above 100 degrees during the summer when traversing from Kelly's Run to the Pinnacle Overlook since the slope faces the afternoon sun with little to no refuge. If you are fit and have ample water it's a hike well worth taking.

    It's worth continuing the hike north to Tucquan Creek from the overlook. The trail continues along Tucquan Creek with huge boulders, plenty of rhododendron and butterflies galore in June. It is truly a paradise.