- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

LOCATION AND DIRECTIONS:

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is located in Kempton, Pa. about 25 miles north of Reading. It's less than a three-hour drive from the Washington area.

Take Interstate 95 North toward Philadelphia. Take Route 476 North (Northeast Extension). Get off at Exit 33 (Lehigh Valley) and follow to Route 22 (Interstate 78 West). Get off at Exit 11 (Lenhartsville). Take Route 143 North for four miles to the Coastal gas station on the right. Turn left at the blue "Hawk Mountain" sign onto Hawk Mountain Road. The road will wend its way to the top of the mountain. Turn left into the parking lot.

HOURS AND ADMISSION:

The visitors center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (it opens at 8 a.m. in September and October), and the main parking lot closes at dusk. Hikers should allow enough time for their return trip.

Admission to the visitors center which contains a small museum, bookstore and bird-feeder observation window and offers frequent programs is free. Entry to the trails costs $4 for adults during the off-season and $6 from September through November and on national holidays. Seniors are charged $3 during off-peak and $4 during peak season. Children from 6 to 12 years of age are charged $2 in off-peak and $3 during peak season.

A few binoculars are available at the lookouts, where volunteer spotters help visitors identify birds. A pair can be rented at the visitors center for $5 per day.

INFORMATION:

The Information Line lists directions, special events and natural-history happenings: 610/756-6000. Web site: www.hawkmountain.org.

PARKING:

There is no charge for parking, but space is limited and it's nearly impossible to get a space after 11 a.m. on fall weekends. Come early.

TRAILS:

There are eight miles of trails. The most popular one leads to North Lookout. The spot offers a stunning view of the Appalachian Mountains but is a challenging climb. The trail to South Lookout is a short, easy-to-manage hike for families with young children. It is wheelchair-accessible and offers great views.

CLOTHING:

Hikers should wear hiking shoes with soft soles because the trails are rough and rocky. Wear layered clothing and carry water.

FOOD:

The visitors center offers cold drinks and snacks, such as cookies and frozen fruit bars. The center has a listing of nearby restaurants and lodging. A limited number of picnic tables are available in an outdoor amphitheater near the center. Picnicking is allowed at the lookouts, but visitors are asked to carry back all trash.

MUST SEE:

• The small museum in the visitors center tells the history of Hawk Mountain. There also is a model of the sanctuary and trails. Both offer visitors a good reference for their hike.

• River of Rocks trail is a challenging and rocky climb through an ice-age boulder field. Hikers can see an underground stream, large tulip poplars and several bogs. It's an excellent destination for families with older children.

AVOID:

• No pets, radios, bicycles, horses, camping, fires, smoking or alcoholic beverages are allowed.

• The South Lookout is located just 300 yards from the trail's start near the visitors center and is accessible to everyone. The rest of the trails are demanding. Parents with young children should have backpack carriers or stick to the South Lookout trail.

OTHER NEARBY ATTRACTIONS:

• Crystal Cave is just a few miles away. Guided tours of the underground caverns and rock formations are offered. Phone: 610/683-6765.

• Roadside America is located off Route 78 in Shartlesville and bills itself as "the largest indoor miniature village," complete with trains, trolleys and trams. Phone: 610/488-6241.

• Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine and Steam Train lets visitors go underground into a long-abandoned coal mine and ride a restored steam tram. It's located in Ashland, Pa. Phone: 717/875-3850.

• The Rodale Institute Experimental Farm is located just west of Allentown. Visitors can get tours of the farm and gardens. Phone: 610/683-1400.

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