Access to the park

The park is open daylight hours. (People have been busted for being found up there at night.) There are a number of restrictions (few if any of which are unreasonable) posted in a subtle shade of bright yellow at park entrances, and are reprinted here. The really good news is that unlike in the massive nearby state gamelands, hunting is forbidden, so it is possible to safely gambol in nature without fashionable orange garb or fear in heart. Motorized anythings are strictly verboten.

Almost needless to say, there are myriad trails within the park and many ways to access them. However, most people’s first, or first few, trips to Governor Dick involve walking the mile or so up the hill to the top, to the tower, and to this end there are three relatively easily found main entrances. They are each identifiable by the presence of characteristic yellow-painted tubular metal barriers:

(1) Rail Bed
Perhaps the most popular entrance is off Pinch Road (the main route south out of the village center), about half-a-mile south of Mount Gretna on the eastern (left-hand) side. There is parking space by the side of the road for maybe a dozen vehicles around an informational plaque mounted on a boulder. The trail itself follows the bed of the old 19th. century narrow-gauge railway (see History). Couch-Potato Alert! Although the trail is slightly uneven and rocky in places (what do you want in a natural park?) it is – by virtue of the fact is was graded for a railway – of a continual and gentle slope and very easy to walk up.

(2) Fire Road
A half-mile or so further south on Pinch Road, again on the eastern (left-hand) side, is the ‘Fire Road’ entrance. It is wide and reasonably finished and is the best candidate for wheelchair or stroller access, even though it gets fairly steep in places.

Parking is almost entirely limited to the shoulder of Pinch Road; the good news is that the traffic is rarely doing more than 80 m.p.h. here. Avoid obstructing the entrance.

(3) Radar Road
On the southern side of Rte. 117, approximately midway betwen The Rte. 72 interchange and Mount Gretna. This is a deteriorating once-finished access road to the northernmost peak of the mountaintop, where once there was a cold-war era radar station. It is (in the best traditions of the military) in long, straight sections almost without regard to grade which consequently can get fairly steep. At the top there is a continuing trail over to the tower on the more southerly crest.

There is off-road parking for a few cars at this entrance without obstructing it, and the shoulder on the opposite side of the road is broad enough to park safely.

A fourth major entrance of note, if hardly the best for relatively easy climbing to the tower, is that of Horseshoe Trail which runs through the park (a branch from and sibling of the much more well-known Appalachian Trail, only unlike the AT, horses are welcome in the park and on the Horseshoe Trail; a good thing, considering its name . . .). The eastern entrance is from Old Rte. 72, which can best be found on the western side of the present Rte. 72, about a half-mile south of the interchange with Rte. 117, and about 2 miles north of the PA Turnpike interchange. It is directly opposite the well-marked entrance to Spring Hill Acres housing development. March up Old Rte. 72 beyond the barrier and the trail entrance is on the left.

At the old Rte. 72 entrance there is off-road parking space for a few vehicles in the space in front of the barrier. Again, don’t block the entrance.

Ironically, the best (and huge) parking area convenient to the park is almost directly opposite the new clearing made for the proposed development (for amongst other things, a car park . . .). This is at the state gameland entrance to the Governor Nicolas Biddle Trail and the Horseshoe Trail, on Pinch Road near the southernmost extreme of the park. From here one can follow the Horseshoe Trail from the other end into and through the park, even though one has to initially pick one’s way through the carnage of the development. Unlike most trails in the park which are unmarked, the Horseshoe is often conveniently blazed by horse-droppings.

Once a familiarity of the shape and ‘feel’ of the park has been gained from an initial few trips, undoubtedly the many less well-travelled trails will beckon.

Postscript: The text of this section is borrowed from an abandoned Friends of Governor Dick website from 2002; minor formatting and editing has been added. We would love to know who penned these words, if you recognize them, please use the contact form to reach out.