For me, the best trail is closest one! I love many trails in my local area simply because of familiarity and proximity. I like the Gerard Hiking Trail in Pennsylvania, which is a 55 km/36 miles loop. I am also impartial to many of the trails in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
Trails in the United States are so varied in topography, flora and fauna that there is something to like about all of them. I seem to prefer the technicality and lushness of the northeast trails most.
Here’s a bit of an insider tip: Gerard Trail has several waterfalls (Miller Falls, Boughton Falls) and scenic vistas that lookout over Oil Creek. Some are several miles in from the nearest road crossing or accessible point. There is also a collection of rocks, some which are the size of houses. In Finger Lakes, there are countless waterfalls with pools deep enough for a dip. Robert H. Treman State Park is incredible in its scenery and can be linked with Buttermilk Falls State Park.
It is epic and unforgettable. For scenic vistas, the Bristol Hills Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail in New York provides numerous vantage points along runnable trails.
The challenge of Gerard Trail comes by way of technicality and the constant up and down of the terrain. There are no dizzying climbs that drag on for miles, but rather just a consistent onslaught that wears you down. Gerard is a 55 km loop. Treman is a ‘choose your own adventure’ length. The Bristol Hills Branch, if you run the whole thing, is around 100 km all up – a real challenge and not for the faint of heart.
Conditions are muddy in the spring, near impossible and impassable in the winter, but very runnable in summer and fall with a good canopy of cover. It can get hot and muggy, but is manageable. Best time of year for trail running is early October for the fall foliage.
All of the trails have some easy accessibility. As with any trail, the best stuff is often the most remote and deep in the trail system – explore and be rewarded. Just make sure you remember the way home.