One place I hike but for some reason don’t write about often is French Creek State Park. Its an oversight I should correct. The seven thousand acre park is the closest state park to Philadelphia to allow camping, it has two beautiful lakes, and it surrounds Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. (French Creek was a Civilian Conservation Corp project during the depression, and when the land was turned back to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after the CCC ended the National Park Service took possession of Hopewell.) So in one walk you can visit both a state and a national park.
On a couple of days recently I’ve done just that. In March I had a snow covered hike around Hopewell Lake, and a week later when the snows were gone, I repeated the walk. The rewards were different each time, but always worth it.
In both cases I started my hike at the boat launch area, located behind the park offices. Heading in a clockwise direction, I headed west along the lake. Trail blazing isn’t the easiest to follow, but the Horse Shoe Trail passes through and takes you around the side of the lake. The trail can at times be wet, and there is a stream crossing on boards that creaked under my weight. At times you are a distance from the water, but eventually you get to the dam that created the lake.
From the Horse Shoe Trail at the dam you have two options. You can either skirt around the dam and follow the paved access road around the lake and back to your car, or continue on the trail into Hopewell Furnace. The National Park site isn’t far at all, and its a short and easy hike there and back.
One point that needs to be made is that while French Creek State Park is open sunrise to sunset, Hopewell has more restricted hours. Technically you are trespassing if you are in Hopewell after hours, as I was, but I spoke to a National Park Service ranger present in one of my hikes and he assured me that if you come in on foot on the trail that’s OK. The Horse Shoe Trail is a protected path on its loop through Hopewell, and the staff understands people visit from the state park.
Once you are done in Hopewell, follow the road over the bridge in the photo above, and turn right across the grass to an access road. Follow that out of the national park and back into French Creek. The dam will be on your right; stop for photos, and then continue to follow the access road. It will take you back to the boat launch area, and as you get closer you can cut through some picnic areas and follow some short trails to get better views of the lake. Round trip is about a mile and a half. Time is as long and as short as you like. I always find sometime to see.