Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:1700 Hawk Mountain Road, Kempton, PA
Hours:Trails open dawn to dusk daily; visitor center open daily (hours vary by season)
Fee: Members, free; nonmembers: adults, $6; children ages 6 to 12, $3; weekends in September, October, and November and national holidays: adults, $8; children ages 6 to 12, $4

hawkmountain.org, 610-756-6961

Bathrooms: In visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountain in visitor center; snacks at visitor center gift shop

At visitor center

Introduce kids to the magnificent vistas of the rugged Appalachian ridge and the soaring majesty of raptors.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Photo by: Susan Charkes

For many people, Hawk Mountain is the most family-friendly path to the Appalachian range. Although you have to pay admission, the fee not only supports an essential conservation organization, but it buys an exceptional family hiking experience: a self-guided trail that provides a controlled environment for making an ambitious climb. Kids will laugh with delight as they scramble up rocks and gaze out over valleys, watching hawks and vultures spiral against the clouds.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was founded in the 1930s to save hawks at a time when raptors were hunted nearly to extinction. Today the sanctuary offers numerous family programs designed to broaden understanding of why and how to protect wildlife.

The best introductory route for families is the 1-mile Lookout Trail. After passing through the admission booth, follow Lookout Trail to South Lookout. (This groomed trail to South Lookout is the only wheelchair-accessible and stroller-accessible trail at the sanctuary.) The view below is the River of Rocks boulder field. Return to Lookout Trail, which leads to successive overlooks, each with a vista more breathtaking than the last. The trail gradually becomes rockier and steeper as you proceed. Follow signs to the North Lookout, climbing a set of rock stairs with handrails to the top. The North Lookout, and Sunset Overlook just beyond, are promontories that offer magnificent views of the valley below and the continuation of the Kittatinny Ridge northward.

In the fall hawk migration season, the lookouts are the place to observe thousands of raptors in a day as they soar on rising columns of sun-warmed air and glide on invisible currents of wind. It’s fun, but at these times the mountain can be crowded, so it may not be the ideal first visit for kids who want to explore the rocks.

To get an even better view of the scenery and the birds, bring binoculars, or rent them at the visitor center.

Along Lookout Trail are posts with QR codes, so you can use a smartphone to access additional details about the natural features.

Remember: Wear proper footwear: hiking shoes or sturdy athletic shoes. On fall days, be prepared for wind on the lookouts even if it seems calm in the woods; bring jackets. Bring water and snacks, and carry trash out with you.

Plan B:

For more-ambitious hikers, the River of Rocks and the Appalachian Trail can be accessed from the trails at Hawk Mountain. More information is available at the visitor center.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It’s best to bring snacks.


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