Hiking Pennsylvania: Tank Hollow Vista

After living in Southeastern Pennsylvania for almost 11 years, I thought I'd found just about every day hike within a reasonable distance of home. And there are some beautiful places to hike within two hours drive from Philadelphia. But as much as I love some of my old standby trails, I'm always excited to explore new places.

My hiking buddy looking toward the Lehigh River from the end of the trail. Even the non-vista part of this spot is beautiful!

I have a running list of options in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey, but many are either too short to justify a drive on their own, or too far away to go for a day. But this past weekend, a friend and I combined two short hikes for one amazing day, beginning with a place I've been meaning to find for a while - Tank Hollow Vista.

Getting to the Trailhead

The hardest part about this hike was finding the trail! It's on state game lands and isn't formally maintained, mapped, or blazed, so we had to do some detective work beyond just finding the right general parking lot. The following directions should help if you're interested in doing this hike!
  • Get directions here (40.941665, -75.672008), a large dirt parking lot off Behrens Road in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.
  • Turn into the lot, and proceed to the first gate you'll see on your route at the end of this lot. Pass through if it's open. (A sign said it's open April-early June on our trip). Continue along the dirt road, and pass three small signed parking "lots" on your right. (There are parking "lots" on the left too, but we didn't count those.)
  • Come to the next parking area, which spans both the left and right sides of the road. It's at the top of a very steep, small hill, and there's another gate at the end of the lot. Park here, it's close to here on Google Maps (40.944656, -75.687182). If you find yourself driving down a steep hill, you've gone too far.
My car parked in the lot. You can see two brown posts in the back of the shot, which is where the second gate is.
  • Walk down the steep hill along the gravel road, and continue on a flatter part of the road. Keep an eye out for a large, obvious trail on the right in about 0.2 miles, or after 5-10 minutes of walking. On our trip, the only "blaze" we saw indicating it was a formal trail was a small white triangular plastic sign nailed to a tree indicating horses and bicycles are prohibited, pictured below.
This is the start of the trail, right off the gravel road, with one teeny tiny sign indicating it's a trail!

Hiking to Tank Hollow Vista (~1.5 miles, Almost No Elevation Gain)

From the parking lot we were able to park in, we walked 0.2 miles down the gravel road and spotted the trail on the right. If you have to park in the first lot because the first gate is closed, that adds another 1.8 miles round trip, making the out-and-back hike just over three miles. It was wet and muddy, which is to be expected this time of year, especially given it rained all night. The trail was wide and obvious enough that we didn't have trouble following it, even without blazes.

Making our way through the woods, over  Pennsylvania's characteristically rocky terrain!

We had the trail completely to ourselves, which surprised me given what I'd heard about the popularity of the vista and how short the hike is. The closer we got to the vista, the more dense the rhododendron stands got and the less open space we could see between the trees. 

It's definitely starting to look like spring in Pennsylvania, everything was so green!

The trail was almost completely flat, and both my hiking buddy and I managed it in low cut sneakers/trail shoes, though we did get our feet wet trying to stay on the trail while plodding through mud puddles. It was also extremely short, considering we'd driven 90 minutes from Philadelphia to get there, but when we got to the vista, I felt like the trip was completely worth it.

See if you can spot my hiking buddy on the rocks on the right, and the train on the tracks below!

We spent what felt like a while taking in the view, exploring different spots to check out the Lehigh River from, and watching rafts float down and around the bend. I couldn't believe there were rafts out given the temperatures and weather that day, but from what we could see and hear, it seemed like everyone was having fun! We turned around and headed back the way we came, arriving at the car an hour after we started the hike.

Things to Know Before You Go

My hiking buddy making her way up from the vista.
It's a challenge to find the trail. Read the instructions at the beginning of this piece for directions, and if you've been there and have updates to what I've shared, I'd love to hear them! We spent about 15 minutes driving up and down the road looking for the right spot, and my 2WD Toyota Corolla didn't love some of the steeper, bumpier sections.

The trail and parking areas are on state game lands. Check the Pennsylvania Game Commission website for hunting season information and prepare accordingly depending on when you go. (We didn't, and we should have, our hike was right in the middle of spring turkey season).

Watch your footing at the vista, and stay on the trail. It can be tough to follow a trail that isn't blazed, but we didn't have any trouble. When you get to the vista, the cliffs are steep, the rocks are slippery when the trails are wet, and it's a long way down! 

Our second spot of the day was Beltzville State Park, and I'll cover the hike we did there in another post. The trails there are a blast to explore, too! 

But who else has been to Tank Hollow? Did you have as much trouble finding the trail as we did? I'd love to hear from you!