The Highlands Trail Background

The plan to develop a trail through the Mid-Atlantic Highlands Region began in the early 1990’s when the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference began a multi-year effort to establish the NY/NJ Highlands Trail. The NY/NJ Highlands covers over 160 miles from the Hudson River near Storm King Mountain to the Delaware River at Riegelsville, PA. In 2006, Appalachian Mountain Club began discussions about extending the Highlands Trail into Pennsylvania with two partner meetings at Nolde Forest and Kings Gap Environmental Education Centers. Meeting participants included county planners, state park managers, land conservancies and recreational groups. These discussions helped to gauge the potential interest for a Highlands Trail network in Pennsylvania.

Mission and Vision of the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania

The mission of the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania is to create a trail network that promotes and protects the Pennsylvania Highlands and provides communities with a physical connection to the outdoors through close-to-home recreation.

The vision of the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania is to provide an interconnected trail network that links people to where they live in the Pennsylvania Highlands and that provides recreational opportunities and which promotes the protection of natural, scenic, and historical resources of the Highlands.

The Highlands Trail Steering Committee

An outcome of the 2006 partner meetings was the formation of a region-wide Highlands Trail Steering Committee, created in 2007 with participants representing land trusts, state parks, trail organizations, and county planning commissions from across the Highlands Region in Pennsylvania.

The Highlands Trail Steering Committee developed a conceptual Highlands Trail trunk route, focused on making connections between existing trails found throughout the Pennsylvania Highlands region. This conceptual trail route was in part based on the realization that co-aligning with a network of existing trail systems in the Pennsylvania Highlands would facilitate connectivity and provide opportunities to link some of the outstanding natural and cultural features in the region, including several state parks, national historic sites and landmarks, numerous water trails, scenic vistas and revitalized downtown areas.

Appalachian Mountain Club and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference co-hosted a trail celebration in Riegelsville, PA in 2009 to mark the official beginning of efforts to develop the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania. A Highlands Trail marker was installed at the new footbridge over the Delaware Canal in Rieglesville. This event catalyzed efforts to continue the trail through Pennsylvania. A decade later, Appalachian Mountain Club continues to work with the region’s municipalities and county staff, volunteers and other project partners to plan and develop the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania.


The Highlands Trail project is made possible thanks to our members, supporters and funders, including:

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, works to close the achievement gap for low-income children, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. With assets of nearly $2 billion, the Foundation distributes approximately $80 million in grants annually. Learn more about the Foundation at

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: Highlands Trail projects are financed in part by grants from the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and/or Environmental Stewardship Fund, under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.

The M. Edward Morris Foundation



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COVID-19 Impact Report finds Increased Use on Trails in the PA Highlands and across the state

In early June 2020, Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) released its report The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Pennsylvania’s Non-motorized Trails: Increased Use, Added Strain, and a Newfound Appreciation, which includes feedback from PA Highlands trail managers. Read More

Upcoming Webinar: PA Highlands Coalition to host "Discover the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania"

On Thursday, August 6th, 2020 at 2pm, Appalachian Mountain Club staff will present the Highlands Region interactive map and Highlands StoryMap during the upcoming webinar. Read More

US Senate Passed the Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) passed the Senate on June 17th, 2020 by a wide bipartisan margin, 73-25! Read More

Recorded Webinar: "In Defense of Public Lands: Some Lessons on its Biological, Economic, and Social Value"

Watch the webinar from early June 2020 hosted by the PA Highlands Coalition, which featured Author and Professor of Political Science Steven Davis. Read More