As someone who has spent most of his life just driving and riding around Pennsylvania, I can assure you these five rides will pack your days with as much beauty as you can handle. Step off the bike and grab a bite to eat or a drink at the local bar as you work your way through PA on these five routes.
1. East Berlin/Michaux State Forest Loop
This trip includes two important features of the South central PA landscape—beautiful, verdant forests and apple orchards. If you can find it, take a quick side trip down Upper Temple Road and stand on the hillside at Upper Temple. The temple itself is a gorgeous little landmark that is great for pictures, and said hill also supplies a fantastic view.
If you take this ride in the autumn, not only are the changing colors breathtaking, but you can also end your route at the National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville. Grab a cup of cider and walk around to hear the live music and see the arts and crafts at one of the area’s proudest traditions.
As you ride through Michaux State Forest and down to Route 30, take the time to cross over Route 233 South and stop at Totem Pole Playhouse. This national treasure is a relic of a dying breed, but if you can take in a matinee, you will be treated to first-class theater in about the most peaceful setting imaginable.
2. PA Route 6
PA Route 6 is more of a journey than a ride, but if you complete the entire trip, you will hit absolutely every example of the best that Northern PA has to offer. Start your trip in Milford, right on the New York border to the east, and grab a slice or a cheesesteak at Joey’s Pizza before riding out. It’s the type of hometown pizza joint that I’m told we Pennsylvanians are spoiled by. (I thought everyone had a couple of these in their hometown, but apparently I'm mistaken.)
Another highlight of this trip is the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, also known as the Pine Creek Gorge. Calling it a Grand Canyon leaves many people underwhelmed, but it’s still one of the best natural features PA has to offer.
Working your way west takes you through some mountainous county better known to Pennsylvanians as hunting camps than vacation destinations, so keep your eyes open for deer on your ride up there.
3. U.S. Route 30 from Chambersburg to Breezewood
Start in my hometown and run through the farmlands of western Franklin County. If you have time before leaving, drop by the town square and find the star that marks the spot where General McCausland gave the order to burn the town. This event cemented Chambersburg's place in American history as the only Northern town to be burned in the Civil War. Shout, “Remember Chambersburg!” as you ride west through St. Thomas (ironically named for one of the less charming characters of the Civil War—depending on which local legend you believe.)
When you hit Fort Loudon just before you embark on your primary ascent up the mountain, head up PA Route 75 North a couple hundred yards. Make sure to grab a milkshake from the Milky Way diner, an old country diner you didn’t realize still exists.
Route 30 from Chambersburg to Breezewood is a challenging ride, but the view of the valleys are worth it. Once you get to the top of the two main summits on this stretch, pull over at the Mountain House Bar and Grill and look down. You'll feel like the ruler of the world.
About five miles east of Breezewood on your way into the truck stop capital of the world, Route 30 swoops down off the mountainside and over the PA Turnpike. Every time I ride down that stretch of road I feel like I’m flying.
4. Route 340 from Lancaster to Downingtown
Route 30 east of Lancaster can be a frustrating march of traffic lights, Dutch Wonderland and outlet traffic, and confused tourists wondering where all the Amish are. The Amish are in Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand, and the route through those two towns is PA Route 340.
Hop off the expressway onto Old Philadelphia Pike (340) and ride east. In between towns, you are treated to a countryside that rivals anything the South of France could offer. It’s no wonder the people of the land settled in Lancaster County.
Skip the touristy stuff (in fact, riding through here on a weekend in the summer is not advised) and enjoy the view on this nice, easy ride. Of course, if it’s not tourist season, check out the impressive Amish furniture and take your pick of Amish restaurants, or get a meal at one of the markets that will feed you a meal so hearty it will literally stick to your ribs. Just stay alert and mind the buggies riding down the road. How many will you really encounter? My personal record on this stretch is 24.
5. Route 655 Through Big Valley
The first four routes on this list are pretty well known, but for No. 5 I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. No valley in PA is as beautiful as Kishacoquillas Valley, better known to its residents as simply "The Big Valley." Home to the second-largest Amish population in Pennsylvania, PA Route 655 runs right through one of the most peaceful places left on this earth.
Belleville is the quintessential rural American town with shops and houses—it's as American as an Ansel Adams photograph [correction, we had originally referred to Adams as a painter]. The view of the countryside and the mountains in the distance in either direction are the easiest way for you to forget about your modern life, even if it’s only for an hour or so. There may be more to do on the other rides on this list, but there won’t be more to look at.
Do you have other great rides in PA, or do you have some great memories of some of these great roads? Let us know!
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