All You Need to Know About Erie Bluffs State Park Hiking Trails and Recreation Opportunities

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If you’re looking for a beautiful and serene state park to explore, look no further than Erie Bluffs State Park. This park is home to hiking trails with some of the most stunning views of Lake Erie in the area, as well as a few other recreational activities to keep you busy. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just getting started, read on for a complete guide to Erie Bluffs State Park hiking trails and other recreation opportunities!

Where is Erie Bluffs State Park?

Erie Bluffs State Park is located in Erie County, in the very northwestern corner of Pennsylvania. With its 587 acres of land to explore along Lake Erie, the bluffs are the most undeveloped along Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie shores. The park is less than 10 miles from the Ohio State line.

Erie Bluffs State Park Hiking Trails

In recent years, a lot of work has been done with signage and the development of the trails system throughout Erie Bluffs State Park. It is said that there are just over 5 miles of hiking trails within the park, but you can certainly loop around for at least an afternoon of exploring. Many of the trails lead to lookouts from atop the 90-foot bluffs of the park which provide views out over the expanse of Lake Erie.

The Erie Bluffs State Park hiking trails are rated as easy and moderate difficulty, with no trails considered to be hard. This makes the park perfect for hikers of all levels of experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you’ll find a trail that’s perfect for you at Erie Bluffs!

Hiking is also the only activity permitted on these trails during most seasons. There is no horseback riding, mountain biking, or motorized vehicles permitted on the trails.

Please note that hunting, dog training, and trapping is permitted in this park. The season occurs from the Tuesday after Labor Day to March 31st. During this time, take plenty of precautions, including wearing the appropriate attire.

Hiking on the Whitetail Crossing Trail in Erie Bluffs State Park

Transition Trail

Length: 1.1 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This is the one that you’ll need to begin your hike on if you park at the main parking area and not at the Elk Creek Access parking area. It’s a really flat, easy, and wide trail. You’ll walk along the edge of where the field meets the wooded areas. Combine this with the Black Oak Savannah Trail for a short loop hike.

Black Oak Savannah Trail

Length: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This is the first trail junction that you will come to. You can use the Black Oak Savannah Trail to quickly access all of the trails on the west side of the park. This should be used as a short connector trail or one that can complete a short, easy loop around the savannah.

Whitetail Crossing Trail

Length: 0.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy

You can connect with Whitetail Crossing by continuing to the left at the end of the Black Oak Savannah. It also continues further along a more flat, wide trail around overgrown meadow. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you continue heading west to connect to the furthest trails.

Duck Run Trail

Length: 0.69 miles
Difficulty: Easy

Head into the wooded areas from the grassland and down a short but fairly steep hill. You’ll be on the west side of Duck Run, so be sure to catch a glimpse of the small stream every now and again. It’s a pretty little area to explore. End at the lakeshore. There is a very small beach here, so take a little time to enjoy the water’s edge. Along the trail, look for what is left of a little building where a business used to sell commercial fishing nets.

West Overlook Trail

Length: 0.57 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

If you want to take a different route on the return, you’ll want to continue on to the other side of Duck Run and take the West Overlook Trail. This one will take you quickly back up the hillside, and you peak out through the trees to the high-up views over Lake Erie. Once you get up to the hillside, the hike flattens out through wooded areas.

Timber Trail

Length: 0.97 miles
Difficulty: Easy

This is a nearly one-mile trail that you will use to head back to the original savannah trails. This hike is all wooded, so keep your eyes peeled for wildlife roaming through the trees. Historically, this trail was once used as a logging road. Typically a fairly quiet portion of trail to explore, it will eventually return you to the Transition Trail around the savannah.

Bluffs Edge Trail

Length: 0.39 miles
Difficulty: Easy

Catch some beautiful views through the trees on this short trail. Near the middle, there is a short spur where you can go out towards the edge of the bluff for a more unobstructed beautiful view. This trail heads down toward a small peninsula with access to the water’s edge.

Fishermans Footpath

Length: 0.13 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

You’ll find the end of the road here! This is basically a short spur out onto the peninsula, and you can access both Lake Erie waters and Elk Creek. Many people use it for fishing access, hence the name. Many times, you’ll also find people and their pups enjoying the shoreline here, too. If you keep an eye out, you’ll notice some stone remnants of an old Boy Scout camp location.

Wildflower Way

Length: 0.19 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

There are some hills to maneuver on this trail, and it provides access to the Elk Creek Access parking area. If you’d like to park there, this is the trail you’ll use to begin your hike. It is a particularly beautiful stretch of trail in the late spring when the namesake wildflowers are in full bloom along the trail.

Lookout Trail

Length: 0.22 miles
Difficulty: Easy

The last one on the list, this one is a connector between the Bluffs Edge and Transition Trails. You can use this one for shorter access down to the waters edge. You’ll see some huge old oak trees, and you can also access the Lake Erie overlook from here. Look out over the 90-feet bluffs to the water below.

Hiking through the wooded Timber Trail

The Ideal Route Around Lake Erie Bluffs State Park’s Hiking Trails

Now that we went through trail descriptions and have you thoroughly confused, you may be wondering what the ideal route around the park is? Well, we have a recommendation if you’re looking to see all the views on a little longer hike.

The pink arrows on the map below indicate a route around the entire park that ends up being somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 miles of hiking typically, depending on how much wandering and exploring you do.

A map of Erie Bluffs State Park with hiking route in pink arrows
credit: PA DCNR for the original park map

Please note that there are lots of unmarked footpaths throughout the park which you sometimes can mistake for trails. The park isn’t huge, so if you have a map with you, you’ll eventually come to one of the trails. Trail signage at junctions has improved significantly over the past few years, so just pay attention to trail blazes and signs.

Are Dogs Allowed at the Bluffs?

Yes! Pups are welcome to explore Erie Bluffs State Park with their adventurous owners. They’ll love exploring the trails, too.

Abide by the rules by keeping them leashed and always cleaning up after them!

Just be sure that if your dog is a water lover to take note of any water advisories prior to heading to any of the beaches here. Toxic algae and water contamination have become more of a problem in recent years, and we wouldn’t want any pups getting sick, or worse, from splashing and swimming around in the water.

Swimming at the Bluffs’ Beaches

This is not permitted! Access to the beaches here overall requires some effort. The beaches are a little unpredictable, and there can be steep unexpected drop-offs. There isn’t much cell phone reception in most of the park, either.

For these reasons, calling for help in case of an emergency or any type of rescue would be quite difficult. It’s best to avoid those situations.

Winter in Erie Bluffs

If you love Erie Bluffs State Park but are looking for another option to explore in the colder months, Erie Bluffs State Park is open year-round. 

When there is enough snow, all of the trails are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Erie is known throughout the region for snow, but sometimes it can be hit and miss.

Check local conditions prior to your visit, so then you can be sure the gear you are bringing is appropriate for conditions.

Erie Bluffs State State Park Camping

This area is designated as a day-use park. There is no camping within the borders. There are plenty of private camping options within a short drive.

What Else Can You Do in This State Park?

Although there isn’t a huge variety of recreational opportunities in Erie Bluffs, there are a few other options! Fishing is extremely popular, especially along Elk Creek. Much of the year, expect to see people fishing from the shores.

There is also a boat launch at the Elk Creek Access parking area where both motorized and unmotorized boats can be launched. You can use this launch to access Lake Erie when the water levels are high.

Most of the year, though, you can paddle around in a kayak and you can paddle close to the bluffs beaches. Take precautions, though, when out on Lake Erie in smaller watercraft such as kayaks. The conditions can change quite quickly and the waves feel much more significant in these small boats.

You may also be able to find geocaching opportunities throughout the park. Check out the geocaching list here.

Lastly, hunting is also permitted seasonally within the park in certain areas. Be sure to have the appropriate licensing and attire for this activity. If you’re not a hunter, take note when hunting is in season so that you can take extra precautions and wear appropriate colors, or you can choose to avoid the area during that time of year.

Are There Other Erie Hiking Trails Nearby?

If you’re looking for another great little park to explore for a couple of hours, Asbury Woods is a great place to check out. There are 5 miles of trails, mostly traveling through wooded terrain. There are always upgrades being made to the area, too! Asbury Woods is about 20 minutes from Erie Bluffs.

Head on over to the other side of town, near the Penn State Behrend, to the Wintergreen Gorge trails. The 1.2-mile out-and-back trail follows along Four Mile Creek, then up to the top of the gorge until you reach the Behrend campus.

Also, check out these other nearby state parks in Pennsylvania…

More Pennsylvania State Parks To Explore

The closest park to the Bluffs is Presque Isle State Park. You’ll find it less than 15 miles east of Erie Bluffs. It’s one of the best-known state parks in the region. There are plenty of things to do at Presque Isle, including biking, swimming, kayaking, and a little hiking. The most popular thing to do on the peninsula, though, is to spend time at one of the many beautiful Presque Isle Beaches.

Just under 40 miles, or a 45-minute drive, to the south, you’ll find another water wonderland in Pymatuning State Park. This is a popular area for camps and weekend getaways for fishing, boating, and other outdoor activities. The state park is home to a few hiking trails and other recreational opportunities. You’ll also find plenty of camping if you’d like to stay the night.

Erie Bluffs State Park is a hidden gem that many people don’t know about. It could definitely be considered off-the-beaten-path! The hiking trails that weave through the park offer some stunning views of Lake Erie from the top of the bluffs, but you may need snowshoes or cross-country skis in winter! If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path state park to explore this summer, we recommend checking out this fun little spot to spend at least a few hours.

Have you explored any of the Erie Bluffs State Park hiking trails yet?