Little Buffalo State Park sits just southeast of the middle of the state of Pennsylvania, west of the small town of Newport. Itís the sort of place that you wouldnít find if you werenít headed there, but itís a real gem and certainly worth the trip if youíre anywhere nearby. You can get there by taking 322/22 off I-81. The drive along the Susquehanna River is worth the trip alone. In mid-August, the river is low, wide and lazy. The highway follows its serpentine course, allowing glimpses of the water when the trees and the median allow it. There are earthen bars throughout the river as well as bridges, dams and other interesting structures. I thought I even spotted a statue at one point. It certainly looks like a fine river to spend a day on, or a week, or perhaps much longer, but if youíre headed to Little Buffalo State Park you have to drive past that and over the bridge into Reed where the freeway temporarily becomes the townís main strip.
Continuing past that, the freeway begins again and more beautiful countryside passes by. Keep an eye out for Rt 34 and take that south through Newport. Youíll begin to see signs for the park and just after leaving the town proper there will be a road to the right, or west, that takes you to the park. There are many places to leave your car. I left mine by the ranger station.
In many ways Little Buffalo fits the usual state park stereotypes. There are little kids playing, BBQs blazing, and dogs barking. You canít walk a dozen yards down a main trail without seeing somebody. Donít get me wrong, some of my favorite places are state parks, but theyíre not the sort of place that comes to mind when I want peace, quiet, and a good workout.
Little Buffalo is all that, but itís something more, too. After Iíd seen the beautiful Mill Race Trail, which you can see in the first photo of this gallery, and after Iíd walked down to the Fishermanís Trail, which I took no pictures at, I backtracked to the beginning of the Buffalo Ridge Trail. Before going any further let me say that I had every intention of taking a picture of the lake as it is a very prominent and pleasant feature of the park. However, I never saw a good angle for it and by the time Iíd gotten back to it, after the bulk of my hike, the time of day for taking such photos had passed and I didnít want to wait for sunset to try again.
So about that Buffalo Ridge Trail. That is a solid, respectable hiking trail. It winds up and down the hillside in a narrow line following the natural curves of the ground and vegetation. Nothing like the wide, patted down trails that make up the bulk of state parks and might as well be paved for all the nature left in them. The Buffalo Ridge Trail is a real forest trail complete with cobwebs that stick to your forehead and branches that tug at your shirt. Besides that, itís a good length of trail, too. Just enough to get you warmed up for the other side of the park.
I havenít got much to say about the west end of the park, except that the trails donít exactly follow the map, which isnít exactly a big deal, just something to make a note of. I took another photo along the Little Buffalo Creek Trail that youíll find below. One way or another youíre bound to hit the Little Buffalo Road and from there you canít miss the head of the Middle Ridge Trail.
The Middle Ridge Trail is a fun trail. Iím not a fan of rollercoasters, but this is one rollercoaster Iíll ride any day. The trail seems to hit every foot and spur of the northern hill head on so that youíre either climbing or descending for most of the mile or two of that trail. A little bit into it thereís a nice view to the southeast of the hill you were just on for the Buffalo Ridge. I took a photo there, but the sun was too high by then and it didnít come out right.
Thereís plenty of the loose dirt, sand and gravel that Iíve seen on other Pennsylvania trails here so the footing can get a bit dicey, but otherwise itís just uphill and downhill. A few dry streams this time of year, plenty of green trees, and the pleasantness of the forest. The road is still within earshot and so are the kids and the dogs, but this trail gives you enough to do that you tend to forget about those things for a few stretches of uphill climbing.
Coming back down the east side of the park there are no more spectacular views or interesting landmarks, but that doesnít diminish this park one bit. Itís almost like a typical state park with a little bit of state forest wrapped around it, and that deserves some respect. Itís a bit far for me to make it a regular habit, but if I were in the area again I certainly wouldnít mind stopping by.