About the Basin: Buchanan State Forest

Buchanan State Forest

Looking for history, hiking, adventures, and a beautiful view in one easy stop? The Buchanan State Forest in south central Pennsylvania is the place to be. The land straddles the northern edge of the Potomac River basin. One side of the mountain range drains to the Potomac while the other side drains to the Susquehanna.


Boy riding into an abandoned tunnel. Lush vegetation on both sides of the trail.

Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike – Pike 2 Bike Trail

The 69,703-acres of dense forest contains ample United States history. This includes the remnants of a road used to supply British troops during the French and Indian War, a saltpeter mill used during the American Revolution, cemeteries from the antebellum era, and a CCC camp that housed conscientious objectors and German prisoners of war during World War II. The hometown of our 15th president, James Buchanan, is nearby at the compact Buchanan Birthplace State Park where you’ll find a monument to the president as well as picnic areas and a fishing stream with native brook trout.

When the Pennsylvania Turnpike first opened in 1940, two of the tunnels were one-way. Seeing the error of their ways, authorities abandoned the tunnels in favor of a more expedient bypass. The abandoned section is now known as the Pike 2 Bike Trail, an 8-mile stretch of slightly-eerie, graffiti-ridden trail that includes the abandoned tunnels.


The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) provides several maps for recreation in the area, including ATV trails, snowmobiling trails, and cross-country ski trails. There is a wide variety of hiking trails to choose from depending on your interests and skill-level. The short and easy Sideling Hill History Trail leads to an almost 200-year old aqueduct. Most trails allow mountain biking and horseback riding. Hunting and fishing are permitted throughout the state forest (with the right license and within season). Native brook trout can be found in several streams and DCNR stocks some of the streams.

Primitive campsites are available for tents, hike-in or RVs. The sites are free but require a Camping Permit.

The many high mountain ridges provide a variety of scenic overlooks, including the aptly named Big Mountain Overlook. Most of the vistas are accessible by car which make it a popular place for leaf peepers searching for dramatic fall colors.

Feel like getting your hands dirty? Grab your gloves and clippers and join the Friends of Buchanan State Forest (find them on Facebook) for their monthly Trail Work Days.

Headed to the Buchanan State Forest for your weekend adventure? Tag us on social media and let us know what you think!

Sign up for our newsletter and like us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to learn more about the Potomac River basin.