View Full Version : PA RT. 183 to Swatara Gap

11-28-2011, 20:30
Hello fellow hikers, I am planning to hike Rt 183 to Sawtara Gap. Aside from wearing orange this time of year, is there anything else I should know about this section? Thanks for the help.

11-28-2011, 21:29
I live near Swatara Gap and hike North and south of the gap often. matter of face I just did it yesterday before deer season kicked off today. 14 miles round tripto William Penn Shelter and back. There are sections of rocks and boulder fields. Pretty flat walking though once on the ridge. Lots of water from the springs this time of year. When do you plan on this hike? William Penn Shelter is a big shelter with two levels. 501 shelter is enclosed and very welcome this time of year. The next two weeks are deer season as you may know and you couldn't pay me to be in the woods at this time. Lots of the trail in this section is in state game lands.

11-28-2011, 21:45
LOTS of blaze orange, visible 360* at all times...and just your presence in the woods during deer season will p!$$ off some (but not all) of the hunting faction. Oh, well....
There's a lot of State Game Lands around this section. The trail runs through some of it, so just be careful. Check the ATC maps for ownership of the exact area where you are, and try to plan on camping on NPS land if possible. There is (for now) no Sunday hunting. If you run into any WCO's or any other PGC personnel, they will probably try to persuade you to leave the same way that you came. (Safety.) While on State Game Lands, remember that primitive, overnight backpack camping is permitted within 200' of the footpath, PROVIDED that you are also more than 500' away from road crossings, parking lots, trailheads, and water sources, and that SMALL warming/cooking fires are permitted EXCEPT when the danger of wildfires is HIGH, VERY HIGH, OR EXTREME, as defined by DCNR (I've never been able to get a definitive explanation of this one, so the best policy may be "no open fires"...period). Anyway, it's so warm out there right now, you won't need a fire to get warm! The safest place to spend the night might be the Rt. 501 Shelter (NPS land, with caretakers present). The William Penn Shelter (NPS land) may or may not have hunters "in residence" (let ATC know if this "unapproved use" takes place, but do so in a way that does NOT put you in harm's way).
As for the "regular" trail stuff: lots of old logging roads...and lots of rocks! The trail section just before Rt. 501 has sometimes been described as being "no trail at all" - just rocks. But that is the nature of the ridge in that area. The section between Rts. 501 and 645 traverses a boulder field. Several nice views along the way: Berks County farm land, large birds riding thermals, etc. Water at Hemlock Springs (down the north face of the ridge near the Fort Dietrich Snyder marker), Hertline campsite, Rt. 501 shelter, William Penn Shelter (again, down the north side of the ridge) and an unmarked stream near the "abandoned power line" lookout 5 1/2 miles or so south of Rt. 645. Ticks!!! This section took a really bad hit from the storms this year, so let BMECC know if you find any blowdowns along the way http://www.bmecc.org.
Enjoy the trip!

11-29-2011, 13:04
SMALL warming/cooking fires are permitted EXCEPT when the danger of wildfires is HIGH, VERY HIGH, OR EXTREME, as defined by DCNR (I've never been able to get a definitive explanation of this one, so the best policy may be "no open fires"...period).

That might boil down to: if you can find dry firewood, it's against the rules to have a fire. ;)

11-29-2011, 21:26
I asked the guys who work for the Bureau of Forestry about this one time - the answer was REALLY confusing to me. They mentioned wind, relative humidity, recent rainfall...and some sort of wacky formula that I could not understand. There are also 2 periods during the year when fires are catagorically prohibited...and I think that we are in one of them now!

So, yeah - YOUR "regulation" is probably closer to being correct!

12-21-2012, 13:57
I am looking to do a short trip to test new tent and sleeping bag, and to be in the woods!!!

I passed the Hertline campsite on a section hike last March, and I really liked the place.

Is it generally safe for my car, to park at Route 183/Game Commision Road and hike to Hertline for the night. Is parking at PA 501 better?

Thank you to any who have knowledge and respond.

12-21-2012, 23:06
More cars have been broken into at 501 than at the 183 state game land parking lot (about 500 meters south of the trail, or east if judging the trail to me north/south)
Hertlein is a great campsite with spring nearby.
There are some campsites around Fort Dietrich Snyder (about 1/2 mile south of 183) although I don't know how legal they are.
There is a spring nearby there too but I don't know if it's marked anymore.
I grew up camping and hiking in this area.
Easy walking, except for some rocks (which we always thought were the norm on the AT).
No big climbs anyway.
Beautiful lookout about 100 meters south of 501, so, if you are ending there, go another 5 minutes to check it out before heading home.