Sunset Rocks & Appalachian Trail

  • Highlights: Rock scramble, Appalachian Trail half-way point
  • Distance: 8.2 mile loop
  • Elevation Change 1,206 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with numerous rocky sections and .4 mile rock scramble
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous (rock scramble)
  • Trailhead Parking: Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Appalachian Trail Museum parking area, 1100 Pine Grove Road, Gardners, PA
  • Trail Markings: white blazes on AT, blue blazes on Sunset Rocks Trail, sign posts at junctions
  • Website: AllTrails and Pine Grove Furnace State Park
  • Beer Pairings: Thirsty Farmer Brew Works—Diky Ameriko pilsner & India Pale Ale

Trail Map:

The Hike:

We are working our way through the AT—one state at a a time. This loop hike has almost 4 AT miles, passes by the traditional half-way point on the AT, has a half-mile rock scramble, and finishes with some history and ice cream at the state park. The trailhead in Pine Grove Furnace State Park is near the AT Museum and the Pine Grove General Store where thru-hikers celebrate reaching the midpoint by eating a half gallon of ice cream.

The trail is well marked and well maintained. There are several trail junctions on this hike. Download the map from AllTrails as parts of the Sunset Rocks Trail can be confusing. 

Appalachian Trail:

Follow the white blazes past the general store and the Ironmaster’s Mansion on Bendersville Road to route 233. The AT follows the highway for a short stretch before heading into the forest. Follow the white blazes heading southbound on the AT.

The AT passes through private land before reaching the Michaux State Forest. Pennsylvania’s nickname is “Rocksylvania” and sections of the AT are rocky as you begin the climb up South Mountain. AllTrails shows this hike traveling clockwise around the loop. We prefer going counterclockwise. Continue past the junction with the Sunset Rocks Trail following the white blazes.

The unofficial halfway point on the AT has a sign erected in 2011 commemorating the 1,090.5 miles south to Springer Mountain GA and the 1,090.5 miles north to Mount Katahdin ME to the north. The exact midpoint of the AT varies from year to year due to trail reroutes. In 2024, the actual halfway point is about one mile further south. Follow the AT to the Tom’s Creek Shelter to reach the junction with the blue-blazed Sunset Rocks Trail.

Sunset Rocks Trail:

The trail begins as an easy walk through a hardwood forest. Follow the AllTrails map and the blue blazes as there are several trail junctions including a short stretch on a road. The trail reaches an out crop on the right with a nice partial view to the south. The views might be better in late-fall when the leaves are down.

The trail soon becomes rocky—and then becomes very rocky as you reach Little Rocky Ridge. The rock scramble begins and you will need both hands as you climb over and around the rocks. The rocks have blue blazes marking the trail. In several sections, a less rocky path is on the left with the more intense rock scramble on the right. 

There have been reports of rattlesnakes near the rocks. Look carefully before placing your hands and feet on the rocks. Just past the scramble is a sign pointing to a short spur trail leading to Sunset Rocks. The spur trail has a few blue blazes and is a bit difficult to follow. In about 200 yards reach a rock outcropping.

The partial views from Sunset Rocks were a bit underwhelming. Trees and leaves make this a partial view. The views might be better during fall foliage season or after the leaves are down. AllTrails shows the spur trail continuing past the rocky outcrop. The trail becomes very hard to follow and we didn’t find any views.

Return to the blue-blazed Sunset Rocks Trail and climb down a very steep section of the trail before reaching the AT junction. Turn right and follow the AT back to the parking area.

Hike Photos:

Beer Pairing:

The Thirsty Farmer Brew Works in Biglerville PA is about 15 miles from the trailhead. The farm to glass brewery has 12 taps of craft beer, cider, and cocktails. They grow 7 varieties of hops on the farm and serve a variety of food options—much of it grown on the farm. The brewery is dog and kid friendly.

Kathy enjoyed a cold pint of IPA (7.2% ABV • 63 IBU) brewed with Chinook, Simcoe, Mosaic, El Dorado, and Citra hops. This IPA is a nice bitter, west-coast style beer, it just needs a better name. Pete really liked  Diky Ameriiko (5.5% ABV • 45 IBU) a Czech-style Pilsner brewed with traditional methods from the Czech Republic with Czechia Saaz hops. This is a crisp refreshing beer. Hoppy trails!

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.