Hike: Rattling Run – Water Tank Trail (Dauphin County, Pennsylvania)

Hike: Rattling Run – Water Tank Trail (Dauphin County, Pennsylvania)

Stony Mountain Lookout Tower (via Rattling Run Trail)

Hiking Posts

Just like we recently launched our “book review” section of the blog (for non – beer related books anyway, I had previously done a beer book review, and planning on doing more in the future), this launches our “hiking” blog posts section. There are a few hiking and brewery travelogue posts that you can find here on the site (Rickett’s Glen) as well as some where we visited a battlefield or location and then nearby breweries (Gettysburg and Monocacy).

But this is the beginning of a series of just “hiking” posts, where I discuss a trail (or more, depending on the hike) and how it was, where it is, etc. I take my dog (Leela) hiking, as well as go hiking by myself a lot, usually once per week, sometimes once every two weeks, depending on work, activities, kids, etc.

The hiking blog posts will be pretty similar to the book reviews and beer reviews done on the site. I’ll detail the hike I did, the hike’s path, and upload a picture of the route I take, as well as link to AllTrails (an app and website for hiking – that is similar to Untappd and GoodReads for hiking). AllTrails is a really great app that I recommend very highly, especially for new and novice hikers (points to himself), there is a paid and free version. I currently only use the free version, but I can see the benefits of the paid version.

COVID really helped sparked the ‘hiking’ bug in me last year, leading to many fun and exciting trips. By myself, with my dog Leela, with my daughters, with my friend Ming and his partner Don or just Ming, with Deuane, Gabe, and several others. What started as me taking my dog on various walks and hitting new parks using Google Maps, turned into me joining various Pennsylvania and nearby state Facebook groups dedicated to hiking, state parks, etc, which led me to getting AllTrails. What started as walking smaller parks and rivers and creeks, turned into hiking hills, (mountains technically), deep valleys (like the PA Grand Canyon), glens with waterfalls (Rickett’s Glen) and fantastic vistas like Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock, Hawk Rock, etc, and has taken me hiking in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana.

Hopefully 2021 and the future has much more hiking adventures in store, and I’d like to start sharing them here on the blog. Just like the book reviews, most won’t gel and team up with beer and brewing, but some might. If your uninterested, you can always ignore or move on. But in some cases, the hiking will lead to breweries (as often is the case with Ming and Deuane and Gabe, be it nearby breweries or brand new ones), you can read much of those stories in the Travelogues section. For just hiking blog posts, check out the hiking section.

The Lead – Up

So what brought me to Rattling Run? Just like my beer reviews, brewery reviews, and book reviews, this section of the hiking posts (probably won’t go with such a bad headline as ‘The Lead – Up’ everytime from here on out) will pretty much just be my (typical) lead – in to the hike post. I will discuss the day leading up to the hike, what lead me to that particular hike and place, and who all was with me (be it Ming or Leela or whoever).

So this particular case, I had to drive out to Front Street of Harrisburg to drop off something, and took Leela with me, knowing I wanted to go hiking somewhere. After my errand, I then called up my AllTrails app, and looked for a nice hike in the area. I wanted something that would involve a climb, hopefully for something with a nice vista or overlook, and something that would have at least some level of challenge, since it was just me and my dog with, I didn’t have to worry about anyone else and it being too hard.

There were a couple of options, and several of them were similar or connected to Rattling Run and such, but I decided to try this one out based on length (AllTrails listed it as 10.8 Miles), some of the pictures people have uploaded of the trail, and the tower at the top of the trail looked interesting.

The trail is located on State Game Lands Number 211 and was about a 15-18 minute drive from Front Street of Harrisburg (Fort Hunter).

Stony Mountain Lookout Tower via Rattling Run

In the future, this segment will be where I give some of the details of the actual hike. What AllTrails gives as its description, as well as my MapMyRun map of the area I hiked and walked, this will give you a good idea of the hike and if you want to do it in the future, will give you some information on how to get there and what the paths and trails look like. The last section I’ll probably call “The Hike” and will be my discussion of the actual hike, my thoughts on it, my pictures, what I did, what I saw, what I liked, didn’t like, etc, etc, etc.

So firstly, right out of the gate, my very first hike post, and it will already slightly deviate from the norm….. figures right? I took the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower via Rattling Run trail to get to the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower, but then on the way back down I took the Water Tank Trail, so I actually did two trails instead of just one. So for this, I will cover the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower via Rattling Run trail, and then I will discuss / cover the Water Tank Trail that I took back down.

An area on the top of the mountain / hill, a portion of the Rattling Run, side area.

The above picture is a little bit of a ‘side – walk’ at the top of Rattling Run when you finish the climb up and get on the plateau area. Me and Leela checked out a few of these cut and burn areas to see if they led anywhere, and as far as I could tell none did. They did look interesting, and sort of creepy in a Hollywood movie kind of way, and they did have a path to them, but none really led anywhere, so after a while I would loop back to the main trail.

Hike: Stony Mountain Lookout Tower via Rattling Run
Location: State Game Lands Number 211
Near: Dauphin, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Length: 10.8 Miles (as per AllTrails)
Elevation: 1,335 Feet Gain (as per AllTrails)
Route Type: Out and Back
AllTrails Map: Stony Mountain Lookout Tower via Rattling Run
AllTrails Description: Stony Mountain Lookout Tower via Rattling Run Trail is a 10.8 mile out and back trail located near Dauphin, Pennsylvania that features a great forest setting. The trail is rated as moderate and is primarily used for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.

Water Tank Trail via Stony Creek Rail Trail

After getting to the tower on the way back down, I decided to switch things up, instead of just doing a straight out and back (like the original trail would be), I decided to veer off and take a divergence, going down the Water Tank Trail to get down to the Rail Trail which connects to the road that leads to where I parked my car at the bottom of Rattling Run.

The waterfall that runs along Water Tank Trail leading back down to the Stony Creek Rail Trail

Hike: Water Tank Trail via Stony Creek Rail Trail
Location: State Game Lands Number 211
Near: Dauphin, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
Length: 6.5 Miles (as per AllTrails)
Elevation: 1,125 Feet Gain (as per AllTrails)
Route Type: Loop
AllTrails Map: Water Tank Trail via Stony Creek Rail Trail
AllTrails Description: Water Tank Trail via Stony Creek Rail Trail is a 6.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Dauphin, Pennsylvania that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking.

The Hike

My hike via the MapMyRun app.

I got to the base of the Rattling Run at just shy of 10:30AM. Got the dog unloaded and started up the app, at apparently exactly 10:30AM (thats a nifty coincidence, and not one I tried, and just now noticed I achieved). Sadly, I was woefully unprepared for the hike. I had my leash for Leela in case anyone came by (only passed one man the entire hike, and that was going down the Water Tank Trail portion), but I didn’t bring my backpack (an orange Bengals backpack in case of hunters), so I also had no waters, or food, or anything else; and I also didn’t bring a sweatshirt or hoodie or anything, which I usually start off with, and if too hot can take off and stuff in the backpack. And of course…. that meant nature would make it bitter cold and windy.

Once I had gotten on the road leading to the parking area, I realized this was a trail I took my daughters to last summer (probably early May) during COVID. We got to the top of the hill / mountain and ate lunch, explored the plateau area a bit, enjoyed the view, and then went back down. And the girls ….absolutely complained…. at every single… step… of… the ….. way. Every. Single. Step. It was this: Step. “Ugh.” Step. “This. Sucks.” Step. “Why is it so steep?” Step. “Are we there yet?” Step. “This is tall. Step. “Why is it so steep?” Step. “Can we take a break?” Step. “I hate you dad.”

Luckily, Leela didn’t do nearly as much complaining. Actually, she was the complete opposite. She loved it, and loved being able to be off the leash because there was nobody around. (Shhh, don’t tell anyone how rebellious I’m being by not keeping her on the leash 24/7 on park land.) The hike was certainly steep going up, but not quite as steep as the Fort Hunter Conservancy hill I did the day before, nor as bad as I had remembered it with the girls. Granted, this time I was in hiking boots instead of running sneakers, but I doubt that made much more of a difference. Maybe the year of hiking and trips and walking more helped? Or maybe being just me and the dog it felt differently? No clue.

But, I can say, it was certainly bitter and at times quite windy and when the wind really got going it was a fair bit cold. I was in just jeans and a Pizza Boy t-shirt (with the hiking boots), and I certainly felt the cold at times, especially at the point where I got to the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower.

The main walk / hike is up the hill via Rattling Run. Basically a car size stone road leading up to the top. It does get pretty steep in some places but never to the point of being outrageous or too extremely difficult. The weather was a bit bitter and cold and windy, and plant life wasn’t quite fully emerged yet, so it was still a lot of ‘dead winter’ looking trees, a lot of browns instead of greens, and not a whole lot of animal life. Some squirrels, a few birds circling overhead or heard in the distance. Not a soul to be found, so I allowed Leela to be off the leash (kept the leash in my back pocket). She stayed mostly with me, sometimes going ahead, sometimes hanging back for a sniff here or there, but she did really well for an 11 year old Border Collie. It took about an hour and 20 to 30 minutes to get to the top and the plateau.

The plateau area (or top of the hill / mountain) is mostly flat, with a few little dips and such. Its mostly open spaced with some trees along the sides of the paths. You can see off the hill / mountain on the one side and it has some nice views. It was about another two miles to get to the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower.

The tower itself sits on an area of the trail that is technically the end of the Rattling Run trail I took, and is also a part of the H. Knauber Trail, and I believe one or two others (would have to check AllTrails other trails to find out and correlate). At this point, it would be the end of the trail on the out and back portion, so here you would turn around, and go right back the way you came. The tower sits in a small square barbed wire fenced area and is off limits, though there obviously has been recent attempts to get in (successfully too it looks). The one side of the fencing paneling was removed. I walked a little of the surrounding area which was part of the H. Knauber Trail, before returning to the tower and then back the way I came towards Rattling Run.

At about the six mile mark of my journey I made it back to the intersection of the Water Tank Trail and the Rattling Run Trail I had been taking. When I first passed it, I decided I would think about taking this way on the way back down, and once I reached it, I made the decision to take it. Figured it’d be more interesting to make a loop and to see new areas rather than just re-walk the area I had already previously been to.

The Water Tank Trail was extremely difficult going down. Firstly, for some of it, its just the water spillage from the top of the hill / mountain, and that’s also the same as the trail, so you have wet sloggy, muddy, rocky, terrain…. then you get to the real fun. At this point, the water is on both sides of your “path” (and I use the term loosely) and it does offer a beautiful waterfall view on each side. But, your movement down, is completely loose rock, shale and other stone, and each step down causes small avalanches of rocks tumbling down. The path is somewhat marked, but it is hard to see, and at times I found myself looking for a good minute before seeing the blue markings on the trees.

As you can see in the pictures above, both Leela and I had a hard time going down the hill / mountain this way, but we did make it. I would rate this portion of the trail difficult to extremely difficult depending on your skill level. I wouldn’t recommend it without hiking boots.

The view going down was beautiful though. The water cascading on each side of the path was tremendously beautiful, and the lovely gurgling sounds of the water was really pleasant the whole way down. The trees were still bare and wintry though, so not much in the way of vegetation or animal life to observe, but the water cascading on each side made it all worthwhile.

It does taper out at the bottom of the hill and becomes easier to walk, at this point it just becomes a slightly rocky walk through the woods. It then connects to the Stony Creek Rail Trail, which is a biking, hiking, walkway / trail for people to take. I walked this for a few miles til it connects to the road that led me to the access point for Rattling Run trailhead. The flat area of the Rail Trail was nice, and offered a nice view looking down over an embankment, which looked like it had several little trails one could access if one wanted (I didn’t try any).


This was a fun hike. Granted I went when it was still somewhat wintry (thanks Pennsylvania “Spring”) and I didn’t bring a sweatshirt or hoodie, but the actual hike itself was nice. Going up Rattling Run and down Winter Tank Trail was moderate to difficult I would say. I think most can go up the Rattling Run if they are in good health and have no ankle or knee issues that would be too much for most other hikes. Going down the Water Tank Trail was a bit more difficult due to the loose and moving stone under foot. Perhaps different seasons it might be better, and there might also be less water to see cascading down on each side.

There isn’t anything exceptional about seeing the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower, and since its closed, you can’t access it and go up it, so it’s not quite the impressive landmark that it could be (like the tower at Governor Dick for example), but it was still nice to get to go and see it, especially since I didn’t get to do that last year with my daughters.

Dogs should be fine on the hike as well, Leela is an 11 year old border collie (will be 12 in November / December) and had no issues. (She is a great hiking dog and loves going on long walks and hikes.) I would recommend a leash for your pet just in case, as I expect the trail sees more activity in better weather. I know when we went last summer there was a lot more foot traffic on the Rattling Run trail (some runners, some walkers, some hikers, various ages, a few dogs on leashes).

All in all, I would recommend the hike. Maybe not as a first time hiker or a novice, but as someone experienced enough and energetic enough. It also doesn’t have the most amazing vistas or anything, but the find of waterfalls on the Water Tank Trail on the way down was nice and a welcome surprise. It was just over a 10 mile hike, and took me nearly 4 hours to complete (counting time to take pictures, hiking, going a bit past the areas of the map, etc.).

I hope everyone enjoyed the first ‘hike’ blog post here on The Beer Thrillers. If people tend to like these, I will certainly post more in the future. I know I have done some in the past that correlated with breweries I / we / us visited afterwards; but this was the first hiking blog article that was more in the vein of the beer reviews (and now also book reviews) that I’ve done on the blog. I hope people will like the divergence from the beer related articles and themes of the site and enjoy and indulge me on my “side projects” or “vanity projects” if you will. There will certainly be plenty more book and hike reviews and stories in the near (and far) future here on the blog if people don’t mind indulging me.

As always, be sure to leave a comment or question if you have anything to say, as I would love to hear from all of you. Be sure to like, subscribe, and follow us, here on the blog as well as our social media pages. I hope everyone is doing well and safe and getting vaccinated so we can get back to the old normal instead of the new normal. As always, thanks for reading, and cheers!

-B. Kline

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