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Washington, Pennsylvania
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Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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Manheim, Pennsylvania
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Holtwood, Pennsylvania


Walk on the trails of pioneers and in the footsteps of George Washington

From hot rods to history to hiking on the nation’s most famous trail, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has something for everyone. Tucked away in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, this diverse community embraces both its past and present with admirable aplomb.

George Washington relied on Carlisle as a vital base of operations during the Revolutionary War. Today, the region plays a big role for visitors seeking family fun and insight into America’s past.


Carlisle is so steeped in American history that it’s hard to know where to begin. Educational institutions, architectural landmarks, museums and walking tours are just a few ways that visitors can experience that history for themselves.

From the Revolutionary War through World War II, Carlisle’s patriotism is displayed today through the careful preservation of its stories of war. Carlisle Barracks, now home to the prestigious United States Army War College, is at the center of it all. Gen. George Washington chose Carlisle as a strategic post to produce cannons and other artillery for the Continental Army. According to the National Archives, America’s future first president walked the streets of Carlisle, attending church, reviewing a contingent of soldiers and even writing a letter of thanks to its citizens for kind words expressed to the general.

Carlisle also played an important part in the Civil War. Historians say that at the same time the Union soldiers fought the Confederate Army at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, Carlisle Barracks came under Confederate attack and was unmercifully shelled by Rebel forces.

Nearby Dickinson College was established in 1783 as the first college chartered in the newly minted United States. Actual letters from Union soldiers are used as teaching tools at the school. As if these soldiers’ words do not convey enough imagery, their Civil War photographs speak volumes. Dickinson College shares these images in its vast collections, such as an actual photograph depicting the Men of Company E. The college’s founder, Benjamin Rush, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

For historic architecture, check out the ornate Old Courthouse, built in 1846, in downtown Carlisle.

Things to Do

While Carlisle’s military history is inexhaustible, so, too, are its options of things to do. Carlisle is famous for the Carlisle Events automotive shows, a yearlong series of car and truck collector events. Housed at the Carlisle Fairgrounds, thousands of car and truck enthusiasts flock to Carlisle each year to see, buy, swap and sell vintage vehicles of every kind. Visit during August when some 5,000 American roadsters converge on the town for the Corvettes at Carlisle event. For high-speed action, check out the races at the Williams Grove Speedway.


Hitting the Trail

Outdoor activities at Carlisle are just as plentiful, including hiking on the historic Appalachian National Scenic Trail. A current trail map, a set of binoculars and a good pair of walking shoes are requisite basics. Trout fishing, bird-watching and, of course, the sheer exhilaration of traveling by foot on one of the country’s most famous outdoor wonders are just some of the reasons thousands come to the trail every year. A section of this more than 2,180 miles of public path running from Maine to Georgia passes through Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley, which is considered the midpoint of the trail.

The Appalachian Trail Museum is the only one of its kind in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to hiking. Visitors will find it in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Across the street from the museum is the Pine Grove General Store, where hikers are dared to try and eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting!

Consider a visit to the famous Ironmaster’s Mansion, which is also located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The mansion offers dormitory-style rooms, allowing hikers to rest up and swap stories about their trek.

Boiling Springs, so-named because of the bubbly waters around it, is home to the Mid-Atlantic Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Near Children’s Lake, the community is an official Appalachian Trail area because it provides services to hikers and promotes the trail. Among the services are free parking permits, including those for long-term parking. Equally stunning is Laurel Lake, where lilly pads float on the surface as visitors row boats.


Pennsylvania’s Kings Gap State Park is also near the Appalachian Trail and offers its visitors more than 2,500 acres of forest on South Mountain, along with panoramic views of the Cumberland Valley. Hiking trails, picnicking and other recreational activities are available.

Those who want to be outdoors but prefer to be closer to town can hop on a bike and take to the new biking lanes in Carlisle. A visit to the Farmers on the Square Market between May and December (Wednesdays only) yields first pick of Cumberland Valley’s produce.

Shops in Carlisle have teamed up to afford visitors the opportunity to take home treasures unique to Cumberland Valley. From antiques to trendy gift shops, there is something for everyone.

Where to Dine

Food lovers will not be disappointed with Carlisle’s global approach to dining. An eclectic selection of restaurants—Moroccan, Japanese, Belgian, Italian, German and more—await visitors craving something different. Many of Carlisle’s eateries are all within blocks of each other, making a “Dine Around the World” experience truly possible.

For More Information

Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau




Pennsylvania Tourism Office