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Carlisle

Explore a showcase of military history and Mother Nature

Steeped in military history and boasting a magnificent collection of public buildings, landmarks and museums, under-the-radar Carlisle is worthy of exploration. Along tree-lined streets, eclectic stores nudge up against antique emporiums, art galleries and gourmet restaurants that speak to the city’s cultural diversity. With a robust festival calendar (including the famed Carlisle Car Show), performing arts companies and theater troupes, this historic city flaunts its talent and contemporary zeal at every opportunity.

Founded in 1751, the town is home to the Carlisle Barracks, the second-oldest army post in the United States. This became the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first non-reservation Indian boarding school aimed at assimilating Native Americans into Euro-American culture. For families wild at heart, Carlisle is a fine gateway to the Appalachian Trail. Several nearby state parks provide rewarding hiking, biking, boating and horse-riding opportunities.

Colonel Denning State Park

Just 17 miles from Carlisle, the scenic woodlands, forests, rivers and streams of Colonel Denning State Park are a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. Framed by majestic mountains, the park features more than 18 miles of hiking, biking and riding trails for all levels and sensibilities. The challenging 2.5-mile (one-way) Flat Rock Trail involves some rock scrambling and a steep ascent to a peak elevation of 1,987 feet. Nimble hikers are rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of the valley, especially during fall, when leaf peepers coo over the kaleidoscopic show.

Avid birders convene at the Flat Rock lookout for the annual hawk migration, and black bears are occasionally spotted along the trail. For novice hikers, the Doubling Gap Trail is a swift and smooth one-mile jaunt.

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Honoring U.S. Army Heritage

A celebration and an homage to America’s men and women in uniform, the superb U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center is worth a morning’s exploration for anyone with even just a fleeting interest in military history. With more than 16 million military items, including 350,000 military history volumes and the world’s largest collection of Civil War photography and personal journals, the center turns the spotlight on the lives and experiences of American soldiers.

Several interactive simulation exhibits include a shooting range, a 700-foot parachute drop into enemy territory and the chance to take control of a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter. The outdoor Army Heritage Trail (set aside two hours) features full-scale recreations of military sites from the colonial era to the present, including an extensive maze-like trench system from WWI. Also on display are tanks, helicopters, WWII barracks and winter cabins from the Civil War.

Cumberland County History

Within the Cumberland County Historical Society, an extensive series of exhibits display regional artifacts from the early 1700s through the 1960s. Check out the series of fascinating objects and mementos from the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first federally funded off-reservation Indian boarding school. Established in 1879, it was here in 1904 that Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest Olympians of all time, attained legendary status as a football player and track and field athlete.

Folk art devotees travel from across the country to view the largest collection of folk carvings by Wilhelm Schimmel, arguably America’s most esteemed folk artist. Schimmel moved from farm to farm in Cumberland County, carving animals for his host’s children in exchange for room and board.

Kings Gap State Park

Straddling South Mountain, with stellar views of the Cumberland Valley, Kings Gap State Park comprises 2,531 acres of forest. As well as 18 miles of hiking/biking trails that connect three main areas, there’s an orienteering course and picnic sites. Hunting for turkey and white-tailed deer is permitted within designated areas.

At the end of a winding road through Kings Gap Environmental Education Center, the evocatively restored first floor of the Cameron/Masland Mansion is open for tours. The Italianate mansion, with intricate period features, furniture and décor, was built by James McCormick Cameron, grandson of Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Simon Cameron, and the son of Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war, J. Donald Cameron.

For More Information

Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau

888-513-5130

www.visitcumberlandvalley.com

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

800-847-4872

www.visitpa.com