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Kayakers float down the Tuscarora Creek by the Pomeroy-Academia Covered Bridge near Port Royal, Juniata County./Bob Wert

There is certainly no shortage of “Hot Travel Destinations” or “Best Places to Visit” lists circulating these days. But we find that most of these lists include many of the usual or well-known travel destinations. Why not add a twist to your traditional travel list this year and add an off-the-grid, lesser-known destination that might not be on your travel radar — but maybe should be?

The Juniata River Valley is blessed with some of the most incredible natural resources, rich history and traditions and family-friendly activities. So much so that the locals consider themselves “lucky” to live in the Juniata River Valley and enjoy staycations right here at home.

Let’s explore the area like the locals do, and hit up these hidden gems that are truly special and worth your time.

Waterways

The Juniata River Valley is named for the river that wanders more than 100 miles through Mifflin, Juniata and surrounding counties.

The Juniata River watershed is comprised of more than 6,500 miles of streams, including many class A fishing streams like Honey Creek. Honey Creek, similar to the nearby and world-renowned Penns Creek, is often described as a scaled-down version of its more famous, larger twin. Plus, the annual Kish Creek Trout Tournament each spring draws anglers from across the region.

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Campers at Buttonwood Campground in Juniata County participate in the golf cart parade for the Fourth of July./ Buttonwood Campground

The Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau created a new “Waterways of the Juniata River Valley” guide this year, full of tips from local anglers. Information includes river and stream descriptions, access points, as well as bait and fishing techniques to catch anything from smallmouth bass to trout.

From the calm Juniata River to winding creeks, visitors will find the most relaxing way to spend a few hours with family or friends. The Juniata River, ideal for beginners because of its flat and gentle nature, is also great for watching trains go by and spotting remnants of the Pennsylvania Canal System. Proficient paddlers can try their hand in the small whitewater rapids of Kish Creek or float under a historic covered bridge on the Tuscarora Creek.

Bring your own equipment or connect with one of our outfitters to rent a kayak or canoe, but be prepared to transport the boats to and from the launch site on your own.

The waterways guide also includes lodging locations from hotels, cabins, home rentals and campgrounds.

Camping

Just steps away from the Juniata River are several campgrounds with direct access to the river. Each campground has its own unique amenities, but all offer gorgeous views, immaculate campsites, family-friendly activities and are close to nearby attractions. Unique amenities include a miniature golf course, on-site winery, historic canal boat rides and a drive-in movie theater next door.

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Tina Palombo hikes through the ferns along Standing Stone Trail in Mifflin County./Rebecca Conner Miller

Hiking

Named the 2016 Pennsylvania Trail of the Year, the Standing Stone Trail is an 84-mile-long footpath that follows the scenic ridgelines in Huntingdon, Mifflin and Fulton counties. First laid out in the late 1790s, the SST’s elevations run from a low of 660 feet to a high of 2,380 feet, traverses four state game lands, two state forests, one natural area, one state park, crosses the Juniata River and features many vistas.

The most well-known section of the trail is the Thousand Steps. The steps were built in the 1950s by quarry workers who cut away large sections of ganister stone from Jacks Mountain to make silica bricks. This 1.5-mile out-and-back trail is not for the weak of heart, but rewards those who make it to the top with a sweeping view of the valley and river below.

Biking

Coopers Gap trail, described as the best single-track flow in Rothrock State Forest, offers a network of non-stop trails that allow bikers to string together endless possibilities. The 15.3-mile trail has been rated best for a skilled intermediate rider and is also popular with hikers. Best used from January until October, the trail is conveniently located near several state parks for camping and offers great opportunities for fall foliage and wildlife viewing.

From fishing to camping, to hiking and biking, the Juniata River Valley is the ideal setting for your next adventure.

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Kayakers float down the calm waters of the Juniata River at Mifflintown, Juniata County./Juniata River Valley Visitors Bureau

For more information:

JRVVisitors.com

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