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The 13.4-mile Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose National Recreation Trail loops around the picturesque Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula in Lake Erie. Considered Pennsylvania’s only seashore, the 3,200-acre park features 11 sandy beaches that are open daily in the summer. The park is open year-round, sunrise–sunset, and offers recreational opportunities from fishing, boating, and swimming to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, and ice fishing. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the park is known for its diverse ecology and bird population.
Along the trail, you will find easy access to parking, restrooms, picnic tables, and pavilions. Bikes, surreys, and in-line skates are available to rent in the park in season near the Waterworks area. The park also offers seasonal bike tours.
Starting at the park entrance on Peninsula Drive, you’ll follow the flat, paved path along its eastern side overlooking the Presque Isle Bay shoreline. This stretch of trail is separated from traffic and offers water views, observation decks, picnic facilities, and a marina as you head toward the Perry Monument in 5.1 miles. Built in 1926, the monument commemorates the victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Continuing the loop toward the park’s 11 beaches, this section of trail features long stretches of on-road bike lanes that are not fully separated from traffic along Thompson and Peninsula Drives. Bicyclists should still find the experience comfortable, as the vehicular speed limit is low. After crossing a small bridge, you’ll pass Misery Bay, where you can rent a canoe or take a boat tour exploring the nature and ecology of the bay. Trail users can sign up in advance for these tours.
After the bay, you’ll approach the first beach. To access Beach 11 and a scenic lighthouse on the North Pier, leave the trail and turn right onto Coast Guard Road. Back on the trail for another 0.5 mile, you’ll pass an access road to your right that leads to the Gull Point parking area, just before access to Bundy Beach, on the northern side of the peninsula. From here, bird lovers can take a detour to the Gull Point Observation Deck via the Gull Point Hiking Trail. Check with the park before your visit, as this area has seasonal restrictions.
For the remainder of the route, which loops south, beach dunes obstruct full views of Lake Erie, making for a good excuse to explore the beaches, take a dip, or catch a sunset. In 1.5 miles from the Gull Point parking area, you’ll pass the Presque Isle Lighthouse, built in 1872, to your right, open on weekends for tours. For a fee, you can climb its 78 steps for an expansive view of the lake.
Leaving the lighthouse, you’ll pass five beach access points in quick succession before the trail bears right in 2 miles onto a separate unnamed road with no vehicular traffic. Be mindful of cross streets that intersect this road for car access to the beach parking lots. In 1.4 miles, the trail leads to the park’s interpretive center and once again follows vehicular traffic along Old Lake Road. The trail passes two more beach access points and travels through a short wooded area before completing the loop back to the park entrance. From here, the western endpoint of the 8.9-mile Bayfront Connector Trail is only 2.7 miles east.
To reach Presque Isle State Park from I-79 N, take Exit 182, and keep left to merge onto US 20 W. Go 1.3 miles, and turn right onto PA 832 N/Peninsula Dr. Follow PA 832 for 2.1 miles to the park entrance. There is a parking lot just inside the park entrance, and ample parking lots are available throughout the park. The trail parallels Peninsula Dr. and is easily accessible from all lots.
During the summer, a water taxi service travels to the park from Dobbins Landing in Erie. For the water taxi schedule and pricing, visit porterie.org/watertaxi. To reach Dobbins Landing, take I-79 N to its end (near mile marker 183), and continue straight onto Bayfront Pkwy. In 2.7 miles, turn left onto Holland St. Go 0.2 mile to the port.
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