Editor's note: This summer series on Lancaster County hiking trails is written by Lancaster Newspapers interns.
Those looking for local history with a view, and maybe a bit of mystery, should visit Cove Outlook Park in Mount Joy.
"No one really knows when The Cove area became Mount Joy residents' favorite picnic park," wrote Mount Joy historian Vera Albert in a 2006 issue of the Donegal Ledger. "But it was a favorite place for a multitude of outdoor activities."
It's in this issue that a photo shows The Cove in 1936 from what used to be the main entrance to the site at Cove Road. The road has since closed, and the main entrance is now off Old Market Street.
The park, according to Albert, was a popular site long before the '30s.
"Fact: Indians did travel through the area on hunting parties. Myth: No Indian battle was fought at The Cove," Albert wrote. She said the Conoy tribe had the closest Native American settlement.
Mount Joy Township signed a 25-year lease for the park in 2005 after a survey found that area residents wanted "passive recreation," according to township secretary Patricia Bailey.
Maintained by Mount Joy Township Public Works Department and owned by Lancaster County Career & Technology Center, the park is a popular spot for dogs, walkers, joggers cyclists, family reunions and bird-watchers, Bailey said.
As soon as visitors turn onto Old Market Street, they'll notice a gravel parking lot to the left, just beyond the sign reading "Cove Outlook Park." The lot is not the entrance to the park, but for the baseball fields owned by Mount Joy Rotary Club.
Hikers and others interested in experiencing the trails may park in the lot and take a paved path on the left of Old Market Street toward the Career & Technology Center, where they will see the nature-lovers park to their right.
Three trails provide wildlife-gazing potential: one paved, one stone and one mulched. Depending on the chosen path, outdoors enthusiasts can hike past the park's butterfly or rain gardens, bird sanctuary and horseshoe pits.
There are also several small dirt paths that branch off the gravel and paved trails. Signs note that the paths, which can be steep and rough in terrain, are not handicapped-accessible.
The paved path takes visitors to a bridge that overlooks the cove. Along the way, brush spills onto the path, giving the hiker a junglelike experience. Wildflowers, clover and other natural beauties can be found throughout as well.
According to Mount Joy assistant township administrator Charles Kraus, the butterfly garden also attracts four-legged critters.
"Unfortunately rabbits, groundhogs or deer seem to find most of the butterfly plants very tasty," Kraus said. "Only the large butterfly bush survives."
It won't take long for hikers and dog walkers to hear nearby gunshots. The Mount Joy Sportsmen Association on Range Road is adjacent to the park.
"The [association] has strict safety rules and very well-constructed backstops on their ranges. So we don't see any danger from the firing ranges," Kraus said.
Because of the many hiking trails within the park's heavily wooded area, visitors might want to bring a friend in case they get turned around on the winding paths.
Next week is the final installment of this series: Fishing Creek Nature Preserve in Drumore Township.