Exploring Our Outdoors: Bald Eagle State Forest

Covering almost 60 percent of its land, forests are a vital resource to Pennsylvania. They provide recreation and are also an important part of the economy.

In fact, the state is the number one producer of hardwoods in the country, with $5.5 billion worth of products produced annually. The lumber industry has also been important historically, but in the late 1800s, its clear-cutting practices lead to decimated forests across the state.

Early pioneers like Joseph T. Rothrock contributed greatly to forest conservation, eventually leading to the formation of the state forest system. Today, the Commonwealth manages 20 state forests comprising of 2.2 million acres in 48 of the state’s 67 counties.

Some of Centre County’s 535,100 forested acres are within the Bald Eagle State forest, which contains over 193,000 acres of land for public enjoyment. This sizable tract sits in the Appalachian Mountain section of the state, which is characterized by long northeast-southwest ridges interspersed by wide, rolling valleys.

Pennsylvania’s state forests can be utilized for a variety of purposes. Free and open year-round, you can watch for wildlife, hunt, fish, hike, cross-country ski, ride horses or ATVs, and much more.

Unique to Bald Eagle State Forest are a variety of natural habitats. Included in these are the Joyce Kilmer Natural Area, The Hook Natural Area, Mt. Logan Natural Area, Rosecrans Bog Natural Area, Snyder Middleswarth Natural Area, Tall Timbers Natural Area and White Mountain Wild Area.

While each is special in its own right, we love The Hook Natural Area and Snyder Middleswarth Natural Area. At over 5,000 acres, The Hook is the largest Natural Area in Pennsylvania. Named for the “hook” where the North Branch of Buffalo Run winds its way between Jones and Buffalo mountains, it’s a place of special beauty. The Snyder Middleswarth Natural Area is located in the southern portion of the forest, but is well worth the trip. This 500-acre National Natural Landmark is focused on the area surrounding Swift Run. This “forest relic” is one of the few stands of virgin timber left in the state, and is a must-see if in the area.

This state forest holds many wonderful attractions closer to State College and Penn State as well. The Mid State Trail, known as the “longest and wildest footpath in Pennsylvania,” runs just south of State College before heading northeast to the New York State line. One of the most popular trails in the entire state, it was begun in 1969 as a project of the Penn State Outing Club and other groups.

Other attractions near State College include ATV trails near Seven Mountains and Shade Mountain. A variety of scenic drives and vistas can also be accessed via improved dirt roads close to town.

For more information on Bald Eagle State Forest, including detailed maps, visit dcnr.pa.gov.

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