Black Moshannon State Park: Where Convenience Meets Country
I’ve set a goal to see every state park within the Pennsylvania Wilds, and the quest is underway. As a child, I visited Bald Eagle, Little Pine and R.B. Winter state parks – but last year I finally got my hands on a PA State Parks & State Forests Passport to make this adventure official.
A trip to Black Moshannon State Park proved to be fruitful, although I drove out after the first flurries of winter. Snow hadn’t laid anywhere, really – but as I drove up the mountainside on Route 504 and into the bowl that Black Moshannon feels to sit within, light snow could be seen lining the roadways.
During the trip, which doubled as a birthday outing for my husband, we hiked along two short and easy trails – the Bog Trail and the Lake Loop Trail – and spent time reading about the park, already planning when we’d be back.
The park itself includes 3,394 acres of forest and wetlands, surrounded by over 43,000 acres of Moshannon State Forest. The name, Black Moshannon, is derived from two different things. The Native Americans called the watershed Moss-Hanne, or “moose stream,” and the featured lake is darkly colored from absorbing plant tannins throughout the bog.
As we walked the Bog Trail, birds fluttered from tree to tree, seemingly following our trek. The wooden boardwalk (which is ADA-accessible) gives you a perfect opportunity to explore the wetlands, and observe abundant sphagnum moss and leatherleaf, accented by sedges, rushes, carnivorous plants, and – in other seasons – lilies. The bog was quiet, and ice was forming along the edges. It was a beautiful scene, as the sun lowered in the sky.
The Lake Loop Trail is perhaps the easiest to locate, as it can be seen along the main thoroughfare and – as the name suggests – loops the lake (i.e. Black Moshannon Creek). The flat Lake Loop Trail is not ADA-accessible. On a dirt path, you walk past the Environmental Learning Center, along the lake bank, and down past Kephart Dam, which was built in 1930 and replaced in 1975. As you make your way back on the other side, you pass through picnicking areas and the small beach area popular in warmer seasons.
Those two trails represent less than two miles of the total 20 miles of trails available at Black Moshannon. There are 13 total park-contained trails of varying difficulties, as well as the 40-mile-long Allegheny Front Trail, which passes through the park. Next time, I’m hoping to take the Star Mill Trail, which is still less than two miles long and features views of the lake and the remains of Star Mill, a sawmill built in 1879.
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of this remote park is the fact that it is just a 20 minute drive from State College, a little metropolis in Central Pennsylvania. We were able to spend our day remotely enjoying the great outdoors and then spent that evening enjoying a fine (birthday) meal at a nearby restaurant.
Other activities offered at the park as seasons permit include mountain bike riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice-skating, boating, fishing, swimming, camping and more! Learn more at www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/BlackMoshannonStatePark.