Laurel Summit State Park and Forbes State Forest

2011 has been a year filled with memorable hikes and exciting adventures.  It’s hard to believe that it’s almost time to bid farewell!  It seems fitting to conclude the year with an end-of-season finale: a climatic adventure in which multiple story lines piqué our interest.  Anyone who values nature and finds delight in scenic mountain vistas will appreciate these hikes in the heart of Forbes State Forest.

Beam Rocks is a popular destination for novice hikers and rock climbing enthusiasts alike.  It is one of the best spots in the Laurel Highlands to see into the valleys nearly 75o feet below.  As this hike is less than a mile round-trip, you’re apt to have some company.

While a mountain vista is impressive regardless of season, we tried to time this trip to coincide with peak fall foliage.  In mid-October, the foliage was still colorful but not the kaleidoscope of color we were hoping for.  In this area, peak foliage occurs during the first week of October.

Anyone who walks out onto these rocks, perched high above tree tops and takes in the breathtaking panoramic view to the east overlooking Somerset County and nearby Jennerstown, would have to agree, the sight is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

A mere 6-acres, Laurel Summit State Park is little more than a picnic area, but serves as the trailhead to some of the most widely known trails in Forbes State Forest.

Situated 2,739 feet above sea level on the summit of Laurel Mountain, the picnic area provides a scenic view of the Linn Run Valley.

The second best view in the Laurel Highlands involves a longer hike!  The Wolf Rocks Trail can be combined with the Wolf Rocks Loop and Spruce Flats Trail. Depending on the route taken, this hike is between 4-5 miles in length.  Mountain biking is permitted and the rocky terrain can yield many challenges.

 

Snakes are not uncommon in this part of the forest.  Indeed, even rattlesnakes have been known to come out to sun themselves on the rocks!

The forest yields evidence of the once-thriving logging industry.  What stands today is mostly a second-growth forest.

 

The path alternates between taxing breadths of rock and soft expanses of moss that are as thick and luxurious as carpet.

Club mosses occupy the majority of the forest floor.

Few hikes offer the solitude that the Wolf Rocks Vista provides.  Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and bring your camera!

 

The view spans west into the heart of Linn Run Valley and Chestnut Ridge.

  

Wolf Rocks Vista offers examples of frost cracks, frost wedging and slippage of Pocono Mountain Sandstone.  The rock outcropping sprawls nearly 100 feet and is nearly impossible to photograph in one shot.

A bank of rhododendron flank the rocks.

Before leaving Laurel Summit State Park, visitors should take the opportunity to visit Spruce Flats.

The highlight of the 305-acre Spruce Flats Wildlife Management Area is a 28-acre bog that provides cover, food and water for a variety of wildlife, including deer, turkey, waterfowl, birds, grouse, and other small mammals.

Today, the bog is nothing more than a depression at the top of Laurel Ridge.  It was created unknowingly by lumbermen who clearcut the forest of virgin hemlock, which they misnamed spruce.  Their damage to the forest caused the water table to rise and wildfires and erosion helped to shape the area into what it is today.

Cotton grass, cranberry, pitcher plant and sundew are some of the many plants that thrive in the bog.

 

Carnivorous in nature, pitcher plants eat a variety of small insects to survive. Nevertheless, small birds, frogs and even rodents have been known to fall prey to these plants.

    

And so 2011, we bid you adieu!  How will 2012 compare?  We never know what the future will bring, but we certainly can’t wait to kick-start the New Year!

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