Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — January 2003

Black Moshannon Snow

by Dave Coleman

For winter recreationists, this winter has been better than average. In fact, we have not had this much snow, especially at this point in the season for some time. If you haven’t been out in the snow yet this year, either you hate it, or you just need some advice on where to go.

Black Moshannon State Park is an exceptional place for winter enjoyment. The park, nestled in a tract of Moshannon State Forest, is just minutes away from the Centre Region and offers a variety of outdoor recreation. In the winter, cross-country skiing is very popular in the park. The trails in, and immediately around, the park are usually skiable even when there is little, if any, snow elsewhere in Centre County. This is due to the fact that the park is on top the Allegheny Plateau with the lake at an elevation approximately 1,900 feet above mean sea level and the surrounding park forming a shallow bowl. The high elevation and the bowl effect contribute to colder temperatures, and, in addition, more snow falls on the mountain compared to the valleys below.

Within the park itself, sixteen miles of trails are all suitable for novice and advanced skiers alike. There are several short trails on the west side of the park lake. A parking lot next to the lake adjacent to the bottom of Hay Road Trail is a convenient starting point. A few combinations of easy loops can be made with these short trails. The shortest loop involves a left turn on Indian Trail off of Hay Road Trail, proceeding a quarter mile and turning left again on Mosse-Hanne Trail. After about half a mile of this trail, you can finish the loop on the boardwalk Bog Trail for a total of one and one-quarter miles. Only beginners will be done for the day at this point. For a two-mile loop, start on Hay Road Trail; continue past Indian Trail another half mile and turn left on Seneca Trail. Less than half a mile, just after a moderate downhill, turn left on Indian Trail and go another half mile to where the second available right on Mosse-Hanne Trail will put you back on the second half of the first loop described. Advanced skiers will want to complete several of these loops.

The Mosse-Hanne trail continues around counter clock-wise around the lake in an eleven-mile loop. This loop is not for weak skiers. It winds around the bog headwaters of the lake in a serpentine fashion. Without a significant amount of snow, it involves negotiating wet spots and rocky sections. It takes considerably more time to traverse than more straightforward trails of the same length. It also requires a deeper snow base than the Hay Road Trail loops described above. The eleven miles include about 3 miles of a combination of other short trail sections and roadway shoulders to get around the East side of the lake. With a car shuttle, almost 8 miles of road-less skiing can be enjoyed.

For more experienced and adventurous cross-country skiers, the old “Ski Blackie” ski area offers advanced downhill terrain. Accessed from Route 504 a mile east from the lake, park your car on the side of the cabin access road before the gate and ski along the access road to within a hundred yards of the cabin. (Note, this cabin, and the ground immediately around it, are for the exclusive use of those leasing the cabin. Do not interfere with their privacy.) The ski slope is off to the right. On the right side as you look downhill is a winding “beginners trail”. This is the preferred ski route. If there is deep fresh snow, this should be a pleasurable cruise to the bottom. If icy or packed by snowmobile traffic, it can be downright dangerous on cross-country skis. At the bottom, you can ski back up the trail (not fun), or you can take your skis off and hoof it up the mountain along the old poma lift line or up the main slope (a good workout), or combine this downhill with a longer loop with the multi-use (snowmobiles allowed) trail at the bottom. If you encounter any snowmobiles on the slope or beginner’s trail, politely remind them that their machines are restricted to the trails marked for snowmobile use.

When looking at the park map, do not be tricked into skiing “Ski Slope Trail”. This was the hiking trail to the ski area (which was closed in 1981), and was never intended for skiing. It is narrow, twisty, rocky and steep in parts.

The Moshannon State Forest, which surrounds the park, features many miles of trails, most of them suitable for cross-country skiing. Sections of the Allegheny Front trail allow for long loops with other state forest trails and unmaintained roads. The Rock Run Trail system off of Route 504 east of the park is an excellent skiing opportunity when enough snow is present.


Park maps can be obtained from the Park Office which is on the right on Beaver Road a quarter mile before the intersection with Route 504. Moshannon State Forest District Public Use Maps are useful when skiing out of the Park boundaries.

If You Go: Black Moshannon Park is located on Route 504 between Unionville and Philipsburg. The park can also be accessed from Julian on the Julian Pike (also referred to as Beaver Road). It takes only 30 minutes to reach from downtown State College.


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