Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — March 2011

A Woodland Hike in Stone Valley

by Dr. Stan Kotala

Penn State University’s 7,000-acre PSU Experimental Forest in Stone Valley, between Tussey Mountain to the west, and Stone Mountain to the east, includes more than 25 miles of hiking trails. This article will focus on a 3-mile loop of three trails in that area: Spearmint, Woods Route, and Mountain View.

This hike begins at the parking area across from the Stone Valley Recreation Area West Entrance on Charter Oak Road. Park in the grassy area around the loop and walk towards Charter Oak Road, crossing it, and proceed onto the Spearmint Trail which will be on your right. Follow the lime-colored blazes which mark this trail.

Spearmint Trail wends its way for half a mile through some long-abandoned farmland and descends towards Shaver’s Creek. The stream crossing here is via a picturesque bridge with hemlocks, tulip poplars, and beech trees lining the banks. Look for brook trout as you cross the bridge.

Ascending away from Shaver’s Creek, you will encounter first the Shaver’s Creek Trail on your left, and shortly afterwards the Mountain View Trail, also on your left. Continue onwards to the Woods Route, which crosses a small unnamed tributary of Shaver’s Creek via a tiny wooden bridge. Follow the Woods Route, which has aqua-colored blazes, parallel to this small tributary.

On the mile-long Woods Route, you can observe how the stream has cut though the shale outcrops on the hillside to your left. Many pools and riffles have formed, providing habitat for stream insects such as mayflies, stoneflies, and caddis flies. Black-nosed dace can often be observed swimming in schools along the stream.

The Woods Route crosses this unnamed tributary twice more, but, during high water conditions, the first crossing you’ll come to may be impassable, because there is no bridge. During times of low water you can walk or jump across the stream. If you cannot cross, then follow the stream for a quarter mile till you again encounter the aqua-blazed Woods Route and follow it to the right, upwards towards Shaver’s Creek Road where you will turn left and follow the gravel roadway for about half a mile, continuing left onto Hammond Road, on the left side of which you will see an American chestnut nursery behind a tall deer-proof fence.

At the end of the deer exclosure, you will encounter Scare Pond Road and to your left the Mountain View Trail, which runs between the fence and the road for a short distance. Follow the Mountain View Trail through this upland forest which covers a ridge just east and upslope of Shaver’s Creek. After about half a mile, the ridge descends to the intersection with Shaver’s Creek Trail, where you will turn right and then left onto Spearmint Trail, retracing your steps across the bridge over Shaver’s Creek and back along Spearmint Trail to Charter Oak Road and the parking lot where you left your vehicle.

If you do this hike on the weekend of March 26–27, then be sure to take advantage of the Shaver’s Creek Maple Harvest Festival and Pancake Breakfast on both days from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. PSU’s Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center has held this annual festival since 1984 to celebrate the first harvest of the new year and to teach people about the history of the maple sugaring process. At the festival you can learn how to identify and tap sugar maple trees and visit the Sugar Shack to see sap being turned into syrup; watch costumed interpreters demonstrate sugaring techniques used by Native Americans, pioneers, and modern-day farmers; enjoy live music and storytelling; see live birds of prey and reptile shows; and savor all-you-can-eat pancakes and maple syrup.

After you complete the hike, just turn left when you drive out of the parking lot and follow Charter Oak Road to the Stone Valley Recreation Area East Entrance on Red Rose Road, which will be on your right and follow the signs for the Maple Harvest Festival at the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

If you go: From State College, take Rt 26 south to Pine Grove Mills. Once you are in Pine Grove Mills, take Rt 26 south for 4.1 miles over Tussey Mountain and, at the base of the mountain, turn right onto Charter Oak Road. Stay on Charter Oak Road for three miles and turn right onto a gravel road directly across from the Stone Valley Recreation Area West Entrance. Park your vehicle on the grass around the loop.

Dr. Stan Kotala is the Outings Chair for the Moshannon Group of the Sierra Club. Upcoming outings are listed on our Outings page.