Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — May 2011

Canoe Creek State Park
Moore’s Hill Trail: Rich in Wildflowers

by Dr. Stan Kotala


Jack-in-the-pulpit along More’s Hill Trail · Photo by Dr. Stan Kotala

A wealth of wildflowers can be observed easily along the Moore’s Hill Trail in May at Canoe Creek State Park near Hollidaysburg in Blair County. This 3.2-mile footpath encircling Moore’s Hill and traversing deciduous forest, old fields, thickets and riparian areas offers a moderate hike and visual delights to wildflower enthusiasts.

To reach this trail, it’s easiest to park at the Canoe Creek State Park Environmental Education Center. Follow the asphalt road leading down to Mary Anne’s Creek for a short distance till you come to a small gray kiosk. Turn left onto a gravel pathway, the red-blazed Limestone Trail, that separates the marsh on your right from the deciduous hillside on your left. Note the abundance of ferns, particularly evergreen Christmas fern, on the slope above you.

You will then cross Mary Anne’s Creek on an aluminum bridge. Continue upstream along the gravel pathway, noting the large luxuriant green leaves of skunk cabbages in the wet area at the base of the hillside, until you reach another gray kiosk near the large limestone kilns. Cross Mary Anne’s Creek again and walk through the rich streamside forest of beech, hemlock, tuliptree and basswood. This area is also rich in wildflowers, including trout lily, rue anemone, bloodroot, violets and columbine.

You’ll come to a fork in the path where you will bear right and cross Mary Anne’s Creek on a bridge once again and continue walking upstream. Look carefully at the ground to observe the heart-shaped leaves and shy purple flower of wild ginger. A little further up the trail is the site of the yellow ladies slipper colony, which is a spectacular sight around Mother’s Day. Thousands of these large bright yellow flowers cover the side of Moore’s Hill in May.

The blue-blazed Moore’s Hill Trail ascends the northwest slope of Moore’s Hill through a shaded forest of maple, hemlock and oak. Some of the ascent can be described as strenuous but short, and benches are provided at strategic locations for those wishing to rest and perhaps have a snack or just observe the forest. Here you can observe rue anemone, bloodroot leaves, columbine, and pennywort.

The footpath levels off for a while near the top of the hill before descending through a young forest full of redbud. This pink hillside of redbud is spectacular in May and can be seen from the Beaver Dam Road to the east. As you descend, you enter the riparian, or streamside, zone of Canoe Creek, which emanates from a forested watershed that has seen minimal development. Much of the upstream area is protected as State Game Land 166 and is home to bobcats, rattlesnakes and broad-winged hawks.

You walk closer and closer to Canoe Creek, finally ending up walking on an old railroad bed, with the stream on your left and vernal pools and a steep limestone hill on your right. Trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits, mitreworts, bellworts, bloodroots, mayapples, and skunk cabbages are common along this stretch of trail. At a wooden bridge over a pool to your right, turn uphill and climb stairs made of old railroad ties. Emerge from the wooded footpath onto a wider pathway bisecting a young tuliptree forest on the left from an old oak forest on the right and walk along the trail till you reach a large white oak at the wood’s corner on your right. From here you can observe the extensive warm season native grass plantings. Switchgrass, Indian grass, and bluestem provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

Continuing uphill, and still following the blue-blazed Moore’s Hill Trail, you’ll cross an asphalt road and follow the Moore’s Hill Trail into a damp hillside of hemlocks, beech, and black birch, rich in clubmosses and ferns. You emerge from the forest near the large limekiln complex and turn left, retracing your steps along the Limestone Trail back to your car and the Environmental Education Center.

Although the Moore’s Hill Trail at Canoe Creek State Park is a great hike at any time of year, spring is best because of its rich variety of spectacular wildflowers.

If you’d like to explore this trail with members of the Moshannon Group of the Sierra Club, then you are welcome to join us on Sunday, May 8 for the Annual Terry Wentz Memorial Hike honoring the former Canoe Creek State Park manager who served on the Juniata Valley Audubon board for more than a decade. Meet at the Canoe Creek State Park Environmental Education Center at 2 p.m. Contact Stan Kotala at ccwiba@keyconn.net or at 814-946-8840 for more details.

If You Go: From State College, take Rt 26 south to Pine Grove Mills. Continue straight at the light in Pine Grove Mills on Rt 45 and follow Rt 45 west to Rt 453. Turn left onto Rt 453 south and follow it to Rt 22 at Water Street. Turn right onto Rt 22 west and follow it for 11 miles to Canoe Creek State Park.

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