Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — July 2011

Standing Stone Trail:
Ten-mile Hike with Two Outstanding Vistas!

by Gary Thornbloom

Standing Stone Trail Vista

Standing Stone Trail features magnificent vistas. · Photo by Gary Thornbloom

Standing Stone Trail from Butler Knob to Mapleton features dramatic views at both ends — one that shows you almost the entire northern section of the trail, and the second, with a constant cooling breeze, that looks northwest at ridge line after ridge line for as far as you can see.

Standing Stone Trail has been around since the 1980’s as a 71-mile link between the Mid State Trail and the Tuscarora Trail. For day hiking, each section of the trail has unique focal points. This hike is on a mixture of private, State Forest, and mostly State Game lands. The hike is in Huntingdon County and if you choose to begin at 2,300 feet in elevation and end at 600 feet, drop a shuttle vehicle at the community park in Mapleton and drive to Butler Knob to begin the hike.

Getting to Butler Knob can be tricky: about 8.5 miles out of Mount Union on SR747 turn right onto White Road; after 0.2 miles turn right onto Jacks Tower Road; after 0.6 miles bear right and continue up the mountain; another 1.7 miles and there is a large parking area, or you can continue for 2.0 more miles to limited parking where Standing Stone Trail becomes a footpath and leaves the road on which you have been driving.

On the south or Butler Knob end, Standing Stone Trail is in Rothrock State Forest. You soon enter the first of several deer exclosure areas. Signs state that this is “Protecting Your New Forest.” The number of seedlings inside is impressive, as well as the lush low-bush blueberries.

Standing Stone Trail

Climb up and through a large boulder field and stop to take in the increasingly magnificent views along the way. · Photo by Gary Thornbloom

Within the first two miles of hiking you come to the beginning of outstanding views. This also means you are climbing up and through a large boulder field, impressive in itself, but with increasingly magnificent views. Make certain you stop walking while taking in the views, and then go back to watching your step as you move across nothing but rocks!

As you make your way along this section look for blue blazes (you have been following orange blazes) that will take you to the Throne Room. Look for the blue blazes just as the trail drops steeply.

In The Standing Stone Trail Guide — available online at www.hike-sst.org or from Appalachian Outdoors — Mike Sausser writes:

...Throne Room Vista. I consider this the best vista on the trail. The main view looks north over the top of Jacks Mountain and the route just traveled. [we are traveling in the opposite direction, you are looking at what is to come] Ledge Quarry and the Thousand Steps area can be seen. The southern tip of Stone Mountain can also be seen curving into Jacks Mountain; From this vista you can see almost the whole northern section of the Link [now called Standing Stone] Trail.

Once you leave Rothrock State Forest you will be hiking on private land, and then on State Game Lands. Much of this will be on unimproved roads and on roads the Game Commission uses to manage their land. The views on this section come as you make your way along and then up a gas line right of way.

The roads provide easy walking and in late June had numerous wild flowers and several species of butterflies. You will also walk by a medium-sized catalpa tree that is loaded with two inch orchid like blossoms. On Game Land roads we also saw a grouse and her brood, and a turkey with her dozen or more poults. Both were near an area that had been planted for wildlife habitat.

The trail continues across the top of Jack Mountain. Just before the trail makes a sharp turn to the left and drops down the side of the mountain, look for blue blazes marking the spur that takes you out to Windy Vista.

The trail guide says that the breeze here is constant, and as we stepped out of the still forest onto the top of the boulder field, the promised cooling breeze was present. That and the seven buzzards circling below us kept our attention only briefly as the majesty of ridge after ridge led our eyes to the horizon.

The trail now drops 1,200 feet in the next mile. Most hikers will welcome this downhill section. As you drop toward Scrub Run you will hear the sound of running water as several unnamed tributaries join the source of the Mapleton Reservoir. You began this hike with a drive through and then up the narrows of Old Woman Gap, and the hike winds down through the narrow confines of Scrub Run. The trail comes out onto Hill Street at the edge of Mapleton and the orange blazes continue into town, and back toward your vehicle.

This is a 10-mile hike with spectacular views, interesting habitat and habitat restoration, and one more reason to find yourself on the trail enjoying Pennsylvania’s woodlands and mountains.

Gary Thornbloom is the Chair of Sierra Club Moshannon Group, and can be reached at bearknob@verizon.net