While we don’t have the towering mountains of Glacier National Park or the Rocky Mountains, we do have the Allegheny Mountains.
The Allegheny Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountain range. It is a barrier range that has a northeast–southwest orientation and runs for about 400 miles (640 km) from north-centralPennsylvania, through western Maryland and eastern West Virginia, to southwestern Virginia. The principal settlements of the Alleghenies are right here in HBF territory: Altoona, State College, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania; and Cumberland, Maryland.
Blue Knob State Park is situated on a spur of the Allegheny Front which makes up the Allegheny Mountains.
The weather was perfect for this time of year. Sunny, light breeze, and temperatures in the mid seventies. It was a busy morning catching up on emails, returning phones calls, and creating new content for clients. I was itching to get outside. I grabbed my Teton Sports Rock1800 pack, my Camelbak water bottle, and set out for a hike. It was one of those spur of the moment hikes. As I pulled out of my driveway I still wasn’t sure what trail I was going to hike. I just knew I had to hike. So I headed for Blue Knob Sate Park.
I’ve hiked almost every trail at Blue Knob SP. All but one, the Rock & Ridge Trail. It’s a three mile loop with an inverted blue T blaze and listed as difficult. The trail is located on the west side of the mountain and begins by following a ridge on the main dome of the mountain. On this trail you’ll see mountain laurel which is the Pennsylvania State Flower. When the mountain laurel blooms in June it makes for a very scenic hike.
This multi-use trail starts at the picnic pavilion above the pool, then follows a homestead road weaving through the center of the park near a mountain brook. The trail is a steady uphill climb until it peaks near the mountain slopes and returns along the high ground connecting the ridge top east of the pool complex. This is a ridge and valley trail suitable for the whole family. Parking is located at Mowry Hollow Picnic Area.
By the time I arrive I was ready for a challenging trail and this one did not disappoint. The first mile and half was a steady climb up the mountain. The steepness of the climb would vary from moderate to difficult. When I reached the top I was ready to sit and take a drink of cold water as my total ascent was dialed in at eight hundred and thirty seven feet. I had settled on taking a break at the amphitheater, an area with flat rocks to create a seating area, a picnic table and fire pit. Boy Scout Troops and youth groups use this area for campfire meeting while camping and hiking at Blue Knob SP campground.
The trail takes you up the mountain deep into the woods. The forest is so thick my view in the distance was no more than a hundred yards at the most, but that’s how I like it. Secluded and away from the sounds of modern technology. Long ago settlers made their homestead in these mountains, and the trail is part of an old homestead road. Remains of the homestead can be seen from the trail if you look carefully. The earliest settlers to the Blue Knob area were of German descent. They cleared and farmed the land soon after the American Revolution. They also built several distilleries, a lumber mill and gristmill.
As the trail continues to loop around (I hiked it counter clockwise) you’ll come to a connecting trail named the Sawmill Trail. To complete the Rock & Ridge Trail loop continue following the inverted blue blaze marks. You’ll begin to descend the mountain to another ridge where the trail winds through the thick forest.
On more than one occasion wildlife crossed my path. A white-tailed buck sprang from his afternoon nap and darted deeper into the woods. Chipmunks ran, squealed across the forest floor, and a black bear off in the distance took a moment to glance at me before running into the brush and over the other side of the ridge.
The trail continues to descend down the mountain veering to the right and following a power line. It then winds its way along a the ridge with a gradual descent back to the trailhead located at Mowry Hollow Picnic Area.
The Rock & Ridge Trail at Blue Knob S.P. is a beautiful trail with challenging climbs, thick forest, natural springs, and old homestead remains. I am looking forward to hiking this trail again in other seasons.