Purchases of our 2024 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book

2024 PA Calendar and PA Amusement Parks Book Purchase Options


Raymond B Winter State Park and Scenic Overlook: Union County and Bald Eagle State Forest

Raymond B Winter State Park, and its surroundings of Bald Eagle State Forest, are very pleasant and bucolic. There are seemingly endless woods here, only interrupted by some state forest roads, and a beautiful little CCC era dam and lake, named Halfway Lake, with a pleasant and popular sandy beach and picnic area. Hiking here is solid, and there is even a beautiful scenic overlook that you can drive to or hike to. 
The scenic overlook is accessible by road, or through a hike from the main area of the state park, just below. It is located on McCall Dam Road. 

RB Winter State Park has direct hiking connections to the Mid-State Trail, and there are also more than 6 miles of hiking trails within the state park itself. The following list from DCNR summarizes the trails:
Bake Oven Trail

0.96 mile  |  More difficult hiking  |  Connector trail  |  Orange blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, backpacking
Trailhead amenities: modern restrooms, picnic tables

This trail runs in conjunction with the Mid State Trail and takes hikers along the ridge top and through areas of mountain laurel and chestnut oak.

Boiling Spring Trail

1.41 miles  |  Easiest hiking  |  Out-and-back trail  |  Red blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling
Trailhead amenities: modern restrooms, potable water, picnic tables, benches

This trail follows the waterline originally installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Hikers can enjoy dense mountain laurel and ferns in route to the original CCC springhouse.

Brush Hollow Trail

0.73 mile  |  More difficult hiking  |  Connector trail  |  Orange blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, backpacking
Trailhead amenities: none

This trail runs in conjunction with the Mid State Trail on the park’s southern border. Hikers will see thick patches of mountain laurel and rhododendron. 

Lakeside Trail

0.6 mile  |  Easiest hiking  |  Loop trail  |  Red blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, mountain biking
Trailhead amenities: modern restrooms, potable water, picnic tables, benches

This trail circles Halfway Lake providing great views and passes the first CCC dam built in PA.

Laurel Trail

0.3 mile  |  Easiest hiking  |  Connector trail  |  Blue blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, cross-country skiing recommended
Trailhead amenities: none

This trail avoids the steep section of Bake Oven Trail and allows for a more gradual climb up Bake Oven Mountain.

Mid State Trail

1.8 miles in the park  |  More difficult hiking  |  Point-to-point trail  |  Orange blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, backpacking

The park is the middle trailhead for central PA's Mid State Trail. Stretching 327 miles from Bedford County in the south to Tioga County in the north, this wilderness footpath mostly covers public lands as it passes through start forests, state parks, and game lands.  The remote and isolated trail is excellent for backpacking trips.

Old Boundary Trail

0.77 mile  |  More difficult hiking  |  Connector trail  |  Yellow blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, mountain biking
Trailhead amenities: modern restrooms, potable water, picnic tables, benches

This trail connects Bake Oven Trail and Sand Mountain Road. Hikers cross scenic Halfway Run and its nearby wetland area.

Overlook Trail

0.88 mile  |  More difficult hiking  |  Out-and-back trail  |  Yellow/red blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking, mountain biking
Trailhead amenities: modern restrooms, picnic tables

This trail has many switchbacks to lessen the steepness of the mountain up to the overlook. Once on top, it continues along the ridgeline.

Rapid Run Nature Trail

1.09 miles  |  Easiest hiking  |  Loop trail  |  Yellow blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking
Trailhead amenities: modern restrooms, potable water, picnic tables, benches

Meandering alongside old growth hemlocks and white pines, this easy foot trail gives a great taste of the natural and historic experience R. B. Winter has to offer.

Rocky Corner Trail

0.1 mile in the park |  Most difficult hiking  |  Connector trail  |  Yellow blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking

Only a third of Rocky Corner Trail is in the park. The 0.3-mile trail continues into Bald Eagle State Forest to connect to McCalls Dam Road and Old Tram Trail.

West Boundary Trail

0.64 mile |  Most difficult hiking  |  Connector trail  |  Yellow blazes
Recreations permitted: hiking

This trail has stretches of steep, rocky terrain. It is a rugged, yet scenic hike.

They also have a campground and some cottages. McCall's Dam State Park is also located very close to here. For more information about the state park, check out their website at https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/RaymondBWinterStatePark


Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve: Wildflowers, Trails, & Historic Buildings in Latrobe

Pleasant and easily accessible areas to enjoy nature are critical for any community to become more united and relaxed. The Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve is a beautiful 50 acre tract of land that is otherwise surrounded by retail development on one side, the bustling intersection of Route 981 and US 30/Lincoln Highway, and the sprawling green campus of St Vincent's College on the other. This tract of land was threatened with suburban retail sprawl in the late 90s and Winnie Palmer, Arnold Palmer's wife, who served on the board of St. Vincent's, wanted this tract of land preserved for nature and the view of the beautiful St. Vincent's campus. After her death, her dream was realized. Since then, two miles of trails have been added throughout the property, historic structures have been preserved, and environmental education programs have taken root. Much of the property consists of beautiful flowery meadows that really pop in late summer and early autumn. 
This property is a community gathering place and also a wonderful place for nearby college students at St. Vincent's College to go and walk around at and relax. The barn was relocated and rebuilt here, and dates back to 1879. 

The Lochry Blockhouse on site dates back to the 1780s and was thought to be lost but was rediscovered in the early 2000s. During the Great Depression, a second floor was added to the building, hiding its old appearance. It was then painstakingly disassembled and rebuilt to original specs in its same original location. 

We definitely recommend checking out this nice public park area. It is very easy to see if you are traveling along the Route 30/Lincoln Highway Corridor. 


Black Gap Vista Near McCalls Dam State Park: Centre County in Bald Eagle State Forest

We hit Black Gap Visit as a pit stop on a ride northeast from Pittsburgh. It is a pleasant place to stop, definitely the kind of place that would be perfect to throw out a blanket for a picnic at. It gives a typically stunning view of the mountains that you see in this area. When we visited in August, the late summer wildflowers were starting to bloom at the lookout site. It was really quite pleasant.

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There are TONS of other nearby scenic overlooks. Be sure to check out our guide to the scenic overlooks of Bald Eagle State Forest through this link


Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct: A Bridge that Shaped a Nation in a Beautiful Location

One spot that I have been trying to get to for many years is Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct, in the most northeastern corner of the state, where the border of the Delaware River actually leads into New York State instead of New Jersey. This is a beautiful part of the state. 

Note the trough setup on the bridge, showing how the canal would have flowed across the bridge.

When we visited in June, the roadsides and cliffs were covered in Mountain Laurel. We were passing through the area en route to New England, and stopping here and the Hudson Valley en route. 

A demonstration of what the canal right-of-way looked like

We stumbled upon Monticello, NY and the original Woodstock location, which was completely unexpected and a pleasant surprise, with a giant rainbow in complete view over the Woodstock location. It is incredible just how much American history from all eras sat along this route. 

Anyways, back to the bridge. This bridge is stunning. It was an early project for Roebling, prior to him designing the stunning Brooklyn Bridge in NYC. It was built for canal use in 1847, but when that dried up (get the pun?) in 1898, the 535 foot span was converted to vehicular use. It is the oldest remaining wire suspension bridge in the world. This lifespan is aided through both preservation attention, and a design that has barriers to prevent ice floe damage, and also allowed for the preservation of business for logging companies of the day that would float logs down the river. Previous bridges would create a literal "logjam"  for that business, with logs getting caught on the bridge. The ice floe barriers prevented this. 

Most bridges that were used for canals ended up used like this for a little bit and then got demolished, or they sat derelict and were removed. This solid and sturdy bridge ended up being converted to pedestrian and vehicular use, and then was restored when recognition for its historic importance was realized. 

Note the top of the suspension bridge.

It remains the primary vehicular corridor across the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New York and a central focus for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreation River Corridor of PA and NY. The old bridge, and surrounding old structures are really neat to see, along with the rugged topography and natural wooded setting. This would definitely be a lovely place to spend a few days to slow down and recharge. 

As I walked down to the riverbank to get a view of the bridge crossing the river, a deer was standing there grazing on overgrowth. It is tough to see the deer in this spot, since I walked down with only my wide angle lens. The river pleasantly flows through this spot and it is easy to see how this is a canoeing, kayaking, and tubing destination. 

I expected this to be a beautiful spot, but even with those high expectations, they were still exceeded. The natural beauty of this overall region is really something special. The bridge is located within 30 minutes of Lake Wallenpaupack and Promised Land State Park, and within 40-50 minutes of most points within the Poconos, and within 40 minutes of Monticello, NY and the original Woodstock site. If you are crossing into New England on I-84, you need to detour and check out this spot. Highly worth it. Stop and have a picnic lunch during a road trip to refresh. On the PA side of the bridge, the small town of Lackawaxen has a few small businesses, and the Zane Grey Museum covers the early part of the writer's life as he grew up and started young adulthood in this small town. 


The Scenic Coastline West of Presque Isle State Park: Erie Bluffs State Park, Orchards, and More

Heading westward from Presque Isle State Park is something that is not done as often as they should. Today we head out westward along the shores of Lake Erie from Presque Isle State Park to Erie Bluffs State Park. Along here there are multiple marinas that are popular for people into boating. The protected inlets offer a great place for boat launches and protection for those out on the lake. Additionally, they are often at the headwaters for the different creeks that pour into the lake. In steelhead trout season, these creek heads are the place to be. The steelhead trout runs from Lake Erie into its watersheds are known as some of the best game fishing that the commonwealth has to offer.
A view of Presque Isle's peninsula from the western side. The first boat launch provides an excellent view, all the way out to the first lighthouse.

The shoreline in this area can be categorized as rolling hills, small gorges, and little glacial kettles that create beautiful wetland and field areas.
The boat launch at Erie Bluffs State Park. This secluded area is beautifully wooded and a prime example of what the coastline looked like prior to human development. It is an excellent spot to have a picnic, launch a boat, fish, or to just simply relax. The land was a Boy Scout Camp for a long time and it was owned by US Steel. It was proposed to be a new plant for US Steel to make access to iron ore shipments across the Great Lakes much easier with a plant set up right at the point it could be shipped to. The bottom soon fell out from this plan as the industry tanked, and the Western PA Conservancy purchased and preserved the land and transferred it to the state to become a new state park. 

Asbury Woods is located just south of here it offers a tremendous opportunity to experience nature for everyone, with a substantial wooden boardwalk trail that gives access to nature for everyone. Accessibility to the healing power of nature for everyone is a cause that I am very passionate about, having seen the struggles of families to be able to have access to nature for their loved ones. What Asbury Woods, near Erie, has done with their boardwalk trail is incredibly ambitious and powerful. For more info on visiting, check out this article
Mid summer is absolutely excellent throughout the region, with cherries, blueberries, and raspberries in large supply, thanks to the region being perfect for these berries. Come fall, grape season is awesome. If you go during the harvest, you will surely smell grapes. If you pass a vineyard in your car, the smell will often get caught in your vents. It is glorious.

All in all, the Erie region is one of our favorite places to explore.
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