Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

The Bog And-Not-Quite Boulder Trail at JPS

Spring 2012, I decided to take Shari down to hike the Bog and Boulder Trail. The Bog and Boulder Trail is part of the John P. Saylor trail system, located south of Windber, PA. These yellow blazed trails make a cross-connector between the east and west sections of the John P. Saylor Trail. They also offer unique views of highland bogs and boulder fields. With a threat of rain in the air, Shari and I were only able to explore the Bog Trail. A short hike, but highly recommended for anyone looking to do a an hour to two hour hike in the region.

Trailhead: N 40° 12.89'
W 78° 43.64'
Total Elevation: 408'
Trail Length: 2.1 miles
Hike Time: 1.5 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 29
Near: Windber, PA, off
Route PA56

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In order to reach the trailhead you will need to find route PA56. The easiest way to reach route PA56 is to head towards Johnstown. You will probably approach Johnstown on route US219, either traveling south from Ebensburg and route US22 or north from Somerset and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Once on route US219, look for the route PA56 east exit. Coming from the south, you will encounter this exit prior to reaching the west PA56 exit that takes you to Johnstown. Coming from the north, routes US219 and PA56 will merge for approximately 2.6 miles before you exit route US219. Once you take the PA56 east exit, travel for 8.9 miles, passing through the town of Windber. You will see a sign for the Babcock Picnic Area on your right. Continue on route PA56 for another 1.2 miles and look for the Clear Shade Wild Area sign on your right. Pull in here at Shade Road and continue back the dirt road for about 300 feet. Here will be parking on your right. This is the trailhead for this hike as just a short distance past this parking area Shade Road is gated for the winter season. If coming from the east you may want to find your way onto route I99. Just north of Bedford is the intersection of I99 and PA56. Exit here and travel west on route PA56 for 17.9 miles. Access and signage for the Clear Shade Wild Area will be on your left. Turn here and follow the dirt road for 300 feet to the trailhead and parking on your left.

Shari and I were originally planning on doing an out-and-back hike on the Bog and Boulder Trail. However with the threat of rain in the air we decided for the shorter two plus hike on just the Bog Trail. We began the hike just off route PA56, at the intersection of Shade Road. There is ample parking here along with two kiosks: one showing the details of the Bog and Boulder Trail and the other showing the John P. Saylor and Lost Turkey Trail.

We left the parking area heading south-west on the yellow-blazed Bog Trail. This is an interpretive trail meaning that there are things to be discovered and learned on the trail. It is a great trail to take kids on. At the kiosk is a brochures entitled "Bog Path Educational Trail: Interpretive Guide". All along the trail you will see small stakes stuck into the ground along the trail with a number on them. The number corresponds to a number in the brochure which describes the feature to which the stake is posted near. There are 20 stations in all highlighting the various trees and shrubs found in and around this highland meadow.

After about 0.3 miles of hiking the yellow-blazed Bog Trail intersects with the orange-blazed John P. Saylor Trail. We continued straight past this junction as the trail continued its gradual descent. At 0.4 miles the yellow-blazed trail splits, with the south leg of the Bog Trail loop heading off to the west and the north leg heading straight. Actually I missed this intersection on the start of the hike and only noticed it once we completed our loop.

After the junction the trail descends a bit and crosses the upper reaches of the bog, crossing on a bridge at about 0.5 miles into the hike. Just past the bridge the trail enters a stand of pines where the trail makes a sharp left. There is a small campsite located at this sharp turn, just off to the right of the trail.

We came out of the pines and hiked along the north side of the meadow for about 0.4 miles before the trail jogged to the left and the path way became wet and muddy in places. We were now right on the edge of the bog and we could catch glimpses of it off to our left through the trees.

At just a bit shy of a mile we came upon the intersection with the Boulder Trail. This trail headed off to our right as it makes its way to Wolf Rocks. We paused here to wet our whistles before continuing on. Just a short distance past this intersection, no more than 200 feet, the woods opened up on our left and we had a great view of the bog. It was still early spring up here on the Allegheny Plateau and the green was just starting to emerge. Brown was definitely the color of dominance but it didn't take away from the view at all. We stood here for a bit, listening to the birds, and taking in the sights before continuing on.

The trail was now very wet in places. There were a few short bits of boardwalks over the very wet sections, but going was slow as we tried to avoid the wettest of areas. After a slow bit of hiking we emerged onto a long section of boardwalk about 1.1 miles into the hike. This took us over the stream and wet sections of the bog. From this vantage point you get the best views of the bog, even better than you get from the viewing platform. Past the boardwalk the hiking was much drier.

We were now on the south-east side of the bog and the trail headed back into the woods a bit where it was drier. At about 1.3 miles the trail jogged to the left, near the bog, and we came upon the viewing platform. We climbed up onto the platform to take a look around. The views were nice from up here, but not quite as extensive as they were from the previous boardwalk. We stayed here for a bit enjoying the view before we continued on our hike.

After leaving the viewing platform the trail slowly climbed up and away from the bog. At 1.7 miles into the hike we circled back around and intersected with the north leg of the Bog Trail. We turned right here and followed the trail back to the trailhead and our waiting car.

The rains held off for our hike and we didn't get wet. Not long after getting back to our car and driving home the rains started, so I knew we made the right decision not to attempt the entire Bog and Boulder Trails. I hope to come back some day and hike the Boulder Trail so that I can get a different view of Wolf Rocks. If you are looking to spend an hour or two hiking in the area, or better yet, if you have some young kids that want to experience the outdoors, than I highly recommend this hike. With the short hike and the interpretive guide, this trail is sure to be a hit with old and young alike.

The start of the hike near the parking area for the Bog and Boulder Trail.

Yellow-blazed Bog and Boulder intersects orange-blazed John P. Saylor Trail.

The trail meanders through the woods north of the bog.

Bog Trail meets Boulder Trail.

View from the north-west side of the bog.

I was glad to see this boardwalk. Things were getting a bit wet.

Observation deck located on the east side of the bog.

View from the observation deck.

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