Our fall backpacking trip had us hiking close to home on the Standing Stone Trail. Starting at the intersection of the Standing Stone Trail and route PA655 just south west of Allensville, we hiked north east to the terminus of the trail at Greenwood Furnace State Park. Taking two days to complete this backpacking trip, I can sum the trip up like this: the first day provided us with a great trail for backpacking and the campsite was awesome, however the second day introduced us to a trail that made the most stalwart hiker give second thought to seeing this hike to completion.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 27.12'
W 77° 54.40'
|Trail Length:||20.2 miles|
|Hike Time:||14 hours|
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This was a shuttle hike and we needed to place a vehicle at the the end of the hike before making our way to the starting trailhead. The end of our hike was at the Greenwood Furnace State Park where we spotted my car. The easiest way to get to this trailhead is to come from either Huntingdon or State College. If you are coming from Huntingdon, you'll want to head north on route PA26. If coming from State College, you'll want to head south on route PA26. Coming from either direction, you will want to turn off of route PA26 onto route PA305 once you enter the town of McAlevys Fort. You'll head east on route PA305 towards Greenwood Furnace State Park. Once you travel for approximately 4.7 miles you'll find yourself within the park as the road passes just south of the dam and the Greenwood Furnace lake. Travel another quarter of a mile and you'll spy the trailhead off of the right of the road, directly across from the park office.
Parking my car here we all climbed into Jody's truck and headed off to the start of the hike. The route we followed was not the most direct because we wanted to drop off that evenings beverage treats near our evening's campsite. The most direct route to the trailhead along route PA655 is to continue west on route PA305. Follow tour PA305 for about 5.2 miles where you will enter the town of Belleville. You will find yourself at the end of route PA305 where it intersects route PA655. Turn right here and follow route PA655 west. Heading west on route PA655 you will drive through the town of Allensville on the way to the trailhead. From the point where you turned right onto route PA655 travel approximately 14.5 miles where you will see the orange blazed Standing Stone Trail crossing the road at a bridge. Just a short distance past the bridge is a large pull off area with plenty of room to park. Park the car here and get ready for the long hike back to Greenwood Furnace State Park.
There were 6 of us doing this hike and we all crawled out of Jody's truck and stretch a bit before we donned our packs. After some adjustments and double checking to make sure we had everything, we started the hike on an overcast day at about 11:30AM.
We hiked northeast along route PA655 for about 0.2 miles where we crossed a bridge and then turned left off the road onto the Standing Stone Trail. The trail soon began a switchback climb up the southwest face of Stone Mountain. After a half mile of hiking our climb leveled off a bit as the trail merged with an abandoned forest road.
After 0.9 miles the trail leaves the abandoned road and becomes a single track as it traverses through the woods. The hiking was nice on this section of the trail as the sun peeped out through the clouds to illuminate the woods for a few seconds before heading back behind the clouds. At just a bit before 2 miles the trail makes a sweeping turn to the left and begins a descent down the mountain side.
After some twists and turns we passed through a logging clearing and emerged on an old road at about 2.2 miles. We followed this old road for about a half mile before the trail turned off to our right. Soon we emerged into a view on a powerline. Turning right in this clearing we climbed a bit before reentering the woods.
We were only in the woods for less than a quarter mile before we emerged into another powerline clearing. This was a double powerline and gave us a nice view into the valley to our left. We paused here a bit to refresh ourselves before continuing on into the woods.
At 3.7 miles the trail makes a sweeping left as it once again descends down the ridge. At 3.8 miles we make a sharp right and begin to climb the ridge once again.At 4.3 miles our climb ends as we make a gradual left and begin to descend once again. We were leaving Stone Mountain behind and would seen be hiking along the shelf and front ridge where the trail get's its name from the rock formations here.
The trail meanders as it continues the descent and reaches the lowest elevation on this hike at 4.7 miles. Turning right here we climbed up into the shallow valley between the front ridge and Stone Mountain. This is where we spied our first rock outcroppings. These large sandstone formations stand straight and tall, jutting out of the ground and towering over us as we hike along the trail.
For the next 2 miles the Standing Stone Trail meandered in amongst the stones on the front ridge. The elevation changed a bit, but for the most part it was relatively level. It was a pleasure hiking this section of the trail as we enjoyed viewing the odd rock formations around us.
At 7.4 miles we made a sweeping right turn away from the front ridge as we began hiking in the valley between the ridge and Stone Mountain. Turning left at 7.5 mile the trail made a gradual descent.
At about 8 miles large sink holes began to appear along the trail. One of these holes was particularly deep and the trail was routed up the hillside to the left of it to avoid its deep recesses. At 8.1 miles the trail crosses an intermittent stream where it makes a sharp right and heads up the west face of Stone Mountain.
At 8.3 miles the trail turns to the left and levels out. After three tenths of a mile the Standing Stone Trail makes a sharp left where it follows the remains of Carbon Trail. After a tenth of mile the trail emerges at the turn about located at the end of Frew Road.
This was the point where we stashed our evenings beverages. We picked these up and continued our hike as we once again climbed the front ridge. We were heading towards Hunter's Rocks, a popular area for local climbers. At 9.2 miles we reached Hunter's Rocks and the top of the ridge. There is a large campsite here and this was the point where we ended our day's hike and set up camp.
We soon had our tents set up amongst the rocks and a nice campfire burning. After a meal of shells and cheese along with some rice we climbed to the top of one of the rock formations at Hunter's Rocks and enjoyed a colorful sunset. After the sun set we climbed back down to sit around the fire. Soon I was off to bed while the others continued to socialize around the fire and enjoy the tasty beverages we brought along on the trip.
We got going pretty early on Sunday morning because we knew we had a long day ahead of us. According to our calculations we had a trek of about 11 miles ahead of us, including the steepest climb of the hike as we made our way to the top of Stone Mountain.
We used up all of our water from the previous day as we rehydrate and made our breakfast. I was rather certain we were going to pass a water source prior to our climb so we didn't bother backtracking to the stream we crossed the day prior. It was just a bit past 9:00AM when everyone was packed up and we started our long day of hiking.
We started the day hiking along the top of Rocky Ridge. Like the day before, the trail meandered in and out of the rock formations. At 10.3 miles we passed through a power line clearing with some very impressive rock spires near the ridge top. After crossing the clearing we entered the Three Sisters rock formation. This was a bit tough navigating with a pack on as the trail made its way through some narrow cracks and crevices. Luckily we only had less than a tenth mile walking through these tights rocks before we emerged and began the descent off Rocky Ridge.
At 10.6 miles we crossed a dry creek bed before emerging onto Frew Road. I was a bit concerned as I was thinking we would get water at this stream crossing. Since it was empty we had no choice but to continue on. Recalling the maps of the area I was pretty certain we would cross another small stream before we reached the mountain top. As I had surmised, we crossed a small mountain stream at about 10.9 miles into the hike. We stopped here an filtered water, topping every one off before we got back on the trail.
We were now on the steep ascent as we climbed to the top of Stone Mountain. At 11.5 miles the climb got a lot steeper as the trail made a sharp left as we entered a rocky section of the trail. The trail cut its way along the face of the mountain as we made a steady ascent. At 12.2 miles the trail crossed Allensville Road, within sight of the ridge top. After another two tenths of a mile we all met up at the top of the mountain as we wet our whistle and ate a little summer sausage before we continued on with the hike.
Aside for the steep climb we just did, the trail had been rather enjoyable to hike up to this point. It was all about to change. We were now on top of Stone Mountain. We soon learned how the mountain got its name. Ridge top hiking is nice as you do get opportunities for vistas and views of the valley below. On this section of the trail we had some of these opportunities. However, no one really noticed the views as we hiked along this rocky section of the trail.
For the next four miles the trail followed the spine of the ridge, across the rockiest sections of the mountain top. There were a few reprieves from the rocks as the trail dipped down one side of the mountain or the other. These short, relatively rock-less sections of trail were like an oasis in the desert. But they didn't last long and we would find us back onto a rocky trail. The most tiring part of hiking over the rocks was the attention that needed to be paid as to where you placed your feet. The rocks varied in size, orientation, and placement. The bottom of your feet got sore quickly and you became not only physically exhausted by mentally as well as you intensely concentrated on the rocky trail.
At a little over 16 miles into the hike we reached the intersecting Pole Trail. We had hiked about 7 miles since we broke camp in the morning. It was 3:00PM. Quick calculations indicated that we hiked 7 miles in 6 hours. Not quite a land speed record. We had another 5 miles to go and at the current rates achievable on this rocky trail, it would be after dark till we got back to the car. We made a group decision to leave the Standing Stone Trail behind us, hike down the Pole Trail, and walk Turkey Hill Road back to the state park.
As we headed down the Pole Trail we could all tell that the hike was working on us as our legs were stiff from our short break. After a three tenths of a mile of hiking down the Pole Trail we emerged on to the Turkey Hill Road with limber legs and ready to finish off this hike. We turned right and hiked the road back towards the state park.
This last part of the hike was uneventful and pretty easy going, as would be expected while hiking a gravel forest road. The hiking was level but at 17.3 miles the road descended a bit before climbing again at 18.3 miles. A short climb in the road had us finishing our descent and emerging along route PA305 at 19.9 miles. A short distance more and we were back at my car and the end of this hike.
Our original plans for our fall backpack was to hike the Quehanna Trail. A forecast for bad weather had us reconsider and decided on hiking closer to home. The first day of this hike on the Standing Stone Trail was quite enjoyable and the weather cooperated to make for an awesome camping experience. And even though the weather cooperated on the second day of hiking, the trail did not. My suggestion for anyone considering hiking this section of the Standing Stone Trail: do the piece between Greenwood Furnace State Park and Martin's Gap as a dayhike. We a light pack, or no pack at all, and a fresh start, this rocky section of trail would be much more manageable. But after a long day of hiking and a 40 pound pack on your back, this trail was a bit more than I was expecting. I suppose I'll have to head back out next year and day hike from the Pole Trail to the state park so that I can say I hiked this entire section of trail.