The Standing Stone Trail reaches from Cowans Gap State Park to Greenwood Furnace State Park. Along the way, one of the unique areas that it passes through is the Rocky Ridge Natural Area. This section is located a little distance south of the northern terminus. What makes this area unique are the rock formations found here. Large pillars of rock stand tall on the ridge top as the Standing Stone Trail meanders amongst them. This is a favorite place for rock climbing and for bouldering and it was a great place to go for an after work hike.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 33.90'
W 77° 50.93'
|Trail Length:||3.2 miles|
|Hike Time:||2 hours|
|Near:||Rocky Ridge N.A.,
south of Jackson
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The trailhead for this hike is located south of Jackson Corner, within the Rocky Ridge Natural area. Heading from State College you will be traveling south on route PA26. In the village of McAleveys Fort you will come to a stop sign. Turn left here, continuing on route PA26 south. Make sure to stay on route PA26 by making the left turn 0.8 miles beyond McAleveys Fort. From McAlevys Fort you will drive about 5 miles where you will see a road sign for Martin Gap Road on your left. Turn here and drive for just a little over a mile where you will see a bridge to your left. Cross the bridge and make an immediate right. From the bridge crossing drive 0.9 miles and bear right onto Frew Road. After another half mile driving back Frew Road, you will see where the Standing Stone Trail crosses the road. There is parking available on both sides of the road here. Park your car and get ready for a leisurely stroll on the Standing Stone Trail.
From the trailhead for this hike we soon crossed a small stream. It was rather low at this time of the year, but there were some large stepping stones in place to assist for crossing during wetter periods.
Just after crossing the stream we started a climb that was a bit steeper than I was expecting. We only ascended 200 feet but we did so in about a tenth of a mile. This definitely got the sweat flowing and the heart pounding. At a quarter of a mile into the hike the climb leveled off and we had a pretty easy hike on the ridge top for the majority of the hike.
At about 0.3 miles we came across the first group of rock outcroppings. A sign here indicated that this group of rocks were called the 'Three Sisters'. The rock formations were quite interesting to view and it was fun hiking through and over some of these rocks. The trail meanders for a little less than a tenth of a mile through these rocks before it reenters the openness of the surrounding forest.
We exited the natural area at about 0.4 miles into the hike and we were now hiking in the Rothrock State Forest. We then came upon a powerline cut that afforded views to our left, and a short scramble up some rocks allowed us to look to the northwest on our right as well.
At a little bit past a half mile there is a yellow blazed side trail on the left. This is the route that the Standing Stone Trail once took, and is now called the Old Link Trail. We would hike back this trail to complete our circuit hike.
For the next 0.8 miles the trail hikes along the northwest side of Rocky Ridge, just a hundred feet below the ridge top. You will pass through more rock formations and there are other, dead-end side trails that go off to afford rock climbers better access to some of these formations. At 1.3 miles into the hike the trail cuts to the left and does a short ascent to the ridgeline.
At 1.5 miles into the hike, the Standing Stone Trail begins a sweeping turn to the left, doubling back on itself as it descends the south east face of the ridge. At this point there is a yellow blazed side trail that continues straight to Hunters Rock. This rock formation is a favorite for rock climbers. We took the short detour down to the rock to take a look at it then turned around and retraced our steps back to the orange blazed Standing Stone Trail.
Back on the main trail we descended gradually on a dug trail. At 1.8 miles the Standing Stone Trail switchbacks to the right to continue the descent to Frew Road. At this point we continued straight on the yellow-blazed Old Link Trail. This trail makes a gradual climb back to the ridge top. Along the way I noticed quite a few sink holes, surmising that part of this ridge must be made of limestone.
We did see some wildlife on this hike, including catching a glimpse of a deer crossing the Old Link Trail ahead of us. The vegetation was so thick along the side of the trail that we were not able to see the deer once it was off the trail. A little ways past this sighting, Tim scared a grouse out of its resting place. Of course, with all the noise that grouse make when they take off, it did a pretty good job at scary Tim as well.
At 2.4 miles into the hike our climb on the Old Link Trail ended and the trail began to level out and even descend a bit. At this point we were on the highest part of the hike at about 1240 feet above sea level. At 2.6 miles we were back at the junction with the Standing Stone Trail. From here we turned right and followed the trail back to the trailhead.
This hike was approximately 3.2 miles in length. There is are some ascents on doing this hike, but all-in-all it was a relatively easy hike to do. The rock formations were interesting and I've been told that this area is a great place to view wild flowers when they bloom in the spring. I also wouldn't mind trying my hand at climbing some of the rocks here, but I would need to find someone with experience that has climbed these formations before. With the wild flowers that bloom here in the spring and the possibility of doing some rock climbing, it looks like I have a couple excuses for coming back to hike through the Rocky Ridge Natural Area again.