The northern trailhead for the Standing Stone Trail is located at Greenwood Furnace State Park within Rothrock State Forest. I had hiked many trails in Rothrock north of Greenwood but never ventured onto the trails found south of the State Park. For the past three years it had been suggested to me that I should hike the Standing Stone Trail. When the temperatures reached into the mid sixties in the middle of January I decided I would finally check out the Standing Stone Trail at it's northern terminus in Greenwood Furnace State Park.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 39.02'
W 77° 45.24'
|Trail Length:||4.4 miles|
|Hike Time:||2.5 hours|
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The trailhead for this hike is located within the State Park. There is a new parking area, located off of route PA305, with a large wooden sign indicating that this is the northern trailhead for the Link Trail. The easiest way to get to the 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.
This was a loop hike that included 2.5 miles of the Standing Stone Trail as well as a side blue blazed trail called the Turkey Trail. The Turkey Trail merged with Turkey Hill Road that I followed back to the park and the trailhead. The park office has a handout for this hike that you may want to pick up before clambering up the mountainside.
From the trailhead, the trail followed the edge of route PA305 east fro about two tenths of a mile, passing an old stone church. From here the trail followed along a fenced off tree nursery area, following an old jeep trail. The trail then entered the woods, still following the old forest road, with the steep sides of Stone Mountain to your right and a small stream in the hollow far below on your left.
The ascent was gentle and the trail well maintained as many of the blowdowns across the trail were cleared. The trail was plenty wide for side-by-side hiking. At about 1 mile into the hike I came across a winter vista. There were a large number of blowdowns to the left of the trail and with the leaves off the trees I had a nice view back into Rag Hollow and Thick Mountain beyond.
Traveling another quarter of a mile I came across a switchback on the trail. Make sure you keep your eyes open as you will be leaving the old, wide forest road that you had been following since the beginning of the trail and following a more narrow trail on up the mountain side. There is a sign posted here, as well as a double blaze, but I can see how someone engaged in conversation or enjoying the scenery to the left of the trail may miss this switchback.
The ascent on this section of the trail was a little steeper, but still a nice easy climb: one that doesn't leave you winded. However that was about to change. At 1.4 miles into the hike the trail makes a sharp turn to the left and begins a steep climb to the top of the ridge. The trail also leaves behind the old forest roads and traverses across a rock field, as is typical on Pennsylvania ridge tops.
At 1.6 miles the trail merged with what looked to be an old logging road or log skid that came in from the right. The trail turned left at this point, following this old log skid as it kept to the southern side of the mountain. The trail never reached the summit of the ridge, but seemed at times to descend back towards the hollow below.
However the trail did turn and finally climbed back to the the ridge top at about 1.9 miles into the hike. The top of Stone Mountain is somewhat broad and, at least on this section, relatively rock free. The trail made its way through a large stand of hemlocks that I am certain would have provided a cool break after a hard climb, even on the hottest of summer days.
At 2.25 miles from the trailhead I came across the Stone Valley Vista. What a gorgeous view. You could see for over 10 miles both east and west. Looking west you could see the rolling hills and farmlands of Stone Valley. To the east, you could see Thick Mountain as well as the radio towers located on Little Flat beyond that. The trail was a little icy here but someone was kind enough to have spread sand on the ice. There is a trail register here, so I took a moment to write in it and then spent the next 20 minutes just sitting on the rocks enjoying the view.
From the vista I continued southwest on the trail for about a quarter of a mile until I came across the intersection of the Standing Stone Trail and the blue blazed Turkey Trail. The Turkey Trail was a former log skid where loggers of old would drag trees down from the ridge tops and mountain sides. As is typical with old log skids, the Turkey Trail descended straight down the side of the ridge, making for a very steep trek down to the valley below. This would be somewhat treacherous if there was still snow or ice on the ground or in the fall when the trail would be full of slick leaves, but during this hike the trail wasn't that bad. I also had trekking poles with me that helped in my descent.
Descending 700 feet in less than a half mile, the Turkey Trail merged with Turkey Hill Road, a dirt state forest road that travels along the north face of Stone Mountain. Turning right onto Turkey Hill Road, I followed it for a little over a mile, passing alongside the camping area at Greenwood Furnace, and entered the State Park just a few hundred feet from the dam spillway. At this point there is an old cemetery along with a monument erected to Revolutionary and Civil War veterans of Huntingdon county.
From here I walked another 0.3 miles through the state park, just south of route PA305 back to the trailhead and my car. The entire hike took a little under 3 hours as this included a 20 minute break at the Stone Valley Vista. I was really impressed with the trail. It was well maintained, with clearly visible and well spaced blazes and free from obstacles. I was also impressed with the vista as it ranked up there with other impressive vistas that I've seen on the Mid State, West Rim, and Black Forest Trails. I know this was only the first two and a half miles of a seventy mile trail, and I am sure there are other sections of the trail that aren't nearly as nice or well maintained, but I am anxious to get back out on this new Pennsylvania footpath see what else the Standing Stone Trail has to offer.