We recently spent a weekend at the Stone Valley Recreation Area. The recreation area is located within a 7000 acre experimental forest owned by the Pennsylvania State University. The recreation center itself includes includes a 72 - acre lake, a resident camp facility, a day use recreation site, the Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, and more than 700 acres of varied eco-systems. We stayed in a cabin rental for two nights and took advantage of the day use recreation site. This was our third stay at Stone Valley and during this stay we decided to fit a hike into our schedule.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 40.59'
W 77° 54.42'
|Trail Length:||1.4 miles|
|Hike Time:||1 hour|
|Near:||Stone Valley Recreation
Area near Shaver's
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On previous visits to Stone Valley we had hiked other trails in the area, most of them located on the ridge behind the cabins and along the lake. All in all there are over 25 miles of trails for hiking and, if you prefer winter activities, most of them can be used for cross country skiing.
The previous summer my daughter had stayed here for a week long camp dedicated to grouse hunting. Aside from shooting at clay pigeons, the camp included a hike in an area of the forest that was an ideal habitat for woodcocks. So we decided that we would hike the Woodcock Trail.
The Woodcock Trail actually follows the Ironstone Trail for about 0.75 miles. The Ironstone Trail is a spur of the Mid-State Trail that descends from the ridge line of Tussey Mountain to visit Lake Perez in Stone Valley. It then gradually ascends and reconnects with the Mid State Trail by the Beaver Pond along Pine Swamp Road.
The trailhead for the Woodcock Trail is on Red Rose Road, the road you turn onto from Charter Oak Ra od to reach the Stone Valley Recreation Area and Shaver's Creek Environmental Center. To reach the trail head you will need to get yourself on to route PA26. Route PA26 can be found off of route US322 in State College and route US22 in Huntingdon. If you are coming from the north, make your way to Pine Grove Mills, either on PA26 or route PA45. Once you are in Pine Grove Mills, take PA26 south for 4.1 miles. You will go over Tussey Mountain and when you are almost at the end of your descent you will turn right onto Charter Oak Road. Stay on Charter Oak Road for 1.7 miles and look for signs that indicate you are approaching the East Entrance of the Stone Valley Recreation Area. Turn left onto Red Rose Road and you will see a sign for the Woodcock parking area 0.2 miles on your left. If you are coming from the south, from route US22, turn onto north PA26 in the town of Huntingdon. From the intersection of PA26 and US22 stay on route PA26 north for 23.5 miles. You will then turn left onto Charter Oak Road at the base of Tussey Mountain. Stay on Charter Oak Road for 1.7 miles and look for signs that indicate you are approaching the East Entrance of the Stone Valley Recreation Area. Turn left onto Red Rose Road and you will see a sign for the Woodcock parking area 0.2 miles on your left.
The Woodcock trail itself is a one mile loop. However, until you walk from the parking area and back into the woods where the loop begins, the total hike will be closer to 1.4 miles. As I mentioned earlier the Woodcock trail follows the Ironstone Trail for about 0.75 miles. The Woodcock trail is blazed orange while the Ironstone Trail is blazed blue. You need not worry about getting lost as there are many signs pointing you in the correct direction for the Woodcock trail.
The Woodcock Trail is a great hike for kids. Not only is it short and pretty much flat, but it is an educational trail. There are nine stations along the trail that explain the habitat of the woodcock. The American Woodcock is a shorebird that makes its home in forest with open, shrubby areas. They eat mainly earthworms and are similar to the Snipe and Ruffed Grouse. Unfortunately we did not see any during our hike. When they are on the forest floor they are well camouflaged and are normally only seen in the evening hours when they take flight.
One of the activities that we did on this hike, aside from learning all about the woodcock, was to try and identify some of the native trees found in Pennsylvania. Equipped with a reference book we were able to identify quite a few conifers and a couple deciduous trees. I was actually surprised to see so many different spruce trees in this area. We were even able to identify the eastern larch. The eastern larch is the only native conifer that will lose it's needles in the fall and grow new in the spring, just like deciduous trees.
The Stone Valley Recreation Area offers many activities. There is the Shaver's Creek Environmental Center with it's aviary, Lake Perez with boating and fishing, and of course the many hiking trails. I am sure that we will be visiting again in the not so distant future and I hope to list some of the many other trails available here.