We wanted to do something different this New Years, something other than watching the ball drop at Times Square, fireworks, and staring at television screens. So, we got a cabin at Parker Dam State Park in the PA Wilds for some peace and quiet. I’ve been to this park a few times and have always enjoyed it.
The cabin was made of logs and was somewhat rustic with beds, fireplace, stove, and fridge. A bathhouse was nearby with water and a shower. And cell phone service was limited. Our first hike was in the park itself, on the Beaver Dam and Souders Trails. We were treated to an incredible winter wonderland. Snow had recently fallen, coating the hemlocks and pines with gowns of white, bending the branches down. We hiked along wetlands and beaver dams, as ice encased the water below. The Beaver Dam Trail began right at the cabin area and first explored a hardwood forest with some very large trees. We then descended to the beaver meadows, crossing them on a bridge. The trail then entered the pine and hemlock forests, the most beautiful part of the hike. The deep forests encompassed the level trail, it was a joy to hike.
The skies were overcast, but the temperatures were fairly warm. We reached the park road and walked to the park office and turned right onto the Souders Trail, a short loop with more winter wonderland scenery, and views of scenic Laurel Run, as it flowed through forests encased in snow. We passed a mountain biker, riding the trails on a bike with really fat tires. Next was a hike along the lake, dam, and the boardwalks before returning to our cabin.
Parker Dam has miles of easy trails that explore streams, wetlands, and different forest types. The park has a long logging history and was once a CCC camp, which built its impressive stone dam. The park is also the western trailhead of the Quehanna Trail, a 72 mile loop. It feels isolated, despite its proximity to I-80. I think the Beaver Dam and Souders Trails are the most scenic in the park, but also consider some longer loops in the nearby Moshannon State Forest. The Trail of the New Giants is a nice loop that climbs a hill with a view of the park. There are both mountain biking and cross country ski trails. You can also do a variety of loops along the Quehanna Trail.
The next day we traveled to SGL 44 south of Ridgway to find Umbrella Rock and explore the fascinating rock outcrops. That trip will be described in the next post.
As we drove home, we stopped by the Marion Brooks Natural Area next to the Quehanna Wild Area to see the white birch forest in the snow and mist. It was beautiful and captivating.
A great weekend in the PA Wilds and a great way to start the new year.
More info on Parker Dam State Park