I was recently in western Pennsylvania and decided to stop by two parks on the way home. First was the Roaring Run Natural Area and Watershed, near Apollo, PA (not to be confused with the Roaring Run Natural Area in the Forbes State Forest of the Laurel Highlands). This preserve has several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, not to mention a rail-trail. The trails lead to views, big boulders, a falls, and scenic streams. I hiked down the Rock Furnace Trail along Roaring Run. The trail was wide as it stayed above the creek, with hemlocks down below. Ledges draped with icicles rose over the creek as the sound of rapids filled the air. The fresh snow created a winter wonderland. There were also several large beech trees, and wild grapevines. The trail dropped down to the creek as Rattling Run joined; I had hoped to see the falls on Rattling Run, but it is private property.
I continued down along Roaring Run, passing a small falls and large boulders. The creek is very scenic with its large boulders and pools. I reached Biddle and Camel Rocks, but could not see any signs of an old furnace. The rocks were massive, house-sized boulders. The trail crossed the creek over a suspension bridge and soon reached the rail trail at the large Kiskiminetas River. I turned around to enjoy the many huge tulip poplar, beech, and maple trees. It is great to see many communities in western Pennsylvania embrace the outdoors with new trails, rail trails, and parks.
I then drove an hour east to Buttermilk Falls Natural Area, a park belonging to Indiana County. Here, the snow was deeper and soft, again creating a gorgeous winter wonderland. The falls is about 46 feet tall, located in a small gorge. It was once owned by Mister Roger’s grandfather, and Mister Rogers spent a lot of time there as a child, and the experience would later help inspire his famous children’s program. Trails lead to the top of the falls, but I wanted to see the bottom. I couldn’t find a trail, so I meandered down to the creek, passing through and between snow covered boughs of fallen trees. I made my way up the creek and to the falls as it shimmered in the bright sun with all its ice and snow. It was a beautiful sight. It is possible to hike behind this falls, but I did not. The water danced down the smooth face of the falls, fringed with icicles. I climbed out of the steep glen, trying to avoid sliding back down on the snow. Above the falls was an old basement ruin of the cottage that belonged to Mr. Roger’s grandfather, plus a small dam creating another falls. I returned to the car for the drive home.
Western PA has many scenic spots just waiting to be explored, get out there and see them.