ABOUT THE TRAIL>>
The Standing Stone Trail was first laid out in the late 1970s by a handful of forward thinking hiking enthusiasts. Originally 68 miles in length, today with the addition of the Greenwood Spur in 2014 it is over 80 miles long. Elevations run from a low of 660 feet to a high of 2380 feet at the Greenwood fire tower. The footpath links the Tuscarora Trail in the south at Cowans Gap State Park, to the Mid State Trail several miles north of Alan Seeger Natural Area. The trail is part of the 1,800-mile Great Eastern Trail, which starts at the Florida-Alabama state line and extends to the 950-mile long Finger Lakes Trail in New York.
The trail passes through vast tracts of State owned land, traversing four State Game Lands (SGL #81, #99, #71 & #112), two State Forests (Buchanan and Rothrock) and one Natural Area (Rocky Ridge). It runs through Huntingdon, Mifflin, and Fulton Counties in southeast Pennsylvania. In some instances, the trail utilizes private lands thanks to partnerships with numerous private landowners who generously allow hikers passage along the orange blazed route. The trail can be reached within four hours from anywhere in Pennsylvania and less than two hours from Washington, DC.
Traveling south to north, the first historical point on the trail in Fulton County is a stretch of railroad grade known as Vanderbilt’s Folly. During the late 1800s William Vanderbilt started building a railroad to compete with the powerful Pennsylvania Railroad. His crews dug several tunnels through the mountains and smoothed out a grade to install culverts and bridges. The project went bankrupt and was never completed. Around 1940 much of the right-of-way and some of the tunnels became part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Also in Fulton County, the valley to the west of the SST is the historic Native American trail called the Standing Stone Path, which connected Fort Littleton with Fort Standing Stone, today called Huntingdon. As the area became industrialized in the mid 1800’s, surrounding forests were harvested for lumber, railroad ties, and burned to make charcoal that wascarted to the furnaces to melt the iron ore. Hundreds of charcoal burning furnaces sprang up produce iron for a rapidly expanding nation. The trail makes use of many of the old logging trails, log slides and railroad grades used to take logs to collier camps for charcoal production. The trail passes more than 70 charcoal flats, and the remains of at least one logging camp.
Just before entering Huntingdon County, a yellow blazed side trail can be taken to Monument Rock, our trail’s iconic logo. It is a perfect setting to stop to grab a bite to eat while enjoying the rocky vista.
After a few miles of road walk, the trail comes to the first of two trail towns, Three Springs, where the hiker can resupply.
North of the second trail town, Mapleton, the trail crosses the Juniata River at Jacks Narrows, the deepest water gap in the State. Soon afterwards is another point of interest called the Thousand Steps. Located in Jacks Narrows near Mount Union, the steps were built in the 1950s by quarry workers who cut away a large slice of Jacks Mountain to quarry the ganister stone used to make silica bricks. The quarry opened around 1900, with its heyday in the early 1920’s. Local factories each day turned out nearly a half million bricks to earn Mount Union the title ofBricktown USA.
About a mile east of the Thousand Steps, now hidden by US Route 22, was the junction of two major American Indian Paths, the Juniata Path and the Frankstown Path. At this location in 1744, a trader named Jack Armstrong was killed by Indians. Jacks Mountain and Jacks Narrows are named for him.
After climbing up and over Jacks Mountain, the trail passes Oriskany sandstone formations that offer both scenic interest to hikers and a challenge to rock climbers. Along with the Climbing Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania, there is now legal access via a yellow blazed side trail to Hunter's Rocks, a climber’s haven. This is the start of a wondrous hiking area, known as Rocky Ridge Natural Area. The region features a rare wildflower called obolaria, which grows only in one other place in Pennsylvania. The endangered putty root orchid, along with hundreds of lady slippers also can be found here. As the wildflowers bloom, this area is truly a place of beauty in late spring and into early summer.
The trail gently climbs to the top of the next ridge, home to Stone Mountain Hawk Watch and numerous fabulous vistas into Stone Valley on one side and Big Valley on the other. The rocks on the trail have been leveled for many miles, making the hike thoroughly enjoyable especially for older hikers.
The trail winds down Stone Mountain to arrive at Greenwood Furnace State Park. Established in the mid 1800’s, this historic furnace was also one of the last to shut down. The furnace and many of its support structures still stand. The park’s visitor center and museum are fabulous and well worth visiting. While passing through, pick up an educational program, or take a dip in the cool, spring fed lake, and stop by the concession stand to recharge in the warm summer months.
Heading north on the Greenwood Spur section, the trail passes the historic Greenwood fire tower, then drops quickly into Alan Seeger Natural Area, home to virgin stands of giant hemlock trees. Several bridges cross several streams, including the sparkling clean Detweiler Run. The trail joins the Mid State Trail in Detweiler Run Natural Area.
In summary, a hike on the Standing Stone Trail is a hike that will take you back in time from the 1700s to today. This historical trip is done by using a most interesting route traversing rugged mountains with many vistas, to gentle sloping benches covered with blueberry bushes.