Western PA is home to some of the largest and most majestic rock formations in the Eastern United States. Huge boulders dot the landscape in Jefferson, Clarion, Cameron, Forest and Elk County, emerging from the ground and the water in unique and magnificent formations that have attracted visitors for hundreds of years. Let’s take a look at some of the more noteworthy rock formations found in our own backyard.
In Elk County, you’ll find a whole family of rock formations amidst the lush and verdant forest landscape. Most of the larger rock formations can be found on PA state game lands 44, near the historic town of Ridgway.
The most unique rock formation in the area is Umbrella Rocks. Roughly the size of a house, Umbrella Rocks is known for its unique shape, which is skinny at the base and round and wide at the top giving it the shape of – you guessed it – an umbrella.
Also in the area is one of the larger formations, Devils Den, which is actually a series of large boulders grouped close together. This type of formation is also known as a “rock city” and is created by two very slow, but very powerful forces of nature, frost wedging and soil creep. Frost wedging occurs when liquid water makes its way into cracks in the rock’s surface and then freezes. The frozen water expands and acts as a wedge forcing the crack farther apart and allowing more liquid water to enter the crack during the next freeze/thaw cycle. Soil creep is the act of gravity pulling the rocks to the lowest possible point. Combined, the two forces are responsible for turning one very large boulder into several smaller – though still very impressive – boulders, or a rock city.
Miles Rocks gets its name from the fact that it is approximately one mile away from the Elk County Courthouse. This is another rock formation like Devils Den, where the rocks are smaller fragments of what was once a large singular boulder. Explorers beware, some of the spaces between these massive boulders can become extremely tight.
A little farther off from the others, but still located on state game lands 44, the Indian Rock Trail and Formation is located just off the Clarion-Little Toby Trail and lies near the historic ghost town of Croyland. The Indian Rock Formation was part of a system of rock formations used by the Native Americans that lived on the Alleghany Plateau to provide shelter along their trade routes.
In Cameron County you’ll find the Fred Woods Trail, which weaves through some of the most majestic landscapes in the Elk State Forest, including some fantastic rock formations. Created in 1980 by the Camp Quehanna Young Adult Conservation Corps in memory of Fred Woods, a Forest Foreman with the Bureau of Forestry who was tragically killed in an accident while performing his duties. This 4.57-mile- long trail is marked by yellow paint and offers up scenic vistas of the valleys and rivers below as well as an opportunity for hikers to travel in between some massive boulders and see where they once fit together. There’s also a good chance for spying some wildlife in the area, such as deer, grey squirrels, and possibly even some elk! Head west on Route 555 from the town of Driftwood and then turn right on Mason Hill Road. The trail will be on your left and a convenient parking area will be on your right.
Near Clear Creek State Park is one of Jefferson County’s best kept secrets, Beartown Rocks, home to some of the largest rock formations in Pennsylvania. Upon arrival, visitors are offered a choice, take the marked trail to the left and enjoy scenic vistas, wooden bridges, large patches of rhododendrons and a historic site that marks one of the first oil-producing wells in PA. More adventurous souls can head to the right and explore the rock’s weathered crevices and pock marked surfaces. Both choices give visitors the chance to witness and explore these massive, glacial placed boulders.
Jefferson County is also home to an exciting formation of rocks with a historical and man made element. Scripture Rocks Heritage Park – which you can read more about on pages four and five – provide visitors with free access to approximately 1.5 miles of trails that tell the story of Douglas Stahlman and the rocks that he painstakingly inscribed with religious messages and biblical scripture. Recently designated as one of the “Top Ten Places to Visit in 2016” by UncoveringPA.com, Scripture Rocks Heritage Park provides an educational and exciting trip through the wilds surrounding the town of Brookville, PA as visitors uncover the mystery of Douglas Stahlman and his troubled life.
In Forest County, travelers heading along Route 666 can stop beside the Tionesta Creek and take a peek at Frog Rock. Residents in the area painted the peculiar looking formation years ago and it’s since become a regular attraction for passersby that want to see the frog poking his head out of the water.
Also off of Route 666 is Minister Creek Trail, which not only offers visitors the chance to spy some awe inspiring rock formations, but also some of the most beautiful woods that PA has to offer. An abundance of wildlife means that there’s a good chance to see some deer, eagles, raccoon, or even bear, and on the west side of the trail there’s an outcropping of rocks that, on a clear day, provides a view for hundreds of miles.
In Clarion County, visitors can head to Seneca Point Overlook and stand on top of a giant rock formation and gaze out at the Wild and Scenic Clarion River Valley below. Bring that special someone along in the evening hours and share a breathtaking view of the sunset.
Head over to VisitPAGO.com or call the PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau at (814) 849-5197 for more information on Life On the Rocks and other things to explore in the region.