Flower photo by John Verdill
The Mountain Laurel, Pennsylvania’s state flower, is perhaps the most beautiful of all our native shrubs. These large rhododendron-like flowers can be seen blossoming in June throughout Pennsylvania’s forestlands. The best place to see Mountain Laurel is to visit the beautiful Laurel Fields near Clear Creek State Forest, just north of Brookville in Jefferson County.
The Laurel Fields feature hundreds, if not thousands of laurel bushes, across acres of open lands that you can wander through to enjoy the lovely pink blossoms and dark evergreen leaves of the plants. You can also drive around the fields on a winding country road. The Laurel Fields became a popular attraction when a regional natural gas company purchased the property from farmers in 1929. The company allowed the “Flower Power” fields to revert to a dense concentration of mountain laurel. The fields began to have such local significance that the company opened the fields to the public in 1935. The first laurel festival was held at the site in 1936. The festival became an annual community event, featuring entertainment as well as the crowning of the laurel queen.
Today, the Western PA Laurel Festival takes place on Main Street in the town of Brookville. It’s happening this summer June 21-25 and will feature a parade, carnival rides, crafts and sidewalk sales, battle of the bands, karaoke, and food.
In 2006, the Laurel Fields were acquired by the state’s Bureau of Forestry. The fields are open to the public from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but June is absolutely the best time to see the flowers in bloom.
The Laurel Fields make the perfect backdrop for the annual Fat Tire Challenge Mountain Bike Race. Coursing around rocks, roots, and obstacles, the 14+ mile race is both challenging and fun. Experts can complete an additional 10-mile loop. Kids can race too! A half-mile loop of dirt trail around the Laurel Fields is a fun experience. The event is June 17th as part of the Bike the Wilds racing series.
In addition to the Laurel Fields, mountain laurels and rhododendron abound throughout 16,000-acre Clear Creek State Forest, which has 35 miles of trails to explore, as well as Beartown Rocks, an amazing array of house-sized boulders created by glaciers. There is also a diverse collection of trees and a wide variety of birds and wildlife to see. Equestrian and mountain bike riding is permitted.
Find more information to plan a trip at VisitPAGO.com or call PA Great Outdoors Visitor Bureau at (814) 849-5197.