Living Columns & Blogs

Learn about Scotia Barrens’ unique natural habitat and the work to protect it

Join Centred Outdoors Sunday and Wednesday to explore the unique landscape of the Scotia Barrens (State Game Lands 176).

The Scotia Barrens, located just west of State College, is one of Pennsylvania’s unique natural wonders. This rare habitat is one of the largest examples of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens remaining in our state and it is home to a unique micro-climate that makes the area cooler than the surrounding region. This unique habitat makes it an extraordinary home for a wide variety of wildlife, and a primary source of groundwater, and a place to teach the next generation about the natural world.

While it is now used primarily for recreation, the area was formerly occupied by the town of Scotia. Like much of central Pennsylvania, the Barrens were logged extensively in the mid-1800s to support the charcoal and iron industries. Steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie purchased the land in the 1880s to mine for iron ore for his steel mills. Lasting reminders of the iron industry including building ruins and ore pits. The Pennsylvania Game Commission acquired the land in the 1940s and still manages the area that’s also known as State Game Lands 176.

The Scotia Barrens are now prime destination for outdoor recreation. Miles of trail cater to hikers and mountain bikers, while the Barrens’ ability to support wildlife draws both birdwatchers and sportsmen. The uniqueness of the habitat and the barrens’ geographic proximity to State College make it one of the most frequented outdoor recreation areas in the region.

ClearWater Conservancy is working to connect, protect and steward natural wonders like Scotia Barrens through programs like the Young Forest Initiative. The program is a collaboration of landowners and natural resource professionals committed to restoring the disappearing barrens habitat along with the many declining wildlife species that depend on it, including ruffed grouse, American woodcocks, Golden Winged Warblers, wood frogs and a variety of salamander species.

Photo provided

Adventurers who attend the Centred Outdoors hike on Sunday will learn about the Barren’s unique natural habitat and the work currently going on to protect it. On Wednesday, the hike will focus on Scotia’s intriguing history as an industrial village. Guests will also have an opportunity to learn about respectful and safe co-use with all types of users on the games lands.

Planning to attend this week’s adventure? Here’s what you need to know:

What: Centred Outdoors: Scotia Barrens

When: Sunday, with guided hikes at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Where: Scotia Barrens (Sate Game Lands 176), Circleville Park (Circleville Road side), State College,

Parking: Primary parking is the Patton Woods Recreation area with overflow at Circleville Park

What to bring:

  • A refillable water bottle

  • Sun protection including a hat and sunscreen

  • Sturdy and water-resistant footwear capable of walking on a forested path

  • Long pants and high socks may be preferred for additional protection from insects and ticks

  • A light snack or picnic, especially if you plan to come early or stay after the hike

  • Child carrier/backpack is recommended for very young children

  • Binoculars for bird and wildlife watchers

Difficulty of hike: This is 1.5 mile of moderate difficulty. The hike will be approximately 1.5 hours.

Additional Information:

  • Pets must be kept on a leash and owners must clean up after their pets.

Next week’s adventure: Centred Outdoors will be visiting Colyer Lake on Sunday, July 28 and Wednesday, July 31.

Centred Outdoors will host free, guided adventures to Centre County residents and visitors every Sunday from 2-5 p.m. and every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. through Aug. 6. The finalized schedule can be seen at, where users can log in to create their own profile, RSVP, and receive weekly emails about each event. While online registration is not required, it is the best way to receive event updates. Look to the Centre Daily Times every week for complete details about the upcoming Centred Outdoors destination.

Jon Major is the communications strategist for ClearWater Conservancy.