Editor’s note: This story is part of the Road Trips special section.
Not too far down the road from State College is an area where day trip options abound.
“There’s no limit to the amount of recreation people can do in Penns Valley,” said Rebecca Bragg, Penns Valley Conservation Association director.
Hairy John’s picnic area isn’t a secret, but there’s rarely anyone there. It’s a “wonderful” refuge in the summertime because the way the forest has evolved, there’s an “intense” canopy so it’s cool all the time, Bragg said. The ground is covered in moss, and there’s a picnic area.
Poe Valley State Park, a few miles southwest of Coburn, has a beach and lake with 3 miles of hiking trails that connect to the trail network of Bald Eagle State Forest, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Mid State Trail also passes through the park.
Venturing into Bald Eagle State Forest to hike is another way to go.
People can hike down deep into some valleys where, because the terrain is more “treacherous,” there aren’t many wheeled vehicles going through, meaning it’s “really pristine,” Bragg said. It has huge rhododendron groves and areas where the creeks are running through the woods.
To get a grip on the topography of Penns Valley, head to Penns View, Bragg said, adding that it’s a “really neat place” to see the valley.
People love to come out to the area for trout fishing, she said. A lot of the creeks in the area are high-quality, cold-water fisheries, and some are stocked while others are wild.
The Feathered Hook, a fly shop and fly-fishing bed-and-breakfast in Coburn, even offers a guide service to help people learn the ropes or improve their skills as anglers.
Over in Spring Mills, Muddy Paws Marsh, a restored wetland, provides an educational experience as well as fun for all ages, Bragg said. It has walking paths, and people can go there for birdwatching.
Muddy Paws, owned by Greg and Mary Kay Williams, hosts an annual Frog Festival, and offers programs for school groups, community members and organizations upon request.
And if a laid-back activity is what you’re looking for after a long day of road tripping, consider a float.
Just south of Coburn on Tunnel Road, drop a car at one end of the tunnel, float around in Penns Creek as it makes a horseshoe, hop out at the other end of the tunnel and walk through back to the car, Bragg suggested.
I think what’s so cool about this area is that you can really come out here and spend a whole day getting a local experience.
Rebecca Bragg, Penns Valley Conservation Association director
“I think what’s so cool about this area is that you can really come out here and spend a whole day getting a local experience. You can go to the Elk Creek and eat local food. You can get guided around the creeks by local guides.”
Hitting the road
Hairy John’s picnic area: from Boalsburg, take state Route 45 east for about 30 miles; look for a sign on the left for Hairy John’s picnic area after entering state forest land
Penns View: from Boalsburg, follow State Route 45 east; about 5 miles after Spring Mills follow signs to Poe Valley State Park and/or Poe Paddy Picnic Area; cross Penns Creek on the Millheim Pike and head up the mountain; turn left on Pine Swamp Road; turn left on Poe Paddy Drive; Penns View is at the top of the ridge
Poe Valley: from Boalsburg, follow State Route 45 east until about 1.5 miles from Millheim; follow signs south for 12 miles to the park
Muddy Paws: adjacent to the Cooke Tavern Bed and Breakfast at 4158 Penns Valley Road, Spring Mills
Purple Lizard Maps: www.purplelizard.com
The Feathered Hook: 349-8757; www.thefeatheredhook.com