Probably best known as a skiing destination, Blue Knob State Park is home to the second tallest mountain in Pennsylvania. While the elevation of 3,146 feet pales in comparison to the mountain ranges in the west of the country, the trip into the park was an adequate warm-up for Cecil’s first drive into the “mountains”.
Ashley grew up close to Blue Knob and spent many snowy days on the slopes learning to ski and snowboard as a wee youngster. She tried to teach me after we first met and I can say with certainty I’m now a pro at slowly (sometimes quickly) falling down a ski slope. Luckily for me it wasn’t snowing when we arrived in Blue Knob, although the park does receive an average of 12 feet of snow per year. I had only been to Blue Knob twice before this trip, both times in the winter and only to the ski resort – not to the state park area. While it was fairly rainy during this visit, it was certainly nice to see the park in many shades of spring colors rather than the brilliant white of a snowy winter.
Originally settled by Germans shortly after the Revolutionary War, the area around Blue Knob boasted a number of farms, distilleries, a lumber mill, and a gristmill. The forest was significantly impacted by the logging and lumber industry during the 1800s, much like many of the mountains and forests throughout Pennsylvania. The old-growth hemlock trees were clear-cut and the valuable lumber was hauled out of the mountains in railroad cars. After the logging industry harvested all of the usable lumber, the area was abandoned and left in shambles. Piles of discarded tree tops quickly dried in the sun, and passing steam locomotives actually set these piles on fire. The land was scarred by massive wildfires and the native wildlife was driven off by over-hunting and deforestation.
Blue Knob State Park would not exist today if not for the efforts of the National Park Service beginning in 1935. The park was created as a result of the massive conservation and reforestation effort directed by the Works Project Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, both groups created by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Through the work of these groups, along with the cooperation of Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot, the land of Blue Knob was rehabilitated and renewed, officially opening as Blue Knob State Park in 1945. The photos below don’t adequately relay the natural beauty of Blue Knob, and it’s hard to believe this area was clear-cut and burned over 100 years ago.
The park boasts 18 miles of hiking trails and we were lucky to cover maybe half of that during our stay. If you’re visiting the park, I highly recommend finding the Pavia Overlook off of the Mountain View Trail – the vista is impressive, and probably more so in the fall and winter after the leaves have dropped from some of the trees. You can also easily reach the Chappell’s Field Overlook by traveling up Forest Road by car. Then park your car and hike the Chappell’s Field Loop!Blue Knob State Park Trail Map
The camping area is fairly basic and smaller than our last state park stop (Codorus outside of Hanover PA). We were one of three RVs in the park for the first two days, followed by two more RVs and one tent camping family by the end of our stay.
The campground has 50 spots, all located around one large loop, with maybe half of the sites under trees and the remaining sites completely out in the open. If you prefer a more private site, steer clear of the sites inside the loop as they are open on all sides and practically on display for the entire campground.camp map
One small bathhouse is available, definitely not as clean and modern as Codorus, but perfectly adequate for a campground. The park also offers an RV dump station on site, as well as pet-friendly campsites. I attempted to take a quick video overview of the camping loop to hopefully provide a better glimpse into the area. No, your sound isn’t turned down or broken – I didn’t record any fancy audio to go with the video.
All in all, Blue Knob was a nice stop on our way to Ashley’s hometown. The hiking trails were a pleasant surprise, and the camp was quiet and relatively remote (we were there the week leading into Memorial Day weekend, but we didn’t stick around for the holiday). We’ve now arrived in Sidman PA and will remain here (or at least somewhere close by) most likely until at least July 4th. Stay tuned for tales of our travels and sightseeing in and around Cambria County!