Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — February 2006

A Figure Eight at Black Moshannon Park

by Dave Coleman

At the time of this writing, it is raining — melting what little snow remains from the last January snowfall of Central Pennsylvania. As we are technically in the middle of winter this month’s column is about cross-country skiing — even at the risk of not having any snow at the time of publication.

When the snow conditions in the Centre region are sparse, one of the places that one can find skiable conditions is at Black Moshannon State Park. When I visit the park in the winter, I like to ski several smaller loops — usually starting with the loops off of Hay Road Trail.

Black Moshannon Park Trail Map

Black Moshannon Lake Trial Map

These trails offer versatility in trail terrain and several options for loops. Hunting is permitted now in this section of the park, although I have never encountered any hunters on these trails. Also, these trails are not “multi-use;” you will not encounter any motorized vehicles. What will be described here is a figure 8 scenario using Hay Road, Indian, Seneca, Moss-Hanne and Bog Trails. The figure 8 can be taken clockwise or counterclockwise (direction of furthest loop of the “8”). The decision of which way to take the loop is a preference of how you like your downhill sections: either all at once — fairly steep, or taken over a longer distance. I will describe the latter, although I frequently take the former if there is deep new or wet snow.

Starting at Boat Area No. 3 (a great place to park with the view of the lake), proceed up Hay Road trail (yellow blazes), which is right across West Side Road from the parking lot, a little less than a half mile to the intersection of Indian Trail. Take a moment to inspect the trail sign as you will be returning to this point later in the figure 8 circuit. Turn left on Indian Trail (red blazes) and go a quarter mile on a pleasant slight downhill to the intersection with Moss-Hanne Trail (orange blazes). For the figure 8, you will turn right on the combined Indian Trail/Moss-Hanne (red and orange blazes). If you are a beginner and you are already tired you could turn left on Moss-Hanne Trail to return to the parking lot (read below for that description).

Continuing on the figure 8, you will go about half a mile to the point where Moss-Hanne Trail turns left. Before you reach this trail intersection, check out a couple of sidings that take you to the tributary bog — the second of which is a double spring feeding the bog. Do not continue to follow Moss-Hanne Trail, unless you have several hours to do the 11 miles around the lake.

One thousand feet past the Moss-Hanne Trail turnoff, Seneca Trail connects from the right. Turn right and take Seneca Trail (white blazes) up the only significant up-hill of the circuit. If the figure 8 is taken “counter clockwise” this downhill will likely be a source of the only thrills and spills of the day. Going uphill may be difficult for beginners if the snow is fast. At the top of this rise is the halfway point, as well as the high point, of the day and, therefore, a good place for lunch or a snack.

The forest in this part of the park is fairly thick with medium age trees, but the sun will shine through since most of this circuit is through deciduous trees. Only down by the bog on Moss-Hanne trail will you find evergreens.

After less than half a mile on Seneca Trail you will notice a couple of private residences on the left before you make the right on Hay Road Trail. Take it down three-quarters of a mile back to Indian Trail.

As you turn right on Indian Trail, you should notice that you have been here before. Run Indian Trail down again and this time turn left on Moss-Hanne Trail. This section (less than half a mile) is the roughest (exposed rock and roots) part of the circuit. If there is less than 6 or 8 inches of snow, you may want to avoid this section and do a backwards “P” instead of the figure 8, by running Hay Road Trail all the way back to the parking lot rather than take Indian Trail the second time.

Moss Hanne boardwalk

Black Moshannon Park’s Moss Hanne boardwalk in winter

The last section of the figure 8 circuit can be the most interesting. As you approach the road and lake, take a right on Bog Trail which is a boardwalk of about 1,000 feet in length. After passing the observation platform (worth a viewing) you will ski the four foot wide boardwalk around numerous twists and turns before arriving at the parking lot. The boardwalk has the distinction, when there is very little snow, of being the only skiable surface in the park.

If You Go: Take Route 504 or Julian Pike to Black Moshannon Park. Go across the lake on 504 and turn left on West Side Road. Go about 1.1 miles total to Boat Launch No. 3. You will pass Boat launch No. 2 a third of a mile before No. 3. Park maps can be obtained from the park office on Julian Pike right before the intersection with Route 504. The new maps (dated 2005) are much more accurate than previous versions — especially the representation of the intersection of Indian and Moss-Hanne Trails.

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Dave Coleman lives in Patton Township and volunteers for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club as well as the local Moshannon Group. Dave can be reached at dyatesc@aol.com