Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — September 2009

Whipple Lake Trail

by Helena Kotala

If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike close to home, then check out the Whipple Lake Trail at Whipple Dam State Park. The park is located only 12 miles from State College, and offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including picnicking and pavilion rentals, a beach area, and boat rentals in the summer months.

Whipple Lake Trail is approximately 3 miles long and does not have rocky technical sections or mountains to climb, so it is perfect for families or anyone new to hiking. It also offers a variety of habitats and many opportunities for wildlife watching.

It is easiest to access the trail from the beach side of the lake. Park, then walk upstream along the edge of the lake until you come to the sign proclaiming the beginning of the Whipple Lake Trail. Before entering the forest, stop and take a look out onto the vegetated portion of the lake. If you are lucky, you may see a painted turtle basking on one of the partially submerged logs, or maybe a muskrat or beaver gliding through the water.

Begin hiking through the woods, and notice how the habitat changes from lakeside to streamside hemlock forests. The ground tends to be a little muddy, especially after a rain, so wear appropriate footwear! Along this stretch of trail, there are many scenic spots along the stream to take a break or take some photos. After hiking about a mile and a half, you will come to a bench on the right hand side of the trail and a bridge crossing Laurel Run. Cross the bridge, and this begins the only uphill section of trail, a short climb up Rudy Ridge.

Before you know it, the climb will be over and you will be strolling along a flat path that follows the top of the hill. Whipple Lake will be to your left, but it will hardly be visible through the woods. The trail then joins with Beidler Road for a few hundred yards before descending the ridge.

You will come out of the woods across the lake from the beach, at a parking area and pavilions. As you cross the bridge back to the beach area, take notice of the dam, for which the park is named. The original dam was built slightly downstream from the existing dam in 1868 by Osgood M. Whipple for use for his sawmill. It was rebuilt in 1927, and then the present dam was constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

If your stomach is grumbling after the hike, sit down and have a picnic in the park, or stop at Doan’s Bones Barbeque or the Whipple Dam Store, both located on the way out of the park.

If You Go: From State College, take Rt. 26 south over Tussey Mountain. The entrance to Whipple Dam State Park is about 12 miles south of State College, on the left. After turning, follow the road for a few hundred feet, then make a right when the road forks. Keep following the paved road, then make a left into the main parking area when you see the sign for Whipple Dam State Park.


Helena Kotala is Outings Co-Chair for the Moshannon Group of the Sierra Club, and a student at Penn State University.