By James Garthe
For an enchanting hike in the Huntingdon County region, the Standing Stone Trail (SST) has numerous natural and manmade features that will enthrall beginners and seasoned hikers alike. You’ll discover it’s easy to reward yourself for your physical efforts by taking in a trove of vistas. Perched way out on a jagged rock, you can experience rugged mountains and wild forests as far as the eye can see. You can reflect on this nation’s past as you take in centuries old farmlands nestled within deep river cuts.
The SST section of the Great Eastern Trail is a 76-mile stretch connecting to a spur of the Mid State Trail at Greenwood Furnace State Park in northern Huntingdon County, to the Tuscarora Trail in Cowans Gap State Park just over the border in Fulton County. Both bucolic parks feature a lake, camping, and day use amenities.
The trail has distinct ‘flavors’ along the way. In the north, Stone Mountain offers miles of narrow tree-shaded ridgeline with frequent vistas from elevations around 2,000 feet. Along this stretch, be prepared to enjoy some challenging but basically level rocky terrain along the way.
Moving south, you enter a rocky ridge zone at lower elevation where the route twists for several miles past intermittent strange rock outcrops that will pique most everyone’s curiosity. The geology of this area also produces a rich soil that favors carpets of wildflowers in April and May.
As you continue south, be alert for Clark’s View, one of the most spectacular views in the State. The trail then descends along historic ‘dinkie’ railroad grades as you soon come upon a panoramic view, Jacks Narrows, the deepest water gap in Pennsylvania.
A short hike past a stone building perched high above a boulder field and you’re at Thousand Steps. The steps were built in mid-1900s by energetic employees of a brick company, who on a daily basis had to access the quarry and boilers within the stone building. The boilers powered machinery to move ganister stone across the Juniata River to be made into fire bricks. You’ll delight in an almost dizzying journey down the thousand (actually over 1,200) meticulously placed stones.
For more information including maps, photographs and information on how to volunteer, check out the Standing Stone Trail Club’s website.