Alan Seeger Natural Area

 In Huntingdon County

Where’s The Trail?

Broad Mountain Figure-8:

In the mood for one of the most challenging and scenic loops in the South Central ridge-and-valley region? This is one of my favorites and it is also a great training run.

Start at Alan Seegar Natural Area – This 390-acre area along Standing Stone Creek includes virgin white pine and hemlock that tower above the trail as it winds through 20-foot-high rhododendrons. Other tree species in the area include white oak, red maple, white pine, pignut hickory, black gum and black birch. From the small parking area, take the road that goes up the hill and then immediately turn left. From here you will go through the heart of the natural area, crossing the creek several times and tunneling under rhododendrons. At mile 0.5, make a right on Stone Creek Road until mile 1.3 and make a left on Ross Trail. Ross Trail is an ascent (1300 feet in 2 miles) with a particularly steep section in the middle. At the top, mile 3.2, is the Broad Top Fire Tower.

With the base of the tower at your base, take the trail that bears to your right (don’t take the service road). This is Telephone Trail and you will see some old telephone poles along it that used to supply electricity to the tower/lodge that was once there. At mile 3.7, the course bear to the right. Follow the orange blazes since from the fire tower to the bottom of the mountain, you will be on Standing Stand Strone – an 84-mile foot path that traverses the ridges and valleys of South Central PA from Cowan’s Gap to Detwiler Natural Area where it terminates at the Mid-State Trail. Standing Stone Trail is also a part of the Great Eastern Passage – a western alternative to the more famous Appalachian Trail.

The course will cross Broad Mountain Trail for the first of many times. Then it is a sweet 1200 foot downhill on the SST that is a blast! Run (mile 5.3) until you came to a wide grassy path. This is called Spenser Trail and here you make a left. Spenser is wide and grassy with slight grades for one mile until mile 6.3 and make a left on Ruff Trail. (If you reach a state forest road, you gone too far.) Ruff Trail will take you back up the mountain. At 7.3 Ruff will end as it crosses Broad Mountain Road but continue straight on the service road that will bring you back to the fire tower at 7.7.

Now, look for the orange blazes (SST) to the left of Ross Trail. You will go onto the SST but it is also called Johnson Trail and there is a sign indicating as such. And then, whoa Nelly! You are in for a steep and technical downhill with plenty of switchbacks. Then trail is more like something you will find in the Catskills when compared to steepness and length. (1350 feet in 1.3 miles). At mile 8.6, you will again cross Broad Mountain Road but go straight. The trail will have to pop out of the woods just above where you parksed and started.

For overachivers, do mutiple loops or switch up directions. Because of the hill climbing in this course, you may find some other runners that are training for races with similar climbs. In May, a version of this figure-8 along with an out-and-back section is part of the Greenwood Furnace Trail Challenge.

— Submitted by: Benjamin J. Mazur

ALTERNATE TRAIL:

Detwiller – Grass Mountain Loop:

Start at Alan Seegar Natural Area – This 390-acre area along Standing Stone Creek includes virgin white pine and hemlock that tower above the trail as it winds through 20-foot-high rhododendrons. Other tree species in the area include white oak, red maple, white pine, pignut hickory, black gum and black birch. From the small parking area, take the road that goein as the decaying wood has become a blue-green hue. On occasion the trail follows an old lumbering railroad grade. This section was also where I saw the biggest rattlesnake in my life – in yellow phase, it was thick as a human leg!

At mile 1.8, the Standing Stone Trail ends as the Mid-State Trail comes down the ridge and continues up Detwiller Run. You will continue along the Mid-State up the run. This section is wonderful as you duck and weave among the laurel as you venture higher up the valley. Some runners have told me that you half expect that a dinosaur will peak its head from behind a tree – it is that wild. Also expect the possibs up the hill and then immediately turn left. From here you will go through the heart of the natural area, crossing the creek several times and tunneling under rhododendrons. At mile 0.5, cross Stone Creek Road. Follow orange blazes since you are on the Standing Stone Trail.

From here, the forest is wild with rhodendron patches as you cross Detwiller Road numerous times. Some of the sites: Blue Camp – an abandoned cability to get your ankles wet as the creek is sometimes the trail during the wetter months of the year. This is also the section – as a novice runner ten years ago – I totally destroyed my ankles from constant rolling – and then had to endure six-weeks of physical therapy.

Mile 4.6, turn right onto Shingle Trail but follow the blazes for the Mid-State since it is one and the same. You will be taking a short hop up a ridge, passing Thickhead Road and then descending down into Stone Valley. At mile 5.6 make a right, but if you need a break, continue of the MST since a few hundred yards is bathroom facilities and a cooling stream at Penn Roosevelt State Park.

Taking a right onto state forest road, Thickhead Mountain Road, you will make a slow grind up a “bowl valley” until the road slowly arcs to the right. Watch out for a turn onto Long Mountain Trail (6.5 miles). Note: At 6.7 miles, the trail makes a re-route up the mountain which is not indicated on the Strava route/GPX file.)  At the top the mountain, you will enjoy almost a two-mile gentle downhill through varied flora from mountain laurel, blueberry bushes, recovering forest and tall Pennsylvania hardwoods of oak, maple and beechnut. At the bottom you will reach paved Stone Valley Road – a right will take you back to Alan Seger and your vehicle.

— Submitted by: Benjamin J. Mazur

Where to Eat/Drink?

Couch’s Subs and Groceries: 15 minutes from Alan Seeger is a quinesential country store just outside the hamlet of McAlvery’s Fort. This would have an unremarkable spot except for the fact that they have taken a traditional Ruben or Rachel sanwhich and turn it on its head at it is AMAZEBALLS! I give you the “Ruben (or Rachel” Stromboli. It’s a heaping of shaved locally-sourced corn beef or turkey, sauerkraft, mozzerella, and the genius of soft and favorful homemade rye dough with a side of Thousand Island dressing. It is one of the few things that I drive 90-minutes to sink my teeth into! I have taken friends here and they drive a lot further and order dozens of these at at a time. It is that wonderful!

I heard they have other fine homecooked meals and homemade baked goods but I always stopped at the stromboli. No beer or alcohol since it is a “dry’ community.

— Submitted by: Benjamin J. Mazur

Hi-way Pizza (West College Location): The closest place to get food AND beer that is worth recommending? That would the Hi-Way Pizza on — West College Ave.  They have good sandwiches, pizza and pasta. They also have 24-beer on draft and a good selection of beer-to-go. It is exactly 30-minutes from the trailhead at Alan Seger.

Huntingdon, PA: Even though Hi-Pizza and other State College establishments are closer to the trailhead, take an extra 5 minutes and drive south on PA-26 to the community of Huntingdon. Huntingdon is a true “trail-town” with small cool shops and establishments with personality and hospitality. Don’t believe me? Well, in 2009, Huntingdon was named by Budget Travel magazine’s readers as the 5th Coolest Small Town in the United States. Here is a top 5 list of places to go:

Enjoying a flight at the outdoor beer garden, Juniata Brewing Company.

Juniata Brewing Co. is a new microbrew. Despite being new, they know a thing or two about brewing with great hazy IPA’s, saison, tripels and stouts, Six to eight beers on tap with a small, cozy tasting room and a roomy indoor-outdoor beer garden.

Boxer’s is a long and tight but open in attitude. They have the best bottled beer selection in town and some great food – my favorite being the Vegatarian Boxer Burrito. While there, don’t ask for the Wi-Fi password… they bartender will tell you why not make connections with others around the bar.

Ferguson’s is a true neighboor “Irish-bar” with a welcoming staff and some of the best winfs in the county.

Standing Stone Gallery serves a great breakfast and lunch and also serves as a artisian center. Make sure you take a walk through the mini-shoppes, galleries, and studios within this turn-of-the-century complex. No beer but they do serve wine from local wineries.

Finally, and not least, head over to Standing Stone Coffee Company for a brew and light-fare. Standing Stone Coffee provided beverages to many of Allegheny Trailrunners events.

— Submitted by: Benjamin J. Mazur

Last and Not Least:

Rothrock Outfitters – In Huntingdon, make sure you stop over at Rothrock Outfitters. They are move mountain biking and water sport-orienated than trail running, but they are a solid group of individuals who share our desire to preserve and enjoy what the outdoors of this region has to offer.

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