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wild and natural areas

Pennsylvania’s state forest system includes dozens of special wild and natural areas set aside to protect unique or unusual biologic, geologic, scenic and historical features or to showcase outstanding examples of the state’s major forest communities. Natural areas are “managed” by nature and direct human intervention is limited. They provide places for scenic observation, protect special plant and animal communities and conserve outstanding examples of natural beauty. Wild areas are generally extensive tracts managed to protect the forest’s wild character and to provide backcountry recreational opportunities.

Roaring Run Natural Area

Located in southeastern Westmoreland County, this 3,500-acre area encompasses the major portion of the Roaring Run watershed, on the west slope of Laurel Ridge. This natural area is an example of a complete forested mountain watershed.  Roaring Run is formed by numerous springs near the summit of Laurel Ridge, and drops 1,220 feet in elevation over a length of 5 miles.  Roaring Run is a tributary of Indian Creek, which empties into the Youghiogheny River.  Two high points of the ridge, known as Painter Rock Hill and Birch Rock Hill are within the natural area. When the area was acquired by the Commonwealth in 1975, it contained old logging roads from past timbering operations.  Now, with some help from man, nature is restoring this area.  The area offers opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, hunting, and fishing by foot access only.

Mt. Davis Natural Area

Located in southern Somerset County, the Mt. Davis Natural Area is composed of 581 acres and surrounds the rock known as Mt. Davis on the summit of Negro Mountain. The top of this rock is 3,213 feet above sea level and is the highest point in Pennsylvania. An observation tower is located at the high point, offering a 360-degree view of the highest point in the state.  Interpretive and informative signs are also located at the high point, which is accessible by vehicle. The area offers many unique sites, such as trees deformed by strong winds and winter ice storms and small concentric stone rings caused by localized frost heaving. Drainage is to the southeast into Tub Mill Run, a tributary of the Casselman River, a part of the Mississippi River watershed. Weather is a very important factor in this area – annual temperatures range from minus 30 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Frost has been observed at some time during every month of the year and snow depths can reach four feet by midwinter. It is common to see license plates from other states in the parking area as many visitors aspire to visit the high points in all 50 states.  Hiking trails connect the Mt. Davis State Forest Picnic Area with the high point as well as to the lower elevations of the natural area. A picnic area is located about 1 mile from Mt. Davis along Mt. Davis Road. Hiking trails connect the picnic area with the high point, and from Mt. Davis lead into the lower elevations of the natural area. Motorized vehicles are not permitted in the area except on the road to the High Point.

Quebec Run Wild Area

With 7,441 acres to explore, and miles of interconnecting trails, the Quebec Run Wild Area is a favorite of visitors to the Forbes State Forest.  It is located on the eastern slope of Chestnut Ridge, in Fayette County.  Common recreational pursuits are hiking, hunting, fishing and the pursuit of peace and solitude.  Nearly all of the Quebec Run and Tebolt Run watersheds are encompassed by the wild area.  Native Brook Trout can be found in the waters of Quebec Run. Many old logging roads are still visible, along with dark brown sawdust piles that give mute testimony to the once active sawmills in the area.