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.
Alan Seeger Natural Area
Alan Seeger Natural Area includes 390 acres north of Greenwood Furnace State Park. A loop trail winds through rhododendron, under towering eastern hemlock, white pine, and yellow birch along Standing Stone Creek.
Bear Meadows Natural Area
Bear Meadows Natural Area is located in Centre County, four miles south of Boalsburg. This natural area contains 890 acres surrounding a fen wetland. Black spruce, red spruce, and balsam fir border large areas of highbush blueberry. Good trails and an observation platform allow viewing of wildlife and songbirds while minimizing impact on the habitat. Bear Meadows is recognized as a National Natural Landmark.
Big Flat Laurel Natural Area
Big Flat Laurel Natural Area is in Huntingdon and Centre counties, four miles south of Boalsburg. Adjacent to Bear Meadows Natural Area, these 184 acres include large stands of mountain laurel, Pennsylvania's state flower.
Detweiler Run Natural Area
Detweiler Run Natural Area is in Huntingdon County, southeast of Boalsburg. This 463-acre portion of Detweiler hollow supports old growth white pine and eastern hemlock with a dense rhododendron understory.
Little Juniata Natural Area
Located at a water gap in Tussey Mountain west of Barree, Huntingdon County, this 624-acre natural area is of specific geologic interest for its talus slope of hard, white, Tuscarora sandstone and a horizontal thrust fault.
Rocky Ridge Natural Area
Rocky Ridge Natural Area is in Huntingdon County, south of Martin Gap. These 150 acres of rich, mixed-oak woodland support numerous wildflowers among exposures of Oriskany sandstone and limestone.
Thickhead Mountain Wild Area
A short drive from State College, these 4,886 acres provide an extensive wilderness of mixed-oak forest. Thickhead Mountain Wild Area surrounds the Detweiler Run and Bear Meadows Natural areas.
Trough Creek Wild Area
Located on the slopes of Terrace Mountain above Raystown Lake, these 1,703 acres protect the aesthetics of this popular recreational area while providing additional opportunities for hiking and observing wildlife.