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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.

Hemlocks Natural Area

Located along Hemlock Road near Big Spring State Park, this area consists of 120 acres of virgin hemlock in a narrow ravine about one and one-half miles long.  Three miles of trails traverse the area on each side of Patterson Run.  At the trailhead parking area, there is a picnic table for use by the public.  Pamphlets are available.  Camping is not permitted.

Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry Natural Area

Located in Perry County near New Bloomfield, this isolated 10-acre tract contains a rare colony of box huckleberry, which is a single plant estimated to be 1,300 years old.  There is an interpretive trail at the site. Download the trail guide (PDF) to prepare for your visit.

Frank E. Masland, Jr. Natural Area

Surrounding a two-mile section of North Branch Laurel Run, this 1,270-acres tract is a good example of old, second-growth forest.  There are several access points along the outer fringe of the natural area that lead to a primitive trail system.  This natural area has a special regulation that strictly prohibits the killing or taking of amphibians or reptiles.

James C. Nelson Wild Area

Located on the eastern end of Tuscarora Mountain, the James C. Nelson Wild Area consists of a single tract of 5,345 acres.  The timber in this area was cut between 1902 and 1917. Felled timber was removed by a self-acting incline and logging railroad. Later, minerals were quarried to make refractory brick. In 1964, the Commonwealth purchased these lands from Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Company. Except for the remains of the logging railroad and quarrying, there is little evidence of man-made disturbance. Primitive backpack camping is permitted.