What to do in Buchanan State Forest

The Buchanan State Forest was named in honor of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States. The area consists of five principal tracts that cover seventy thousand acres of Commonwealth-owned forest lands, administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

This is a region of historic interest and scenic beauty. In Bedford County there is a saltpeter cave within the Sweet Root Natural Area where saltpeter had been produced for gunpowder before and during the American Revolution. Winding through Allens Valley and westward over Sideling Hill in Fulton County are traces of an early military highway known as the Forbes or Forbes-Burd Road, built by General John Forbes and Colonel James Burd. Cowans Gap marks the home site of one of the earliest settlers, British Major Samuel Cowan who farmed the area that is now Cowans Gap State Park. Further south near Cove Gap, is Buchanan's Birthplace Historical Park, the birthplace of James Buchanan. On Sideling Hill Mountain, along old logging trails bearing such names as Hinish and Sproat, there are remnants of logging railroad spurs built at the turn of the century.

Buchanan State Forest offers opportunities for hunting and fishing in addition to trails for hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The State Forest offers four separate picnic areas.

The Buchanan State Forest was named in honor of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States. The area consists of five principal tracts that cover seventy thousand acres of Commonwealth-owned forest lands, administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

These large areas are known as Martin Hill and the Resettlement Lands in southern Bedford County, Sideling Hill and Allens Valley in northern Fulton County and the Bear Valley tract in northwestern Franklin County. Nearly all of this land was purchased by the Commonwealth between 1904 and the early 1930's when the logging companies were either letting their cutover lands be sold for taxes or selling them to the state for approximately two dollars per acre. Today, this second and third growth forest is again producing valuable timber. Managed on a scientific, multiple-use basis, the forest yields 2.7 million board feet of lumber products and over one-half million cubic feet of pulpwood annually.

The gas storage field near Artemas, in Bedford County, plays an important role in helping to provide natural gas for the cities of eastern Maryland and Virginia. A now-defunct stone quarry in the Bear Valley was famous for its Roxbury Sandstone.

This is a region of historic interest and scenic beauty. In Bedford County there is a saltpeter cave within the Sweet Root Natural Area where saltpeter had been produced for gunpowder before and during the American Revolution. Close by are the Resettlement Lands, containing several old cemeteries that date back to pre-Civil War days.

Winding through Allens Valley and westward over Sideling Hill in Fulton County are traces of an early military highway known as the Forbes or Forbes-Burd Road, built by General John Forbes and Colonel James Burd. This served as a link between Carlisle and Pittsburgh and provided the British with the means to carry military supplies to their western outposts at Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne. Local Boy Scout troops have reopened approximately five miles of this famous road and clearly marked the trail between Cowans Gap State Park and Burnt Cabins.

Cowans Gap marks the home site of one of the earliest settlers, British Major Samuel Cowan who farmed the area which is now Cowans Gap State Park.

Further south near Cove Gap, is Buchanan's Birthplace Historical Park, the birthplace of James Buchanan. The site, formerly known as Stoney Batter, is marked by an imposing stone pyramid surrounded by 3,000 Norway spruce trees.

On Sideling Hill Mountain, along old logging trails bearing such names as Hinish and Sproat, there are remnants of logging railroad spurs built at the turn of the century. Nestled at the foot of the western slope of Sideling Hill, near Oregon Creek, is the site of the former CCC Camp No. S-52 which was built in 1933. During the Great Depression, several hundred young men lived here and constructed most of the forest roads and trails which still exist near this area.

In 1940 this camp became quarters for Conscientious Objectors, draftees who were excused from bearing arms during World War II. In 1944 the site was surrounded with a high barbed wire fence and used again by the Army to house German prisoners of war. Today, the observant visitor can still find evidence of the P.O.W. and CCC Camp facilities.

Less than a quarter mile from the Oregon Camp is the unused west portal of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Sideling Hill Tunnel. This tunnel and the Rays Hill Tunnel were completed in 1939. Millions of vehicles passed through these portals until a bypass was constructed over the two mountains in 1967. There is still another interesting bit of history from the Oregon area. Almost hidden in Woodridge Hollow is an aqueduct or culvert, a masterpiece of native sandstone measuring approximately 6 feet in diameter by 180 feet in length. It was constructed by several hundred stone masons and laborers brought in from Sicily in 1904 and meant to carry the waters of Woodridge Run beneath the South Penn Railroad, which would have traversed northern Fulton County via tunnels through Sideling Hill and Rays Hill. The South Penn line was never finished but much of the route, including the tunnel was utilized by the Pennsylvania Turnpike which opened in 1939.

Recreation
In addition to the timber resource, the Buchanan State Forest offers opportunities for hunting and fishing in addition to trails for hiking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

The Tuscarora Hiking Trail is the only major, continuous hiking trail that goes through the Buchanan State Forest. It generally follows the crest of the Tuscarora Mountain and eventually passes into Maryland near Hancock where it connects with the Big Blue Trail. This trail continues the southerly journey until it rejoins the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

The Pine Ridge Natural Area offers equestrian trails.

Bird-watchers and wildflower lovers should enjoy visiting Redbud Valley, a 514 acre tract of the Buchanan State Forest.

The State Forest offers four picnic areas:
Bear Valley Picnic Area, a beautiful location away from all the traffic and hubbub, is secluded between Broad Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain. It may be reached from Fort Loudon by turning north on Bear Valley Road off old Route 30 on the east end of Fort Loudon, a lovely wooded drive for 13 miles through the State Game Lands and State Forest Lands, or south from the Fannettsburg-Upper Strasburg Road, just three miles to the Picnic Area.
Sideling Hill Picnic Area is on Route 30 at the summit of Sideling Hill Mountain. Available are picnic tables, fireplaces, horseshoe courts, playground equipment.
Sweet Root Picnic Area is a little hard to find on Route 326, one mile north of Chaneysville in southern Bedford County. This small historic area offers tall pines which provide a cool place to enjoy lunch. The picnic area adjoins the 1,400 acre Sweet Root Natural Area. This is a lovely walk through the Sweet Root Gap to see the virgin hemlocks, lush ferns and rushing mountain brook.
Blankley Picnic Area takes us back to the mountains of southern Bedford County. High in the bend of Friends Cove, it can be reached by turning on to Blankley Road from SR 326 south of Rainsburg at the summit of Rainsburg Mountain. Many scenic overlooks into Friends Cove, Rainsburg Gap and Sweet Root Gap.

Location
The Buchanan State Forest area is known as Martin Hill and the Resettlement Lands in southern Bedford County, Sideling Hill and Allens Valley in northern Fulton County and the Bear Valley tract in northwestern Franklin County. The Forest lies just north of the central Maryland state line.

Climate
Pennsylvania generally has a moist climate with cold winters and warm summers. Buchanan State Forest area generally has fairly cold winter months. This lower central area has temperatures averaging above 28 degrees Fahrenheit (above -2 degrees Celsius). The region's average summer temperatures range 72 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 23 Celsius).

Address
District Forester
RR 2, Box 3
McConnellsburg, PA 17233-9503

Phone: 717-485-3148

Fax: 717-485-9283

  • Buchanan State Forest Travel Q&A

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