What to do in Michaux State Forest

The Michaux State Forest encompasses about 85,000+ acres in the South Mountains, which is a narrow mountain range extending though Virginia, Maryland and about 40 miles into South central Pennsylvania, in a generally northeast to southwest direction. The range itself is six to seven miles wide and is bounded on both sides by broad fertile agricultural valleys including several large communities with a wide variety of light to medium industry.

The district maintains about 130 miles of gravel roads. It is dotted with ponds, lakes and reservoirs as well as many miles of natural trout streams, all of which serve to create an unusual scenic attraction. The district office administers many leases and right-of-way agreements. A partial list of these would include almost 500 leased campsites, pipeline, power line and telephone rights-of-way, road use agreements, numerous water use agreements, including both rights-of-ways for transmission lines and leases for water supply structures.

Within the state forest and operating under a separate administration are three state parks. Caledonia State Park is a little less than 1,200 acres and located about the middle of this long and narrow state forest. Pine Grove Furnace State Park is situated in the northern end of the state forest and is about 700 acres in size. Mont. Alto State Park is 35 acres and is the oldest state park in Pennsylvania. These state parks receive heavy public year-round use. They provide snowmobiling opportunities, swimming, picnicking, hunting, fishing and associated recreation. Caledonia and Pine Grove Furnace also provide a jumping off point for hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

The Michaux District is the only of the 20 State Forest Districts to administer a state-owned golf course.

The Michaux State Forest encompasses about 85,000+ acres in the South Mountains, which is a narrow mountain range extending though Virginia, Maryland and about 40 miles into South central Pennsylvania, in a generally northeast to southwest direction. The range itself is six to seven miles wide and is bounded on both sides by broad fertile agricultural valleys including several large communities with a wide variety of light to medium industry.

Transportation in the area is very good with Interstates 81 and 83 running roughly parallel to each other on the west and east sides of the mountain range respectively. U.S. Route 30 cuts the area approximately in half in the east and west direction and the Pennsylvania Turnpike traverses east and west through the northern part of the section.

Historically, the Michaux State Forest has played an important role in Pennsylvania's forest conservation movement. The first tract of land was purchased here in 1901. The majority of what is today Michaux State Forest had been acquired by the early 1930's. It was originally two separate state forests, the Michaux and the Mont. Alto. These were consolidated under one District administration in 1942.

The Michaux State Forest can boast many firsts in forestry in Pennsylvania. The first forest tree nursery was established at Mont. Alto in 1902 and one year later the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy was opened near the Nursery at the site of the old Mont. Alto Iron Furnace. One primary purpose of the forest academy was to train professional foresters for the Bureau of Forestry, which was in the Department of Agriculture at that time. This forest can also claim the first wooden fire tower built in the state in 1905 and the first steel structure built in 1914. It also was the first (and only, we hope) State Forest to have a steel fire tower cut down by vandals in 1972. The first forest tree plantings and cultural work on state forests were concentrated in this area primarily because of the location of the Mont. Alto Forest Academy. For a short time, in its early years, the Bureau, under Dr. Rothrock, originated and administered the South Mountain tuberculosis sanatorium. This was subsequently turned over to the Department of Health and has been converted to a geriatric center since tuberculosis is no longer a major health problem.

The district maintains about 130 miles of gravel roads. The area is dotted with ponds, lakes and reservoirs as well as many miles of natural trout streams, all of which serve to create an unusual scenic attraction. The district office administers many leases and right-of-way agreements. A partial list of these would include almost 500 leased campsites, pipeline, power line and telephone rights-of-way, road use agreements, numerous water use agreements, including both rights-of-ways for transmission lines and leases for water supply structures.

Recreation
Within the state forest and operating under a separate administration are three state parks. Caledonia State Park is a little less than 1,200 acres and located about the middle of this long and narrow state forest. Pine Grove Furnace State Park is situated in the northern end of the state forest and is about 700 acres in size. Mont. Alto State Park is 35 acres and is the oldest state park in Pennsylvania. These state parks provide swimming, picnicking and associated recreation. Caledonia and Pine Grove Furnace also provide a jumping off point for hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

The area receives extremely heavy public pressure on a year-round basis. Snowmobiling has been increasing annually. York County, which is adjacent to the state forest, has the highest number of registered snowmobiles in the state. Hunting and fishing are popular pastimes throughout the area. Motorcycling and recreational vehicle uses are also increasing at an astounding rate. The close proximity to several large metropolitan areas is one of the major reasons for this extremely heavy use. Washington, DC and Baltimore are less than two hours away by car. Local residents and those enrolled at the many local colleges also constitute a large portion of the number of people utilizing the state forest.
It appears that rock climbing and primitive camping will become increasingly important within the next few years. The Michaux District is the only of the 20 State Forest Districts to administer a state-owned golf course.

Location
The Michaux State Forest encompasses about 85,000+ acres in the South Mountains, which is a narrow mountain range extending though Virginia, Maryland and about 40 miles into South central Pennsylvania, in a generally northeast to southwest direction.

Climate
Pennsylvania generally has a moist climate with cold winters and warm summers. The Michaux 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
10099 Lincoln Way East
Fayetteville, PA 17222

Phone: 717-352-2211

Fax: 717-352-3007

  • Michaux State Forest Travel Q&A

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