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This gently winding trail in Pine Grove Furnace State Park passes along the shores of two lakes and through the woodlands of Michaux State Forest. Pine Grove Furnace began operating in 1764 to take advantage of the small but rich South Mountain iron ore deposits. The furnace closed in 1895 when new technology made the operation of small ironworks unprofitable. The 17,000-acre property of the South Mountain Ironworks was sold to the state of Pennsylvania in 1914 to become part of a new forest reserve system. Remnants of the days of iron production are evident in the park. The iron-master's mansion, furnace ruins and other buildings provide a historical perspective.
The park's two lakes, 1.7-acre Fuller Lake and 25-acre Laurel Lake, are also remnants of the area's iron making heritage. Fuller Lake was an iron ore quarry that filled with groundwater when operations ceased. Laurel Lake provided water power to Laurel Forge, which produced wrought iron. Both lakes now provide opportunities for swimming and fishing. Boating is permitted on Laurel Lake, which has a launch area, mooring slips and boat rental. Only electric motors are permitted.
The trail follows the route of the South Mountain Railroad. Constructed in the late 1860s the railroad brought raw materials to the furnace at Pine Grove and delivered finished iron products to market.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park marks the "unofficial" halfway point along the Appalachian Trail. The historic ironmaster's mansion now serves as a hostel with dormitory style overnight accommodations and cooking and dining facilities.
The trail begins in the park at the Appalachian Trail parking lot near the Furnace Stack Day Use Area. A short paved section of trail leads from the parking area to the Fuller Lake area, which has a beach. Swimming is permitted from late May until mid-September. Beyond the lake, the trail crosses a small bridge and turns left. This section of the trail runs on a gravel service road bordered by a swamp on one side and Mountain Creek on the other. The service road is closed to all traffic except official park vehicles. At a gate, the trail opens onto Old Railroad Bed Road and shares the corridor with occasional automobiles.
Beyond Laurel Lake, Old Railroad Bed Road intersects Pine Grove Road and the trail ends.
To reach the Furnace Stack Day Use Area Trailhead—the best access point—from PA Route 233, take Pine Grove Road and turn onto Bendersville Road. Turn onto Quarry Road. Parking is available at the Appalachian Trail parking area.
This was a very nice easy trail for a beginning biker; good surface, interesting terrain, almost flat surface.
This trail was well-maintained and signage was good. We enjoyed the ride as a detour off a long trip home on I-81. The recommended trailhead in the PA Rails-Trails book is called Shippensburg Recreation Park, but note this is milepost 1 on the trail.
This small State Park provides wonderful, shaded, level biking on a hot summer day with the option of swimming and kayaking at one of two small lakes. There are 4 different parking areas one at each end of the park and for biking a nice shaded parking spot on the far side of Laurel Lake at Pole Steeple trail on Railroad Bed Road. In addition to the approximately 3 mile Railroad Bed Road and Trail there are two circle Roads to bike, Ice House Road and Murphy/ Quarry Roads. So considering round trips back to your car you could easily get a 10 mile bike trip. For information via the INTERNET go to www.visitPAparks.com. Youker 8/27/2010
The interruption in the trail, which was mentioned in the comments that were made earlier this month, has eliminated The Mountain Creek Campground as the downstream entrance to the trail. As I described in the comments that I made in 2005, there was at that time an informal side trail that allowed a biker to get around the house that blocked the trail by exiting to Pine Grove Road for a short distance, then returning to the trail. A second house has now been built on the trail and there is now no apparent way to get around the two houses and back to the trail.
The realistic downstream entrance to the trail is now the intersection of Pine Grove Road and the macadam road named Railroad Bed Road which serves as one of the entrances to Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
My husband and I biked this trail this past weekend, starting in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Althought the trail head is not very well marked to start (the Appalachian Trail and the begining of the Rail Trail are one in the same), it was a nice trail through the Park, but very shortly after leaving the Park (we crossed the road and entered the trail on the opposite side) - perhaps 1/3 of a mile later we encountered a blockage in the trail with a sign stating that the trail ended and that it was private property so we turned around, a bit disappointed. But all in all it was a nice trail and a nice ride.
"This six-mile trail consists of 2.5-miles of dirt trail located on what I believe is private land and 3.5 miles of roadway and crushed stone trail within Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
The old furnace in the Pine Grove Furnace State Park locates the upstream trailhead and the downstream trailhead is located at the Mountain Creek Campground.
To get to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, take I81 Exit 37 to PA 233 south then travel for eight miles.
The Mountain Creek Campground is located about six miles east of Pine Grove Furnace State Park on Pine Grove Road. Their address is 349 Pine Grove Road, Gardners, PA 17324. You can use that address to get directions from one of the online mapping services. The owners told me that you are welcome to park in their campground parking area but they would appreciate it if you would stop by the office and let them know that you will be leaving your car there for a while.
Enter the campground on your bike at the entrance gate and then turn left at every opportunity till you find the Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail. The trail is packed dirt and is reasonably smooth with the occasional rough spot. This portion of the trail provides a pleasant but unremarkable ride through the woods, along the back and the front of some forty scattered cabins and homes. While the trail it is not officially maintained, the neighbors help by occasionally picking up dead falls. At one point on the trail, you will come upon a Conrail caboose sitting on a short section of track in front of a cabin. The property owner does not want you to enter his property and the barriers and signs posted there make that clear. Take an informal detour for a short distance onto Pine Grove Road then follow the road for a couple of hundred yards or so till you are past his property and then find one of the paths back to the trail. A discussion I had with a member of the County Planning Commission disclosed that planning is almost complete for a bypass around that closed part of the trail. The Commission expects to complete construction of a one half-mile bypass around the property on adjacent Michaux State Forest land during the summer of 2005.
Further along the trail, where it intersects Pine Grove Road, cross the road and enter Pine Grove Furnace State Park on the macadam road named Railroad Bed Road. This macadam road continues part way through the Park and then becomes a nice crushed stone trail for the rest of the distance to the trailhead at the Iron Furnace. This section through the Park passes the occasional cabin but is attractive as it skirts two lakes and some interesting overviews of Mountain Creek. The trail continues on to the site of the Pine Grove Furnace Iron Works that was established in 1764 and operated there for more than a hundred years. The site includes the remains of the iron furnace along with the restored mansion house, Company office, Company store, stable, gristmill, and inn (now the Park office)."
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