It's been a summer-long quest of mine to visit area State Parks and take advantage of the inexpensive recreational opportunities that abound in Central Pennsylvania.
Our last stop before Fall officially arrives is Trough Creek state park in James Creek Huntingdon County.
This particular park may be one of our region's best kept secrets, but it is filled with beautiful and intriguing sites and experiences that can be enjoyed long after the sun sets on summertime.
Trough Creek is a 554-acre park was created by the Great Trough Creek cutting its way through Terrace Mountain and into Raystown Lake. The power of the water creates a scenic gorge, and leaves behind amazing geological formations.
That includes Balanced Rock, a huge, top-heavy stone that appears to be teetering on the edge of a ridge, about to tumble down the mountainside. Copperas Rocks is a unique copper-colored, striped rock face visible as you first drive into the park.
In addition to the interesting rock formations, a suspension bridge, waterfalls, lookouts, and a naturally-refrigerated cave are just a few of the special spots that shouldn't be missed during a visit to this park.
A hiker's dream, Trough Creek state park has about 12 miles of trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging mountainous treks. Beautiful flowering rhododendron is plentiful early in the summer, but this time of year, a whole different array of colors begins to bloom. A brisk autumn day would be a perfect time to hike the hillsides and take in a breathtaking overview of the lake.
Also along a hiking trail, layers and layers of ledges create the beautiful Rainbow Falls. Water runs down the hillside offering lots of photo opportunities.
Another cool spot is the Ice Mine, where you can descend some rustic steps to feel the cool of winter even on the hottest of days.
There is a feeling that many others have hiked the trails and explored these woods. Railroads, grist mills, and iron works are just a few of the industries that have used this land and other acres nearby. One of the trails takes hikers past what's left of the old Paradise Furnace school house.
With nearly a dozen trails available, the park can be revisited over and over again, with different sites and sounds to experience on every trip. Whether it's a day trip or a weekend camping getaway, Trough Creek is Central Pennsylvania at its most beautiful.
While the summer vacation season has come to a close, the state parks in our area never shut down. Whether it's a walk with a dog on an autumn afternoon or a wintery cross-country jaunt on skis, our local parks continue to provide outdoor sports lovers the perfect place to visit any time of year.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.