Pennsylvania is home to many incredible scenic overlooks. However, many of these require long or difficult hikes to reach. A few, however, like Beam Rocks in the Laurel Highlands, can be easily reached by nearly any visitor.
Beam Rocks is located in Forbes State Forest in western Somerset County. The trailhead is located along a well-maintained dirt road about halfway between Laurel Summit State Park and Laurel Mountain State Park and about four miles south of Route 30.
From the parking area along Laurel Summit Road, the trail winds its way for about half a mile to Beam Rocks. The trail to the rocks is wide and only loses about 100 feet in elevation, so it’s an easy enough trail for just about anyone to tackle (though the view from the rocks is a bit limited if you aren’t agile enough to climb up onto them for a better view).
The trail to Beam Rocks passes through an incredibly beautiful forest. The forest floor is filled in large part with ferns, which really add a lot of beauty to the area. While this trail is good just about any time of the year, it is best hiked in fall when the forest and the view from the rocks are especially colorful.
In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best places to see fall foliage in the Laurel Highlands.
Just be warned that on autumn weekends, this place can get quite busy. In fact, when I visited, cars were parked along the road for about 100 yards surrounding the trailhead. However, people were spaced enough that the trail itself didn’t feel crowded and, while the rocks were crowded, there was still space to enjoy the view for a few minutes.
If you want to have this place to yourself, I would definitely recommend avoiding visiting it mid-day on a weekend (advice that holds true for most outdoor spots in Pennsylvania).
The rocks aren’t overly large but provide enough room for a dozen or so people to enjoy the area at once. There are several flat areas to enjoy the view from, though the best rock does require a small but potentially dangerous jump to reach, so use caution if you decide to go out onto the furthest rock.
The rocks themselves sit about 90 feet over the forest floor below. Below the rocks, you’ll find the 70-mile-long Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, which passes near the base. A narrow chasm in the rocks leads down the hill to this popular long-distance trail and offers views looking up at the rocks.
When exploring the top of the rocks, use caution, especially if the rocks are wet. A fall here would certainly not be good and could lead to serious injury or death.
The rocks surface is pitted in a unique way that provides a bit of an interesting look to the rocks. I’m sure there is some geological explanation for these depressions, but I’m unaware of what that may be.
As for the view, it is quite beautiful and looks primarily to the north and east. Unfortunately, it is a bit obstructed by some taller trees and a ridgeline in the distance, limiting the overall scope of the view.
Because of this, the view primarily consists of looking over the canopy of trees in the valley between the rocks and the next ridgeline.
This is a large part of the reason why I feel this view would be at its best in the fall.
Overall, Beam Rocks is a neat rock outcropping that’s quite easy to visit. While it’s not among the most incredible scenic overlooks in Pennsylvania, it’s a nice spot to visit if you are exploring Forbes State Forest or are looking for a quick hike while traveling Route 30 through the Laurel Highlands.
How to Get to Beam Rocks in Forbes State Forest
The parking area and trailhead for Beam Rocks can be found at the following coordinates in Somerset County, PA: 40.133028, -79.163833.
From the trailhead, the trail winds its way through the forest and directly to the rocks. It is roughly half a mile to the rocks, so the entire hike is about a mile by the time you return to your car.
Just before you reach the rocks, there is a side trail that heads off to the right. This trail heads downhill to the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
Stay straight, and just beyond this split, you’ll come to Beam Rocks. This spot can be found at the following coordinates: 40.132574, -79.156651.
Once you reach the rocks, it’s not easily apparent how best to get out onto them. While you can jump, I don’t recommend doing so.
Instead, take the narrow trail downhill for about 5 feet to where the trail turns left to cut down through the rocks. From this spot, you can much more easily climb onto the main part of the rock outcropping.
When you’ve finished enjoying the view, you can either continue downhill to check out the rocks from below or retrace your steps back to your car.
It’s worth noting that if you want to see another rock outcropping, the trailhead for the popular Wolf Rocks is located only a couple of miles away.
[Click here for information about how to use the coordinates in this article to find your destination.]