Located in western Centre County, Pennsylvania, Black Moshannon State Park is a beautiful outdoor destination in the Alleghenies region.
Black Moshannon State Park (or Black Mo as it’s often called by locals) is best known for its lake which appears jet black thanks to a bog that occupies large parts of the park. The mosses in the bog are said to act like a tea bag, turning the clear water that flows into the lake into a rather peculiar shade.
However, Black Moshannon State Park isn’t worth visiting just because of its unusually colored water and the largest reconstituted bog in the state. It’s also worth visiting because it is home to several miles of great hiking trails through this beautiful scenery and one of the closest beaches to State College.
Wanting to see the park for myself, I set out on a cold, blustery day in mid-April to hike some of the 20 miles of trails at Black Moshannon State Park.
My goal for the day was to hike the Bog Trail, the Blueberry Trail, and a portion of the Shingle Mill Trail. These trails, which added up to about 3 miles of hiking, offered me a great overview of the beauty of Black Mo.
My first stop of the day was the Bog Trail. This is a half-mile loop hike that is mostly on a boardwalk along the edge of the 250-acre lake and the Black Moshannon Bog Natural Area. While this is an incredibly easy trail, it offers some of the best views in the park, informational signs, and a chance to explore this unique habitat.
The Bog Trail runs along part of the Moss-Hanne Trail, a 7.7-mile one-way trail that skirts the southwestern edge of the lake and passes through the bog. While I’m sure hiking the entire trail offers great beauty, the Bog Trail is a perfect trail for the whole family or simply those short on time.
If you only have time to hike one trail at Black Moshannon State Park, make it the Bog Trail.
My second hike at the park was the Shingle Mill Trail. This is a 3.5-mile trail that runs from the lake’s dam to the Allegheny Front Trail, a trail that completely encircles the park in Moshannon State Forest and features several great overlooks, including Ralph’s Majestic Vista.
Sadly, unless you are doing a multi-day hike, there are no loop options with the Shingle Mill Trail. Because of this, I opted to hike it for about half a mile as it follows Black Moshannon Creek north out of the park. Obviously, you can hike it as far as you’d like, but remember you have to return the way you came.
Below the dam, Black Moshannon Creek retains its dark coloration, providing a beautiful and unique contrast to the green landscape that clung to the edges of the waterway.
While this trail is listed as “More Difficult”, that primarily applies to the second half of the trail when it leaves the creek and begins to climb the mountain. The first portion of this trail is relatively easy and only made somewhat difficult by the water that seems to pool in places along the trail.
Near the start of the Shingle Mill Trail, make sure to check out the dam and beach at Black Moshannon State Park. During the warmer months of the year, you can relax on the beach and even take a dip into the cool waters of the lake.
The last of my three hikes was on the Blueberry Trail. This trail is so named because it is lined with blueberry plants, making it a popular summertime hike.
Access to this trail is off of Airport Road, and it’s suggested that you park in the lot for the Mid State Airport. It’s worth noting that this trail is listed as a mile long, but you’ll have to follow this desolate road back to your car for an additional third of a mile after completing the hike as it’s not officially a loop trail.
The Blueberry Trail cuts its way through the Black Moshannon Bog Natural Area and offers a nice look at this unique landscape away from the lake. Approximately half of this hike runs along with the Moss-Hanne Trail, so you could access it from the main area of the park if you were looking for a longer hike.
A good portion of this hike is on a boardwalk through the bog, but there are plenty of wet areas where there is no boardwalk. Unless it has been very dry, your shoes will definitely get wet hiking this trail.
To be perfectly honest, this was my least favorite of the three trails. While I enjoyed walking along the boardwalk, hiking this trail in early spring provided little greenery. I’m sure that this is a fantastic trail to hike during the summer months when you can sample blueberries during your hike, but during the months of the year when there are no leaves on the trees, it’s not the most exciting hike.
Despite my slight disappointment in the Blueberry Trail, I strongly recommend hiking at Black Moshannon State Park. The many miles of trails here offer a lot of variety, and the chance to see the black waters of the lake and the large bog that’s filled with unique plants and animals makes this a great spot to explore when looking for hikes in State College and the surrounding area.
Visit the park’s website for a trail map and description of all its hiking trails.