The roughly 40 miles of Pennsylvania Route 6 between Towanda and Mansfield is one of the most secluded sections of a major thoroughfare in Pennsylvania. While there are a few communities in this area, (the largest being Troy with a population of 1,300) most travelers skip right over this area making their way to the larger communities or onwards to destinations like the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.
However, for those looking for something to do in this stretch of roadway, Mount Pisgah State Park offers a great opportunity for those wishing to spend some time in the outdoors.
Mount Pisgah State Park was opened to the public in 1979. At its center is the 75-acre Stephen Foster Lake, which was created in 1977.
This lake is named after the famous 19th-century songwriter who spent some time in nearby Towanda. It’s even said that his song “Camptown Races” is based on the community of Camptown a few miles southeast of Towanda (One of the best songs ever written about PA).
I had the chance to visit Mount Pisgah State Park with my family while on our Pennsylvania Route 6 road trip. Given that we only had a short time to explore the park, we opted to walk the two-mile route around Stephen Foster Lake on the Oh! Susanna Trail (named after another of Foster’s most famous tunes).
We started our trek at the main parking area, near the park’s swimming pool and playground. The pool is open seasonally for a small admission charge. The playground is a nice size, and my son, as well as several other children, enjoyed playing on it.
There is no obvious trail from the parking lot to the lake, so we simply walked through the open field to the lake below. Here there was a handicapped fishing pier and a boat launch. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent during the summer months for those that don’t have a watercraft with them. Those with PA fishing licenses can fish for bass, bluegill, crappie, and perch in the lake.
Following the shoreline in a counterclockwise direction, we picked up the trail and crossed a bridge over a stream. There is a sign for the trail next to a parking area and the bathrooms of the southeastern corner of the lake. This would also be a good place to park.
The trail continues around the lake, undulating somewhat, but never gaining or losing much elevation. Once turning away from the road, the Oh! Susanna Trail enters the forests of Mount Pisgah State Park. The trees tower overhead along the nice, wide trail, and the lake is never far off to the side. Two other trails branch off of the main trail, but only run short distances up to a road. However, if you are looking to do a loop that includes some of the park’s lands away from the lake, these could be good options.
"Waterfalls of Pennsylvania" by Jim Cheney
If you love PA waterfalls, you won't want to miss this waterfall book from Jim Cheney, author of Uncovering PA, featuring more than 180 great waterfalls. Order it now on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Continuing along the Oh! Susanna Trail will keep you in the forest until just before the lake’s dam. To continue on the trail, turn right, following Mill Creek downstream for a few yards to a bridge over the creek. If you walk out onto the earthen dam, as I did, you are rewarded with a nice view of Stephen Foster Lake, but no way to get to the trail on the other side.
As the trail ascends from the dam, pay attention to the trail as it will branch of to your right at an unmarked intersection near the top of the small hill. If you miss the turnoff, you can opt to continue your hike around the lake on the roadway, and pick back up the trail when it crosses the road in a few hundred yards.
The Oh! Susanna Trail continues through the woods on the northern shores of the lake. A trail branches off to the left that goes to the park’s nature center at Hilltop. Stay on the trail to the right (closest to the lake) for the short distance back to the main parking area.
Mount Pisgah State Park is unlikely to make the list of Pennsylvania’s best or most beautiful state parks. However, for those looking for a nice and easy hike in Bradford County, the Oh! Susanna Trail at the park is a great option. Even better, it offers those traveling Route 6 a chance to get out and stretch their legs in an under-visited corner of Pennsylvania.
For more information, visit the official website of Mount Pisgah State Park.