Hiking at the Jennings Environmental Education Center

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Located in northwestern Butler County, PA, is Jennings Environmental Education Center. This Pennsylvania state park is often overshadowed by nearby parks like McConnells Mill State Park and Moraine State Park, but Jennings is also a remarkable place to visit.

What makes the Jennings Environmental Education Center special is that it is home to the only protected prairie ecosystem in all of Pennsylvania. This means that a hike here will give you the chance to see a type of environment that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in PA.

Trailhead for the Prairie Ecosystem at Jennings Environmental Education Center in Butler County, PA
The trailhead for accessing the prairie on the Blazing Star Trail.

In order to see this special place, I decided to do a short hike through the prairie ecosystem portion of the park. 

The 20-acre prairie at Jennings Environmental Education Center can be accessed from a parking lot along Route 528, just west of Route 8. From this parking area, the short Blazing Star Trail runs roughly a quarter mile through the prairie. While this trail is short, it passes through a beautiful landscape and is perfect for hikers of all skill levels.

The Prairie Loop Trail connects to the Blazing Star Trail in two places and does a loop skirting the edge of the prairie. I opted to hike Prairie Loop Trail in a clockwise direction, so I started it via the second access point for this trail, but you could just as easily hike this trail in a counterclockwise direction.

Hiking the Prairie Ecosystem in Jennings State Park
You can see the prairie by hiking the Blazing Star Trail and the Prairie Loop Trail.

Along this flat trail, there are multiple signs that help to explain the uniqueness of the prairie ecosystem found here, as well as the animals and plants that call it home. While you are unlikely to see one, this prairie is one of the last places in Pennsylvania where the locally-endangered massasauga rattlesnake can be found.

While the Prairie Loop Trail is short, only about a quarter mile, it offers a great look at this unique-in-Pennsylvania ecosystem, and the signs offer a ton of great information about it.

Blazing Star Trail Jennings Environmental Education Center
A bridge through the Prairie Ecosystem.

Once completing the Prairie Loop, you can return to your car along the way you came, making the hike roughly half a mile, or you can continue on some of the other trails at Jennings Environmental Education Center.

I personally decided to hike a bit along the Massasauga Trail, which added another half mile to my hike and looped back around to the parking area at the end, but you can add even more trails to make this a longer hike.

Massasauga Trail in the Jennings Environmental Education Center
A beautiful scene along the Massasauga Trail.

Whatever you decide to do, the prairie ecosystem at the Jennings Environmental Education Center is worth taking the time to explore. While the five miles of trails in this park tend to be on the easier side, they offer a great look into the natural beauty of northwestern Butler County.

If you’re already in the area visiting spots like the nearby Moraine State Park, this is a great outdoor activity to add to your visit.

How to Hike the Prairie at Jennings Environmental Education Center

The prairie at the Jennings Environmental Education Center can be accessed from a parking area west of the intersection of Routes 8 and 528 (Prospect Road) in northwestern Butler County. The parking area is located at the following coordinates: 41.009753, -80.004730.

From this parking lot, take the Blazing Star Trail, which is adjacent to the information sign.

Looking for more places to visit in the area? Check out Hell’s Hollow Falls, the Harmony Museum, and the breweries in Butler, PA.

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2 thoughts on “Hiking at the Jennings Environmental Education Center”

  1. Sounds/looks like a pretty place for an easy hike; however, endangered or not, I’d prefer not coming across a Massasauga rattlesnake–nor any other type of rattlesnake for that matter. Growing up, we spent summers at a camp near Pine Grove, PA in Schuylkill County. I knew to keep an eye out for timber rattlers and copperheads—especially copperheads that didn’t rattle and were pretty well camouflaged. This is how I know I am not a snake person, not even Pennsylvania snakes.

    • I wouldn’t want to either. Fortunately, seeing one is rare. In all my hiking around PA, I’ve only seen one rattlesnake and no copperheads. They will leave you alone if you leave them alone and watch where you are stepping.

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