Canoe Creek State Park near Altoona is a great spot for outdoor lovers to visit thanks to its large lake, sandy beach, and miles of great hiking trails. And, for those coming to the park to hike the trails, there is one trail that must be on your list: the Limestone Loop.
The Limestone Loop is located on the northern end of Canoe Lake and is 1.2 miles in length. It passes through an old limestone quarry and past the incredible ruins of the quarry’s kilns. While it’s short, it’s definitely among the best things to do near Altoona, PA.
The trail starts from a parking area near the end of Marsh Road. While there is closer parking for those with handicap decals, those without will have to park here and walk a bit further to the kilns.
This main parking area can be found at the following coordinates: 40.486420, -78.283584.
Start your walk by following the road past the parking area. Pick up the Limestone Trail on your left just before crossing the bridge over Mary Ann’s Creek. This trail will follow along the creek for a short distance before crossing a bridge over the stream. Turn left after the bridge for the short walk to the massive limestone kilns.
For those that use a GPS, these historic kilns can be found at the following coordinates: 40.490030, -78.280857.
The limestone kilns in Canoe Creek State Park were once operated by the Blair Limestone Company in the early 20th century. Limestone was mined in several places through the park, including the quarry on the opposite side of the creek, and was brought to the kilns for processing.
The limestone quarried here was an instrumental part of Pennsylvania’s industrial history and was used in the iron and steel furnaces throughout the state.
There are a total of six historic limestone kilns at this spot stretching nearly 200 feet in total length. They have been incredibly restored and offer a great glimpse into the area’s industrial past despite the fact that the wooden structures that would have been attached to them no longer exist. I’d even go so far as to say these are among the best-preserved kilns in the entire state.
While here, take a few minutes to explore the area around the kilns as there is a lot to see here. Don’t miss the trail that will take you to the area above the kilns!
When you are done, you could certainly turn around for the third-of-a-mile hike back to your car, but I recommend taking time to check out more of this area.
From beyond the kilns, the Limestone Trail follows upstream along the bank of Mary Ann’s Creek. This trail follows an old railroad grade, so it’s both wide and flat, making it an easy hike through the beautiful woodland of Canoe Creek State Park.
After about a third of a mile, the trail crosses Mary Ann’s Creek in a very scenic spot.
If you want to extend your hike and pick up other trails in the park, you can turn to the right. However, since, on this hike, we are doing the Limestone Loop, I recommend turning left and following Mary Ann’s Creek downstream to complete this short loop.
On this side of the creek, the trail is a bit more narrow and does have a few small rises, though it’s still quite an easy hike.
If you look to your right (away from the creek), you’ll see the remnants of a limestone quarry as you hike this side of the trail. About halfway between the two bridges over the creek, a short side trail juts off to the right and allows a closer look at the quarry.
After about a third of a mile of hiking on this side of the stream, the trail once again reaches a bridge over Mary Ann’s Creek and returns to the historic kilns.
From here, you can check out the kilns again, look for markers for other trails, or simply return the way you came to go back to your car.
Overall, the hike along the Limestone Loop to the limestone kilns in Canoe Creek State Park isn’t long or difficult. However, it offers both the chance to enjoy the beauty of this park and the opportunity to learn about the industrial history of the Alleghenies.
I definitely recommend this hike to any outdoor or history lovers visiting Blair County.
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