Exploring the Scotia Barrens and the Abandoned Ruins of Scotia, PA

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Located just outside of State College is one of the most interesting natural areas of Pennsylvania: the Scotia Barrens. This area is not only geologically unique but is also home to the hidden ruins of Scotia, PA.

The Scotia Barrens is located in a valley in Centre County, PA. It is home to a unique micro-climate that makes the area cooler than the surrounding region. This climate gives the barrens a unique variety of plants not often found elsewhere in the region.

In addition to a unique climate, this area is also rich in industrial history. In the mid-1800s, the land here was extensively lumbered to create charcoal for the nearby Centre Furnace. In the 1880s, Andrew Carnegie purchased the land and used it to mine iron ore for his steel mills. 

In 1909, the mines closed and within a couple of years, Scotia was a ghost town. While some logging continued to occur on the land, it was finally protected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in the early 1940s.

However, during World War 2, the mine was briefly reopened again to support the war effort only to be quickly shut down for the final time when the iron ore produced here didn’t meet purity standards.

Hiking Trail in Scotia/State Game Lands 176
Scotia has a unique, but beautiful landscape.

It’s the remnants of this ire ore mining operation that are most evident today in the Scotia Barrens. Depending on where you look, you can see evidence of iron ore pits, the railroad, the community of Scotia, and even several structures that were part of the complex here.

The Scotia Barrens is part of State Game Lands 176 and is open for visitors to explore. Most popular with runners and mountain bikers, the landscape here is also great for birders and those that want to explore one of the more interesting abandoned places in PA.

The area is crisscrossed by miles of trails many of which are often ridden by local mountain bikers. Unfortunately, there is no current trail map of the Scotia Barrens now that the Purple Lizard Map of the area is out of production.

A trail through the Scotia Barrens near State College, PA
A trail through the Scotia Barrens.

Fortunately, if you know where to look, finding the ruins of Scotia is quite easy, and there are plenty of other great hidden gems that you can find on your own by exploring the area.

When visiting Scotia, the best place to enter is via Scotia Road in the northern reaches of State Game Lands 176. While the road is a bit rutted in places, it’s easy enough to drive in a car with a bit of care.

The hike to the abandoned ruins in Scotia starts behind a gate along Scotia Range Road. The gate is approximately at these coordinates on the right side of the road roughly 0.6 miles from the turn off of Scotia Road: 40.800420, -77.946291.

Hiking directions to the Scotia Ruins
Walk past this gate to find the abandoned buildings in Scotia.

To reach the ruins, walk past the gate and take the trail to the left. Continue taking the left trail at every split until you reach the ruins. The entire hike back to the Scotia ruins should only take you about 5 minutes. For those that use a GPS, the ruins can be found at approximately these coordinates: 40.800368, -77.946305

There are two main abandoned structures at the Scotia Barrens.

The first that you’ll come to is approximately 15 feet in height and made of concrete. This is said to have been part of an ore washer from the 1940s. While all that’s left is a tall tower, it’s still pretty interesting to see, especially since it’s set aside in the woods by itself.

Ore washer at Scotia in Centre County, Pennsylvania
This part of an ore washer is nearly all that’s left of the mining operations here.

After passing a few smaller concrete pieces, the largest of the two main parts comes into view.

This second abandoned structure is probably my favorite spot in the Scotia Barrens. Given its location near the old train track, I’m assuming the building had something to do with the loading and unloading of coal, but honestly, I’m not 100% sure of its purpose (Please let me know in the comments if you know).

Exploring the Abandoned Buildings in Scotia near State College, PA
The largest of the abandoned structures in State Game Lands 176.

The building is comprised of two parts with only the concrete shell of the structure still intact.

The upper portion sits above ground and almost appears to be a garage without walls. The interior is filled with graffiti, which creates an interesting look to the site. This also served a nice spot to wait out a short spring hail storm during my visit.

Graffiti at the Scotia Ruins in PA
The interior of the large concrete structure.

The lower portion of the site may have once sat below ground and includes several supports and dirt that slopes up towards ground level. Portions of the wall here were moss-covered which was really neat to see.

While at this structure, you may notice two hillsides on either end of the building. I believe, but am not totally sure, that these were part of the railroad and that a bridge once spanned the hillsides here. The contours of the hillsides seem perfect for a railroad, and there was one that once ran right through this area.

Abandoned Building in the Scotia Barrens in Pennsylvania
The upper portion of the largest ruin at Scotia. If you look behind it, you can see the remnants of the railroad.

Once you’ve finished enjoying the abandoned buildings in Scotia, you can either return the way you came or spend a bit more time checking out this interesting area.

There are many trails that crisscross the land, and it would be quite easy to get yourself a bit turned around here, even if you aren’t all that far from the roadway. I definitely recommend having some sort of GPS with you (or making sure your phone has good coverage) before venturing off the main trails.

Pond in State Game Lands 176 near State College, Pennsylvania
Be careful to not get lost while exploring the many trails at Scotia.

While I didn’t discover any more ruins during my hike, I did see several old pits that were likely part of the mining operation here and a few beautiful ponds.

While the ruins of Scotia, PA, might be the highlight of State Game Lands 176, this is also an incredibly beautiful and unique area of the state. Because of this, I highly recommend at least driving further into the area.

A road through the Scotia Barrens in Central Pennsylvania
The Scotia Barrens is one of the most unique landscapes in central PA.

About a mile further down the road, the forest opens up and you can see the full uniqueness of the barrens. If you’ve never visited a spot like this, such as the Nottingham Serpentine Barrens in southeastern PA, it’s a very interesting landscape to see and might remind you a bit of the US southwest in some respects.

Overall, the Scotia Barrens and its ruins are a hidden gem of Centre County, Pennsylvania. If you are looking to get into the outdoors this area is right up there with Mount Nittany as a fantastic spot to explore.

Looking for more places to visit near State College? Check out the Arboretum at Penn State, Raystown Lake, and Black Moshannon State Park.

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1 thought on “Exploring the Scotia Barrens and the Abandoned Ruins of Scotia, PA”

  1. This is very interesting. My grandfather, Ray Showers and his wife Florence Lykens lived in Scotia after they were married. Florence, I believe was born in Scotia and lived there untie she and Ray moved into State College. They lost their home to a fire. My father was born in 1915. I do not know if you could find more information from the Lukens family in Port Matilda. I was a young child when my grandparents took me into Scotia and showed me the remains of their home that burned. Thanks for uncovering PA

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