|Location:||Near Woodward, PA
|Getting there:||Click here|
|Vertical Rise:||475 feet|
depending on your route
|Special needs:||Trekking poles for steep (but short) climb|
|Why?:||view, solitude, easy access|
About 35 miles East of State College on PA Route 45, Hairy John's picnic area serves as a convenient start point for a jaunt along the Mid State Trail or the Winkleblech Trail. If you like to hike for solitude, this is a good choice--I've hiked it a few times and didn't see anybody else, which is rare in these hills.
From State College, take 322 (Atherton Street) east to Boalsburg. Take route 45 east for about 30 miles, past Spring Mills, Aaronsburg and Woodward. Look for a sign on the left off of Rt 45 for Hairy John's Picnic Area after entering state forest land. The site is relatively easy to find, but if you find yourself leaving the state forest, you passed it :-)
There are a few ways to hike this hill, and I'll start with the 'short' version that will stretch your legs, give you some exercise, and give you a nice view.
The Short Hike
This is a fairly short hike up Winkleblech mountain, and although it is only 1.7Km, the hike up the hill is pretty rugged and will take some care. You'll want some trekking poles to help negotiate the steep incline.
Most of the hike is a gradual rise from the parking lot (the Mid State Trail is to the right--east--as you enter the lot--look for the orange blazes) and it's not until the base of the mountain that you get to see much of a view, but the view is nice.
Climbing the hill is a bit challenging for the beginner, but it's rewarding, and the vista near the top overlooks Woodward Gap on the opposite ridge.
The top of the hill has a few neato rock piles and small knife edge, but it is relatively flat, and has good footing for the hills around here. There are several campsites that have seen some use, and it might not be a bad spot to camp, although camping on ridge tops is always a risky thing during the summer and fall, since lightning is naturally attracted to the high points. Look around for bark-less trees that have been struck numerous times.
The MST continues across Winkleblech Mountain, and then up Buffalo Mountain, but it is a very steep climb. Of course, you can pretty much hike up to the New York border if you like, but the ease of access makes Hairy John's a one mountain climb for most of us!
At the top of the hill, you have a choice. Go right to hike the Mid State Trail sees a lot of use, and the path is easy to hike. The trail crews do a nice job of clearing fallen timber and keeping the brush to a minimum. The hill is not nearly as rocky as many of the ridges in Rocksylvania.
The Long Hike and the Overnighter
If you want to make an all day shuttle hike, you can continue this way and it will eventually come out on Stover Gap Road, which is easily accessed from PA 192. If you want to make an overnighter out of it, you can go all the way to R. B. Winter State Park via the Brush Hollow Trail. Either of these hikes can be mapped out from the Mid State Trail Guide.
The Four Hour Circuit Hike
If, at the top of the hill you want to take the road less traveled, then head left onto the blue blazed Winkleblech Trail. You'll find a much more interesting side of the hill.
Since it sees little use, and even less maintenance, the WT is slow going, but there are more interesting things to see. Take your time and look around. You'll see evidence of old roads, old antenna towers and more. It's odd to see 8 inch thick trees growing out of the middle of a road.
While the Winkleblech Trail is fairly well marked, there are a few spots where the blazes are tough to spot. Don't worry--the ridge is only a hundred feet or so wide, so you can't stray too far.
After a few miles, the WT crosses Winkleblech Road near a nice vista. Take in the view and then head down the road, bearing left, to get back to your car. This makes a circuit hike of about 4 hours.
Photos coming soon!