Hardwood Trails, Bedford County
One of my favorite places to hike and explore is a property not far to the east of the Laurel Highlands. Driving east along the Pennsylvania Turnpike just past Somerset takes you across the eastern continental divide into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where the Laurel Highlands give way to the Ridge and Valley area. This region is characterized by long, forested mountain ridges interspersed with picturesque rural valleys.
A beautiful place to hike in this area is the 1,700-acre forested property called Hardwood Trails, which is located in southern Bedford County near the Maryland border. Situated on the west side of Evitts Mountain, the property has streams that flow through it into Lake Koon and Lake Gordon, which are drinking water reservoirs for the City of Cumberland, Md. The fact that Hardwood Trails is protected from development in turn protects these lakes.
Visitors to Hardwood Trails can hike to the top of Evitts Mountain, where there are magnificent views of Lake Koon and Lake Gordon, as well as the surrounding ridges and valleys. Along the way, visitors are likely to encounter a diversity of birds such as ruffed grouse, pileated woodpecker, Acadian flycatcher, scarlet tanager, broad-winged hawk and several types of forest interior warblers—and maybe even a black bear or two.
Hardwood Trails, which was purchased last year by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, is part of a vast network of conserved land covering tens of thousands of acres that includes Buchanan State Forest in Pennsylvania and Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland. Hardwood Trails soon will be transferred to the Pennsylvania State Forest system. It is one of those properties where, as you look out at ridgeline after ridgeline, it is clear what a special and spectacular region we have here in western Pennsylvania.