Fred Woods Trail - Elk State Forest
TRAIL DISTANCE - 4.7 miles
TYPE - Day Hike
We were looking for a fairly short hike to enjoy the fall colors, and decided to try the Fred Woods Trail in the Elk State Forest. This trail was named after Frederick Woods, a Forest Foreman with the Bureau of Forestry, who was fatally injured in an accident while performing his duties on State Forest Land.
Getting to the trailhead was a 3 hour drive for us, and it rained on and off the entire trip, but we lucked out and were dry for the entire hike. We had read that this can be a busy trail on nice days, so we got an early start so we could enjoy the Rock Trail without any crowds. There was only one other car at the trailhead when we started the hike, but there were 10 there by the time we finished, so that worked out for us. We wouldn't recommend this for a winter hike, Mason Hill Road, which takes you to the trailhead is not maintained in winter, and is a fairly narrow dirt/gravel road. It is passable even for passenger cars in summer, as long as you are careful and watch out for traffic going the opposite direction.
Today the temperature was in the low 50's
and it was very windy. The trail is a 4.5 mile loop, with a side trail
called Rock Trail adding another .2 miles. The extra .2 is the highlight
of the hike, the trail
through the rocks was very cool. There is a .75 mile out and back
section to get from the trailhead to the main loop trail, and we turned
right at the junction because it was closer to the rocks that direction.
We took a bunch of pictures and had some fun climbing around on the rocks,
then got back on trail heading to the "Water Plug Vista".
The views from this vista were very nice, with fall colors nearly at peak, and the view looking along a wooded valley. After a short picture break we got back on trail heading towards the second vista. The trail was well marked and easy to follow, although the further we got from the Rock Trail area it was clear that most traffic on this trail was to the rocks and back to the trailhead. The trail to Huckleberry Vista and back to the trail junction was obviously not as well worn, and the footing was more difficult and rocky. Huckleberry Vista was another nice view overlooking Moshannon State Forest.
The drive to and from the trail took us
along the Elk Scenic Drive (Route 555) and there were several places where
there were crowds of vehicles pulled off the road because of an elk
even in people's yards in the residential areas! We
didn't get any great video or pictures of the elk because of all the people,
but it was really cool to at least see an elk in person! Overall this
was a fun short day hike in the beautiful Pa Wilds.