Location: Gallitzin State Forest, Windber, PA
Trail: Bog & Boulder Trail (yellow blaze markers)
Distance: 4.52 miles (easy to moderate)
Parking is accessed just off Rt. 56 at the Clear Shade Wild Area parking lot. This path and trail is in the Babcock Division of the Gallitzin State Forest on a relatively level plateau varying between 2,400 and 2540 feet elevation.Clear Shade Wild Area is located south of the Babcock picnic area off of Route 56 in northern Somerset County. Part of the John P. Saylor Trail and Clear Shade Creek wind their way through the 2,791 acres of cherry, maple and beech forest.
The Bog & Boulder Trailhead is accessed from the parking lot between two park information signs. Maps can be obtained at the trailhead, but on my recent trip the boxes have not been restocked. It doesn’t take long to find out why the trial was given its name.
After the virgin hemlock forest was clear cut between 1898 and 1913, sun-demanding trees invaded the area. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, uncontrolled forest fires burned and re-burned some of these areas. Subsequent heavy rains eroded the topsoil, depositing much of it into low areas to create saturated bogs that inhibited the growth of trees. In higher areas, the eroded topsoil exposed rock rubble.
About a half mile into the trail it splits giving hikers a slight variation around the bog before slowly ascending to Wolf Rocks. Taking the trial to the left will bring you to an observation platform that gives hikers a view of the bog. From that vantage point hikers are treated to many different birds as well as plant life. Deer can be seen feeding off the grass in the fields around the bog. Hikers will also find signs of black bear and coyote.
The trail is narrow and requires single file hiking. Portions of the trail utilize wooden walkways to bridge the wettest areas of the trial. Hikers should wear proper foot hiking shoes as the trail is rocky and can be wet in spots.
Along to trail signs are posted marking the variety of trees in the areas. Throughout the bog in it’s wettest areas hikers can spot a number of carnivorous species such as pitcher plants, sundews and bladderworts.
The Wolf Rocks circuit is entered after passing through the bog. It is also narrow and relatively level, but is a more challenging trail because of the many rock fields that must be crossed with uneven footing. Hikers will pass through four boulder fields.The most notable of these boulder fields is the last, Wolf Rocks, an area containing boulders over fifty feet high.
Hikers should use caution when hiking through the boulder fields stepping carefully as to avoid slipping and causing injury. To reach the top of the boulders requires some climbing. Once on the top boulders are separated by deep crevasses. Use caution and watch your footing.
Graffiti covers most of the boulders at Wolf Rocks taking away from the natural surroundings and view slightly, but still gives hikers a nice spot to sit and rest before hiking back out 2.26 miles.