Trail: Yellow Birch Trail
Geographic Location: west of
Length: 0.6 mile
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: July 2013
Overview: A short campground nature hike.
Park Information: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/hillscreek/
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=210402
Directions to the trailhead: From
drive US 6 west 6.4 miles to Charleston Road
and turn right on Charleston Road. Drive Charleston
Road 2.3 miles to Hills Creek Lake Road
and turn right on Hills Creek Lake Rd. Drive Hills Creek
Lake Road 3.1 miles to Spillway
Road and turn right on Spillway
Spillway Rd. 0.4 miles to
the main park road, crossing the dam that creates the park’s lake en route.
Turn left to enter the park. Drive the
main park road 0.8 miles to the campground entrance and the trailhead for the
Yellow Birch Trail. Park in the grassy
area beside the road, taking care not to block traffic or a camping slot.
The hike: Established as a park in 1950, the land today comprising
has a colorful history. Known
historically as Hills
Creek State Park ,
the creek and hence park was named for a Captain William Hill, who settled in
the area around 1820. If that wasn’t
colorful enough, the park’s swimming beach sits near an old pigment mine that provided
raw materials used to make paint. Kellys Swamp
No evidence of the pigment mine remains, so the most colorful part of
today may be the fall leaf color, which is excellent due to the diversity of
trees in the park’s deciduous forest. 137-acre
Hills Creek Hills
Creek State Park Lake provides swimming, boating, and fishing
opportunities. An 83-site campground and
a cabin area provide lodging within the park.
For hikers, the park offers 3 trails: the 2.5 mile
Lake Side Trail,
the 1.5 mile Tauscher’s Trail, and the 0.6 mile Yellow Birch Trail. The first two of these options spend
significant distance near park roads, so the best option and the one described
here is the Yellow Birch Trail, which is located near the campground. Note that although the park brochure lists
this trail at 1 mile, the true distance is roughly half that number based on my
|Trailhead: Yellow Birch Trail|
The yellow-blazed Yellow Birch trail exits the grassy campground area as a gravel trail that crosses a nice wooden footbridge bridge with hand rails. Very quickly the gravel ends and the trail forks. To hike the steepest section downhill, this description will turn left here and use the right trail as the return route, thus hiking the loop clockwise.
|Hiking beside large pines|
The single-track dirt trail climbs on a gradual to moderate grade with the campground in view through the trees to your left. Some large pine trees live on this ridge along with some smaller beech and maple. At 0.2 miles, you reach the highest point of the hike as the trail curves sharply right. Watch for the double yellow paint blazes that mark this turn. A bench at this point gives rest for the weary.
|Approaching the marsh|
The trail descends steeply on switchbacks but only for a short distance. Ignore a side trail that exits left as you approach a marshy area. Fortunately the trail is routed close enough to the hillside so that it stays dry most of the year. This area also features some good-sized yellow birches for which this trail is named. Too quickly you close the loop, and only a short walk remains to complete the hike.