Discover Black Moshannon State Park: Bogged Down in Beauty

Three canoes lie upsidedown on a rack along the shore of Black Moshannon Lake

Located in northeastern Centre County, PA, Black Moshannon State Park covers more than 3,000 acres and showcases its rich logging history. More than 43,000 acres of the Moshannon State Forest surround the park and help create a remote and wild setting. We visited in the early fall, just as the trees were starting to turn color.

Interestingly, the name “Moshannon” derives from the Native American word “Moss-Hanne,” which means “moose stream.” This title makes sense when observing the park’s dark, tea-colored waters, colored by plant tannins, sphagnum moss and other organic substances, hence the “Black” in its name.

At the heart of the park lies the 250-acre Black Moshannon Lake, bustling with diverse wildlife and plant species. The park also safeguards a unique bog ecosystem. These bogs, characterized as acidic wetlands that amass peat, are crucial habitats for several rare and endangered species.

For another interesting place to hike, check out Shingletown Gap Hike!

Hiking in Black Moshannon State Park

For those keen on exploring, the park boasts 24 miles of trails. The Moss-Hanne Trail, stretching 7.7 miles, winds through varied landscapes, from thick forests to intriguing bogs. Meanwhile, the 2.7-mile Beaver Mill Trail wraps around the lake, providing views of old mills.

We hiked a short bit of the Star Mill Loop, mostly to get some photos of the colorful trees around the lake. And if a leisurely walk is more your pace, as it was for us when we visited, the bog trail is just 1/3rd of a mile and guides you on an ADA-accessible boardwalk through the interesting bog ecosystem.

I particularly enjoyed the short bog trail, in part because I’ve never met a wetlands I didn’t like. But I also appreciated learning more about the different types of wetlands and the cool carnivorous plants in the Moshannon bog.

  • Marshes have plants in open water and leaves are above the water, such as cattails and some reeds.
  • Swamps are wetlands with lots of trees.
  • Bogs form when fresh water and cold air collect in a flat area, such as at Black Moshannon Lake.

Beyond the trails, Black Moshannon State Park serves as go-to destination for fishing, boating and picnicking. As the cold sets in, the park transforms into a winter wonderland, inviting enthusiasts for snowmobiling, ice skating and ice fishing.

A Little History

Centre County experienced a significant timber boom in the late 19th century, with logging companies targeting vast tracts of virgin forests primarily composed of eastern white pine and hemlock. This intense logging transformed the county’s landscape, leading to towns emerging around sawmills and the construction of railroads for timber transport. However, the extensive clear-cutting practices of the era resulted in notable environmental impacts, including soil erosion and habitat loss.

By the early 20th century, conservation efforts began addressing these issues, with initiatives like the establishment of state forests and the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) promoting reforestation and sustainable forestry. Today, regenerated forests cover Centre County, bearing witness to both nature’s resilience and the region’s rich lumber history.

Black Moshannon State Park was established in 1937. The development of the park’s facilities, including roads, cabins, and other structures, was largely accomplished by the CCC during the 1930s as part of the New Deal programs during the Great Depression. Their hard work during tough times like the Great Depression paved the way for the park’s current infrastructure.

Know Before You Go

If an extended stay is on your mind, Black Moshannon ensures a comfortable experience with amenities like cabins, restrooms, boat rentals and picnic areas.

Getting there: 4216 Beaver Rd, Philipsburg, PA
Hours: daylight
Website: Black Moshannon State Park and the park’s trail map

There’s so much to see and do in Happy Valley. Check out the articles below for more ideas!