Are you looking to explore some of Pennsylvania’s natural beauty? There are plenty of spots, some much more popular than others. If you’re looking to get a little more off the beaten path, consider heading out to Bilger’s Rocks, a hidden gem in the central part of the state. For an afternoon out in nature, this is a great spot to visit.
There are a few similar areas within a few hours, and each has its own notable features and flair. We’ll tell you all about all this, and more, here!
Where is Bilger’s Rocks located?
This rock city and the natural park can be found in central Pennsylvania, in Clearfield County. The closest Pennsylvania small towns are Grampian and Curwensville, both located to the south. The park is about 13 miles, or a 20-minute drive, from exit #120 for Clearfield on Interstate 80.
Reach the area in 2 hours from Pittsburgh or 4 hours from Philadelphia. State College, PA is just over an hour away.
What’s special about Bilger’s Rocks?
Bilger’s Rocks is a series of huge boulders made up of sandstone. The rocks are spread around haphazardly by nature and have plenty of cliffs, crevices, and passages to explore. Trails for hikers and climbers wind through the formations, but you are welcome to explore off-trail, as well.
Be sure to pay attention to the way that some of the trees grow around the rocks. Some of the roots appear to be overtaking the rocks. Some of the trees have just found their way around. Others have not been so lucky and were snapped off by the elements and only the roots remain.
Bilger’s Rocks History
The sandstone formations at Bilger’s Rocks are thought to be around 300 million years old, formed during the Carboniferous Period.
Previously buried by limestone and shale, these rocks have withstood the test of time and erosion.
The Bilger’s Rocks park was established by a private group of locals in 1988 to help protect the area. The group does a significant amount of promotion, also, holding events in the area. Everything from guided tours, to Bluegrass Festivals and Civil War reenactments, to seasonal holiday events are to be found here.
How to Explore
Hiking is the best way to explore the area. A brochure for a self-guided tour can typically be found at either the concession stand or the educational center. This brochure provides a little more background on 10 points throughout the rocks. Pick one of these up before heading out if you’re interested in more information.
From the parking area at the top of the hill, take the road back down around the curve. Be careful, as the road is not very wide and the curve is somewhat blind.
Just a short distance down the hill from the parking area, you’ll find a wooden sign for the Bilger’s Rocks Walking Tour. This is a great spot to enter the rock city and begin your exploration.
Over the 20 acres of land, you’ll be able to see rocks that rise up, some 50 feet from the ground. Upon entering, don’t miss the carvings in the stone to your left.
Carved into the sandstone, “the world is looking to us” with a primitive map of North and South America. This is one of the most notable carvings in the rock city, but it is certainly not the only one. Keep your eyes peeled for others as you wander through the passageways. The carving was completed by John Larson, a Swedish immigrant with no formal art training, who settled in the local area. It was completed way back in 1921 and definitely showcases his love of sculpture and carving.
If you visit at the right time, Lady Slippers are scattered all over the forest floor. Take in the plants and vegetation that cover the park.
Although there is a marked path through the rocks, the best way to explore is to go off the trail. Check out the crevices and passages that the rock formations provide.
Some of these crevices are big enough for two or three people to fit into them while others barely give you room to squeeze through. Keep your eyes open! There are some great views around every corner.
Prior to leaving the park, be sure to check out the rock house, just down the hill and around the curve from some of the campsites. This rock house is an exact replica of the house that Roland Welker used to survive in the History Channel TV series ALONE. Roland was born nearby in Clearfield County.
The tv series, where the goal is to survive 100 days in the arctic of Canada with only 10 items selected by the participant, a 2-way radio, and some camera equipment, was in its 7th season when Welker participated. He was the first to win the $1 million prize.
Imagine spending multiple nights in a row in temperatures 30-40 degrees below freezing. That’s exactly what happened in the original shelter this one is mimicked after!
After visiting the rock house, be sure to take in the impressive view from atop several of the rocks. Looking down into the forest, it’s like a glimpse into another world.
Exploring around the rocks could be accomplished in an hour or two, but if you’re interested in spending more time exploring the area, spend as much time as you’d like!
Bilger’s Rocks Camping
There are spots for camping available near the playground and gathering areas at the top of the rocks. The sites, however, are very primitive. There is no bathhouse. Restroom facilities include the port-a-potties near the parking areas.
There are typically fire rings and picnic tables near the camping sites. There are 10 sites for tents, which can be reserved for $20 per night. If you have a popup-style camper, there are 2 sites here to accommodate you. There is an electric hookup at these sites, which costs $25 per night to reserve.
Free firewood is available for use, and the playground is very close by for kids to enjoy. Camping reservations can be made by calling 814-236-3597.
FAQ’s: What to Know Before You Go
Planning a visit to the area? Here are a few things to know before you go.
Is there fee to visit the park?
No! Visiting the rocks and surrounding areas is currently free. The park is maintained by a private group, and there are donation boxes around the area, but no entrance fee is currently required.
Are dogs allowed at Bilger’s Rocks?
Yes! Pets must be leashed and you are responsible for cleaning up after them.
What should I do if I am unable to maneuver through the rock formations?
Head over to the education center! There, you can view a video of someone exploring the rocks. It’s the next best thing to adventuring through on your own.
What should I wear on this adventure?
No matter what time of year you plan to visit, exploring through the rocks is quite a bit cooler than the temperature even in the parking area. In some of the cave formations, you may find ice and snow into late spring and early summer. For this, bring layers that you can easily add or remove, and plan for temperatures colder than those on your thermometer that day.
Can I picnic at Bilger’s Rocks?
Yes! There are picnic tables, charcoal grills, and water fountains nearby. If you are unable to bring your own picnic food for one reason or another, there are concessions on-site, with hot dogs, hamburgers, and drinks available for purchase. Check ahead of time to ensure operating hours.
Can I have an event at Bilger’s Rocks?
Yes! There is an outdoor stage and pavilion on-site at the top of the rocks. Both can be reserved for weddings and other events. Up to 75 people can be accommodated here, and reservations can be made up to 11 months ahead of time.
More to Explore if you Enjoyed Bilger’s Rocks
Do you love exploring these huge rock formations? There are plenty of spots where similar experiences can be found throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Panama Rocks, located near Jamestown, NY is also a privately-owned rock city to be explored. Although this one does require an entrance fee, it’s a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon.
Thunder Rocks, a small section of Allegany State Park, has an interesting back story behind the name. The legend makes you think about those gigantic stones being thrown in a competition, creating thunder during a storm.
Head over to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio and explore the ledges trail. Though a little different in the types of rock formations but no less impressive than those found at Bilger’s Rocks.
If you happen to be in the Central Pennsylvania area, don’t miss your chance to explore Bilger’s Rocks. You can find an abundance of geologic features including rocks and boulders that have been eroded over time by water or ice, along with a variety of other natural wonders!
We hope this information has been helpful in planning your visit to Bilger’s Rocks. Although it may be a little more off the beaten path, it is a great spot for hiking, climbing, and adventuring.