Pennsylvania is home to 121 State Parks, as well as many other opportunities for outdoor recreation like State Forests and National Park sites, so there are bound to be a few hidden gems, right? We think we’ve found one in Trough Creek State Park!
While it’s not the largest or the oldest or even the smallest, there are unique features here worth visiting. If only spending an hour or a whole day, you will definitely find something interesting here.
Read on to find out the how’s and why’s for your visit to Trough Creek State Park.
Table of Contents
Where is Trough Creek State Park?
What to See and Do
Trough Creek Suspension Bridge
Savage Forge Site
Hunting & Fishing
Where to Stay
Where is Trough Creek State Park?
Located in south central Pennsylvania, Trough Creek State Park is a hidden gem, somewhat unfairly overshadowed by the nearby Raystown Lake recreation area.
For those looking for a quieter (but not totally without people) outdoor experience with some history should head to the east side of Raystown Lake to this park to explore.
Covering 554 acres within Huntington County, Pennsylvania, spending a day or a weekend in this park is absolutely worth your time.
Adjacent to both Raystown Lake National Recreation Area and Rothrock State Forest, your outdoor adventures could be nearly endless!
What to See and Do at Trough Creek?
Named Copperas for the color of the rock, the cliff-side appears as a yellowish-gold.
The rock has been stained by ferrous sulfate, or iron, that comes from a coal pocket underneath the surface. Copperas Rock is a great example of the geology of the area.
Although the ferrous sulfate is a big part of the contaminant in what is known as acid mine runoff, and is responsible for polluting many water sources near underground mines, the concentrations here at Trough Creek are relatively low. The creek remains safe for recreational activities.
With the nearby cave formations to use as protection from the elements, it is thought that settlers sheltered here and used the minerals to aid in dying their handmade fabrics.
A parking area is just across the street from Copperas Rock, making it extremely easy to reach. It can be seen at a short distance from the road, as well, making it a difficult sight to miss.
Perched and appearing to be ready to tip into the Great Trough Creek at any moment, the Balanced Rock is a different example of a geological wonder at this state park.
Because it is made up of different stone material than the surrounding mountain, it did not erode as the rest did. What is left behind is this rock that seems to defy gravity and nature.
A short hike, just over 0.1 mile, leads past some of the other sights in the park and ends at Balanced Rock.
This is not a new sight. It’s said that Balanced Rock has been hanging like this for thousands of years, and it’s definitely one of the highlights of Trough Creek State Park.
On the way up to Balanced Rock, you’ll come to a short wooden bridge allowing you to easily cross Abbot Run.
Looking to your left while crossing the footbridge, you’ll be able to view Rainbow Falls.
There are multiple drops for the run to jump down, with the total waterfall measuring around 15 feet high. There are multiple smaller drops both above and below, making the area really fun to explore.
Access is quite easy after crossing Trough Creek on the Suspension Bridge, but can also be reached by hiking other trails in the park with great views along the creek.
Although Rainbow Falls is somewhat seasonal, dependent on spring snow melt or heavy rains to flow at its peak, it is a sight that should not be missed!
You Might Also Like: The Best PA State Parks with Waterfalls to Explore
Trough Creek Suspension Bridge
The easiest way to get to Rainbow Falls and Balanced Rock is by crossing the Suspension Bridge over Trough Creek.
This unique cable suspension bridge can be nerve-racking to cross.
The wooden slats are not fitted closely together, leaving a few gaps to see through, and fit a foot through, to the creek below. There is also a ton of movement in the cables while walking across, so be prepared!
Little ones and those with a fear of heights should take extra caution.
For a little bit of history with an eerie feel to it, check out the old cemetery on the park grounds.
Getting there requires hiking about 0.25 miles.
The Cemetery Trail begins across the small wooden footbridge crossing a tiny stream next to the Paradise Furnace and continues along the stream for a short while before heading up the hill.
Keep to the right, and enter the forested area. This part isn’t marked very well and can be a little confusing.
Just when you’re not sure if you’re heading in the right direction, head just a little further.
You’ll come to a small clearing with rows of both some unmarked and some hand-carved headstones.
Though many of the engravings have been worn by weather, making them difficult to read, some dating back to the 1600s.
Discovered by early settlers, the ice mine shaft wasn’t necessarily the intended goal.
Some think that this natural refrigerator and freezer were discovered while digging to look for iron ore.
Others think it was discovered by workers building the railroad through the area. At any rate, the mine is kept cold by the geological features nearby.
When the rocks freeze in the winter, cold air is also trapped in the cracks between them. When everything else begins to thaw and warm up in the spring, the cold air sinks down to the bottom of the rocks in the mine.
The melting snow from the thaw flows down to the bottom here and refreezes due to the remaining cold air. It is often found to be still frozen into late summer!
Though a quick stop in the park, it would be great on a hot summer day to experience the sudden temperature changes.
A small parking area is located just next to the ice mine shaft, making it extremely easy to reach.
On the Ledges Trail, just after climbing the incline past Rainbow falls and the small footbridge, you’ll be able to find a small rocky outcropping covered in dirt.
Though it isn’t as clear of a view of the water as some other state park overlooks, you can still climb here to catch a glimpse of the hillsides surrounding the creek.
Continue further on the Ledges trail, and you will come to another overlook featuring a view of Round Mountain.
A little more peaceful than some of the other spots previously mentioned, you may even catch a glimpse of some wildlife on the trails here near the overlook.
A tribute to the industrial history of this area of Pennsylvania, the Paradise Furnace is an old iron furnace still (mostly) standing.
The furnace stack has crumbled a little from the top, but it is nearly 200 years old!
A few interpretive signs have been installed nearby so that you can learn and appreciate the work that went into the structure.
It had also been known as the Mary Anne Furnace after a change in owners.
The natural resources of the gorge, creek, and surrounding forests made Trough Creek an ideal location for the industry, and a few remnants can still be found.
Along with the Paradise Furnace, the Lodge was originally the residence of the ironmaster and the log worker’s house has been repurposed into the park’s visitor center.
From the Ice Mine, cross the road and head down the rocky trail for about 100 yards.
When you reach the creek, you’ll notice stone walls on the creek banks and a platform, which are the only remains of a dam that used to traverse the creek.
Removed in 2013 to improve boating access and fishing opportunities, the dam area used to create a wonderful swimming hole but has changed since the removal.
The water is quite shallow here and could be a great spot to wade into the edge of the creek.
Be sure to watch out for the timber rattlesnakes who sometimes like to sunbathe on the rocks in the warmer months. Although you will typically hear them before you see them, a bite from one of these poisonous snakes is a medical emergency that would send you straight to the hospital.
Savage Forge Site
Originally used to work the pig iron made in the Paradise Furnace into wrought iron, this forge site was not in operation for long.
This site is probably the least impressive in the park, as much of the remains are gone. Only a few stone structures are still here, but much is grown over by grass and weeds.
History buffs and thorough explorers should probably hit this spot, but otherwise, there isn’t as much to see here.
Trough Creek State Park Hiking Trails
Although there are only 12 miles of hiking trails within Trough Creek State Park, both beginner and more advanced and adventurous hikers can both find a trail to enjoy here.
For a short, 2+ mile loop, which catches many of the biggest points of interest, we recommend beginning at the parking area across the road from Copperas Rock.
You’ll see the well-marked Copperas Rock Trailhead next to the bridge.
Follow the trail to the split and take the Rhododendron Trail to the right.
Scaling the hillsides through patches of rhododendrons with the creek below is quite beautiful, but isn’t recommended for small children or those with unsure footing.
The trail does lead past the suspension bridge and Rainbow Falls.
Take a quick detour up the Balanced Rock Trail to the right past Rainbow Falls to catch a glimpse of the namesake, then return back to the Abbot Run Trail to cross the stream.
Shortly up this trail, you’ll see the Ledges Trail take off up over the hillside to the left, which leads to the overlooks and beautiful wooded areas of the park.
The Ledges Trail eventually returns to the Copperas Rock Trail, creating the loop, but continuing on a short detour on the Ledges Trail leads to another overlook of the mountainous hillsides.
For a longer hike with views of the same sights and more, park at the Ice Mine and take the Boulder Trail following the old logging road up over the hillsides.
You can follow this trail to the Suspension Bridge Parking lot and pick up the previously mentioned loop by crossing the Suspension Bridge.
Returning back to the Ice Mine where you left your car covers over 4 miles.
Biking At Trough Creek State Park
Although biking takes a backseat to the other recreational opportunities at Trough Creek, a 3.5-mile trail that ends with views of the edge of Raystown Lake.
Although it’s more an old dirt road than a multipurpose bike trail like those found at some other parks, you’ll want to keep an eye out for wildlife along your ride on Old Forge Road.
You’ll find a parking area near the beginning of the road for this short bike ride.
Hunting and Fishing Opportunities
Multi-season hunting and fishing makes Trough Creek a destination for those enjoying game activities.
The creek is stocked in the spring for trout fishing season, but other species such as bass, panfish, and suckers can be caught here throughout the year.
If fishing from the lake shore is more your speed, there is access to Raystown Lake via short hikes as an alternative to Trough Creek.
On the other hand, hunting is only permitted in certain areas during appropriate seasons.
It is a popular spot for deer, turkey, and squirrel hunting. Hunting grounds are adjacent to the Rothrock State Forest for expanded opportunities.
Just be sure to abide by the PA Game Commission rules and regulations!
Other visitors should be sure to be aware of hunting seasons when visiting and wear appropriately colored clothing for safety out on the trails.
Overnight Stay Options
Camping in Trough Creek State Park
29 campsites are available in the park campground from April to December.
Sites are supplied with a fire ring, picnic table, and electricity.
Various sites can accommodate tents, RVs, and campers of any size. Some sites are also pet friendly.
The restrooms here are considered rustic and are without showers.
Fees vary, but most are under $30 per night. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time at Reserve America.
One note that may be inconvenient for some with campers and RVs: the dump station is not actually located within the campground. It’s next to the park office, which can be on the way back out of the park but is about 2 miles from the campground.
Trough Creek Lodge
For year-round overnight accommodation, the only option within the park is the Trough Creek Lodge.
With 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, there is space for up to 10 people here. The Lodge is actually an old two-story house from the 1800s that has been renovated and now has modern facilities and central heat.
It is located just up the hill from the Paradise Furnace site and historically housed the ironmaster.
For those looking for off-season lodging or a more comfortable stay, the lodge is a great option. Prices seem to range from $80 to around $150, depending on the time of the stay.
Other Nearby Recreation Options
For those looking for nearby recreation areas both on and off the water, Raystown Lake is a popular destination.
Boating and kayaking are popular in the summer, and hiking and biking options get you away from the lake.
There is even a waterpark with slides and pools overlooking Raystown Lake for kids and kids at heart.
Shopping and dining experiences vary here, as well. There is something for everyone!
Rothrock State Forest
96,956 acres of land are available spanning three counties with limitless opportunities for outdoor adventures.
300 miles of hiking trails and 290 miles of biking trails pass through this State Forest.
While you can backpack and tent camp anywhere in this and any State Forest for free while following the campsite guidelines, there are also sites for motorized camping with RVs and campers at various spots throughout Rothrock.
There is something here for most outdoor enthusiasts.
Cowan’s Gap State Park
Just under an hour to the southeast, Cowans Gap State Park is a beautiful park featuring over 1,000 acres to explore around the 42-acre Cowans Gap Lake.
Hiking trails and fishing opportunities are plentiful here. A large campground with both modern hookups and rustic sites, as well as cabins, can accommodate anyone’s overnight needs.
The park also features the southern trailhead for the Standing Stone Trail, as well as access to the Tuscarora Trail, two premier backpacking trails in the area.
Greenwood Furnace State Park
At just under an hour to the northeast, you’ll find Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Just under half the size of Cowans Gap, with a smaller 6-acre lake, there are also awesome hiking trails to explore.
The northern portion and Greenwood Connector trailheads of the Standing Stone Trail are within the borders of this State Park, as well as some industrial historical features to explore.
Relax on the small beach by the lake or enjoy a campfire at one of the 51 sites at the campground. Greenwood Furnace is a beautiful Pennsylvania State Park to visit, as well.
Canoe Creek State Park
About 40 minutes of driving separates Canoe Creek and Trough Creek State Park.
Canoe Creek features a 155-acre lake in its nearly 1,000 acres.
Fishing, hiking, and swimming are also popular activities here.
There aren’t any campsites here for tents or campers, but there are 8 cabins to spend the night with some more modern amenities.
Wrapping Up: Visit Trough Creek State Park!
For a park you can spend a weekend at and explore every corner, or for a spot to stop for a few hours, Trough Creek State Park should be high on your list. The hiking trails have some challenging terrain, and there are a few unique landmarks to see.
Although it is a little bit off the beaten path, Trough Creek State Park is a very underrated State Park, and one that you should absolutely have on your list of must visits!