Memories of hiking days past
Have you ever been on a hike and it was familiar to you even though it was the first time that you set foot on that trail? That was my experience on the Beaver Trail. I’ve hiked in Michaux State Forest many times, but never on the trail that encircled the Long Pine Run Reservoir.
Pine needles coat the trail, while mountain laurel, rhododendron, and evergreen trees border the path. As I trekked through the woods, I was transported back in time to happy hiking days in my home state, Pennsylvania. A slideshow of memories popped into my head:
- First slide – Completing our Appalachian Trail hike through PA in 2015, when black lab, Toro, was young and full of energy and yellow lab, Butterfly, was old but loyally keeping our pace.
- Next slide – Chasing my school-aged kids and 2-year old puppy, Butterfly, through the tall pines and over downed trees near Caledonia State Park.
- Hiking with 3 young children, one in a backpack, two scampering beside me, my pregnant belly slightly in the way of carrying sticks, leaves, pinecones and other special finds.
- Sneaking away from college stress and hiking for long miles on the Caledonia trails, wearing a cotton t-shirt, high top white Reebok sneakers and my school backpack.
- Collecting wildflowers with my Grandma as we walked from her little mountain cabin through the pines to “our” stream.
- Frolicking at the mountain lake edge with my little sister, wearing our matching blue and white floral, ruffly, homemade swim suits.
- Kayaking with our middle schoolers and their friends on the same lake that I played in as a child.
- Feeling relief in 2021, because the soft pine needle covered trail was a respite from the boulder sections of the Tuscarora Trail.
- Stopping on command as my oldest granddaughter, in a pack on my back, yelled “blaze” and placed her tiny 18 month old palm on each painted tree marking.
When we hike, we create new memories. Equally important, are the old memories that come to mind, fill us with joy, laughter, peace, and a longing for the past, while generating hope and excitement for the future.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.Romans 15:13
Beaver Trail loop around the Long Pine Run Reservoir
There are many parking options for the Beaver Trail loop. I chose a roadside pulloff on Birch Run Road, designated as #1 on the map below. The largest parking area is located at the Boat Ramp Access, 675 Milesburn Road, Fayetteville, PA, #4 on the map.
Beaver Trail begins and ends at two different points along Birch Run Road. Yellow blazes mark the well maintained path. The 1.3 mile Beaver Trail travels along the northwest side of the Long Pine Run Reservoir, weaving in and out of the evergreen tree forest. This is a nice option for an out and back hike. I passed several folks taking their dogs for their morning constitutionals. (Now that I have a British son-in-law, I feel inspired to toss some of his lingo into my vocabulary. Even better, I am mimicking his wit at the double meaning of “morning constitutional“!)
The Michaux State Forest Shooting Range is near the Beaver Trail. If you hike with fearful dogs, they may be frightened by the noise. Consistent gun fire pierced the quiet as we walked during an overcast Saturday. For this reason, I assume it is a popular location for target practice all year round.
From the second point on Birch Run Road, the trail is an unnamed, unmarked pathway through the woods. Pink and red blazes appear on trees close to the lake, finally ensuring that the hiker is on the correct pathway. Approximately .9 mile from Birch Run Road, the forest opens and reveals an unhindered view of the reservoir. I made several navigation “mistakes” at this point (quotation marks because is it ever a mistake when choosing to be outside?)
I hooked a right along the dam, walking on the dead-end gravel Dam Breast Access Road. Recognizing my error, I retraced my steps and turned right to follow the red blazes along the Abigail Trail. Abigail Trail is quite lovely, but after a half mile, I realized that I was walking away from the reservoir, rather than encircling it. Accordingly, I returned to the Access Road-Trail intersection and finally noticed a worn pathway in the grass along the dam. Checking the gps on my AllTrails app, I confirmed that I was back on track to loop the lake. Click here to see the recorded map.
I turned right toward the dam at the Abigail Trail sign and followed the drainage swale and dirt path. The shallow water crossing is the intersection of the Long Pine Run Reservoir and Birch Run. The lovely view includes a clear stream of gurgling water with an stair-step rock face as the backdrop.
Continuing south-bound onto Ore Bank Road for .4 mile, I then turned right onto a narrow, unmarked trail. A father-son hunting duo confirmed that the overgrown entrance proceeded to a nice path to the lake. Indeed, after 25′, the trail was easy to follow. It exits into the Boat Ramp parking area where there is easy access to the water’s edge. The dogs enjoyed a drink of fresh water, and I paused to watch the fog roll in and hover over the lake.
From the parking lot, the Boat Ramp Access Road leads to Milesburn Road and the Long Pine Connector Trail, a well marked and traveled trail. The half mile connector trail parallels and then intersects Milesburn Road, where a small parking area and accessible wooden pathway leads to the lake. The dirt trail progresses beyond the wooden path and continues through the woods, ending on Birch Run Road. A .2 mile roadside jaunt closes the loop.
|Hike difficulty classifications (link)|
|Trail difficulty level||Easy-Moderate|
|Geographic location||Michaux State Forest, PA|
|Trailhead parking options||Roadside parking|
|Elevation - trailhead||1,368'|
|Elevation - highest peak||1,392'|
|Total mileage||Approximately 5 miles (my gps says 5.6, but AllTrails map says 4)|
|Water sources||Reservoir and streams|
|Highlights||Lovely views of the reservoir; Beaver and Long Pine Trails are well maintained, but other trails lack blazes and signage.|
About Michaux State Forest and Long Pine Run Reservoir
Michaux State Forest
Michaux State Forest spans 3 Pennsylvania counties and encompasses over 85,000 acres of forest lands. It is located in the South Mountain region of southern PA, otherwise known as the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The forest hosts more than 100 miles of trail, 36 of which are the Appalachian Trail. There are 130 miles of scenic gravel roads for walking, biking and driving through the forest. Scenic vista views and an abundance of rhododendron, mountain laurel, pine trees and large oaks make this forest a favorite location for hikers, cyclists, campers and anyone who loves being immersed in nature.
Michaux is the site of one of the nation’s early forestry schools. In 1903, the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy was founded as one of the first public forestry schools. Later in 1929, it merged with a large state university and became a branch campus in Mont Alto, PA. A fun fact is that my husband received his forestry degree from that school, known as The Penn State University.
Click the links below for maps within Michaux State Forest:
- Michaux State Forest Map
- Flat Rock Trail System Map (includes Beaver Trail Loop)
- Rocky Knob Trail Map
- Appalachian Trail (Pennsylvania section)
Long Pine Run Reservoir
The Long Pine Run Reservoir expands more than 150 acres, has 3 miles of shore line and holds almost 1.8 billion gallons of water. It is a water supply for the Chambersburg Borough and a lovely, quiet spot for outdoor recreation. Small boat are welcomed onto the lake, however, swimming is prohibited. There are no picnic, camping or restroom facilities hence making it a bit less crowded than nearby State Parks. It is the perfect backdrop for a hike, a playground for kayakers and fresh water hole for hot, hiking pups!