Blue Marsh Lake
April 12, 2016
Columbia Trail
April 12, 2016

Big Spring State Forest Picnic Area

This is basically a 45-acre (18 ha) state park in Pennsylvania that is meant for picnicking and hiking, with the tunnel in Conococheague Mountain that is partially completed being the highlight of the park. The name of this picnic site has been adopted from the Big Spring which is not far from here that offers perfect scenery of Shermans Creek.

From the picnic area, one can access the partially completed tunnel using a short loop trail and Iron Horse Trail is also accessible from here where one can take part in both overnight and day hiking. Previously, there was a narrow gauge railroad in place called the Perry Lumber Railroad that was the main means of transport for logging companies that operated in this area then.

These companies supplied the tannery which was the first business establishment at the foot of the mountain. Charcoal furnaces as well as barrel manufacturers were also served by this railroad. The tannery was in operation until 1860 when it finally ceased functioning and later on in 1871, an axe handle factory took over the old tannery and started its operations.

In an effort to link the Path Valley Railroad based in Franklin County, the Newport and Shermans Valley Railroad laid tracks that passed through the park but in the process, efforts to build a tunnel through Conococheague Mountain failed. This is the same period when Newport and Shermans Valley Railroad ceased operations.

During the great depression of 1930, the Civilian Conservation Corps set up the facilities currently in place within the park, though it was already accessible before then through the railroad and by road as a picnic area for the community around. There are also other attractions that are within the vicinity of Big Spring State Forest Picnic Area.

These include the Hemlocks State Forest Natural Area which was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1973 by the National Park Service. It is located four miles from the park to the east. There is also the 90,968-acreTuscarora State Forest that offers ample environment for recreation, hunting and fishing.

Another attraction that is not very far from here is in Doubling Gap along PA 233 where you find Colonel Denning State Park a great place for ice skating, picnicking, cross-country skiing, camping, hunting, swimming, hiking and fishing. At Big Spring State Forest Picnic Area there are several picnic pavilions and picnic tables at various points throughout the park.

One is allowed to book these facilities in advance at a fee to have them reserved for up to 11 months. Otherwise, picnic pavilions that have not been reserved are available for whoever comes first and contacts are available for those who would want to make a booking.

Restrooms and parking space facilities are also available at this park that also opens up a door to an extensive trail system for snowmobiling. Big Spring State Park also serves as the trailhead for the Iron Horse Trail that opens up the stage for more exploration into the Tuscarora State Forest for visitors.

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