A pennsylvania Recreational Guide for Pine Grove Furnace State Park

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A Pennsylvania Recreational Guide for

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Steeped in natural and historical features, the 696-acre Pine Grove Furnace State Park is at the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in an area known as South Mountain. Visitors enjoy many recreational opportunities, including two mountain lakes, Laurel Lake and Fuller Lake, hiking the Appalachian Trail, biking the rail trail, visiting the Appalachian Trail Museum and imagining when the park was a charcoal-fired iron furnace community. The park is surrounded by Michaux State Forest, which provides opportunities for exploring extensive public lands around South Mountain.


The park is easily reached from I-81. Visitors should take Exit 37 to PA 233 south then travel for eight miles.


Make online reservations at www.visitPAparks.com or call toll-free 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, for state park information and reservations.

Top 10 Activities to do at Pine Grove Furnace

1. Double the fun! Swim in two lakes, build sand castles at two beaches and picnic in two different picnic areas (lunch and dinner?), all separated by a short bike ride.

2. Set foot on the famous Appalachian Trail. The park is the halfway point for this 2,186-mile National Scenic Trail.

3. Enjoy one of the many education programs offered by the park, like Free Kayaking for Beginners.

4. Walk back in time on the Historical Walking Tour of historic buildings. Explore an iron furnace from one of the most productive iron communities of the 19th Century.

5. Relax in the modern campground with upgraded facilities.

6. See hundreds of jack-o-lanterns float on Fuller Lake during the Fall Furnace Fest.

7. Visit the first hiking museum in the U.S.--the Appalachian Trail Museum.

8. See the park from above! Hike up to Pole Steeple Vista and view the eastern part of the park and surrounding Michaux State Forest from the overlook.

9. Tour of the Ironmaster’s Mansion. Once the home of the iron operations ironmaster, some famous Americans slept here, too!

10. Enjoy year-round trout fishing in the stocked Mountain Creek and Laurel Lake.

Recreational Opportunities

Spend the Day

Picnicking: Many picnic tables are available throughout the park. Charcoal grills, drinking water and restrooms are by the lakes and historic district. Three picnic pavilions (seating 80 to 140) may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fishing: The common fish in the 25-acre Laurel Lake and the 1.7-acre Fuller Lake are pickerel, perch, bass and stocked trout. Mountain Creek, which flows through the park, has cold-water species like brown, brook and rainbow trout. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations apply.

Bicycling: All park roads and service roads are open to bicycles unless posted otherwise. A two-mile bike trail connects the Furnace Stack Day Use Area with the Laurel Lake Day Use Area. Once the railroad bed of the South Mountain Railroad, the trail surface is crushed limestone or paved. Over half of this route is on Railroad Bed Road and shares the road with vehicles. Bicyclists are advised to use caution because all trails are shared with pedestrian traffic and some are open to motor vehicles. Pennsylvania state law requires all bicyclists under the age of 12 to wear an approved helmet.

éHunting and Firearms: Over 75 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, turkey, rabbit, pheasant and squirrel.

Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.

Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner’s car, trailer or leased campsite. The only exception is that law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may carry said firearm concealed on their person while they are with the park.

Swimming: The beaches at Fuller and Laurel lakes are open from May 1 to September 30, 8 a.m. to sunset. Laurel Beach is swim at your own risk. Fuller Beach has lifeguards on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, unless otherwise posted. Please follow posted rules for swimming when lifeguards are off duty.

Swimmers at Laurel Lake and especially at Fuller Lake are advised to exercise caution because of the extreme depths and cold subsurface waters. In the summer season, a snack bar is available at each beach.

Boating: electric motors only

Boating is permitted only on the 25-acre Laurel Lake, which has a boat launch, 85 mooring spaces and a boat rental.

Motorboats must display a boat registration from any state. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration from any state; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks that are available at most state park offices; launch use permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

ATV s: Just south of the park is a trailhead on nearby state forest land that provides parking for vehicles and trailers, and access to many miles of trails on state forest lands. Maps of the trails are available at the park office.

Hiking: 4 miles of trails

Buck Ridge Trail: 6 miles, yellow blazes

This trail through Michaux State Forest connects Kings Gap Environmental Education Center and Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The trailhead and a small parking area are across from the park office.

Creek Trail: 0.5 mile, yellow blazes

Creek Trail begins at the amphitheater and winds past vernal ponds and a stand of white pine along Mountain Creek near the campground.

Mountain Creek Trail: 1.4 miles, yellow blazes

This trail is a link between the rail trail to Fuller Lake and Icehouse Road to Laurel Lake. The trail affords the hiker an alternate path to Laurel Lake Day Use area other than the paved roadway. The trail meanders through forests and wetlands as it follows Mountain Creek downstream to Laurel Lake. Deer, heron, waterfowl and beaver can be seen along this trail.

Koppenhaver Trail: 1 mile, yellow blazes

Begin this scenic loop trail at the far end of the Fuller Ball Field. The footpath crosses Toms Run and passes through stands of mature pines and hemlocks.

Pole Steeple Trail: 0.75 mile, blue blazes

This Michaux State Forest trail contains some steep climbs. The entire park can be viewed from the Pole Steeple Overlook, which is a quartzite rock outcropping. The trail begins at the Pole Steeple parking lot, along the Railroad Bed Road by Laurel Lake, and proceeds up Piney Mountain to the rocky overlook.

The steep grade and sheer drop may stress some individuals. Parents are advised to closely supervise children, especially when they are on the rocks and ledges.

Swamp Trail: 0.25 mile, yellow blazes

This short trail circles a small, forested swamp filled with interesting plants and animals. The trail begins and ends on the rail trail.

Tell us about your hike at: ExplorePAtrails.com

For a Safe Hike

• Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet.

• Carry the proper safety equipment, like a first aid kit and a poncho.

• Stay on the trail. If you hike off the trail, you might get lost or damage fragile habitats.

• Carry drinking water. DO NOT drink from streams, springs or lakes without properly treating the water first!

• Observe wildlife from a safe distance. Do not try to get close to wild animals.

• Check the weather before you hike. It is not safe to hike in thunderstorms or when heavy snow is expected.

• Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

• A cell phone can be useful for calling for help, but many sections of the park do not have cell phone coverage.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Running through the heart of the park is probably the most famous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The 2,186-mile long trail traverses the Appalachian Mountains, stretching as a continuous footpath from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in central Maine. The trail is marked with white blazes, which can be seen near the Pine Grove General Store, Appalachian Trail Museum, Fuller Day Use Area and on the rail trail.

Half-gallon Challenge: About 2,000 people attempt to hike the entire A.T. in one year. These long distance hikers are called thru-hikers and most pass through the park from late spring through the summer months.

About one out of four thru-hikers will complete the whole trail. Reaching Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a milestone. The halfway point of the A.T. is several miles south of the park, in Michaux State Forest.

To commemorate the completion of half of the journey, it is a thru-hiker tradition to attempt the “half-gallon challenge” of eating one half of a gallon of ice cream in one sitting. On a summer day, it is common to see hikers working on the challenge at the Pine Grove General Store.

Hiking the A.T.

The Appalachian Trail is a popular destination for short-term backpackers and day hikers. About 2 to 3 million people walk a portion of the A.T. each year. Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a popular staging point for short term backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Boiling Springs to the north and Caledonia to the south are each about a 20-mile hike from Pine Grove Furnace.

Overnight parking is available for backpackers in a special section of the Furnace Stack parking lot. Hikers should register their car and supply contact information and an itinerary at the park office.

Information, maps, guides, shuttles and more are available. www.appalachiantrail.org

Stay the Night

éCamping: warm showers and flush toilets

70 tent and trailer sites are available from late March to mid-December. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring. A sanitary dump station is near the campground entrance. A seasonal camp store is one quarter-mile from the campground.

GPS: Lat. 40.02565 Long. -77.31086

Paymasters Cabin: This two-story historic house, which served as the paymaster’s office when the ion furnace was in use, has been converted into a modern cabin. It is available for rent year-round and has modern conveniences like electric heat, air conditioning, a full kitchen and warm showers. An outdoor area has a picnic table and fire ring. The cabin sleeps six people and is near the camp store. Guests should bring all essentials like sheets, linens and dishes.

During the summer season, the Paymasters Cabin must be rented for a one week period, beginning on a Friday. For the rest of the year, the cabin must be rented for a minimum of two days, up to a maximum of 14 consecutive days.

Organized Group Tenting: Organized adult or youth groups may reserve the rustic area year-round. The area is divided into six separate sites with a total capacity of 180 people. The sites are in a wooded area surrounding an open playfield.

Ironmaster’s Mansion: Located at 1212 Pine Grove Road, (along PA 233), this renovated, historic, brick mansion is operated by the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy. In addition to serving as a hostel and providing dormitory-style lodging, the mansion is an educational facility with meeting rooms, and is a venue for wedding receptions, family reunions and special events.

The mansion was built in 1829 by the ironmaster Peter Ege and has an impressive history of guests and owners, including senators, federal department leaders, a millionaire and a university founder.

The Ironmaster’s Mansion is open April to December. To book an overnight stay, wedding, meeting or special event, please email: IronmastersPineGrove@gmail.com or call 717-486-4108.

Enjoy the Winter

Ice Sports: At Laurel Lake, a small area by the boat launch is maintained for ice-skating. Ice fishing is permitted in the rest of the lake. Ice thickness is not monitored except in the designated skating area. For your safety, be sure the ice is at least four inches thick and carry safety equipment.

Ice sports are prohibited on Fuller Lake.

Cross-country Skiing: Nordic skiers enjoy the rail trail when snow conditions allow. Although no trails are specifically designated for cross-country skiing, numerous opportunities exist, especially during winters with heavy snowfalls, both within the park and on the surrounding state forest lands.

Snowmobiling: Just south of the park is a trailhead on nearby state forest land that provides parking for vehicles and trailers, and access to many miles of trails on state forest lands. Maps of the trails are available at the park office.

Educational Opportunities

éThe ADA accessible park visitor center in the park office has exhibits on the historic charcoal iron furnace community, which flourished for over 130 years. The center is open year-round. April through October, the visitor center is open daily. The center is open Monday through Friday during the rest of the year.

Spring through fall, Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education, recreational and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding, and develop a sense of stewardship toward the natural and cultural resources.

Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to school, youth organizations and homeschool associations. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office.

Visit the Events Calendar at www.visitPAparks.com.

Fall Furnace Fest: This weekend-long event is held in October. Historical demonstrations, park programming, entertainment, hayrides, and food and craft vendors provide a great family-oriented event. The highlight of the weekend is the telling of the Legend of the Hairy Hand, which includes a float of hundreds of lit jack-o-lanterns on Fuller Lake.

Appalachian Trail Museum Festival: Held every June, this weekend-long event features a banquet, hikes, guest speakers, music and children’s programs.

Appalachian Trail Museum

The Appalachian Trail Museum is in the Old Mill Building at 1120 Pine Grove Road (along PA 233) between the Pine Grove Furnace State Park office and the Pine Grove General Store. Museum exhibits and programs pay tribute to the pioneer trail-builders and hikers, including Earl Shaffer, Grandma Gatewood, Gene Espy, Ed Garvey, and their commitment to fitness and conservation. The Children’s Discovery Area provides fun, hands-on learning experiences. The museum is near the midpoint of the 2,186-mile Appalachian Trail, a National Scenic Trail that goes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. The museum welcomes newcomers to the A.T. as well as veteran hikers and frequently offers an opportunity to meet current thru-hikers.

The museum is open seasonally. Check the website for hours of operation. Admission is free of charge, although donations are welcomed. Parking for the museum is adjacent to the Furnace Stack Picnic Pavilion. 717-486-8126 www.atmuseum.org

Friends of Pine Grove Furnace

The Friends of Pine Grove Furnace State Park exists to keep history alive, and promote the educational and recreational programs of the park and surrounding area through special events and trail development, while protecting the park’s natural resources.

The primary goal of the group is to raise revenue to support the park in completing projects that include:

•Bridge work on trails

•Enhancement and creation of trail links

•Resource management – control of invasive species, planting native species

•Enhancement of the Furnace Stack area

•Facilitation of special events

•Development of interpretive displays


Pine Grove Furnace

In 1764, partners George Stevenson, Robert Thornburgh and John Arthur built an iron furnace along Mountain Creek. They named it Pine Grove Iron Works. It manufactured ten plate stoves, fireplace backs, iron kettles and possibly munitions during the American Revolution.

In 1782, Michael Ege, a rising Cumberland County iron mogul, purchased the iron works. Over the next 32 years, Ege grew his business until he was the sole owner of Pine Grove, Cumberland, Holly and Carlisle iron works.

Michael’s oldest son, Peter Ege, inherited Pine Grove Iron Works. In 1829, Peter built for his wife, Jane Arthur Ege, a red brick, English Tudor mansion. Jane died at Pine Grove in 1841 and was laid to rest in the Pine Grove Cemetery next to her son George Washington Ege, who had died in 1831.

Peter expanded his iron works in 1830, building Laurel Forge, which reheated and hammered cast iron from Pine Grove Furnace to produce wrought iron, a bendable metal that could be formed into many shapes.

The financial panic of 1837 bankrupted the Pine Grove Iron Works. At a sheriff sale the following year, Frederick Watts and his law partner Charles Bingham Penrose purchased Pine Grove to try their luck in the iron business. Watts went on to found Penn State University in 1855 and served in 1871 as Commissioner of Agriculture for President Grant. Penrose was a state senator and Solicitor of the Treasury for President Harrison.

In 1864, Jay Cooke and Company bought the iron works and formed South Mountain Iron Company, bringing in Jackson C. Fuller to be the furnace manager to run the daily operations, while the business affairs were taken care of in Philadelphia. The new company built South Mountain Railroad to bring raw materials to the furnace and move the iron products to market.

Jay Cooke is often called the “Financier of the Civil War.” He raised about $1.2 billion through the sale of federal treasury notes. Taking only a small commission on the sale of each bond made Cooke the wealthiest man in America by the end of the war. He then bought the Northern Pacific Railroad, which failed in the poor economy and depression after the war. Cooke was bankrupt and moved into his son-in-law’s home. The closing of the banking house of Jay Cooke and Company caused the financial panic of 1873.

The South Mountain Iron Works went up for sheriff sale, but no one bought it. In 1877, the railroad and iron works were sold separately. Through his friend Fuller, Cooke bought back the ironworks, forming the South Mountain Mining and Iron Company.

Future founding member of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, John Birkinbine, became the furnace’s engineer. Concerned over Pennsylvania’s dwindling forest reserves and wanting to show that charcoal iron furnaces could be fired with alternative fuels like coke and coal, Birkinbine renovated the furnace in the winter of 1878. Charcoal remained the primary fuel of the furnace, but the furnace no longer had to shut down when charcoal supplies were exhausted. Birkinbine also increased the size of the furnace, which produced 6,000 net tons of cast iron in 1883, the peak year of production.

But, new technologies were quickly putting small iron producers out of business. Pine Grove Furnace went out of blast in 1895, ending 131 years of iron making on South Mountain.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

In 1913, the 17,000-acre Pine Grove Ironworks was sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be part of the new Forest Reserve system. Much of the land became Michaux State Forest, and part became Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Fuller Lake, an iron ore quarry, which had filled with groundwater when mining ceased, became a popular swimming area. Laurel Lake had supplied waterpower for Laurel Forge. Today it is popular for fishing and swimming.

In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established Camp S-51. The CCC boys built roads, trails and facilities until 1941.

Some of the historic buildings dating back to the charcoal iron community still stand and include the furnace, ironmaster’s mansion, clerk’s office, stable, grist mill (now the Appalachian Trail Museum), the second iron master’s mansion (now the park office) and several residences. Remnants of raceways, charcoal hearths and related manmade features are still discernible.

In 1977, Pine Grove Iron Works was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.

Wildlife Watching

The diverse habitats of Pine Grove Furnace State Park support a variety of wildlife through all seasons. The historic use of the area during the iron furnace period created a varied combination of open areas, wetlands, and vegetation that make the area unique for wildlife.

Spring and fall is the time of bird migrations. The forest, interspersed with ponds and wetlands, makes the park a rest stop for many migrating forest birds. Warblers, vireos and thrushes stop to rest and eat before flying on to their breeding or winter homes.

Laurel Lake and its shoreline wetlands are a beacon that lures waterfowl. Merganser, Canada goose, mallard, loon, teal and many other ducks can be seen swimming, diving and dabbling for vegetation and small fish. Wild turkey and woodcock call from open areas.

Winter is a good time to see woodpeckers and evidence of their presence. Pine Grove Furnace has at least six species of woodpeckers.

Summer is the time of lush green vegetation and growing young animals. In thickets and along roads, watch for spotted fawns and frantic bluebirds searching for food to feed their hungry chicks. Butterflies reach their peak numbers and can be seen floating from flower to flower in the fields and wetlands.

In the fall, the deciduous trees lose their chlorophyll and their leaves reveal beautiful reds, oranges and yellows. This is a time that many animals are preparing for the winter season ahead. There is a growing population of black bears in the area and visitors may see one putting on weight for the winter hibernation. Beavers may be seen working on lodges and dams in the upper channels of Laurel Lake at twilight.

Access for People with Disabilities

éThis symbol indicates facilities and activities that are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible for people with disabilities. This publication text is available in alternative formats.

If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.

Nearby Attractions

Information on nearby attractions is available from: Cumberland Valley Visitor Bureau. www.visitcumberlandvalley.com

Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. www.gettysburg.travel

Kings Gap Environmental Education Center: Kings Gap offers environmental education programs from preschool environmental awareness programs to environmental problem solving programs. 717-486-5031

Michaux State Forest: This 85,000-acre forest surrounds the park and offers general recreation like hunting, fishing and hiking. 717-352-2211

Protect and Preserve Our Parks

Please make your visit safe and enjoyable. Obey all posted rules and regulations and respect fellow visitors and the resources of the park.

• Be prepared and bring the proper equipment. Natural areas may possess hazards. Your personal safety and that of your family are your responsibility.

• Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

• Please camp only in designated areas and try to minimize your impact on the campsite.

• Firewood Advisory: Firewood may contain non-native insects and plant diseases. Bringing firewood into the park from other areas may accidentally spread pest insects and diseases that threaten park resources and the health of our forests. Campers should use local firewood. Do not take wood home and do not leave firewood - Burn It!

• Prevent forest fires by having a fire in proper facilities and properly disposing of hot coals. Do not leave a fire unattended.

In an Emergency

Contact a park employee or dial 911. For directions to the nearest hospital, look on bulletin boards or at the park office.

Nearest Hospital

Carlisle Regional Medical Center

361 Alexander Spring Road

Carlisle, PA 17013


For More Information Contact:

Pine Grove Furnace State Park

1100 Pine Grove Road

Gardners, PA 17324-9078

GIS: Lat. 40.03295 Long. -77.30467


email: pinegrovesp@pa.gov

An Equal Opportunity Employer


Information and Reservations

Make online reservations at www.visitPAparks.com or call toll-free 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, for state park information and reservations.

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