Mount Davis, at 3,213 feet elevation, is the highest point in Pennsylvania. Highpointers from across the country visit this roadside spot east of Ohiopyle State Park in Forbes State Forest to notch their highest point belt, or whatever it is one does to lay claim to reaching the highest point (on a natural feature) in Pennsylvania. And then they get a little higher by climbing the observation tower.
The view from the observation tower can't be beat!
There is history, and then there is geologic history.
The Mount Davis Natural Area was established in 1974 and includes 581 acres surrounding the top of the mountain. The observation tower is a unique structure. I’m not an engineer, but this tower reminds me of the old metal sliding boards that I grew up playing on, the kind that are essentially outlawed today. The polished stainless steel stairs and welded angle iron handrails are a throwback to an earlier, unregulated time – right about 1974. At the summit you’ll find a large map cast in bronze, also a throwback to an earlier time. As mapmakers, we really love seeing these installations.
We love the old school feel of this tower.
It's not really a tall tower, but it is a short forest. The trees are a bit stunted from the harshness of winter exposure. Photo by Peter Stone at peakbagger.com
They are both waterproof, but the Lizard Map is considerably easier to carry around on your hike.
The contour lines on the Ohiopyle Lizard Map are also 100 feet.
At the summit you are rewarded with a 360 degree view of largely uninterrupted forest. To the west, the high (but lower than you are) ridges of the famed Laurel Highlands appear in the distance, where you'll find the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT).
The observation tower takes you well above treeline.
There is a bit of historical legend and lore to be found at Mt. Davis. Several interpretive media installations about geology and history are at the tower base, as well as the USGS elevation benchmark. The benchmark is tricky to find – the only hint we’ll offer is the benchmark sits at the highest point of Mount Davis. You’ll learn about who John Nelson Davis was, and why this point was named after him. Mount Davis is the name of the highest point, but this is all part of Negro Mountain. You’ll read about the tale of the Wild Child (1830) and the tale of Henry Baughman and his son. Along Mount Davis Road you can stop and walk to Baughmans Rocks, which is a neat outcropping to check out. The hike in takes less than a minute.
The mystery of August and the fate of his not-very-nice father.
Two other Lizard spots await your discovery at Mount Davis. One is another outcrop of rocks located along Camp Buckley Road, which requires a further hike in than Baughmans Rocks but the reward is a true vista looking south above Deer Valley Lake. The other Lizard spot is the most scenic picnic table location we have ever found in Pennsylvania. This truly remarkable, handicap accessible picnic table sits on a massive deck overlooking High Point Lake and points west. High Point Lake is public, owned by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and you can paddle or fish that lake anytime you like. Our experience on this lake has often been very breezy, even to the point of standing waves and whitecaps. Not surprising when you're just below the highest point in the state!
Pack a lunch or prepare a sunset dinner - on nice days this spot is hard to leave!
There is a network of hiking trails which wander around the summit and provide excellent short loop option to explore further. There is also a motorized campsite that you can reserve from Forbes State Forest, campsite #6, which located just off of Mount Davis Road. This site provides some outstanding night sky views!
It's hard to beat a fine weather day on top of the highest point in Pennsylvania!
The trip to Mt. Davis can be a full day if you stay and explore the trails. It's also an easy side trip if you are exploring the area, located halfway between Confluence and Meyersdale. If you are riding the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail and want a challenge, you can pedal to Mt. Davis on either paved or dirt/gravel roads using a variety of routes. It's a beautiful part of the state to visit!
With over 300 miles of non-motorized trails, tons of gravel and dirt roads, and 24/7 access, Rothrock State Forest is a true gem for year-round outdoor recreation near State College, PA. Although the forest roads are not maintained in winter, a few parking lots along the perimeter of the forest provide ample access in almost any conditions. Below, we've chosen a few of our favorite very difficult trail loops accessible in the winter from one of these parking areas. The following loops are best for those who enjoy challenging, steep, and rocky climbs and descents.