By Lizard Seeker Drew Lehnerd:
Since opening its doors in 1976, Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center has served as Penn State’s nature center and outdoor education field lab. Shaver’s Creek has also become a mainstay within the community providing opportunities for folks to connect with nature and each other through seasonal festivals, outreach programming, and a multi-faceted visitor experience. Additionally, Shaver’s Creek offers access to some amazing outdoor recreation opportunities for folks of all interests and ability levels.
Situated on not just one side, but BOTH sides of the Rothrock Lizard Map, Shaver’s Creek is nestled in the heart of Stone Valley and Penn State University's 7,000-acre Stone Valley Experimental Forest, and borders the 72-acre Lake Perez. Shaver’s Creek itself is surrounded by a small network of multi-use trails with various trailheads leaving from the parking and front yard areas. These trails also connect to Indian Steps, the Ironstone Trail, and the Mid State Trail, allowing for various looping opportunities and longer point-to-point hikes. Be sure to reference your Lizard Map and stop into the Visitor Center to pick up a more detailed map of the immediate vicinity which includes mileage information for the trails directly surrounding Shaver’s Creek.
Hop on the Lake Trail for a 3-ish mile jaunt around Lake Perez. This route affords scenic views of the lake, as well as the requisite roots, rocks, and bridges found when hiking or mountain biking in Central PA. You will pass through the Stone Valley Recreation Area, situated across the lake from Shaver’s Creek. This location, also managed by Penn State, offers cabin rentals, boat rentals, as well as a boat launch for those interested in fishing on the lake (trolling motors or human power only). The trail then continues across the spillway and earthen dam, affording a great view back across the lake, with glimpses of Shaver’s Creek’s facilities. Keep an eye for trail signs along the way to further explore the surrounding area or return to the Nature Center.
For those of you looking for more of a challenge, the Ironstone Loop is a scenic, challenging, roughly 13-mile route which passes directly through the Shaver’s Creek front lawn. Doable as a long dayhike, or a quick overnighter, the Ironstone Loop won’t disappoint experienced Central PA hikers. Park at Shaver’s Creek and loop back to your car. Or find another place to park (Jo Hays Vista is a good option), use Shaver’s Creek as a midway point to refill water, use the facilities, and take a rest near the lake. If you are hunting for Purple Lizards, this route will show you the way to a few. Be sure to also check out Monroe Furnace, located adjacent to where the trail crosses PA Route 26. Volunteers from Mid State Trail Association have been diligently clearing and re-blazing this loop over the summer of 2018, so it should be in great shape for those who visit this fall! See below for the outline of the route, then mark it on your own Lizard Map and get out there!
Looking to spend some time at Shaver’s Creek itself and explore the Visitor Center? Are you in for a treat! A recent renovation and addition project is wrapping up, and Shaver’s Creek is bigger and better than ever. Highlights of the Visitor Center experience are the Discovery Room featuring an array of reptiles and amphibians and the Raptor Center, which is located behind the main building and is home to over 20 different birds of prey. These resident raptors are all considered un-releasable for various reasons, and currently live on-site under the watchful care of Shaver’s Creek staff. They are used as educational ambassadors in various on and off-site programming.
Shaver’s Creek reopened to the public on August 2 following a two-year renovation project. Hours are 10am-5pm, 7 days a week and admission is free to all visitors. The finishing touches are still being put on the new enclosures in the revamped Raptor Center, so hold tight and expect to visit that new space soon. Shaver’s Creek is located just 12 miles from State College and the Penn State campus and 24 miles from downtown Huntingdon. A note for dog owners, please leave Fido at home if you plan to visit Shaver’s Creek, the presence of our canine friends stresses out the raptors.
For more information on the festivals, public programs, and various other opportunities offered by Shaver’s Creek, visit their website or follow them on social media. And for more adventuring opportunities be sure to keep an eye out for future blog posts!
Drew is a passionate Lizard Seeker and finds joy recreating in the out of doors in many ways. An avid cyclist, Drew can commonly be spotted traveling via two wheels on trails and roads found on various Lizard Maps. He also loves snowboarding and puts food on the table by working full-time with Penn State’s AURORA Outdoor Orientation Programs.
Our Trail Guru discusses his completion of the first annual unPAved Pennsylvania gravel riding event, and how it has inspired him to ride more. "The rewarding feelings from this event are immeasurable and inspiring in so many ways: My friends and I sat around the evening after the event discussing winter bike gear needed to be able to prep for more events in 2019...especially the full 120-mile unPAved route."
Otter Creek Wilderness Area hosts over 40 miles of hiking trails for those willing to tackle the challenge. Managed as a Wilderness Area, this is truly a wild place. No roads or other infrastructure may exist. Bikes, wheels, motors, and other machines are also prohibited. Trails are well established, but signs, blazes, and other interpretive media are almost completely absent. Enter if you dare!