The Joshua C. Whetzel Jr. Trail may just be the newest trail in southwestern Pennsylvania. This hiking trail, within Casselman River Conservation Area, is owned and managed by Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Joshua C. Whetzel Jr. Trail is a delightful walk anytime of year. Follow below as we describe this hike, then get out there and enjoy this area with your Ohiopyle-Laurel Highlands Lizard Map!
The trailhead lies just south of Confluence at a parking access to the GAP trail off of River Road. Use the Laurel Highlands side of our map to make your way to Confluence, then use the Ohiopyle side of the map to locate the specific parking area. Take a minute to read the interpretive media when you arrive, then set forth to climb uphill for a bird's eye view of Confluence!
The hike begins as a path through a grassy area then immediately transitions into a rock stair climb. It is obvious to see that much effort was put into the design and placement of this stonework. Although the short set of stairs are steep, they are much more enjoyable then sloughing through muddy, eroded trails. Luckily, there are several short sections of stonework to enjoy along this trail to the vista.
This new trail is well marked with with white metal medallions and the treadway is a well dug out path that is easy to follow. There are two old roads that intersect the trail along the way, but otherwise no intersections to create confusion for inexperienced hikers.
Be sure to look around the forest floor to appreciate the wildflowers and wild plants, along of course with the excellent display trail building for the hiking path. The north facing slopes traversed by Josh Whetzel Jr. Trail include several species of hardwood trees, which are local to the region and will create an excellent atmosphere for a fall foliage hike!
And of course with all of the surrounding water sources, hikers are bound to encounter wildlife on this trail. The trail maintainers have notched a forest chair alongside the trail. This can act as a good rest stop, and a good place to sit quietly and enjoy the forest. When we visited in the spring, we spotted a deer in the early morning forest!
Just as the climb becomes long and you don't think it will ever end, the trail reaches the summit and hikers can enjoy the new vista. The appropriately named town of Confluence and all the surrounding waterways are visible from this vantage point.
The new vista is a bit blocked with trees, but luckily plans are in the works to clear more trees to provide a more expansive view. Take a few photos and enjoy being on top of the mountain before hiking down the same way you climbed!
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.