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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Pennsylvania: Roaring Run Natural Area

A precious backcountry jewel amid the hardwood forests.

by: William Rice IV

PAGE 1 2

Contact Information:

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Forbes State Forest Box 519 Laughlintown, PA 15655 (724) 238-9533 Location: Roaring Run is located in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 23 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and 25 miles northeast of Morgantown, West Virginia. Nearby towns include Somerset (10 miles) and Donegal (5 miles).

Getting There: From the Pennsylvania Turnpike, take the Donegal exit and follow Rt. 31 east. Turn right on Fire Tower Road near the summit of Laurel Ridge. This road forms the eastern and southern boundary of Roaring Run Natural Area. Fire Tower Road eventually merges into County Line Road and becomes part of the western boundary of the area.

Seasonal Information: The area is heavily used during summer, lightly used during fall, and rarely used during winter. Like all natural areas in Pennsylvania, it is open to hunting from about the end of September through the middle of January. Summer temperatures can range from the 50s at night to the 90s in the day. With Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania nearby, winters can bring severe weather. The area receives many of the first hits of storms from the west.

Wildlife: Common are deer, turkeys, black bears, raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks.

Insects: Contact park office for information.

Plant Life: Because of logging in the early 1900s and the 1960s, most of the forest consists of second- and third-growth hardwood stands of oak, birch, and sassafras. In autumn there are plenty of wild blueberries. Winter is the most tranquil season, when the loudest sound is the crack of hardwoods shedding frozen branches. Fiddleheads adorn the loose, dark soil in the spring.

Facilities: Camping is primitive backcountry. Most people camp along the trail. If you hike in from the western or southeastern parking areas, you can be at a campsite after three-quarters of a mile. This is especially convenient for families.

Parking: Five parking areas have been constructed for visitors. Two areas are located along the Fire Tower Road. Another is located near the Nedrow Cemetery and is reached via the Fire Tower Road and Township Road No. 301. One more parking area is located along the County Line Road.

Permits: A free permit for overnight visits is required.


  • Pets are allowed.
  • Campfire regulations can vary depending upon area conditions, but the current regulations will be enclosed with your permit.
  • Vehicles are not permitted in the Natural Area with the exception of Township Road No. 301.
  • Hunting and fishing are permitted during appropriate seasons; check with forest office.


  • If you stray from the trail, watch out for dense greenbriar.
  • There are scattered rattlesnakes in the area.

Leave No Trace: Pack in, pack out.

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: Call ahead for a free topographic map.

Other Trip Options:

  • Bear Run Nature Preserve, about 15 miles south, boasts Fallingwater ~ a Frank Lloyd Wright design that allows a creek to run through the house. Fallingwater has been called one of the ten engineering wonders of the world. But if you plan to visit, tour reservations are highly recommended.
  • One of the trailheads is 0.2 miles west of the 70-mile-long Laurel Highlands Trail.
  • Seven Springs and Hidden Valley resorts, with skiing and mountain biking, are other places to visit. For more information, contact:
  • Laurel Highlands, Inc.
  • 120 East Main St.
  • Ligonier, PA 15658-1297
  • 412/238-5661

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star


Randy Miller
Sep 26, 2012

True hat overnight camping is not permitted in the natural area but Roaring run is bordered by Forbes State Forest that allows permit free backpack style camping. The Laurel Highland Hiking Trail and trail shelters are also withing a couple of miles of Roaring Run. In fact the LHHT intersects with a couple of trails in and around the natural area.

Thomas O'Donnell
Jan 22, 2011

Since Roaring Run is designated a Natural Area there is no overnight camping permitted. So the advice about weekend trips should be disregarded.


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