Forbes State Forest
Forbes State Forest was named for Gen. John Forbes, who, in 1758, ordered the construction of a road from Bedford to Fort Pitt for the British Army's attack on Fort Duquesne. The forest comprises 15 tracts totaling almost 59,000 acres in Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties. Forbes spreads across the high ridges of the Laurel Highlands, including the 3,213-ft. Mt. Davis, the highest point in PA.
Don't Move Firewood
To help protect the forest from invasive insects that can kill trees and devastate the ecosystem, please do not transport firewood over long distances. Firewood can harbor insects such as emerald ash borer. Cut or purchase your firewood where you intend to burn it.
Although Forbes Forest District encompasses Allegheny, Greene, Washington, Fayette, Westmoreland, and Somerset counties, all of the district's state forest land is found in the latter three. The Forbes State Forest is comprised of 15 tracts in Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties, totaling 58,523 acres.
Forbes State Forest today is heavily forested with high quality oak, cherry, and other species. Because of its proximity to large population centers, there has been and will continue to be heavy recreational use of the Forbes State Forest. Many visitors to the Laurel Mountain tract unknowingly hike, bike, and drive on the old grade of the PW&S railroad, as well as many of it spurs.
Lumber from the Kooser tract was probably used to rebuild the nearby Borough of Somerset after the town burned to the ground in the years 1833, 1872, and 1876. Several miles of old railroad grades from the Indian Creek Valley Railroad exist in this tract, and serve as part of the present day road and trail system. The first and largest purchase of land in this area was in 1922.
The original forests of the Braddock tracts in southern Fayette County were rapidly depleted in the early to middle 1800’s, when tremendous amounts of wood were converted to charcoal to fuel the iron furnaces. Wharton Iron Furnace, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located within this tract. Heavy logging to meet the demand for charcoal, lumber and mine timbers in the late 1800's and early 1900's virtually eliminated the original forest. When the second-growth timber that replaced it reached merchantable size, the Braddock tracts were harvested again in the late 1930’s before being acquired as state forest land in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
The Blue Hole tract lies in the heart of the Laurel Highlands close to Laurel Hill State Park. Much of the land in this tract was purchased in 1931. Much of the land in the surrounding area was cleared for farming before the turn of the 20th century. Most of the Blue Hole timber fell before the crosscut saw of the commercial lumberman, rather than the ax of the pioneer settler. Early settlers used the timber for home building and fuel. Later, trees were cut for charcoal, lumber, mine props, fence posts, and railroad ties. The maple sugar and syrup industry was also important then, as it is now. One year after the Commonwealth made the first purchase of land in this tract, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was established. The camp was built for a capacity of 200 men and included a forester’s cabin, pump house, blacksmith shop, tool shed, bathhouse, officer’s quarter, recreation hall, dining hall, garage and barracks. Today, only one of these buildings remains. The CCC constructed many forest roads and trails, planted many acres of trees, developed springs such as nearby Patterson Spring, and conducted forest stand improvement.
Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania is found in the Negro Mountain tract of the Forbes State Forest. Most of this land was purchased in 1929, with smaller acquisitions later. Pioneer farmers began settling this area in the early 1800's. The foundation of an old pine tar kiln can be found close to the High Point. It is believed to have been abandoned around 1835. Pine tar was extracted from pine knots at this site, and used as wagon grease, for marking sheep, and as a cure for distemper in horses. One of the most striking geologic features around the high point is the interesting pattern made by loose rocks on the surface of the ground. Several of these polygons, 25 to 30 feet in diameter, can be seen from the observation tower. The Forest Maintenance Headquarters is located on the former site of CCC camp S-97. The camp was in operation until July 1937. Download a brochure on the history of the Negro Mountain area for more information.
Firsts for the Forbes
1909 – first purchase of land, from Byers-Allen Lumber Company
1909 – first District Forester, John R. Williams
1910 – first trees planted (white pine)
1911 – first Game Preserve established, near Grove Run
1921 – first known fire tower, Sugar Loaf, erected
1921 – first Public Camps (Adam Falls and Laurel Summit) designated
1927 – first Trout Nursery established in what is now Linn Run State Park
1933 – first CCC camp established
1955 – first Timber Management plan
DCNR Bureau of Forestry manages our state forests for their long-term health and productivity while conserving native wild plants. These forests are “working forests” and provide a whole suite of uses and values to Pennsylvania citizens, all while maintaining the forest’s wild character. Our state forests are managed for pure water, recreation, scenic beauty, plant and animal habitat, sustainable timber and natural gas, and many other uses and values. The management of our state forests is guided by the State Forest Resource Management Plan.
Forbes State Forest Harvest Schedule
The Bureau of Forestry has adopted “ecosystem management” as its principal strategy for managing state forests. This approach seeks to conserve the natural patterns and processes of the forest while advancing long-term sustainability. Ecosystem management promotes the conservation of plant and animal communities and the landscapes and habitats that support them. It also accounts for needs and values of people and communities. This results in a holistic, integrated approach to managing forest resources.
A Working Forest
As you travel throughout the state forest, you’ll see examples of our forests “at work.” Some of these management practices are more noticeable than others, such as active timber harvests, deer exclosure fences, natural gas drilling sites, prescribed fires and gypsy moth spraying. Others are more subtle, such as the protection of a vernal pool, the buffering of a stream from timber harvesting, or the setting aside of a special area to conserve its wild character or protect a rare plant community. Each of these management practices and activities play a vital role in the management and conservation of our state forest system.
Certified “Well Managed”
Pennsylvania’s 2.2-million-acre state forest system is one the largest certified forests in North America. The forest is certified (FSC-C017154) under the Forest Stewardship Council™ standards. The FSC® is an independent organization supporting environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests.
Horses may be ridden on most of the state forest roads and trails, except the Natural Areas and the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Some trails are not suitable for riding due to limited clearance and steep or rocky terrain. Riders are generally directed to our gated dirt and gravel roads, which can be found on the Laurel Highlands Snowmobile Trail System map. The map is available from our district office, or can be downloaded from our maps and page.
All-Terrain Vehicle Riding
Due to the size of its land base, the Forbes State Forest provides a unique opportunity for dispersed low-density outdoor recreation. Recreation opportunities are aimed at those forms of dispersed forest recreation that are compatible with the forest ecosystem. Trails vary from narrow, rocky, winding single-track; to single-track trails managed for skiing with wider trail corridors and smoother tread surface; to gated administrative roads.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Forbes State Forest offers a variety of natural history and recreational-based programming on a seasonal basis. Programs are offered mid-February through the end of October. The majority of programs are open to the general public while program requests for schools, scouts, teachers, and other specialized groups are available. Popular programs include: wildflower walks, tree ID hikes, fall foliage hikes, intermediate backpacking, day hikes, and the list goes on.
Contact the district office for more information about our program offerings at Forbes. Explore the calendar of events to see upcoming programs and events around the forest.
More than 250 miles of trails and roads suitable for hiking wind through the Forbes State Forest. Some of the more than 100 different trails include the White Tail Trail, Tebolt Trail, and Mill Run Trail in the Braddock Division; Fish Run Trail, Wolf Rocks Trail, and Spruce Run Trail in the Laurel Mountain Division; as well as Shelter Rock Trail, Tub Mill Run Trail, and High Point Trail in the Negro Mountain Division. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail runs through Forbes State Forest, along its 70-mile length between Ohiopyle and Johnstown. Maps of the trail systems are available from the Maps link on the mail page or at the district office.
Mt. Davis State Forest Picnic Area
Lick Hollow State Forest Picnic Area
Those looking for a more developed site can camp at one of the six designated motorized campsites. These sites are set up so a camper’s vehicle is close by the camp site. Contact the district office for regulations, or download our Camping brochure, available in pdf format. An application for a camping permit for these Forbes State Forest sites can be submitted online.
Cold-water fishing is popular along several creeks that run through the forest, including: Blue Hole Creek, Jones Mill Run, Mill Run, Quebec Run, Linn Run, Roaring Run, Camp Run, Laurel Hill Creek and Indian Creek. A 1.6 mile delayed harvest area has been established on Indian Creek near the town of Jones Mills. Access to the creeks ranges from nearby parking to overland hiking.
Over 100 miles of dirt, gravel, and paved roads traverse the Forbes State Forest. These roads provide opportunities to see a variety of wildlife, trees and wild-flowers. They also offer access to scenic vistas and hiking trails. Use caution when traveling state forest roads, especially during the winter. The beauty of the forest, the solitude, tumbling mountain streams, scenic vistas, and ever changing colors attract many visitors.
Beginning in October the ridges and valleys come alive with color. The Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour provides driving routes through the Laurel Highlands that highlight state parks and forests, scenic byways, picturesque overlooks and quaint communities. Explore the Discover Fall-Northern Loop and Discover Fall-Southern Loop. Additional scenic drives in this area include Discover Birds and Blossoms and Discover Rocks, Ridges and Ravines.
Pine Knob offers a sweeping view of Uniontown and points from West Virginia to Pittsburgh. High Point Overlook (ADA accessible) offers a spectacular view of High Point Lake, and surrounding countryside. High Point Observation Tower is located on Mount Davis - at 3,213 feet it is the highest point in Pennsylvania. Other vistas are located at Beam Rocks, and Wolf Rocks – both accessible via trails.
Other points of interest
Wharton Iron Furnace, an old iron furnace located north of Elliottsville, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Remnants of an old Water-Powered Grist Mill in the Quebec Run Wild Area can be reached via a hiking trail. Cole Run Falls can be reached a short distance from Cole Run Road. A deep spot in the streambed of Blue Hole Creek where the water appears blue, simply named Blue Hole, is located along Blue Hole Road. Remains of the Pittsburgh, Westmoreland and Somerset Railroad grade, are located in the Laurel Mountain Division. Remnants of two Civilian Conservation Corps camps can be found in the Blue Hole and Negro Mountain Divisions. Spruce Flats Bog, a fascinating area of obscure origin, is found in the heart of our Laurel Mountain. Division.
Horses may be ridden on most of the state forest roads and trails, except the Natural Areas and the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Some trails are not suitable for riding due to limited clearance and steep or rocky terrain. Riders are generally directed to our gated dirt and gravel roads, which can be found on the Laurel Highlands Snowmobile Trail System map. The map is available from our district office, or can be downloaded from our maps page.
All-Terrain Vehicle Riding
Pennsylvania’s state forest system includes dozens of special wild and natural areas set aside to protect unique or unusual biologic, geologic, scenic and historical features or to showcase outstanding examples of the state’s major forest communities. Natural areas are “managed” by nature and direct human intervention is limited. They provide places for scenic observation, protect special plant and animal communities and conserve outstanding examples of natural beauty. Wild areas are generally extensive tracts managed to protect the forest’s wild character and to provide backcountry recreational opportunities.
Roaring Run Natural Area
Located in southeastern Westmoreland County, this 3,500-acre area encompasses the major portion of the Roaring Run watershed, on the west slope of Laurel Ridge. This natural area is an example of a complete forested mountain watershed. Roaring Run is formed by numerous springs near the summit of Laurel Ridge, and drops 1,220 feet in elevation over a length of 5 miles. Roaring Run is a tributary of Indian Creek, which empties into the Youghiogheny River. Two high points of the ridge, known as Painter Rock Hill and Birch Rock Hill are within the natural area. When the area was acquired by the Commonwealth in 1975, it contained old logging roads from past timbering operations. Now, with some help from man, nature is restoring this area. The area offers opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, hunting, and fishing by foot access only.
Mt. Davis Natural Area
Located in southern Somerset County, the Mt. Davis Natural Area is composed of 581 acres and surrounds the rock known as Mt. Davis on the summit of Negro Mountain. The top of this rock is 3,213 feet above sea level and is the highest point in Pennsylvania. An observation tower is located at the high point, offering a 360-degree view of the highest point in the state. Interpretive and informative signs are also located at the high point, which is accessible by vehicle. The area offers many unique sites, such as trees deformed by strong winds and winter ice storms and small concentric stone rings caused by localized frost heaving. Drainage is to the southeast into Tub Mill Run, a tributary of the Casselman River, a part of the Mississippi River watershed. Weather is a very important factor in this area – annual temperatures range from minus 30 degrees to 95 degrees Farenheit. Frost has been observed at some time during every month of the year and snow depths can reach four feet by midwinter. It is common to see license plates from other states in the parking area as many visitors aspire to visit the high points in all 50 states. Hiking trails connect the Mt. Davis State Forest Picnic Area with the high point as well as to the lower elevations of the natural area. A picnic area is located about 1 mile from Mt. Davis along Mt. Davis Road. Hiking trails connect the picnic area with the high point, and from Mt. Davis lead into the lower elevations of the natural area. Motorized vehicles are not permitted in the area except on the road to the High Point.
With 7,441 acres to explore, and miles of interconnecting trails, the Quebec Run Wild Area is a favorite of visitors to the Forbes State Forest. It is located on the eastern slope of Chestnut Ridge, in Fayette County. Common recreational pursuits are hiking, hunting, fishing and the pursuit of peace and solitude. Nearly all of the Quebec Run and Tebolt Run watersheds are encompassed by the wild area. Native Brook Trout can be found in the waters of Quebec Run. Many old logging roads are still visible, along with dark brown sawdust piles that give mute testimony to the once active sawmills in the area.
For more information and maps to these and other State Parks visit the "Find a Park" page.
Laurel Ridge State Park
Laurel Ridge State Park has been developed along the summit of Laurel Mountain. It extends from the Conemaugh River in the north to Ohiopyle in the south. This park as a 94 mile hiking trail with 8 shelters for camping, 6 parking areas, and 2 snowmobile areas.
Kooser State Park
Kooser State Park is a 170 acre area on State Highway 31, west of Somerset. It has 60 tent and trailer camping sites, picnic areas, a 400 foot swimming beach on a 4 acre lake. Winter activities include snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.
Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park is south of Route 31, just east of Kooser. It has many fine hiking trails and 270 family camp sites, 9 group camps, and a 1300 foot swimming beach on a 65 acre lake. Winter sports include ice fishing, ice skating, and snowmobiling.
Linn Run State Park
Linn Run State Park is reached by traveling Route 30 east of Ligonier to Route 381. Facilities include hiking trails, picnic areas, and 10 rustic family cabins available for rental.
Laurel Mountain State Park
Laurel Mountain State Park is a ski slope with some of Pennsylvania's best downhill skiing trails. Services now include ski school, ski rental, food, chairlift, Poma lift, rope tow, and snowmaking.
Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park offers an adventurous white-water rafting experience on the Youghiogheny River, tent and trailer camping, several interesting hiking trails and snowmobiling areas.
Laurel Summit State Park
Laurel Summit State Park is a 6-acre park located near the highest point on Laurel Ridge at 2,739 feet above sea level. This park offers picnic tables, a pavilion, water, and a restroom, as well as parking and access to trails in the Forbes State Forest. Spruce Flats bog and Wolf Rocks Trail are accessible from the park.
For more information about Forbes State Forest feel free to contact us at:
Forbes District Office
DMS N40 deg 12 min 44 sec, W79 deg 11 min 56 sec
DD 40.20995, -79.19009
From the South, exit the PA Turnpike (I76) at Donegal and go north on State Route 711 to Ligonier, turn right onto State Route 30 East and go about 3 miles to Laughlintown. Go about 0.25 miles past the village of Laughlintown and you will see the Forbes State Forest District Office located on your left.
From the North, from the intersection of State Route 22 and State Route 711, take State Route 711 South to Ligonier, turn left onto State Route 30 East and go about 3 miles to Laughlintown. Go about 0.25 miles past the village of Laughlintown and you will see the Forbes State Forest District Office located on your left.
From the East, from the intersection of State Route 219 and State Route 30, take State Route 30 West through Jennerstown. Go about 7 miles and at the base of Laurel Mountain, the Forbes State Forest District Office is located on your right just before the village of Laughlintown.
From the West, from Greensburg, take State Route 30 East through Ligonier to Laughlintown. Go about 0.25 miles past the village of Laughlintown and you will see the Forbes State Forest District Office located on your left.
Firewood cutting is permitted on the Forbes State Forest. A permit is required. The cost is $20.00 per cord. Stop in the district office for a permit, or call for an application. For additional information, rules, and application, click here to link to our Firewood Cutting brochure.
Stone Sales on Forbes State Forest
Celebrating 100 Years
The History and Geology of the Negro Mountain Division including Mount Davis.
Private Forest Landowners - Selling Timber
Information on the safe use of powered mobility devices on the Forbes State Forest including wheelchairs, segways, foot scooters, tracked mobility chairs and tricycles.