June 2008: French Creek State Park


Elverson, Pennsylvania

A wilderness fort once stood on the small stream flowing through these woods that was garrisoned by the French during the French and Indian War and thus "French Creek." The hillsides here were dotted with charcoal hearths throughout the 1800s, fueling the nascent American iron industry. The furnace was stoked for the last time in 1883. French Creek State Park was originally developed by the federal government during the Depression as a National Park Service Demonstration Area. Civilian Conservation Corps members, organized by President Franklin Roosevelt, built dams, roads and other recreational trappings. These workers also began restoration of the Hopewell Furnace, today a National Historic Site through which several of the park's trails pass. In 1946, the area was transferred to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Approximately 40 miles of trails visit every corner of French Creek's 7,339 acres. There are nine featured hikes of between one and four hours' duration. The marquee walk is the Boone Trail, a six-mile loop connecting all the major attractions of the park. The Mill Creek Trail is a back-country hike that visits Millers Point, a pile of large boulders where you and your dog can easily scramble to the to the top.  

All the walks are heavily forested with hardwoods - keep an eye out for the ruins of the area's charcoal-burning past. Repeatedly timbered, there is little understory and the trails are almost universally wide and easy to walk. The park is hilly with the steepest - and rockiest - slopes blanketing the eastern section of French Creek.

There is easy access to two lakes, the 21-acre cold water Scotts Run Lake and the 63-acre Hopewell Lake. 

French Creek State Park is north of Elverson. From Route 23, take Route 345 North to the south entrance of the park.From the PennsylvaniaTurnpike the park is 7 miles northeast of the Morgantown Interchange (Exit 22).