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PA Great Outdoors: Walk Cook Forest’s Emerald Path

Sunday, March 24, 2019 @ 12:03 AM

Posted by PA Great Outdoors - Danielle Taylor

Cook-Forest-winding-moss-Emerald-Path-American-beech-trees-Michael-Henderson-1080x675At the top of a hill near Cook Forest State Park’s Sawmill Center for the Arts, an intriguing path winds its way between the soaring hemlocks and pines.

(Photos by Michael Henderson)

Known simply as the Paved Trail, the walkway creates an opportunity for park visitors, including those who use wheelchairs, to surround themselves in this exceptional old-growth forest, but the trail’s surface was never intended to be anything noteworthy. However, during wet seasons, the inescapable persistence of nature causes verdant moss to cover the asphalt, and the trail literally comes alive with green.


Dale Luthringer, an environmental education specialist for Cook Forest State Park, believes the trail has been there since the 1970s around the time the Sawmill Theater was built. About a quarter mile in length and completely flat, the trail forms a continuous loop, making it easy for visitors to traverse its route and return to their vehicle. Along the way, trail users can see some of the forest’s ancient trees, both living and dead. At least one spiral snag creates an interesting photo opportunity, and Luthringer notes black bear scratch marks on a beech tree nearby. During the park’s annual French and Indian War Encampment, happening this year on June 8 and 9, visitors who need assistance to reach the trail can catch a golf cart ride.


To access the Paved Trail, turn in to the Sawmill Center entrance from Forest Road, then take an immediate left up the dirt road to the top of the hill where you’ll find a small parking area connected directly to the trail. If moss or leaves cover its surface, take extra care as the path may be slippery. Park staff periodically clear away the moss for safety, so it may not be green during your visit, but it always provides an easily accessed introduction to the forest that everyone can enjoy.

Learn more and find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region at or call 814-849-5197.

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