The Hemlock is Pennsylvania’s state tree. It was also one of the most harvested trees. Logging operations throughout the state in the early 1800-1900’s almost wiped out the native Hemlock.There are several areas in Western Pennsylvania where untouched old-growth virgin Hemlocks still stand, including the one at Laurel Hill State Park. The area was heavily logged in the 1900’s and wildfires spread frequently in the Laurel Highlands. However, the little area called Hemlock Trail Natural Area was too steep for the loggers to get out the wood, so this Hemlock stand went untouched.
The best times to visit is when it’s damp and cool and the natural area can be reached by Hemlock Trail. This is one of my favorite places to hike, this trail specifically. It’s lush, dark and mysterious. The start of the trail is usually wet and slippery. Be sure to pick up an interpretative guide, it points out notable areas as you pass-by marked by wooden posts that correspond to the numbers in the guide. The trail meanders along Laurel Hill Creek. The greens pop against the blue of the water. Ferns and moss seem to glow, especially under the cloudy days of Pennsylvania. Here silence is golden and entrance to the area seems to be granted only to the most quiet of them all. Walking through the area stop and listen to the sounds. The trees swaying in the wind. The little animals running about the forest carpet. This is what is afforded to the visitor. Quiet, peaceful, silence in the old Hemlock stand.