Tuscarora-Standing Stone loop

Description: The 250 mile Tuscarora Trail (TT) was originally constructed to replace a section of the AT between Shenandoah National Park in VA and Blue Mountain in Deans Gap, PA. The PA section is 110 miles long. The original path of the AT has since been secured leaving the Tuscarora to stand on its own. The Standing Stone Trail (SST, formerly the Link Trail) is a 70+ mile long connector between the Tuscarora Trail and the Mid-State trail. It previously extended south from Greenwood Furnace State Park to the Tuscarora Trail 3 to 4 miles north of Cowans Gap State Park. In the summer of 2010 the SST club and volunteers extended the trail along the ridge of Cove Mountain to join the TT at the park’s dam. The section of trail that was bypassed was re-blazed and named Todds Trail. Together these three trails form a nice 10.4 mile loop with 1500 feet of elevation gain. Unlike the majority of the Tuscarora Trail this section is not rocky but uses, for the most part, an old woods road.

The climb up Todd Trail is steep but aided near the top by a series of well constructed switchbacks (an anomaly on most PA trails). The hike along Cove Mountain is extremely rocky but the traveler is rewarded with several panoramic views and some smaller ones along the way. The last 1.3 miles is a gradual descent on the Knobsville Road and Lakeside Trails back to the parking lot. A 0.4 optional out-and-back on the SST to two more vistas is also described.

Standing Stone Trail Club Note: “The SST section on the ridge top between Fox and Sharpe trails is closed Nov 1-Jan 15 including Sundays – this affects a tiny but strategically located sliver of private land, owned by an organization that has been very helpful in creating the new SST in this area. Please respect the landowner’s wishes and do not use the ridge top trail on the private land section during this time. Use Todd and Tuscarora trails as an alternate, or if hiking the loop from Cowans Gap, cut over Fox Trail. Map 4 (See “private Property” on the Midatlantichikes map.) has been updated on the SST web site with the new route and the closure dates.”

The hike starts at the parking lot behind the bathhouses.

Google Maps Custom Driving Directions

The Standing Stone and Tuscarora Trails are part of the Great Eastern Trail (GET).





Printable/Downloadable Map

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Zipped National Geographic TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users


Trail NotesFollow the paved/gravel path along the beach and across the dam to the new SST terminus sign. Turn right onto a blue blazed footpath to stay on the TT. It soon becomes an eroded woods road. In 0.21 miles pass the junction of the signed Horseshoe Trail. In another 0.98 miles pass the Wagner Trail and in another 0.35 miles the Fox Trail. The condition of the road steadily improves as it first climbs a bit and then descends again. In 0.0.90 miles from the last trail junction the trail approaches Aughwick Road and bears left to pass several hunters’ cottages. The trail goes around a forest gate and passes the junction with the Sharp Trail in another 0.13 miles from Aughwick Road .  At 0.77 miles from the Sharpe Trail the TT goes off to the right. Continue straight on the woods road, now the orange and red Todds Trail.  Keep an eye out for in 0.30 more miles you will turn left off of the road and ascend to the crest of Cove Mountain in another  0.66 miles. If time, weather and energy permits we recommend turning right and following the SST for 0.19 miles to a nice view to the east. Immediately after that will be a short yellow blazed trail that ends at a rocky vista to the west.

Retrace your steps to the Todd Trail and SST junction and continue south along the ridge. The trail is generally well marked but watch the blazes carefully as the trail is constantly switching from one side of the ridge to the other. You’ll obviously pass trail junctions with the previously mention connector trails you passed along the TT: first the Sharp Trail in 0.99 miles from the last junction and then the Fox, Wagner and Horseshoe Trails. They will be approximately the same distances apart as when they were passed in the valley. The private property discussed in the description is between the Sharpe and Fox trails. It is signed and blazed with white paint. There are many vistas along the ridge. The camera icons on the map mark the best ones.

Between the Wagner and Horseshoe Trail will be a yellow blazed trail on the right. If for whatever reason you feel the need to vacate the ridge walk take this route for an early connection to the Knobsville Road Trail. Otherwise continue along the ridge until the SST meets the descending end of the road. In 1.37 miles descend to the park road, passing the Lake Vista along the way. Continue straight ahead to a bridge over the creek.  The SST turns left before the creek on the dual blazed (orange and yellow) Lakeside Trail. The shortest walk back to your vehicle is across the bridge where you will turn left onto the remainder of the Lakeside Trail (yellow). Follow it through the picnic area back to your vehicle.

Critique This Outing




Name: Emily                                                                                                                           Hike: Tuscarora-Standing Stone Loop

Date(s): 09/27-28/14                                                                                                         Rating: 5


Critique: We started this hike in the early afternoon, clockwise from Cowans Gap State Park, intending to camp in the Narrows, as mentioned by Ben in a review above from January 2012. Departing the State Park around the southern side of the lake, we found the Standing Stone Trail and began our ascent to a rocky ridge top trail that gave way to vista after vista. After 4-5 miles we came to the end of the ridge and followed the Standing Stone Trail west down a switch back to the Narrows (as seen on the map) instead of heading east to the Tuscarora Trail as the hike notes suggest.

We found the campsite opportunities in the Narrows to be unwelcoming, with no source of water. Running short on daylight, we made a decision to follow the Loop Trail shown on our PATC map (Map K) east along the property line of the Buchanan State Forest, up and over Cove Mountain and down to Aughwick Rd. We intended to walk the road north from there to access the Tuscarora Trail and head to the Burd Run Shelter (also seen on the PATC map).

The main point of this post is to share a review of The Loop Trail. Obviously someone thought it traversable enough to blaze and map it and we did make it, but this was one of the most difficult ups and downs I've ever hiked in PA. It was blazed white and ran the property line as we thought; evident by the “Private Property” signs lining the SF boundary. The ascent was an intense aerobic workout to say the least and the decent was so steep that at certain points it looked like the hillside might just drop away beneath us. It was a rugged and rocky challenge. We had 2 dogs with us that required constant coaching to keep them climbing down.

Eventually, the steep rocks gave way to an identifiable trail that brought us to a tree marked with 5 vertically placed white blazes and a left turn in the trail. This was the Forbes Road Trail. We knew we needed to go straight however to get to Aughwick road. A bushwhack through a hearty stand of young trees began which eventually opened into a clearing on State Forest land, from which we could hear Aughwick Road. We returned to the clearing to camp after meandering down a path to the road and across it to access Aughwick Creek for water. It was an adventure rewarded with some of the best star gazing at our campsite in the clearing that I've seen in a long time.

The next day we walked south on Aughwick road for a short time, to reach the Tuscarora Trail and head back to Cowans Gap SP.  It was a great hike that could be made less audacious by sticking strictly to the suggested route.


Name: Ben                                                                                                                              Hike: Tuscarora - Standing Stone Loop
Date: 1/21-22/12                                                                                                                 Rating: 5

Critique: We did this hike in January as an overnight backpack. We camped in the "narrows" that you reach by continuing on the Standing Stone trail north from the point where you turn around to meet the Tuscarora trail. This hike was wonderful. The hike along the Standing Stone trail was beautiful in the snow and with the leaves off of the trees there were constant views. The trail went past several interesting rock formations and a few places even required using one's hands. Overall this is probably my favorite ridge walk in PA. It is better than the midstate along Tussey mountain. This makes a great one night backpack with the optional side trip down the Standing Stone trail. There is excellent camping underneath the hemlocks there.


Name: Tom O'Donnell                                                                                                           Hike: Tuscarora-Standing Stone Loop
Date: 10/09/11                                                                                                                     Rating: 4

Critique: I looked at several of your posted hikes in this area and decided on this one in hopes of getting some ridge top views of fall color. I missed the peak of color, probably a week early, but that really didn't detract from the enjoyment of the hike.
The trail is easy to follow, well blazed, with junctions marked with signs. The climb up Todd Trail wasn't as bad as it appears from the elevation profile (climb took 30 min.).
Description of "Extremely Rocky" is appropriate for the ridge-top portion. Rain or ice/snow could make this section treacherous. Views are spectacular and many interesting rock formations.
There is some road noise from Allens Valley Road on the Tuscarora Trail section, but the Standing Stone portion seems very secluded.
Although there were hundreds of people in the park on a beautiful fall day I saw only one other hiker until I got to the Knobsville Road section where I saw some folks headed to the overlook. Really enjoyed the hike, Thanks for posting. I'm looking forward to the other hike from Cowans Gap SP in the future.


Name: RoyalT                                                                                                                         Hike: Tuscarora Standing Stone Loop
Date: Jan 29 & 30, 2011                                                                                                       Rating: 4.5

Critique: This was my first time in this part of the state and man was I impressed. The geography was completely unexpected. I didn't realize that areas like this existed in PA. This area basically consists of two parallel ridges that rise nearly 1000 feet from the valley floor where a creek flows. And on the eastern side, there is a little notch in the ridge, called Cowans Gap, that leads to the next valley over. The views from Cove Mtn where the SST follows the ridgeline are awesome. Because of its elevation and seclusion, it felt like I was somewhere far from PA, especially in the winter where the snow and temps make it feel like Canada or Alaska.

This is an extremely cool area in the winter. When its covered in snow, it is absolutely breathtaking. The lake was frozen over which allowed us to walk across it. Plus the snow allowed us to be aware of and identify all the wildlife around us. There were birds, foxes, deer and maybe even a coyote. Im really glad I did this trip and would recommend it. The hiking is fairly easy too since you are either on the flattish Tuscarora Trail or the ridgeline. The only real pain is the hike up to the ridge which is straight up.

We did a shortened version of the route described above because one in our group was hiking for the first time in his life, let alone first time winter hiking and camping. So the climb really wiped him out. We did a little over 4 miles. One thing to be aware of, is the lack of water on the ridge. You will need to pack all your water in unless you want to hike up and down the ridge a few times.


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