Following the Flat Rock Trail you quickly climb to the summit of Blue Mountain and connect to the Tuscarora Trail which you follow to an even higher section of Blue Mountain where you’ll find Flat Rock Vista looking out over the Cumberland Valley.
Parking Lot GPS Coordinates: 40° 16′ 47.988″ N, 77° 25′ 05.538″ W
Trail Length: 4 Miles
Estimated Time To Complete: 3 Hours
Elevation Change: ~1,200
Trailhead Location: Behind the Colonel Denning State Park nature center pavillion.
Trail Type: Out & Back
Trail Map: Tuscarora State Forest Map, Colonel Dennings State Park Hiking & Nature Trails Map – Available at the Colonel Denning State Park office and at the trailhead.
Recommended Equipment: Sneakers or Hiking Boots, Water,
Optional Equipment: Trekking Poles, Camera,
- Tunnel Trail
- Doubling Run Nature Trail
- Tuscarora Trail
- Rattlesnake Trail
- Big Spring State Park
- Three Square Hollow Vista
- Fowlers Hollow State Park
- Michaux State Forest
This trail begins at a large trail sign behind the Colonel Denning State Park nature center, cross Doubling Run via the wooden bridge and take the wooden stairs at the top of which you’ll join an old forest road that gradually heads uphill. Following the road you soon cross a stream which pools directly on the road so you might want to step off the trail a couple of feet and cross the creek. Next up is an intersection of forest roads, here turn left and follow the road uphill to the two spring buildings. Pass the buildings while continuing uphill over the fallen trees straight ahead and make your way up the hill which will be rather steep for the next half mile or so.
Climbing in elevation over 900′ you definitely want to watch your footing on the rocks and loose gravel of this section of trail. After what may feel like an eternity later you reach a level area known as the Wagon Wheel from which trails branch out in every direction. In front of you look for the sign pointing the way along the Tuscarora Trail towards the Appalachian Trail, head down this trail, about 500’ down the trail you’ll come to a trail shelter for long distance backpackers on the Tuscarora Trail. Enjoying this relatively flat section of trail while it lasts you’ll soon come to Wildcat Run where the trail crosses over the stream and through the nearby almost marsh-like areas, the trail here is paved with stone and follows a series of wooden causeways built by Eagle Scouts in 2006.
From here the trail heads crosses up and out of Wildcat Hollow until it reaches the summit of Blue Mountain and then heads slightly downhill to Flat Rock. From the rock you can see out over the sprawling farmlands of the Cumberland Valley to South Mountain rising above the valley across from you. Sunrise can be viewed here from late fall thru late winter though I’d in no way advise trying to come up Flat Rock Trail when it’s covered in snow and ice.
When you’re ready to leave head back the way you came and when you reach the Wagon Wheel head downhill on the red blazed Flat Rock Trail. Expect to share the trail with other hikers throughout the year and rattlesnakes from the warmer days of spring through the fall when they return to their dens. An alternative route is to start at the trailhead of the Tuscarora Trail down Route 233 from Colonel Denning State Park and follow the Tuscarora Trail to the Wagon Wheel.