Hike Mount Davis to see the highest point in the PA

If you’re looking for a natural high, there’s no place higher in Pennsylvania than Mount Davis.

Mount Davis is officially the highest point in the state at 3,213 feet above sea level. It’s a destination in south Somerset County that fits the abilities of almost anyone. This is a step everyone should consider doing at least once in their lifetime.

The property is located on public land and is managed by the Forbes State Forest Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Paths and trails are a short distance from Mount Davis Road and most are wheelchair navigable.

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I climbed the observation tower about 50 feet high on Friday morning. It was a calm, sunny morning, and I could literally see for miles in every direction. It is an area away from noise and light pollution.

The endless views on a clear day make you feel like you’re seeing the curvature of the earth and standing on top of the world.

A relief map of the elevation of Mount Davis is located at the top of the observation tower.

Walking there, you feel like you’ve stepped back into history. The observation tower, built in 1931, looks almost as it did when it was first erected. Visitors who arrive at the summit will see an elevation relief map that shows how the formation rises from the rest of the region.

The peak is believed to have formed over 200 million years ago in an upheaval called the Appalachian Revolution.

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DCNR environmental education specialist Rachael Mahony said the highest point doesn’t feel or seem that high, compared to the surrounding hills that can be seen from the observation tower. . She said the Mount Davis ridgeline was once (hundreds of millions of years ago) higher than the Rocky Mountains, but through geological processes, as well as erosion and other environmental events , she transformed the once spectacular ridge into a smoother/rolling topography which can be deceiving.

Visitors to the Mount Davis Observation Tower can stop and read the stops that have signs describing the industries and history of the area.

Mahony said the tower was never used as a watchtower. “There was a fire tower located nearby, but according to our current records, it was built around 1921. The fire tower was demolished,” she said in an email response. mail.

The site was named in honor of John Nelson Davis. Mahony said he was active in the surrounding community and was a man who wore many different hats – he was a naturalist, teacher, veteran, surveyor, minister and farmer. Davis was connected to this land (now the Mount Davis area). The Commonwealth acquired the land in 1929. In 1945 the Mount Davis area was declared a State Forest Monument, and in 1974 much of the land surrounding the Highpoint area was given natural area designation.

The view from the top of the lookout tower on April 29, 2022, on Mount Davis, Somerset County.

With no staff on site throughout the year, it is unclear how many people visit the rural public attraction. “We currently do not have data to support the number of visitors passing through the Highpoint area or visiting the tower, but we can estimate, based on the cars in the parking lot, the picnic area, etc., that thousands of visitors stop by this area every year,” Mahony said.

Getting there is half the fun.

To get to the tower, you access South Wolf Rock Road, east of Salisbury. Be sure to look for “South” on the road name sign. If you take North Wolf Rock Road, you have a long drive through an area of ​​state forest.

When traveling to Mount Davis, be on the lookout for slower vehicles such as horses and Amish buggies.  This family was crossing the region on April 29, 2022.

This remote wilderness area is home to members of the Amish community. Be on the lookout for slow horse and buggy riders on public roads. They’re fun to watch as long as you’re not startled by them while rounding a curve in your car.

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Mahony also emphasizes the importance of the rural area.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan ahead and seek instructions before you leave your home. If you type Forbes State Forest into your GPS, you can end up in a number of different places – which will not only be frustrating but also time consuming (and you could get seriously lost). Cell service can also be extremely spotty in this area, so relying solely on GPS isn’t your best option.

“To navigate to Mount Davis, I highly recommend viewing the Mount Davis trail map online at http://elibrary.dcnr.pa.gov/GetDocument?docId=3471179&DocName=Mt.pdf. A Another great option is to download offline maps from Google Maps or other map apps so that when you lose cell service, you can still use your map (if you’re using a smartphone).

The steep stairwell to the lookout tower on Mount Davis in Somerset County.

As you walk around the base of the lookout tower, you can see man-made signs placed on large boulders that provide insight into the history of the area as well as the formation of the summit.

While the views are stunning all year round and especially in October when the leaves change color, Mount Davis is a fun trip whenever the weather is cooperative. A visit is not recommended during a period of heavy snow or ice. If you want to go, Mahony pointed out that the mountain laurel flowers usually bloom around the end of June, which adds to the beauty of your visit or your hikes on any of the trails.

You’ll also want to check out the Highpoint Lake Overlook. It is a mountain view of the 383 acre lake which is managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Those traveling to Mount Davis in Somerset County should bring long food for a picnic along the side of the mountain.

If you plan to spend several hours, you may want to pack lunch to eat in the picnic area which has tables placed in one spot on the grounds. There are also toilets. The public picnic area was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1933 and 1937.

On the other side of Mount Davis Road you will see a trail to Baughman Rocks which is worth your time. This is a short walk of less than half a mile on a limestone trail to an area of ​​massive boulders. It’s a quiet place to take a break and relax on the benches which were built in 1991 by Kenneth Wilt as part of an Eagle Scout project.

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A sign on one of the rocks explains that the landmark was named after a legendary story involving the disappearance of August Baughman while searching for lost cows. It is believed that his father, Henry, knocked him unconscious with a stick and hid his body among these rocks in the 1800s. Henry was convicted of second degree murder and August’s body was never found .

A view of Baughman Rocks located on Mount Davis in the county of Somerset.  In 1991, Kenneth Wilt built a bench for visitors as part of his Eagle Scout work.

The history and atmosphere make you wonder what life was really like for the country’s first settlers. It’s a fun place to hike and reflect on how life has changed over the generations.

If you’re looking to plan a trip to the highest point in the state, Mahony said, DCNR staff are ready to help and answer your questions. The office can be reached at 724-238-1200 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Next time you’re in southwestern Pennsylvania, be sure to plan a stop at Mount Davis. This will surely be one of the highlights of your summer.

Brian Whipkey is the Pennsylvania Outdoors columnist for the USA TODAY Network.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.

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