You might have heard stories of how unbroken the native forest of the east once was. It’s been said that a squirrel could jump across the canopy from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and never touch the ground. It’s difficult today to imagine such tree cover, especially in the metropolis of the Mid-Atlantic. We do still have a huge chunk of forested lands called the Hopewell Big Woods however, and it’s well worth a visit.
Where Is Hopewell Big Woods?
This last unbroken forest in southeastern Pennsylvania can be found on the edge of Berks County and the top of Chester County. It’s a huge expanse of over 73,000 acres or 110 square miles. It wraps around and includes French Creek State Park, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, and Crow’s Nest Preserve. Multiple other small parks and woods are included, as well two extensive Pennsylvania State Game Lands. The partnership that connects these lands is led by the Natural Lands Trust.
What Can You Do There?
French Creek SP, Hopewell Furnace and Crow’s Nest are all connected and one can hike trails that intersect all three of these beautiful and diverse areas. You can find magnificent examples of old growth trees on these trails and easily imagine what the canopy looked like before the colonists began to cut and clear the forest.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is a historic charming village dating back to when our newly founded country needed iron to fuel the Revolutionary War. The site offers many fascinating programs free for the public, with a favorite being the Dutch oven cooking demo put on by the Friends of Hopewell Furnace NHS. You can walk down the old carriage road that transported goods in and out of the village and arrive at 68-acre Hopewell Lake in French Creek State Park within a few minutes.
A walk around the lake showcases the best scenery, and you can hop in a boat and gain a different perspective depending on the season. The park is famous for their Disc Golf courses which offer another wonderful way to relax in this big forest as you toss frisbees from hole to hole. Scott’s Run is another smaller lake inside the park and serves as an excellent fishing location.
Crow’s Nest Preserve is a 600-acre gem that features 19th-century farms that hug French Creek. The trails wander through hardwood forests where one can find examples of great old trees that survived the woodcutter’s axe. Excellent environmental education programs are presented in the beautifully restored stone barn that serves as the preserve’s headquarters. This area also offers a great summer camp program.
Is There Anywhere To Stay?
French Creek SP offers ten furnished modern cabins that feature electric heat, private bath with shower, kitchen, etc. They are open year-round so guests can enjoy the Hopewell Big Woods in the colder months too.
Something For Everyone
Perhaps one of the best parts of these three destinations is how varied they all are. From a historic village, to a lake-studded park, to historic period farms, this slice of history has a lot to offer. All of this can be found in one place, surrounded by the magnificent Hopewell Big Woods.