Steeped in natural and historical features, the 696-acre Pine Grove Furnace State Park is on beautiful South Mountain in southern Cumberland County. Surrounded by Michaux State Forest, Pine Grove Furnace features two lakes, 25-acre Laurel Lake and 1.7-acre Fuller Lake, a historic area and the Appalachian Trail.
Many picnic tables are scattered in several locations of the park. Charcoal grills, drinking water and restrooms are available. Three picnic pavilions, with seating up to 140, may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Two beaches are open from May 1 to September 30, 8 a.m. to sunset. Laurel Beach is swim at your own risk. Lifeguards are on duty at Fuller Beach from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day unless otherwise posted. Please follow posted rules for swimming when lifeguards are off duty.
Swimmers at Laurel Lake and especially at Fuller Lake are advised to exercise caution because of the extreme depths and cold subsurface waters.
In the summer season, a snack bar is available at each beach.
Boating: electric motors only
Boating is permitted only on the 25-acre Laurel Lake, which has a boat launch, 85 mooring spaces and a boat rental.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The common fish in the 25-acre Laurel Lake and the smaller 1.7-acre Fuller Lake are pickerel, bass, perch and stocked trout. Mountain Creek, which flows through the park, has brown, brook and rainbow trout. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations apply.
Biking: 2 miles of trails
All park roads and service roads are open to bicycles unless posted otherwise. A two-mile bike trail connects the Furnace Stack Day Use Area with Laurel Lake Day Use Area. Bicyclists are advised to use caution because all trails are shared with pedestrian traffic and some are open to motor vehicles. Pennsylvania state law requires all bicyclists under the age of 12 to wear an approved helmet.
Hiking: 4 miles of trails
Pine Grove Furnace State Park has four miles of trails and connections to longer trails. The Appalachian Trail runs through the park, which is the unofficial halfway point.
Buck Ridge Trail:
6 miles - This trail through the Michaux State Forest connects Kings Gap Environmental Education Center and Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The trailhead is across from the park office and is marked with yellow paint blazes.
0.5-mile - Begin at the amphitheater and wind past vernal ponds and a stand of white pine along Mountain Creek near the camping area.
1.4-mile - This trail is a link between the bicycle trail to Fuller Lake and the Icehouse Road to Laurel Lake. The trail affords the hiker an alternate path to Laurel Lake Day Use area other than the paved roadway. This trail winds along scenic Mountain Creek. The trail meanders through forests and wetlands as it follows Mountain Creek downstream to Laurel Lake. Deer, heron, waterfowl and beaver can be seen along this trail.
1-mile - Begin this scenic, yellow-blazed loop trail at the far end of Fuller Ball Field. The footpath crosses Toms Run and passes through stands of mature pines and hemlocks.
Pole Steeple Trail:
0.75-mile - This blue-blazed Michaux State Forest trail contains some steep climbs. The entire park can be viewed from the Pole Steeple Overlook, which is a quartzite rock outcropping. The trail begins at the Pole Steeple parking lot, along the Railroad Bed Road by Laurel Lake, and proceeds up Piney Mountain to the rocky overlook.
The steep grade and sheer drop may stress some individuals. Parents are advised to closely supervise children, especially when they are on the rocks and ledges.
0.25-mile - Investigate a small, forested swamp filled with interesting plants and animals. The trail begins and ends on the bicycle path.
This famous 2,000-mile national scenic trail is marked by white blazes and goes from Mt. Katahdin in central Maine to Springer Mountain in northern Georgia. The trail is popular with day hikers as well as backpackers.
You can begin your Appalachian Trail experience along Quarry Road by the furnace. A parking area near the furnace pavilion and a comfort station are available for trail users. Please visit the park office to register your car and intended destination and/or time of return.
Stay the Night
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
70 tent and trailer sites are available from the opening of trout season in spring to the close of rifle deer hunting season. A sanitary dump station is near the campground exit. A seasonal camp store is 0.25-mile from the campground. Pets are permitted on designated sites for a fee.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 1 host positions
The campground host site has amenities that include 50-amp electric service and water hookup. The host is required to assist park personnel for 40 hours per week with a two-week minimum stay. Contact the park office for additional information and availability.
This historic house is available for rent year-round as a modern cabin. The cabin sleeps six people and is near the camp store. Guests should bring all essentials like sheets, linens and dishes. Modern cabin prices apply.
Organized Group Tenting:
Organized adult or youth groups may reserve the rustic area year-round. The area is divided into six separate sites with capacities varying from 35 to 50 people each, or the entire camp can be reserved. The sites are in a wooded area surrounding an open playfield.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Nordic skiers can enjoy the use of the railroad grade when snow conditions allow. Although no trails are specifically designated for cross-country skiing, numerous opportunities exist, especially during winters with heavy snowfalls, both within the park and on the surrounding state forest lands.
A trailhead parking area on nearby state forest land provides parking for vehicles and snowmobile trailers, and access to many miles of trails on state forest lands.
Ice fishing is permitted on Laurel Lake. Ice thickness is not monitored except in the designated skating area. For your safety, be sure the ice is at least four inches thick and carry safety equipment. Ice sports are prohibited on Fuller Lake.
At Laurel Lake, a small area by the boat launch is maintained for ice-skating. Ice sports are prohibited on Fuller Lake.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs from spring through fall. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding, and develop a sense of stewardship toward the natural and cultural resources.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools, youth organizations and homeschool associations. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office.
Several special events including the Fall Furnace Fest and the Appalachian Trail Museum Festival are conducted each year.
Appalachian Trail Museum
The Appalachian Trail Museum is located in the Old Mill Building at 1120 Pine Grove Road (along PA 233) between Pine Grove Furnace Park office and the Pine Grove General Store. Museum exhibits and programs pay tribute to the pioneer trail builders and hikers including Earl Shaffer, Grandma Gatewood, Gene Espy and Ed Garvey, and their commitment to fitness and conservation. The Children’s Discovery Area provides fun, hands-on learning experiences. The Museum is near the midpoint of the 2,179 mile Appalachian Trail, a National Scenic Trail that goes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. The Museum welcomes newcomers to the A.T. as well as veteran hikers and frequently offers an opportunity to meet current long distance hikers.
The Museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends in the spring and fall. The Museum is closed from Nov. 1 to March 31. Admission is free of charge although donations are welcomed. Parking for the Museum is adjacent to the Furnace Stack Picnic Pavilion.
The Ironmaster's Mansion was officially reopened May 6, 2011 after undergoing a year of renovations. It serves as a hostel, providing lodging to the general public in a dormitory-style environment, an educational facility with meeting rooms and as a venue for wedding receptions, family reunions and special events. The mansion was built in 1829 and has a very impressive history of guests and owners. Some of the interesting folklore is the story of the secret passage in the stairwell closet was part of the Underground Railroad. Come see for yourself and decide. The mansion is open on Sunday's between Memorial Day and Labor Day at 3 p.m. for tours. It is open daily April to December at 5 p.m. to accept overnight guests.
The diverse habitats of Pine Grove Furnace State Park support a variety of wildlife through all seasons. The historic use of the area during the iron furnace period created a varied combination of open areas, wetlands, and vegetation that make the area unique to wildlife.
Spring and fall is the time of bird migrations. Pine Grove Furnace State Park is an area of forest with interspersed ponds and wetlands and is a rest stop for many migrating forest birds. Warblers, vireos and thrushes stop to rest and eat before flying on to their breeding or winter homes.
Laurel Lake and its shoreline wetlands are a beacon that lures waterfowl. Merganser, Canada goose, mallard, loon, teal and many other ducks can be seen swimming, diving and dabbling for vegetation and small fish. Wild turkey and woodcock call from open areas.
Winter is a good time to see woodpeckers and evidence of their presence. Pine Grove Furnace has at least six species of woodpeckers.
Summer is the time of lush green vegetation and growing young animals. In thickets and along roads, watch for spotted fawns and frantic bluebirds searching for food to feed their hungry chicks. Butterflies reach their peak numbers and can be seen floating from flower to flower in the fields and wetlands.
In the fall, the deciduous trees lose their chlorophyll and their leaves reveal beautiful reds, oranges and yellows. This is a time that many animals are preparing for the winter season ahead. There is a growing population of black bears in the area and visitors may see one putting on weight for the winter hibernation. Beavers may be seen working on lodges and dams in the upper channels of Laurel Lake at twilight.
Pine Grove Furnace
In 1764, partners George Stevenson, Robert Thornburgh and John Arthur built an iron furnace along Mountain Creek. They named it Pine Grove Iron Works. It manufactured ten plate stoves, fireplace backs, iron kettles and possibly munitions during the American Revolution.
In 1782, Michael Ege, a rising Cumberland County iron mogul, purchased the iron works. Over the next 32 years, Ege grew his business until he was the sole owner of Pine Grove, Cumberland, Holly and Carlisle iron works.
Michael’s oldest son, Peter Ege, inherited Pine Grove Iron Works. In 1829, Peter built for his wife, Jane Arthur Ege, a red brick, English Tudor mansion. Jane died at Pine Grove in 1841 and was laid to rest in the Pine Grove Cemetery next to her son George Washington Ege, who had died in 1831.
Peter expanded his iron works in 1830, building Laurel Forge, which reheated and hammered cast iron from Pine Grove Furnace to produce wrought iron, a bendable metal that could be formed into many shapes.
The financial panic of 1837 bankrupted Peter Ege’s Pine Grove Iron Works. At a sheriff sale the following year, Frederick Watts and his law partner Charles Bingham Penrose purchased Pine Grove to try their luck in the iron business. Watts went on to found Penn State University in 1855 and served in 1871 as Commissioner of Agriculture for President Grant. Penrose was a state senator and Solicitor of the Treasury for President Harrison.
In 1864, Jay Cooke and Company bought the iron works and formed South Mountain Iron Company, bringing in Jackson C. Fuller to be the furnace manager to run the daily operations, while the business affairs were taken care of in Philadelphia. The new company built South Mountain Railroad to bring raw materials to the furnace and move the iron products to market.
Jay Cooke is often called the "Financier of the Civil War." He raised about $1.2 billion through the sale of federal treasury notes. Taking only a small commission on the sale of each bond made Cooke the wealthiest man in America by the end of the war. He then bought the Northern Pacific Railroad, which failed in the poor economy and depression after the war. Cooke was bankrupt and moved into his son in-Law's home. The closing of the banking house of Jay Cooke and Company caused the financial panic of 1873.
The South Mountain Iron Works went up for sheriff sale, but no one bought it. In 1877, the railroad and iron works were sold separately. Through his friend Fuller, Cooke bought back the ironworks, forming the South Mountain Mining and Iron Company.
Future founding member of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, John Birkinbine, became the furnace’s engineer. Concerned over Pennsylvania’s dwindling forest reserves and wanting to show that charcoal iron furnaces could be fired with alternative fuels like coke and coal, Birkinbine renovated the furnace in the winter of 1878. Charcoal remained the primary fuel of the furnace, but the furnace no longer had to shutdown when charcoal supplies were exhausted. Birkinbine also increased the size of the furnace, which produced 6,000 net tons of cast iron in 1883, the peak year of production.
But, new technologies were quickly putting small iron producers out of business. Pine Grove Furnace went out of blast in 1895, ending 131 years of iron making on South Mountain.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park
In 1913, the 17,000-acre Pine Grove Ironworks was sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be part of the new Forest Reserve system. Much of the land became Michaux State Forest, and part became Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Fuller Lake, an iron ore quarry, which had filled with groundwater when mining ceased, became a popular swimming area. Laurel Lake had supplied waterpower for Laurel Forge. Today it is popular for fishing and swimming.
In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established Camp S-51. The CCC boys built roads, trails and facilities until 1941.
Some of the historic buildings dating back to the charcoal iron community still stand and include the furnace, ironmaster’s mansion, clerk’s office, stable, grist mill (now the visitor center), the second iron master’s mansion (now the park office) and several residences. Remnants of raceways, charcoal hearths and related man-made features are still discernible.
1100 Pine Grove Road, Gardners, PA 17324More Info