The Baker Trail
The Baker Trail runs through Armstrong, Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion, and Forest Counties of Western Pennsylvania. It begins on the high bluffs over the east shore of the Allegheny River just past the base of the Freeport Bridge and ends 132 miles later just south of the Allegheny National Forest. The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy is its current sponsoring organization, and they have published an excellent hiking guide and set of maps for the trail.
The trail is located in between the two most hiked areas of Western Pennsylvania (the Laurel Highlands in the south and the Allegheny National Forest in the north). This is, though, a wonderful trail unto itself and is a particularly unique and compelling experience to hike. You walk through great expanses of re-growing and recovering natural western Pennsylvania ecosystems and also through the whole range of human modified habitats. You hike past working farms, abandoned farms, tree plantations, dams and reservoirs, active, abandoned, and reclaimed strip mines, factories (active and closed), power plants, and more. There are sections on the trail that wind through dense stands of trees and wildflowers. There are sections on this trail that follow rocky ridges up over the rims of wild, deep ravines. There are sections of this trail that follow meandering streams and slosh through verdant wet lands. There are sections of this trail that seem to run through people’s back yards, and there are sections that run for miles following narrow, hard paved roads.
You seldom see other hikers on the trail, and the footpath is often quite overgrown. The trail needs some attention and some care, but what it needs most is more use!
During the summer of 2010, we hiked the length of the Baker Trail. We identified 63 species of trees on the hike, 72 species of birds, and 180 species of herbaceous plants. We saw the great variety of landscapes and habitats that make up the rich ecological tapestry of Western Pennsylvania. We also met many people and received help from many friends and from many strangers along the way. To everyone who helped, we say “thank you!”
Access a printable narrative overview of the Baker Trail.