The Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) is a well designed and well built 42 mile trail that encircles Black Moshannon State Park just north of the geographic center of PA. The main trailhead is along route 504 a few miles east of the state park. Most hikers will prefer 3 days to hike this moderate loop, which is known as a great starter backpacking loop. The Moss-Hanne Trail and other trails in this forest allow for various hiking loops and distances for those who don’t have time for the whole loop. The trail is maintained by DCNR along with volunteers from the Keystone Trails Association.
Lesson One of the AFT: What the blazes? The AFT is the newest backpacking loop in PA, and although it was originally blazed orange like other PA backpacking trails, the trail is now blazed yellow...or red...sometimes blue...with an occasional old orange blaze mixed in for fun. Since the AFT crosses through a significant section of Black Moshannon State Park (which blazes hiking trails yellow), hikers were getting confused switching from orange to yellow blazes. So now the whole trail is yellow, sections that allow other user groups (horses and bikes) are co-blazed red, and other sections designated for cross country skiing are also blue. Luckily, there are plenty of great trail signs to prevent hikers from losing their way.
The water in this area also comes in multiple colors. Lesson Two: Choose water sources carefully! The slow moving water with beaver activity near in the southern sections of trail may not be the best place to refill your bottles. In addition, the Moshannon Creek (know locally as the “Red Mo”) is stained red from abandoned mine drainage and is in fact a dead waterway. It is highly suggested that hikers do not use water from Moshannon Creek! On the other hand, Black Moshannon Creek is naturally stained a dark tea color, and is a living waterway, although still maybe not the best source for hiker water. There is a lot of opportunity to obtain water on this trail, just choose wisely and always treat water to be sure.
Lesson Three: Speaking of water, plan to get wet on the AFT. Significant portions of the trail cross through bogs while other sections of the trail walk beside and cross over streams. Your feet will be wet on this trail almost 12 months out of the year. Most of this is worth it though, especially Black Moshannon Creek, Six Mile Run, Benner Run, and Rock Run.
Photo credit: Emily Newman
Lesson Four is the solution to wet feet: Bridges! Multiple bog bridges, boardwalks, and footbridges help to keep hikers’ feet dry.
While the AFT does have a handful of significant climbs, the trail overall is considered moderate. Lesson five: Mind the fun vista names! Ralph Seeley played a large roll designing and building the AFT, and a couple of the vistas are named after him. These two vistas look south away from the Allegheny Plateau towards the PA Ridge and Valley region. Enjoy!