Crow’s Nest: Your first visit
By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager
I think it’s safe to say that all Natural Lands preserves’ staff sweat over making sure people have a good experience when visiting the preserves. We try to provide information to visitors and make the preserves as attractive and welcoming as we have the resources to do. We have room for improvement. We try to balance the management of the natural resources with the impacts of public use.
Over the next year Natural Lands will be working on a series of videos for several preserves, “Before you go” to help preserve visitors understand what to expect when enjoying the lands. Some of this includes highlights of what grows here, and also there is information about accessibility and resources.
In the meantime our website, natlands.org, and our free app, Explore Natural Lands are good guides to our preserves.
It’s also fair to say that some of our preserves have been overwhelmed by visitors this year as people explore outdoor alternatives during the Covid-19 pandemic. Crow’s Nest has been busy but so far it has not been so many as to be too crowded. I need to put up signs again for people to use our grass overflow parking area—there’s room for a few more cars there. But generally on our preserves, if the parking lot is completely full, please come back another time when it is not so busy. Our parking areas are sized to accommodate the amount of use that ensures a good visitor experience in nature.
We are also concerned about where people get information about visiting our preserves. It seems like many people use a search engine on the phrase, “Places to hike near me.” Some of the information that turns up in that search is good, others are lacking in clarity or accuracy. Ideally if these sites direct you to our preserves they should also link to our website.
One site you might come upon is AllTrails.com, a popular hiking website. Many of our preserves are shown there, though surprisingly, not Crow’s Nest (at least not yet). Users have submitted hikes from this preserve, but at this time, only their routes are shown—not our boundaries, trail system, or much guidance for new visitors. And the only “curated trail” they offer for us is not the best of what we can offer: their route has no clear destination (it just ends at at our property boundary where our trails connect to those of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site—itself an underrated destination). If you are prepared to hike all day this connection is ideal for access to Hopewell Furnace and French Creek State Park, but if you’re looking for shorter 2.5 mile to 3.5 mile hikes that stay within our 712-acre preserve and are pretty spectacular, I submitted a couple of our suggested hikes in the “community content” tab of their website.
First, we have the Creek Trail to Chief’s Grove loop. This offers 2.5 miles of walking on mostly grassy trails along French Creek, through farm fields to a meadow with a beautiful view of the valley:
It is an out-and-back hike so you can make it shorter if you choose; the highest point is at the middle.
Another less-used but beautiful option is our Deep Woods trail, which starts out by leading you through farm fields in the other direction, opening up the southern half of Crow’s Nest. As I mention in the hike description, this looks like a cherry on a stem, where the stem is through these farm fields and the fruit is in the woods. I almost always hike this loop clockwise, so that the uphill is gentle and in the shade of the forest, and then the view over the valley opens up as you descend through a meadow to the farmlands.
Give these a try! And if you have any questions before you visit, please contact us—we want you to have a great time here.
I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that Crow’s Nest Preserve is located adjacent to a sportsman’s club with outdoor gun ranges. So it sometimes gets a little noisy and some visitors find that off-putting (I’ve learned to tune it out). This isn’t hunting, it’s target practice, and it’s not on the preserve. We are also located adjacent to State Game Lands #43 and you’ll hear some shooting there too in season. We hold a managed deer hunt, to protect forest regeneration, but it’s small and tightly regulated and it’s not what you’re hearing most days here.