OverviewBear Mountain is a part of the once mighty Appalachian Mountain Chain. Ok, so maybe that was a long time ago, but these are what Pennsylvania has to offer. This mountain is located nearby Short Mountain and Spechty Kopf , north of Harrisburg. At nearly fifteen miles in length, Bear Mountain is not one of the longer mountain ridges in the state when compared to Tussey Mountain and Blue Mountain, but it does provide nearly as many trails as both combined. It will take you a while to run out of trails to hike and climb on in this area because there are so many different routes. Bear Mountain is one of six in the state that hold the name and this one is not even the highest. It meets up in a triangle with Short Mountain and Big Lick Mountain across the valley. This mountain is not known for its views although it does hold a few very scenic vistas. It is known more for its history, geologically and human as well.
This mountain is covered with trails from the main access in Bear Valley itself. The trails are the remnants of the not so long past coal mining era in this part of the state. To this day, located just inside state gameland boundaries, you can still find the foundations of the old mining village that once stood at the base of the coal operations. You'll find as you travel along nearly any trail in the area that there are many large and very deep sinkholes left over from old mine shafts and also from actual strip mining. Also every once and a while, you'll pass an old mining shaft. It is not recommended that you explore these mines for obvious reasons. Another interesting gem that can be found on this mountain is an abundant number of oddly colored newts and salamanders. Their extravagent colors are explained away by ground contamination as a result of coal mining in the region.
Bear Mountain is a geologic wonder for those of us who love exploring the mountains for history of past times such as fossils. This summit is located within the southwestern portion of the state's coal mining region and when you mix the formation of coal and time, you get fossils. Fossils can be found of many different types of life from times past. The most common fossils found are that of old ferns with their locust looking leaflets on a long narrow stem. Also sea shells are an abundant find in the area. The entire southern face of this mountain is covered with scree slopes of a slate and coal mixture left behind from the old mining boom, which makes for lots of ground to find these geologic treasures.
I originally didn't believe Bear Mountain's name had anything to do with bears until this past spring. I had heard stories of many bear sightings in the area but no one I knew had ever seen a bear on the mountain or in the valley which is also known as "Bear Valley". That all changed this past spring as I saw a family of four only fifty yards from my vehicle. I later found out that I wasn't the only one to be seeing bears as I heard many stories of sightings througout the spring season. This mountain is a beautiful place and provides many hiking and climbing opportunities.
Getting ThereFrom I-81:
Get off onto the exit for Route 25 (Hegins, Valley View) and follow this road for nearly fifteen miles to the west end of Valley View where you'll find a left hand turn that heads towards the gap in the mountains. You'll want to follow this road for about 5 miles through the gap. Bear Mountain makes up the western side of the gap and as soon as you reach the other side you'll come to a sharp left hand turn (east). Here there will be a gravel road which heads back Bear Valley. Continue on this road for five miles until you enter the state gamelands. Once you reach the second lot park your car. The trailhead described in the route section is about fifty yards up the road with a gate across.
Red TapeThere are no permits required for recreational activity in the area, however, this is a state conservation area so be tidy. All Pennsylvania State Gamelands guidlines apply in this area. For more information go to the PA Game Commission's official website. Also, for conservation purposes, follow the "Leave No Trace" program and you'll be fine. For information on this program go to www.LNT.org .
When To ClimbThis mountain is climbable in all seasons of the year. Winter and Fall are the best times because of views, but full snow gear may be needed in certain winter conditions. Also, be careful in the fall and spring because of hunting. This area sees a lot of Whitetail and Gobbler hunters.
CampingThere is no camping allowed in this area.
Mountain ConditionsFor up to date weather conditions in the area, click on the link below!