“Where are the trails to the rocks?” a family asks me while I’m visiting Bilger’s Rocks, a privately-owned park in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania (technically in the town of Grampian). My dog and I just walked into the forest from the parking lot, and I know very little about this spot I arbitrarily selected as a stopping point along a longer road trip to Virginia.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Just got here too.” Turns out, we were all standing on them – almost. A few strides further and I was on the top of 50-foot-high enigmatic rock formations weathered and carved by time – a lot of time.
I needed to look down, way down. That’s when I saw the deep crevices between rocks inviting me to jump over them, and the ridge that dropped straight down. Below me are a few other people wedged their way between the sometimes one-person-wide passages between rocks. Visiting Bilger’s Rocks is a cross between hiking and cave exploration.
Pet-friendly Bilger’s Rocks
Bilger’s Rocks is a massive grouping of sandstone boulders towering like skyscrapers between the trees creating trails brave visitors can shimmy their way through. Between outcroppings of rock are wide and narrow crevices, tiny alcoves, and springs of greenery gripping to the sandstone by shallow roots.
Many choose to move through the rocks – note that to do that you should enter from the road, rather than the conservation’s parking lot. Others, like me and my dog, park in the gravel parking lot, follow the path past the concession open seasonally, then walk the trails over the rocks. This route from the main entrance is the easier option if you’re toting a leashed dog along, plus it provides a bird’s eye view into the crevices below.
Dog-friendly Clearfield, PA
Approximately halfway between Toronto, Ontario and Shenandoah, Virginia is Clearfield, Pennsylvania where you’ll find the dog-friendly Bilger’s Rocks conservation and historical site. I stopped at Clearfield, Pennsylvania recently on my way to the dog-welcoming Chateau Frankie then Gracie’s Place in Virginia.
(If you’re looking for dog-friendly hotels in PA or along the route, check out Expedia here – affiliate link).
Clearfield turned out to be a good road-trip stop with the pup, thanks to a stay at the dog-friendly Wingate by Wyndham and a gift of ‘pup nuggs’ as I went through the Burger King drive-thru with my remarkably charming spaniel. But the main reason I chose this road trip stop, was to visit Bilger’s Rocks open from dusk to dawn.
Created centuries ago by glaciers and then erosion, Bilger’s Rocks is a unique protected site – unique, first because it’s dominated by massive rock formations. And second, it’s technically owned by a group of local citizens who bought it in 1988 with the goal of preserving the natural area, particularly for families, and protecting the historic rocks from the defacing that plagued them prior to the 1980s.
As with any nature walk, my dog spent her time nose to the ground thrilled to be anywhere new and smelly. Considering this site is estimated to be 300 million years old, there are likely a lot of ancient rotting scents to follow. Imagine being able to smell history – in this case, 20 acres of it.
Bilger’s Rocks Without the Dog
Believe it or not, some people come to Bilger’s Rocks without dogs. Other activities at the park include the following:
- Rock climbing (some challenging surfaces)
- Mountain biking
- Bird watching
- And even overnight camping with a few electrical hookups.
And my favourite non-dog walking park activity? Remote-controlled car racing up the surface of the rocks. Apparently, people belonging to a remote-controlled car club meet up here frequently – I even got a quick demonstration from one such club member who happened to be at the park during my visit. Yup. Sure did.
At Bilger’s Rocks, a playground and concession stand caters to families, which seems to be the primary target demographic. But there was a diverse group visiting while my dog and I were nosing around: young men challenging each other to climb the rocks without ropes, one distant jogger, a couple traveling via motorbike canoodling on a bench, and two other dog walkers.
Respecting the trails, and adhering to leave-no-trace principles, please pick up after your dog. Garbage pails are provided near the parking lot.
If you go to Bilger’s Rock with your Dog…
Dog-friendly Accommodations in Clearfield, PA:
Wingate by Wyndham Clearfield, 1821 Industrial Park Drive, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Wingate was a good value for the price, considering breakfast is included with the stay. The front desk staff isn’t exceptionally helpful in finding nearby dog-friendly locations (although, apparently there is a dog park in town. We didn’t find it). Considering the various license plates in the parking, Clearfield is a mid-point for many road trips in different directions.Hotels – Search hundreds of travel sites at once using Kayak! (affiliate link)
Dog-friendly Sites in Clearfield, PA:
Bilger’s Rocks conservation site, 1921 Bilgers Rocks Road, Grampian, Pennsylvania. Open dawn to dusk. Admission and parking is free.
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and a travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research.