Places We Protect

West Branch Forest Preserve

Pennsylvania

Four mountain ridges roll across the landscape into the misty distance. Heavy white fog fills the valley in the background. The foreground is filled with low plants with green and gold leaves.
West Branch Wilderness Susquehanna River mist seen from a West Branch Wilderness overlook. © George C. Gress

Situated in the heart of Pennsylvania’s High Allegheny Plateau, the West Branch Forest Preserve offers an unspoiled view for 50 miles.

Overview

Description

Adjoined by state conservation lands and in close proximity to Hyner View State Park (a popular hang gliding area), The Nature Conservancy's West Branch Forest Preserve is nestled within an area many consider to be a recreational paradise.

In addition to supporting opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, the preserve serves as a research and demonstration project for sustainable forestry, earning Forest Stewardship Council® FSC®-C008922 certification—the global gold standard for forest management—in 2008. Since then, TNC has implemented many activities designed to restore degraded forest and establish new, high-quality early and late-successional forest at the preserve.

TNC purchased the 3,034-acre West Branch tract from a private owner because it connected with existing state-owned holdings in the Sproul State Forest and Bucktail Natural Area to connect a total of 18,000 acres.

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Hours

Daily, from dawn to dusk

Highlights

The area boasts abundant wildlife. A system of trails features hiking, birding and unspoiled views that stretch for nearly 50 miles. Seasonal hunting in cooperation with Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations.

Size

3,034 acres

Explore our work in Pennsylvania

Visit

  • What to See

    In addition to a variety of outdoor recreational activities, visitors to the preserve have an opportunity to witness all of the activities implemented at a sustainably-managed, working forest. These include vegetation control, mowing, prescribed fire, herbicide application, warm season grasses, enrichment plantings, wood biomass harvests and a one-acre hybrid American chestnut research orchard.

    A historic depression-era stone craftsman cabin serves as the property’s base camp. Certain activities are prohibited, including trapping, horseback riding, camping, fires and off-road vehicle use.

    West Branch Forest is enrolled in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's (PGC) Forest Game and Deer Management Assistance Program and is an active participant in the Quality Deer Management Association. Public access hunting is permitted and encouraged in accordance with PGC regulations. Additionally, fishing is permitted, in accordance with Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations, at Johnson and Ritchie runs—two streams that have been rated "Class A Wild Trout Waters" due to healthy populations of naturally reproducing native brook trout.

    The preserve and neighboring Sproul State Forest harbor white-tailed deer, black bear, wild turkey, grouse, timber rattlesnake, bobcat, numerous warblers and birds of prey, and native brook trout. 

    The area also boasts abundant wildlife, including river otter, fisher and a recently reintroduced elk herd.

  • Community Science: iNaturalist

    We are creating a community science database of all kinds of life—from lichens to ants, mushrooms to plants, birds to mammals and everything in between for our preserves in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

    TNC's roots began with local citizens and scientists concerned about special places and species. That legacy continues today. Across our lands, we are utilizing iNaturalist—a digital platform that gives users an opportunity to share and discuss their findings.

    Of the 14 preserve projects in iNaturalist, nine have observations recorded; help us increase that number and our understanding of the species—good and bad, native as well as invasive—that can be found on TNC lands across the state. This information can also help guide and inform our conservation staff's management and monitoring decisions.

  • Preserve Guidelines

    While visiting West Branch Forest Preserve please DO:

    • Take precautions against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers and sunburn.
    • Wear sturdy footwear.
    • Tuck pant legs into socks/shoes.
    • Apply insect repellant and sun protection.
    • Bring drinking water.
    • Watch for poison ivy.
    • Stay on marked trails.
    • Remove all litter. 
    • Enjoy nature!

    DO NOT:

    • Feed or disturb wildlife.
    • Release animals or introduce plants.
    • Bring motorized vehicles, ATVs, bicycles or horses.
    • Bring alcohol.
    • Camp (NO fires allowed!)
    • Smoke.
  • Additional Resources

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Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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