Hillman State Park is a local haunt of mine and a place I commonly go on evenings for a short hike or mountain bike ride. This place has a storied history of coal mining and subsequent reclamation which has forever changed the landscape in the area.
This place really has it all for a place so close to my home. Meadows, hills, areas to view wildlife, small lakes and forests consisting of pine cathedrals and mixed hardwood.
At one time this was the largest operating strip mine in the United States and was reclaimed by the Harmon Creek Coal Company in a time where mine reclamation was not required. The company operated a seedling farm for trees to replant on the mined land. The area has a long history of exploitation of minerals starting with oil extraction in the 1880s.
After a number of years coal extraction began and over 15 million tons of coal were extracted from the mine of the next few decades servicing industry and production in the United States.
James F. Hillman and the Harmon Creek Coal Company believed it was important to reclaim the mine so they stockpiled topsoil, contoured the land, fertilized the soil and planted trees, grass and shrubbery to prevent erosion of the land.
In the 60s over 3600 acres of this land was donated to Pennsylvania for use as park land and has since been designated Hillman State Park.
Hillman State Park is largely undeveloped unlike most Pennsylvania State Parks. Here you will find no picnic tables, restrooms, camping areas. You will also find that the area is restricted to certain activities during hunting seasons out of courtesy to hunters.
A number of small ponds dot the landscape in the upper reaches of the park. There are a number of variations to the landscape as you explore the area. It often feels different that other areas in Western Pennsylvania as a result of the mining and subsequent reclamation practices.
Hillman is one of my favorite places to venture out into and I often find new things there that I hadn’t seen on prior trips.