Certain places just attract people. The cool, clear water of Little Buffalo Creek has been attracting people for centuries.
American Indians frequented Little Buffalo Creek on hunting trips. Farmers and merchants used to gossip and pass news while the grain was ground at Shoaff’s Mill. Nearby, merchants, local people, and travelers met at Blue Ball Tavern.
Today, thousands of people meet at Little Buffalo State Park to picnic, swim, fish, hike, and experience nature and history.
Hiking at Little Buffalo State Park
8 miles of trails
Sturdy footwear is recommended because of rocky footing on some trails.
Little Buffalo Creek Trail
1 mile, easiest hiking, blue blazes
Located at the west end of the park, this trail offers hikers the beauty and sounds of water and good opportunities for viewing wildlife. This trail runs between Main Picnic Area and the west end of the park. During the winter season, Creekside Trail makes a nice cross-country ski trail especially when skiers include the Newport and Sherman’s Valley Railroad trace and the mowed strips in the west end of the park.
1.2 miles, easiest hiking, mowed path
This loop trail has 18 permanent stations where hikers can do many different exercises, including balance beam, pull-ups, hand walks, bar vaults, sit-ups, and many other exercises. It is a good trail on which to see bluebirds.
Blue Ball Trail
0.25 mile, easiest hiking, paved
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. This paved trail is ADA accessible from East Picnic Area and runs near Blue Ball Tavern.
0.5 mile, easiest hiking, green blazes
This trail begins at the campground pond. It drops down an easy grade in a hollow to connect with Middle Ridge Trail.
1 mile, easiest hiking, yellow blazes
This hiking trail wanders through a mature hemlock forest between East Picnic Area and Main Picnic Area. A dense canopy of hemlock trees allows very little sunlight to reach the forest floor making for a relatively cool walk even on the warmest days. The dim light prohibits the growth of most plants, but ferns and small hemlocks manage to grow under the canopy. A vista overlooking the lake and dam is on the east end of the trail near East Picnic Area.
Mill Race Trail
0.5 mile, easiest hiking, orange blazes
This trail can be accessed by Shoaff’s Mill and by the Classroom Annex. The trail follows the Furnace Run and the mill race. The race is the narrow channel that supplies water to power the mill. A wayside exhibit explains how the mill race was dug using a mill race scoop pulled by horses. By Furnace Run, hikers can find pieces of ****, a green colored stone that is a waste product of the iron furnace that was located upstream. This trail is good for seeing wildflowers.
Middle Ridge Trail
2.5 miles, most difficult hiking, red blazes
This trail runs from Exercise Trail to the west end of the park. It offers many short, steep climbs while traveling through a variety of habitats. Open fields feature nice views of the lake. In the mixed hardwood forest, hikers may see large, cone-shaped mounds of earth which may house tens of thousands of Allegheny mound ants. These ants have very strong jaws and can inflict a painful bite on those who disturb their mounds.
Buffalo Ridge Trail
1.5 miles, most difficult hiking, white blazes
This trail runs from East Picnic Area to the Newport and Sherman’s Valley Railroad trace by Main Picnic Area. This difficult trail winds up Buffalo Ridge and offers glimpses of the industrial history of the area. A mixed hardwood forest with scattered hemlock giants covers the area today, but before it was timbered, the ridge was covered in giant oaks, hickories, and American chestnut. Colliers scoured the ridge to make charcoal for the Juniata Iron Works. Look for flat areas of dark ground where wood was stacked, covered with soil and leaves, and burned slowly to make charcoal.
Governed by the American Volksport Association and the International Federation of Popular Sports, Volksmarchers earn awards for hiking. Little Buffalo State Park has a Volksmarcht Year Round Walk. White arrows point out the 10K (6.2 miles) walk on Mill Race, Fisherman’s, Buffalo Ridge, Little Buffalo Creek, Middle Ridge, and Exercise trails, and Little Buffalo State Park Road. For official information contact the park office.
Picnicking at Little Buffalo State Park
This activity or structure is ADA accessible.
Many picnic tables offer nice views of the lake and most are shaded by beautiful oak and maple trees. Charcoal grills are scattered throughout the picnic areas.
All picnic areas are open from 8:00 A.M. to sunset.
Picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Main Picnic Area
The Main Picnic Area is a large, shaded lawn surrounding the swimming pool. There are showers, first-aid station, play field, seasonal food concession, playground equipment, boat rental, two picnic pavilions that each seat 80 people, horseshoe pits, restrooms, and many picnic tables. The Main Picnic Area is closed November through April.
East Picnic Area
The East Picnic Area is by the Little Buffalo Historic District and is open year round. It features picnic tables, restrooms, horseshoe pits, Classroom Annex, a picnic pavilion that seats 50 people, and the Entertainment Pavilion.
Stay the Night at Little Buffalo State Park
flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hookups
The modern campground is open from the day before trout season to the third Sunday in October.
There are 40 sites. Some have electric and water hookups. Some sites are full-service.
All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring.
Pets are permitted on all campsites.
A sanitary dump station is in the campground.
Four rustic cottages in the campground sleep five people in single bunks and double/single bunks, and have:
Electric heat, lights, and outlets
Table and chairs
The nearby campground shower house provides toilets, showers, and drinking water.
Up to two dogs are permitted in Cottages #4 and #5 for a fee.
Swimming at Little Buffalo State Park
This activity or structure is ADA accessible.
A large, ADA accessible swimming pool is located in the main day use area along Holman Lake. The pool has two, zero entry areas and a maximum depth of five feet. It also has two waterslides and a sprayground.
The daily hours are 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. The pool opens for the Memorial Day weekend, then weekends only until the second weekend in June when it begins seven days-a-week operation until mid-August. It is then open on weekends through Labor Day.
Wildlife Watching at Little Buffalo State Park
There are many opportunities to see wildlife, but please observe from a safe distance and do not feed wildlife.
Little Buffalo Creek Trail offers good opportunities for seeing white-tailed deer. The tracks of beaver, muskrat, and mink can be found in the stream beside the trail. Middle Ridge Trail is a good place to see turkey, grouse, and also large colonies of Allegheny mound ants.
Holman Lake provides habitat for many animals, including green herons, egrets, and beavers. The west finger of the lake is a good place to see wood ducks. Although not residents, bald eagles and ospreys are often seen near Holman Lake. Many waterfowl use the lake as a rest stop during migration, including Canada geese, mallards, blue-winged teal, mergansers, buffleheads, common loons, and ring-necked ducks.
Many species of warblers inhabit the forests of the park. Common yellowthroat, yellow warbler, and the blue-gray gnatcatcher are common. The blue-winged warbler can be seen by the power line along Millrace Trail and on the west side of the lake.
Nest boxes are scattered throughout the park, but the best place to see eastern bluebirds is along Exercise Trail. Please enjoy viewing the bluebirds, but do not disturb the nest boxes.
Boating at Little Buffalo State Park
electric motors permitted
There are two public boat launches on the north side of Holman Lake. Mooring sites for private boats are available for a fee from April 1 to November 1.
Fishing at Little Buffalo State Park
The 88-acre Holman Lake offers year round, warmwater fishing opportunities.
Common species are:
The lake is designated as a “Big Bass Lake.” Bass must be at least 15 inches long with a daily limit of four. Brook, brown, and rainbow trout, and fingerlings of tiger muskellunge are stocked several times a year.
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. An ADA accessible fishing pier is by the Main Boat Launch.
When conditions permit, ice fishing is permitted on the natural ice of the lake except in the ice skating area. The lake is noted for a high panfish harvest, along with trout and warmwater game fish.
Ice thickness is not monitored.
Hunting at Little Buffalo State Park
During established seasons, about 300 acres are open to:
Training of dogs
Common game species are:
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas.
Cross-Country Skiing at Little Buffalo State Park
All hiking trails in Little Buffalo State Park are open for cross-country skiing, but skiing is recommended on Little Buffalo Creek Trail.
A 2.5-mile loop can be skied by taking Little Buffalo Creek Trail to Main Picnic Area, then ski the Newport and Sherman’s Valley Railroad trace. Return to Little Buffalo Creek Trail along the edge of woods.
A popular loop in East Picnic Area starts in the parking lot and follows the path to Clay’s Covered Bridge. The trail passes Shoaff’s Mill then returns to the starting point on either Mill Race Trail or the shorter service road.
Skiing is also permitted on service roads and unplowed roads in the day use area.
Ice Skating at Little Buffalo State Park
Conditions permitting, a two-acre skating area is maintained on the east end of the lake by the Main Boat Launch.
The skating area is open from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.
Heated restrooms are provided.
Ice thickness is monitored in the skating area only. Ice should be a minimum of four inches thick for a single user and seven inches thick for a group.