Volunteers Help Restore 20+ Miles of Trails
Take a ride down Moonshine, the newest trail at Moon Lake State Forest Recreation Area, and you’d never guess that this fast, flowy trail was once a tangle of cut-throughs and offshoots.
“We had what’s called a dig weekend,” explained Meghan Martin of the Moon Lake Trail Crew. “Over that weekend, we had over 200 man-hours put into that entire trail. It was combining three different trails.”
About 60 volunteers came out, armed with loppers, rakes, saws and shovels. Clearing the way was tough to say the least. But that didn’t mean that it was all work and no play. Many people made a weekend out of it, camping out afterwards and bringing their families along to enjoy the beauty of the park.
Moonshine is just one of the 20+ miles of singletrack trails maintained by the Moon Lake Trail Crew, an all-volunteer group that preserves and expands the trail system at the park. On their Facebook page, they claim that they’re “just a bunch of everyday people who love to ride our bikes.” Plain and simple—but it’s their passion for the outdoors that has helped make Moon Lake into a destination for locals and visitors alike.
New Life for a Local Trail System
The Trail Crew partners with the DCNR Bureau of Forestry to keep the trails thriving.
The Moon Lake Recreation Area encompasses 942 acres in the Pinchot State Forest. It was formerly a county park until the state purchased the property in 2015.
During the transition, many people didn’t realize that the park was still open. A few locals still came to fish in the tranquil, spring-fed lake. Meanwhile, mountain bikers like Martin kept riding the trails and maintaining them as they went—the humble start to the Trail Crew.
“Once I finally found out the state ended up purchasing the property, I had somewhere to start and contact,” explained Martin. “It took a little while to get the right person, but now we have a close contact for Moon Lake. Now we actually have permission as a group to go out and work on the land.”
The Trail Crew regularly gets together to clean up the trails, like removing fallen trees or trimming the overgrowth. They also plan and propose new trails. The process starts with going out into the woods with a GPS and flagging the route. Once DCNR gives their approval, then it’s time to break ground, from clearing the brush to bench cutting the steep terrain to leaf blowing a clear path.
“DCNR has been putting a lot of work into it too. They redid all the roads out there and put gravel down. They fixed the parking lots up. They added a bunch of metal benches and picnic tables. The entrance has a new kiosk. They’ve been doing great,” said Martin.
The Trail Crew has also worked tirelessly to make the trails easier to navigate. Currently, they’re working to install 71 new trail signs.
“When you get to an intersection, there’s going to be an intersection number and a trail sign with the name of the trail,” explained Trail Crew member Larry Stearn. “There’s going to be less confusion. It’s going to be wonderful. Once we get all the signs in and everything, they’ll be able to actually put a map out.”
The goal is to finish the project this fall. After receiving approval from PA One Call, volunteers will start digging post holes and putting up the signs. Keep an eye on Facebook for announcements about volunteer work days.
Rediscovering Moon Lake
Moon Lake is quickly becoming a popular spot—and not just for mountain biking.
With all the recent improvements, many people are returning to the park, or discovering it for the first time.
“It’s becoming a hot place to stop lately. I love going out there. When we first started, there was no one. It was literally just the people who introduced mountain biking to me,” said Martin. “Now, there’s people from out of state coming in and saying, ‘Hey, I heard there was mountain bike trails and hiking trails. We’re here to hang out and camp over the weekend.’”
Stearn is glad to see a mix of old friends and new faces too.
“It’s great to see a lot of people out there, enjoying the trail work that we put in. All the effort that we’ve done is actually paying off,” he said.
And although Moon Lake is a hotspot for mountain biking, there are plenty of other ways to explore the property. The trails are open to hiking, and the surrounding forests are a prime place for birdwatching. The trails are closed to motor vehicles, and hunting is off-limits, so the area provides a safe haven year-round.
The lake remains a popular place to fish, while families enjoy cookouts at the pavilions and picnic tables on shore. Rustic campsites are available to stay the night.
“The park is for everybody,” said Stearn. “It’s not just for one certain group. It’s for everybody to get out there, whether it’s the runners, the joggers, the birdwatchers, the remote-control airplane group. That whole thing is a recreational area, so everybody can enjoy it.”
Hit the Trail!
Learn more about Moon Lake and how you can get involved with the Trail Crew.
If you’re planning a trip to Moon Lake, you can find the latest trail map on Trailforks.
“I recommend to anyone who goes out there riding: be smart and wear a helmet,” suggested Stearn. “There are some intermediate/beginner-type trails, but most of them are intermediate with a couple expert trails.”
And if you want to get your hands dirty with some trail work, the Moon Lake Trail Crew is always looking for new volunteers. Reach out on Facebook and watch for posts about volunteer work days. You can also donate directly to the Trail Crew or through their affiliated nonprofit, the Anthracite Mountain Pedalers.
Moon Lake State Forest Recreation Area
The pristine, 48-acre, spring-fed Moon Lake serves as the centerpiece of this densely forested park in Hunlock Creek. The Moon Lake State Forest Recreation Area is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Located within the reaches of the Pinchot State Forest, this recreation area is a local favorite for so many fresh-air activities.