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Zimmer Wildlife Sanctuary


Where: On Spruce Cabin Road in Barrett Township, Pa.

GPS coordinates: 41-10.253N, 75-15.161W

Trail information: Although the trail is blazed, legal access to the property requires a scramble along the border of a neighboring property owner. Red blazes mark most of the trail, but use the map below to guide you in entering and exiting the preserve. The blazed trail begins at 41º10’12” N 75º14’ 55” W (elevation 930). Blazing is sporadic or nonexistent up to this point.


Natural Lands Trust acquired the 97-acre Zimmer Wildlife Sanctuary in the early 1980s. It is considered a “neighborhood preserve,” according to Tim Burris, who monitors the property for NLT (natlands.org).

  • Because only a short stretch of the Brodhead is protected for the public, with private neighbors on both sides, fishing is not permitted.
  • Depending on the season, expect to cross some wet patches.
  • Be considerate of neighboring landowners.
  • No motorized vehicles, including ATVs.

Get a little wild in Barrett Township

By Carol Hillestad

It’s just minutes from Mountainhome, but Zimmer Wildlife Sanctuary feels a little wild on a winter day, with no sound but the sighing wind. Winter is a grand time to visit the preserve. Through the leafless trees, you clearly see the terrain’s contours — the steep-sided bowl of the woods before you, Brodhead Creek below, and “Big Hill” rising from the far side of the creek.

Darryl Speicher leads the way. A Barrett Township native, naturalist, and expert birder, Darryl explains that on this site once stood the Old Orchard Inn. The inn burned in 1928, but stone steps remain, cut into the hillside, providing access to the famous creek for “vacationists” staying at the inn.

We take the steep path through mixed hardwood forest, down to the edge of the Brodhead for exhilarating views upstream and downstream of this bend in the creek. We’re surrounded by big, old rhododendrons. A short way back up the hill, we pick up the red blazes of a trail laid out by the current owner, Natural Lands Trust.

It’s a beautiful walk in the woods, marked by large patches of Christmas fern, rhododendron and laurel, white pines and hemlock, and very few invasive plants. We pass living boulders, the size of small cars, carpeted in lichens and moss and sprouting small ferns and evergreen seedlings – entire worlds unto themselves. Darryl points out the leaves of hepatica, which will flower amid the leaf litter in early spring.

This protected land is doing a good job of safeguarding the creek; despite its steepness, there is no noticeable erosion. Erosion caused by disturbed land, or developed land, can carry silt, debris, waste and other pollutants into waterways, harming fish and water quality. Keeping the water pure and safe is important for more than just fish — Brodhead Creek is a source of drinking water for thousands of people.

The trail ambles back to the Brodhead briefly, where civilization intrudes — trash has hung up on a downed tree, and Darryl pulls out plastic bottles and a SpongeBob beach ball to carry out with us. The trail continues over hummocks and through stepping-stone wet patches, before heading back upslope.
It’s steep, but not daunting, and after a time we come out on an old woods road, lined with stone walls. From the road’s direction, we guess this may have been the route carriages took when taking visitors to the old inn from Cresco Station.

The Old Orchard Inn is long gone, and its open meadows and long views across the creek have changed to densely wooded land. But it’s easy to imagine how the clear-cut land looked back in the day, and be grateful for a winter walk – and a little wilderness – in Mountainhome’s backyard.

Carol Hillestad is a hike leader and writer for Get Outdoors Poconos, a grant-funded series ad-ministered by Brodhead Watershed Association.

Comments from other hikers:

“An informative and entertaining hike.” — Nancy

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