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Hiking Buzzard Swamp, Marienville, Pennsylvania

Buzzard Swamp Sign

If you love wildlife, hiking, and swampy things (yes, swampy things!), then you will love hiking Buzzard Swamp. This wildlife management area is situated on the border between Forest and Elk counties near Marienville, Pennsylvania. 

With 11.2 miles of hiking trails meandering around beautiful man-made ponds, Buzzard Swamp has much to offer for adventurous hikers. But even those who prefer short leisurely strolls can enjoy this area.

And don’t worry, muck boots aren’t required to make it through this ‘swamp.’ The trails are navigable with a nice pair of waterproof boots.

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

What Makes Buzzard Swamp Special?

So, why should you make the trek over to Buzzard Swamp? The name may not be enticing for some hikers, but the views are exceptional and well worth the travel. A few additional things make Buzzard Swamp an extraordinary place.

Propagation Area

A 40-acre area within Buzzard Swamp is protected for wildlife, mainly nesting waterfowl. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service tells us that, in Spring, 20-25 different waterfowl species can be seen around the swamp.

This is because Buzzard Swamp is a vital link during the migration season of the Atlantic flyway.

Access to this protected area is strictly forbidden, and a gazillion signs say so. Okay, maybe not a gazillion, but at least 30! Be a responsible hiker and always remain on the trail during your hike.

Wildlife

Buzzard Swamp is a fantastic place for viewing wildlife. The unique ecosystem provides aquatic, semi-aquatic, and land-bound creatures access to protected areas where they can thrive.

While hiking around Buzzard Swamp, you can expect to see a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish:

MammalsBirdsReptilesFish
MuskratCanada GooseTimber RattlesnakeSmall Mouth Bass
MinkGreat Blue HeronSnapping TurtleLargemouth Bass
Black BearDucksGarter SnakePerch
Eastern CoyoteNorthern HarrierCatfish
Snowshoe HareAmerican KestrelCrappie
White-tailed DeerTurkeyBluegill
BeaverBald Eagle
Buzzards (Turkey Vultures)
Northern Goshawk (Endangered)

This isn’t a complete list of the swamp wildlife, but it gives you an idea of the leading wildlife attractions at Buzzard Swamp! If you’re worried about running into a black bear, you can read about what to do if you see a black bear on a hike here.

Also don’t forget your bear mace, good for any situtation!

Solitude

For me, hiking is all about connecting with nature and your inner self, but it’s hard to do that when you’re in a long line of people walking on the same trail. 

One of the best things about Buzzard Swamp is that it’s kind of a hidden gem in the Allegheny National Forest. You’re unlikely to see other people along the trail, and the area never seems busy. An introvert’s paradise!

If you plan to hike this area alone, check out our article on how to hike alone for tips on staying safe. We also have some fantastic information for petite hikers out there like me! Our article on hiking protection can help tiny hikers feel safe while in nature.

Nature In Pure Form

Buzzard Swamp is one of the few areas where nature has taken back some of the land that people have carelessly snatched away and domesticated into housing plants and shopping plazas.

This fantastic plot of land is entirely wild. Proper habitat and wildlife management have helped many critters proliferate in the area.

  • Man-made ponds help waterfowl: Back in the 1960s, the Allegheny National Forest and the Pennsylvania Game Commission teamed up to create 15 artificial ponds in the Buzzard Swamp management area. This has created a critical migration habitat for many waterfowl species.
  • Unique ecosystem: The ponds at Buzzard Swamp provide essential habitat for beaver, turtles, fish, snakes, and river otter.
  • Protected endangered species: Buzzard Swamp is one of the only areas in Pennsylvania where the endangered Northern Goshawk will nest. The PA Game Commission notes that Goshawk territories in the 1980s numbered as high as 200. However, by 2021, that number had dropped to just 2, one of which was Buzzard Swamp.

Now that we know how special this wildlife management area is, let’s talk about how to get there, where to park, and the hike itself. We’ve divided it into two sections: Ponds 1-6 and 7-13.

Getting To Buzzard Swamp (Ponds 1-6)

Buzzard Swamp hiking area is located in the southern portion of the Allegheny National Forest. The closest town is Marienville, a few short miles west. To the southwest is the famous Cook Forest, where you can find even more hiking trails.

This section will cover the hikes around ponds 1-6. This is the main protected area of Buzzard Swamp. Although it never really gets busy, this is the more popular hiking trail.

You may also notice on maps that this area is called Buzzard Swamp Coop Wildlife Management Area. ‘Coop’ stands for cooperative, signifying the cooperation between Allegheny National Forest and the PA Game Commission to make this area possible.

Now, let’s get you to this hiker’s paradise:

From Marienville

1. At the major intersection, take South Forest Street

Google Maps Photo of Buzzard Swamp direction

2. Follow South Forest Street for 0.7 miles until the road turns into Loleta Road (continue straight)

3. Continue on Loleta Road for 0.6 Miles

4. Turn left onto Buzzard Swamp Road. You will see a sign on the right-hand side of the road where you need to turn. It will read “Buzzard Swamp Cooperative Wildlife Management Area.”

Buzzard Swamp sign with big red

5. Follow Buzzard Swamp Road for 2.3 miles to the obvious gravel parking area.

Buzzard Swamp Road can be tricky depending on the time of year. It is a dirt road that can be subject to ruts and muddy/icy spots. We went on a dry December day and had no problems in our Ram Promaster 2500 van.

Here’s Where To Park For The Buzzard Swamp Loop (Ponds 1-6)

As you drive down Buzzard Swamp Road, you’ll see various turnoffs leading to access roads with closed gates. These are not parking areas. Continue to the end of the road, where you’ll be greeted with a vast gravel parking lot.

  • GPS Coordinates: 41.4493, -79.0816
  • Google Maps: Type “Buzzard Swamp Parking Lot”

Chances are, you’ll be the only one in the parking lot! For any vanlifers, there is, unfortunately, no overnight parking in this lot.

So, pick a spot, any spot, and get ready to explore miles of beautiful terrain! Remember to bring enough water and snacks and that oh-so-important first-aid kit. 

Speaking of that, we have a fantastic guide on packing the ultimate first-aid kit for hiking and climbing – check it out to learn how to pack all the essentials for those uh-oh moments.

Exploring Buzzard Swamp Ponds 1-6

Much of the Buzzard Swamp Trails are in open meadows, so pack plenty of sunscreen and water. The loop trail is the most popular trail at Buzzard Swamp. You’ll hike along a grassy access road the entire way, making it an easy trail to follow with minimal elevation gain.

Completing the entire loop will take you on a 4-mile journey. Hunting is allowed in the management area during certain seasons, so wear blaze orange at these times.

You can check the PA Game Commission website for further details about hunting seasons. 

Buzzard Swamp Loop Trail Step-By-Step Guide:

You can find a Buzzard Swamp map on the USDA Forest website here

Start at the parking lot (41.4493, -79.0816).

Buzzard Swamp Parking lot scaled

Head east towards the gated access road closest to the informational sign. If you’re looking at the two gated roads, it’s the one to the left.

Gate at Buzzard Swamp

Follow the access road through wooded forests for about 1/4 of a mile before the trail opens into a meadow. You can see Pond 3 in the distance to your right.

Meadow at Buzzard Swamp

Continue on the access road for 0.4 miles and follow the natural bend to the right. You’ll pass a few smaller ponds along the left-hand side of the trail.

After another tenth of a mile, the trail will bend to the left, and you’ll have a decent view of the larger Pond 1.

half mile later, you’ll arrive at the gorgeous Pond 5 on your left. Here, you’ll see informational signs about the wildlife in the management area.

Pond 5 at Buzzard Swamp

A tenth of a mile later, you’ll come to an intersection where the trail either goes straight or bends to the right – take the trail that bends to the right.

Intersection after pond 5
at Buzzard Swamp

Continue along this trail, passing the smaller Pond 4 on the right and approaching the enormous Pond 6.

When you reach the spillway for Pond 6, you are nearly halfway through the loop!

Spillway at the dam at Buzzard Swamp with Pawd and Jarrod

Continue forward, approaching another thicket of forest. This side of the trail gets a lot of shade, so if you go in winter, be prepared for lingering snow and ice.

Soon after entering the forested section of this trail, you’ll be greeted with a bend to the right, which marks the 2-mile point.

Bend in the trail after the  dam at Buzzard Swamp

The remaining section of the trail is a straightforward shot with no other turning points. Shortly after the 3-mile mark, you’ll have a closer look at Pond 1 on the right side of the trail. When we were there, we saw a lovely beaver lodge at the edge of the pond.

Beaver lodge at Buzzard Swamp seen from the trail

At the 3.4-mile mark, you’ll bend to the right again, heading back toward the parking lot.

The last leg of the hike passes by quite a few stream crossings and eventually leads to the gate, which you can walk around and head back to the parking lot.

Stream crossing at Buzzard swamp, the stream crossing is hard to miss.

NOTE: before you hit the 1-mile mark, another grassy access road trail veers off to the right between Pond 1 and Pond 6, cutting the loop short. Do not take this trail! It travels through the propagation area and is only open to hunters for one week during rifle deer season. This is an essential habitat for nesting waterfowl, so please be respectful!

Getting To Buzzard Swamp Ponds 7-13

Ponds 7-13 are located in the northeastern section of Buzzard Swamp. There are a few ways to get to this trail and many variations to shorten or lengthen the hike.

This side of the trail sees less traffic and still offers beautiful views. Beaver activity is also higher in this area, and you can see multiple beaver dams and remnants of their extraordinary tree-cutting abilities.

Beaver dam close to the trail at Buzzard Swamp. Pawd looks interested in the sticks!

The trail will flood below Pond 7 during rainy seasons and can be challenging to navigate, so be aware of this if it rains for a few days before you go!

There are three different ways to get to this trail, and plenty of variations you can take to make the hike shorter or longer. 

Map of Buzzard Swamp indicating some of the other parking areas to access the trails. These are the least used of the 4.

From Marienville

At the main intersection, take East Spruce Street.

Google map of the other road used to get to Buzzard Swamp.

Follow East Spruce Street, which turns into Lamonaville Road, for 2.5 miles.

On the right is the entrance to Forest Road 376, which will take you to one of the two parking lots you can use to traverse the trails. You can turn down this road or continue on Lamonaville Road to one of the other areas. If you park here, refer to Option 2 below.

Buzzard swamp forest road 376 entrance.

If you continue on Lamonaville Road, drive 0.8 more miles. Forest Road 377 will be on your right and lead to the same parking lot as Forest Road 376. You’ll see a sign that says ‘No Outlet’ and ‘Buzzard Swamp 1 mile.’ Refer to Option 2 for a step-by-step guide to the trail.

2nd option for buzzard swamp parking.

A third parking lot is available further down Lamonaville Road – continue for 1.1 miles after Forest Road 377. You’ll see a sign for Trail 157 and a parking lot with a gate beyond. If you park here, refer to Option 1 below.

3rd option for parking.

Exploring Buzzard Swamp Ponds 7-13

FR 376 & 377 can be muddy during rainy times, so take care if you drive down these roads to reach the parking lot. The lot itself is very lovely and graveled with excellent traction. 

Alt parking spot.

Trail 157 parking area is easier to get to, but the lot has muddy areas where you could get stuck.

No matter where you decide to park, you will surely enjoy the adventure! If you prefer to park near Trail 157, refer to Option 1 below. 

Option 1: Eastern Lamonaville Parking Lot Hike

One of the trails we hike at Buzzard Swamp.

We chose this option first, as we were afraid our Ram Promaster van would get stuck on FR 376 or 377. The lot could have been better, but we didn’t get stuck, so we were happy!

This hike will take you around ponds 7 through 13, hitting pond 13 first:

Park along Forest Service Road 157 off Lamonaville Road (41.47175, -79.04257).

Big red in the parking lot at Buzzard Swamp.

Walk around the gated access road and continue south along FR 157.

Gate at Buzzard Swamp.

The next 1.3 miles is a meandering trail without intersections or turnoffs. The first pond you’ll visit is Pond 13, followed by 12, 11, etc.

Pond 13 at Buzzard Swamp.

After passing by Pond 9, you’ll approach a Y intersection. You can make this a lollipop loop by taking the left fork.

Walk around the southern portion of Pond 8 and continue for 0.6 miles to the next intersection.

You’ll want to hook a right, heading toward Pond 7. If the trail is flooded, it will be at the creek crossing at the southwestern corner of Pond 7, so take care in this area.

Flooded crossing at Buzzard Swamp

0.4 miles later, you’ll reach the next intersection. Take another right and head back the way you came for a total hike of about 4 miles.

Intersection on trail of Buzzard Swamp

This hike is approximately 3.9 miles long.

Option 2: FR 376 & 377 Parking Lot Hike

Option 2 for trails at Buzzard Swamp.

If you’d rather park in a well-graveled lot, head down FR 376 or 377 to get to the parking lot. It’s a dead end that only leads to the parking lot, so you won’t pass it by on accident.

Park in the gravel parking lot and head east towards a gated trail. Note that another trail leads south – this goes to the main Buzzard Swamp Loop. Avoid this trail for now.

Gated trail at buzzard swamp.

Follow the trail for 0.2 miles until you reach the next intersection. I recommend taking the right-hand path to go down towards Pond 7.

Trail at Buzzard Swamp.

Remember, the trail can be flooded at times, so you may have to turn around at this point. If the creek is crossable, continue for 0.4 miles to the next intersection.

Take a left at the intersection to head north toward Pond 8.

Map of Buzzard Swamp trail we took.

Follow the trail for 0.6 miles to the next intersection. From here, you can either turn left to head back toward the parking lot or turn right to see ponds 9 through 13.

Intersection options at Buzzard Swamp.

If you decide to explore ponds 9 through 13, hang a right and follow the trail for approximately 0.8 miles until you reach pond 13. 

At Pond 13, turn around and head back to the previous intersection.

Go straight at the intersection for approximately 0.3 miles.

Back to parking lot at Buzzard Swamp.

Hang a right at the next intersection to head back to the parking lot.

If you do the entire lollipop loop to Pond 13, you’ll hike approximately 3.3 miles.

What About Ponds 14 & 15?

The last two ponds, 14 and 15, are located on the far eastern side of Buzzard Swamp. There’s no easy way to get to them, and you either have to add mileage onto the loop or the hike for ponds 7 through 13.

Ponds 14 and 15 at Buzzard Swamp.

Songbird Sojourn Interpretive Trail

The final hike at Buzzard Swamp is the Songbird Sojourn Interpretive Trail. This 1.5-mile hike is filled with informational signs and is excellent for bird-watching.

Where To Park

Park at the same gravel lot as you would for the Buzzard Swamp Loop. 

  • GPS Coordinates: N41.44928, W79.08157
  • Google Maps: Buzzard Swamp Parking Lot

The Hike: A Step-By-Step Guide

From the parking lot, head to the western corner, away from the Buzzard Swamp Loop Trail.

Songbird trail head.

Enjoy the trail for 1 mile until you reach the first intersection. Continue straight. Do not turn left. There will be a sign directing you to the correct path.

Continue for another 0.5 miles until you reach the original Buzzard Swamp Loop Trail. Hang a right to go back to the parking lot.

Songbird trail sign.

Hiking With Pets At Buzzard Swamp

If you know anything about us, you know that we love taking our pets with us when we hike. We travel around with a dog and two cats and rarely go to trails that aren’t pet-friendly.

Buzzard Swamp is dog-friendly, but they should be kept on a leash. This area is home to an abundance of wildlife, so keeping your pet leashed not only protects the wildlife but also protects your pup from any unwanted wildlife encounters. 

We have a fantastic guide on must-have dog gear essentials for hiking if you plan to bring your doggo along for the adventure! And if you have a tripod like us, you can read our ultimate guide on adventuring with a tripod dog here!

Other Things To Do At Buzzard Swamp

Besides hiking, you can enjoy a few other activities at Buzzard Swamp:

  • Fishing: Non-motorized boats are allowed in all the ponds, and fishing is allowed. Buzzard Swamp fishing will have you catching largemouth bass, perch, catfish, crappie, and bluegill.
  • Winter activities: snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are permitted at Buzzard Swamp.
  • Biking: All trails are open to mountain biking.

Wrapping Up Buzzard Swamp

It’s been quite an adventure! Buzzard Swamp is a hiking experience perfect for those who enjoy solitude and wildlife viewing. This hidden gem is uncrowded, beautiful, and with minimal elevation gain.

To recap, your Buzzard Swamp hike includes these three main areas:

  • Ponds 1-6 (Buzzard Swamp Loop) – Approximately 4 miles.
  • Ponds 7-13 – Approximately 3.5 – 4 miles.
  • Songbird Sojourn Interpretive Trail – 1.5 miles.

If you’re feeling frisky, you can do the entire area, racking in over 11 miles of hiking and seeing all the ponds!

Remember, it’s your responsibility to keep these areas clean, so pack out any trash – especially dog poo! Wild places like this are disappearing fast, so enjoy them, preserve them, and keep exploring!

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4 comments

  1. Very interesting and informative article.
    I’ve done a little hunting in the buzzard swamp area but reading this makes me want to go explore the entire area in depth

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