A Break in Nature at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve in Latrobe

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on May 2, 2022.

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We're not used to thinking about nature reserves as being “new,” but the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe is just that.

The 50-acre nature reserve came about after many in the area expressed displeasure in the development of nearby Route 30. To ensure that the land near Saint Vincent College was not over-developed, and protect the beauty of nature that the land held, the reserve was ultimately incorporated in the year 2000.

What You Can See at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve

Barn at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve

The Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve offers a number of themed areas you can visit including a wetland, pond, a colonial garden, the Lochry Blockhouse, a beautifully restored barn that doubles as an education center, and many tree-lined hiking trails to name a few.

Lochry Blockhouse at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve

The Lochry Blockhouse and colonial garden was my favorite spot from my brief hike, as it is a reconstruction of a blockhouse which was originally built on the site in 1780 and used as a safe house and gun powder armory to protect what was then the western frontier.

Next to the blockhouse is a colonial garden that highlights indigenous plants that could've been found in the area in the late 1700s. What is interesting about this one is that I recognized many plants that we have in our own neighborhood (some wild, some planted in gardens), which puts the historical element into perspective.

Pond on Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve

Beyond this particular spot, the best way to enjoy the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve is to simply wander around at your leisure and explore the sights and sounds that come up along the trails!

Hiking at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve

Wide Open Trail at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve

While the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve contains about 10 unique trails, it is worth noting that some are as short as 400 feet to as long as 1800 feet. If this seems short, well, you're not wrong. In fact, the total length of all trails at this one is just 1.7 miles (or 2.1 if you include paved driveways) and can be explored with relative ease no matter your fitness level.

Most of the trails here are not blazed but instead feature large signs at their entrance to mark the path you are on. Some of these are wide, gravel paths that are quite accessible, while others are narrow and lined with rather large stepping stones that we would not call easily accessible to some. 

Colonial Garden

Regardless of which path you take, most trails are structured as a loop such that they return to close to where you started, so getting lost is not a concern at all here. This makes for a great opportunity to go on a stroll, take in nature just like Winnie Palmer envisioned, and not worry about much else while you are on the reserve! (Although for safety we always recommend having a copy of the trail map saved on your phone regardless.)

Overall, the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve is a gorgeous little park located on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. What it lacks in size it makes up for in being a well-curated reserve for those who want to spend some time out in nature.

If you're nearby, this one is worth a quick stop!

The Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve is located at 744 Walzer Way on the campus of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. Note that the education center has limited hours while the trails are open dawn to dusk.

Looking for accommodations in the Laurel Highlands? Check out some great options on VRBO!

Visiting campus in early August? Check out Steelers Training Camp and see what the team is up to before the season starts!

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