Somerset County is Pennsylvania’s largest producer of maple products. In order to produce maple sugar, there needs to be an abundance of maple trees paired with the perfect climate. Because of the cold nights and warm days, spring weather in the Laurel Highlands is the ideal time to tap trees! The alternating weather cycle, from freezing to thawing, is what changes the atmospheric pressure in the trees to allow sap to flow out of them to begin the maple production process.
The first documented maple sugar production in Somerset County was in 1762. Back then, buckets were hung on tapped maple trees to collect sap and then manually gathered to start the labor-intensive work of converting forty gallons of sap into delicious maple goodness. Many sugar camps in the region have always been family-owned businesses, passed down through multiple generations, making our maple heritage a tradition in the Laurel Highlands. Today, our maple producers use cutting-edge technology to make the gathering and production process easier (and tastier) than ever!
So how does it work? Trees are tapped by drilling a hole for a spile, a tool that resembles a spout. Spiles were originally made of wood, eventually metal and now plastic. The sap drips from the spile and into a keeler, a bucket that hangs from a hook on the spile. “Keeler” is a term specific to Somerset County, influenced by its early German settlers. Today, the sap flows from the spile, through plastic tubing and is deposited in a large tank. Many years ago, farmers would have traveled through the woods, stopping at every tree and manually dumping each keeler into a large tank.
With maple production primarily limited to a handful of states located in New England, Somerset County stands out and takes great pride in its maple production.
March 13-14, 2021 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
The Maple Weekend Taste and Tour is a free annual event, held March 13-14, 2021 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., that highlights 23 participating Somerset County maple camps' hard work and the sweet treats they create! Take free tours of maple camps throughout the weekend to see the process of maple syrup production first-hand and sample all of the tasty maple treats you can handle.
Each stop on the tour has something unique to bring home or do: grab a Tall Pines Distillery maple rye moonshine at Milroy Farms, take a wagon ride at Brantview Farms Maple and take home a bottle of bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup at Black Bear Maple Camp.
April 24 & 25 and April 28-May 2, 2021
The Pennsylvania Maple Festival is an annual event in “Maple City, USA,” a.k.a. Meyersdale, to celebrate spring, the tapping of maple syrup from local area maple trees and the heritage of the Laurel Highlands region. This festival provides everyone with an opportunity to experience the culture, industry and commerce as it has evolved over the past 150 years in the Meyersdale area.
Celebrate Maple Fest with us for the best pancake & sausage meal you'll ever have, help crown the next Maple Queen, watch auto shows and horse pulls, and so much more.
Schedule a visit to a maple camp during your next visit to get a behind-the-scenes experience and sample tasty maple treats!