The name Beartown was chosen because local residents claimed that the many cave-like openings in the rocks made ideal winter dens for the black bears of the area. Also, the many deep, narrow crevasses were formed in a somewhat regular criss-cross pattern and appear from above like the streets of a small town.
Beartown is noted for its unusual rock formations, which are comprised of Droop, or Pottsville, Sandstone formed during the Pennsylvanian age. Massive boulders, overhanging cliffs, and deep crevasses stir the imagination of most visitors. Pocketing the face of the cliffs are hundreds of eroded pits, ranging from the size of marbles to others large enough to hold two grown men. Ice and snow commonly remain in the deeper crevasses until mid to late summer. Vegetation clings tenaciously to life, sending roots into mere cracks in the rocks.
Visitors may notice dead or dying trees along the boardwalk, victims of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect from Japan. The adelgid feeds on sap from hemlock needles, causing defoliation, and eventually the decline and death of the tree. Metal tags indicate trees which have been treated to control the adelgid, but the long term outlook for hemlocks in the Appalachians is grim. Already at Beartown, one can see forest succession in action, as dying hemlocks are being replaced by a lush growth of young birch trees.