Hiking the Mosquito Creek Gorge-Quehanna Wild Area

The Quehanna Wild Area is an outdoors wonderland just waiting to be discovered.  Jodi and Michael invited me along for a backpacking overnight to explore the Mosquito Creek Gorge.  Hiking off trail up the gorge had been something I’ve wanted to do, so I was glad to accept.  This gorge promised to have extensive rapids and house sized boulders.

I drove out, parked at Reactor Road and hiked in along the Meeker Trail.  I reached the campsite at evening, and saw their tent in a grove of hemlocks.  A beautiful site.  Nearby, along Meeker Run, another group of backpackers were camping.  We enjoyed a fire and the incredible display of stars above.  

We got up the next morning, leaving our tents, and shouldered our packs for our hike, which would be about ten miles.  We began by hiking down the Meeker Trail to Meeker Run, and then took the East Cross Connector south.  This is a great trail with beautiful forests, big boulders, and some cascades in Meeker Run.  We reached the road, hiked it south to Mosquito Creek, passing more hikers.  Once we reached Mosquito Creek, we left the road, and began our off trail hike upstream.  

We soon saw the remnants of an old splash dam, used by logging companies a century ago to release water to send the logs downstream.  We hiked along meadows with flowers and avoided wet areas and beaver marshes.  We soon noticed a distinct rock wall along the creek; it appeared some kind of water diversion dike for the splash dam.  As we hiked upstream, the gorge began to close in with massive boulders and rapids.  We also saw some deep pools.  The terrain was tiring, but very beautiful.  In high water, this creek will have a lot of rapids.  As we hiked north, the gorge opened up, but the creek was as beautiful.  Its streambed studded with sandstone boulders.  We saw another rock wall; likely another diversion dike.  Fern meadows and large hardwoods covered the slopes above the creek.  We entered a grove with giant white pine trees above more rapids and giant boulders.  This place felt so primeval.

We soon reached the Bridge Trail and took a break.  We followed the Bridge Trail north across vast meadows with bleached white boulders in the distance.  As we hiked we saw something odd-white meadows in the distance.  We soon saw the reason why-incredible, vast blooms of cottongrass.  Cottongrass grows in colder, wet areas and blooms in late summer.  The blooms were impressive.  We couldn’t believe it.  (I mistakenly called it snowgrass in the pictures below).

We continued our hike along meadows with more cottongrass superblooms.  We hiked under pine and tamarack, and through beech forests.  We returned to our campsite, packed up, and hiked out to the cars.  

The Quehanna is a special place and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

We parked at 41.228493, -78.213383.  Do not hike along Mosquito Creek in high water as it becomes a powerful and dangerous whitewater river.


Vistas of the Rough Hill Trail-Loyalsock State Forest

The Rough Hill Trail is a relatively new two mile lollipop loop in the Loyalsock State Forest.  This superb trail explores hemlock forests, ledges, cliffs, laurel, and features two fine vistas.  The upper vista is particularly impressive.  The trail was designed and constructed by Matt Crosbie, a recreational forester with DCNR.  It is moderately challenging. Click here for a map and guide.

From the parking area at the Sandy Bottom Recreation Area, follow the yellow blazes down an old forest road.  Watch for a discreet right turn off of the old forest road and into the woods.  Hike through the woods with vernal pools, small fern meadows, and under some large tulip poplar trees.  Begin to climb PA 87 and cross the road.  Watch for traffic.  The trail explores a pine forest and begins a larger climb up a slope with loose rock.  The terrain eases with ledges and hemlocks.  Take a short side trail to the lower vista, offering a fine view across the valley and the towering forested ridges.

Return to the trail and continue uphill under scenic forests.  Reach the start of the loop.  I usually go left, or straight, but this time we went right.  The terrain was rocky followed by a steep climb to some ledges and cliffs.  The trail turned left at the top and followed the escarpment of cliffs with laurel and pine. The pine was aromatic in the warm sun. We then reached the view.

The upper vista is stunning as it looks over the winding Loyalsock Creek valley with forested ridges and plateaus.  The distinctive peak of Smiths Knob rises in the distance.  The view is largely undeveloped and is one of the finest in the area.  It is ideal for sunsets.  We sat at the view for a while, and saw seven bald eagles soaring over the Loyalsock Creek.  We continued on the loop, descended on an old skid trail, and then retraced our steps.

While at Sandy Bottom, hike out on the old forest road for views of the creek and the mountains that rise over one thousand feet above it, creating a canyon-like setting.  This is a truly beautiful area.  Want to hike to another nearby view?  Check out Sandy Bottom Vista in the gamelands to the north, it is an easier hike, although it is off trail.  There is a unique pedestal rock at that vista.

We parked at 41.397418, -76.759289.

Garby Trail Vista-Sproul State Forest

The Garby Trail is a little known trail that connects the Donut Hole and Chuck Keiper Trails.  It is blazed yellow.  Despite its lack of footsteps, the Garby Trail has some nice scenery.  In particular, there is a fine vista located less than a mile north of Grugan Hollow Road in the Sproul State Forest.  While many hikes I describe are off trail, this one follows a blazed trail, and it is an easy, enjoyable hike.  

Begin at Grugan Hollow Road where there is pull off parking for about two cars.  Follow a jeep road with yellow blazes and head north, this is the Garby Trail.  This jeep road also serves as a snowmobile trail.  The road explores a scenic forest of hardwoods and pine.  The road begins to make a slight incline.  Watch for where the road bends left; the Garby Trail leaves it to the right.  This turn can be easy to miss.  There are blazes, but the trail is faint.

You will soon reach the vista, an opening in the trees from a meadow that looks east.  This would be a great vista for sunrises.  The view is beautiful as it looks over to a broad plateau and the river valley to the left.  You can also see over the right side of the plateau to the distant ridges of Bald Eagle State Forest, about 20-30 miles away.  There are few signs of development, and you are almost guaranteed you will have this fine view all to yourself.  Below is the gorge of Big McCloskey Run, which is 1,400 feet deep.  Return the way you came.

The Garby Trail continues north, descends the ridge and reaches the Western Clinton County Sportsmans Association, crosses the Susquehanna River at the PA 120 bridge, and then climbs to the Donut Hole Trail.  There many be another vista north of this one, but I am not sure.

The Sproul State Forest has numerous places of great beauty, whether it be unknown vistas or tumbling mountain streams in secret gorges.  Grugan Hollow Road hosts several superb views and future posts will explore them.

Pull off parking is at about 41.297423, -77.682711.  The hike is less than a mile, one way.  The terrain is easy.  Most of the hike follows a jeep road, but the last short section it is a trail that is faint.  It is marked with yellow blazes.  

Hike to Boggs Run Vista-Sproul State Forest

Yellow is a jeep road. Red is off trail, although it does follow game or old hunting paths that become more defined as you near the vista. Dashed red route is for those seeking a longer walk on the jeep road.

Boggs Run has carved a canyon over 1,100 feet deep and several miles long into the Allegheny Plateau of the Sproul State Forest.  On the east side of this canyon is a vista of remarkable beauty, one of the most scenic vistas in the PA Wilds. This view was previously undocumented; I suspected it existed due to an opening in the forest I could see on Google Earth.  I decided to check it out.  Sproul is Pennsylvania’s largest state forest, covering over 300,000 acres.  It holds incredible hidden beauty with many off trail vistas, large rocks, gorges, spruce and pine forests, and waterfalls.

I parked along Grugan Hollow Road, where a jeep trail intersects from the north.  The spot was marked by a tree with a pink paint mark.  I then headed north on the jeep road, which is not blazed, or signed (yellow on the map).  To my surprise, there was no gate blocking the jeep road.  However, driving down it is not recommended.  The jeep road descended into a saddle along the ridge, and then began to gently climb.  Here, I left the road and hiked off trail to the left.  I waded through low blueberries and enjoyed some partial vistas.  I eventually picked up some old game or hunting trails, which made my hike easier.  I continued along the edge of the plateau.   The forest was mostly open, and there wasn’t any thick mountain laurel.  As I hiked, I followed a trail that became more defined.

Clouds were lifting from the canyons and the forests were within veils of mist.  I turned around to see the sun sending shafts of light, piercing through the forest.  It was so beautiful.  With my back to the sun, the light would illuminate the mist in front of me, creating an iridescent haze across the forest floor.  I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing right.  

I reached a steep slope and descended; I had to watch for some loose rock.  I then reached Boggs Run Vista.  It was truly breathtaking.  The vista reveals a 180 degree panorama of this narrow, rugged gorge surrounded by towering plateaus, ridges, and buttresses as the plateaus descend.  Mist and clouds rose from within the canyon and then drifted away, revealing clear blue skies.  To the north I could see for twenty miles or so.  Far below I could hear Boggs Run flowing.  A hawk screeched within the canyon.  Monarch butterflies sailed south.  Across the canyon there appeared to be another vista.  I could see right up the canyon for several miles.  Since this vista looks west, it is ideal for sunsets.

I loved how this vista is so wild and untouched.  Hopefully, the Sproul State Forest will allow a trail be built to it to highlight the stunning beauty of the PA Wilds.  I then retraced my steps back to my car, off to find some more vistas in the state forest.

This hike is about 1.5 miles one way, with the first half mile being on the jeep road.  The terrain is easy to moderate; there are no huge climbs or descents.  The dashed red route on the map above is for those who want to hike longer on the jeep road.  The red route is off trail, but does follow old game or hunting trails, which become more defined as you near the vista.  

The vista is located at 41.312722, -77.703006.  Parking is located at about 41.295199, -77.689584.  It is pull off parking and very limited, with space for no more than one or two cars.  Do not block the jeep road; do not drive down the jeep road. 

Boggs Run Vista is an amazing view that should be on any hikers list.   

Photos and video:

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Sproul State Forest

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Return to Ricketts Glen-Hiking the Falls Trail

Ricketts Glen is where I started hiking, years ago.  Back then I was working two jobs, had no money, and found myself with an afternoon and nothing to do.  Since I needed to find something inexpensive, I decided to check out Ricketts Glen, not quite knowing what to expect.  I hiked up the Falls Trail and saw waterfall after waterfall.  I couldn’t believe a place so beautiful was so close to home.  I went back home, opened a map to look for my next destination.  A few weeks later I went to Worlds End State Park.

I haven’t stopped since.

As the years passed, I’ve spent less time at Ricketts Glen.  Years have gone by without me setting foot on the Falls Trail.  I guess I’ve changed, and so has Ricketts Glen.  Ricketts Glen has become a national, if not international, destination.  The park now sees tour buses and throngs of people hike the iconic Falls Trail.  I’ve turned to hiking off trail and seeing the state’s hidden beauty.

I returned this summer to hike the Falls Trail during an evening after work.  The conditions were perfect.  Lots of water in the creek, cool temperatures, no bugs, bright sun and no crowds.  I did see cars from Texas, Michigan, and Quebec, illustrating the reputation of this remarkable park.  

We parked at the Lake Rose parking area and soon hiked the trail under hemlocks.  Moss covered rocks adorned the forest floor.  We veered left onto the Highland Trail and enjoyed the giant rocks at the Midway Crevasse.  The trail descended and we passed a family of hikers speaking Russian.  The trail reached Glen Leigh where we turned right.  I love Glen Leigh due to its stunning scenery and how close the trail is to the waterfalls.  The numerous waterfalls were so beautiful.  Giant trees rose through the canopy as the sunlight shone on moss and lichens.  Despite it being a weeknight, we still passed several hikers, although the trail was not crowded.

We reached Waters Meet and headed downstream to see the three falls ending at Murray Reynolds.  We then returned to Waters Meet.

I was hiking with a man from Oregon, who often hikes to the waterfalls in the famous Columbia River Gorge.  He was thoroughly impressed by Ricketts Glen.  He exclaimed that everywhere he looked, there was a waterfall.

We made our way up Ganoga Glen to enjoy the waterfalls and deep gorges.  We took a break at deafening Ganoga Falls, almost 100 feet tall, as it roared down a precipice.  We continued our climb as the sun set, casting the gorge in twilight.  Falls seemed to dance through the trees.  The aroma of the water and deep hemlock forests was intoxicating.

We reached the car and drove to Lake Jean as the sun set, casting the skies into colors of amber and gold.

I will always return to Ricketts Glen from time to time.  It is truly one of nature’s great cathedrals.

We parked at 41.329862, -76.290824.

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Ricketts Glen State Park.

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The Eales Preserve at Moosic Mountain-The Nature Conservancy

The Eales Preserve has established itself as a premier destination for mountain biking and hiking.  For good reason.  The preserve protects some of the largest heath barrens in the eastern US, covering hundreds of acres.  The trails feature streams, ponds, rock outcrops, and non-stop views.  You can see for over thirty miles.  The Eales Preserve is owned by the Nature Conservancy.   It is surprising how much beauty surrounds Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.  

The trails were built by mountain bikers, so they tend to be curvy.  But hiking is also allowed.  Overall the trails are in good shape and have signs, but few blazes.  The trails also appear on Google Maps.

If you like views, the loop described below is my favorite.  I recommend hiking in late afternoon and save the Blueberry Trail for last, so you can see the sunset as you hike.  It will be an experience you won’t forget. The best time to see the preserve may be in early October when the meadows explode into fields of deep red.  It is incredibly beautiful.

This loop is 5-6 miles and is moderate in difficulty.  Climbs tend to be gradual and you will walk over and across rock slabs.  From the parking area, walked to the kiosk and soon thereafter turn left onto the Bruised Ego Trail as you get the first taste of some views.  Turn right onto the Conglomerate Loop and enjoy expansive views of the Lackawanna Valley.  Continue on the Stonehenge Trail, which is more wooded, but I like to include The View Trail.  As the name suggests, this one has some great views.  Return to the Stonehenge Trail with more woodlands and small streams.  Reach a powerline and continue on the Waterfall Loop, on which I have never found a waterfall.  This makes a gradual climb over ledges with some views, but then enters the woods.  Near the top, veer right onto the classic Blueberry Trail, which features non stop views that are breathtaking with some small pine groves.  Sunsets are incredible from this trail as it meanders across vast heath meadows.  As you descend enter a forest with a spring, but then return to the open meadows.  The trail drops down to the parking area.

All the trails at the preserve are worth hiking.  Another trail with superb views is High Voltage Trail.  Gene’s Trail is also enjoyable with streams and a pond.  

We are fortunate to have this beautiful place open to the public, for everyone to explore and enjoy.

Parking is at: 41.438408, -75.541067. 

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Sunset at Eales Preserve.

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Little Rocky Glen-Countryside Conservancy

Little Rockly Glen is a preserve owned by the Countryside Conservancy.  While it is small in size, it is big in beauty, featuring a gorge shaded with hemlocks and adorned with moss and ferns.  The South Branch Tunkhannock Creek flows through the gorge, creating rapids, deep pools, and unique erosional features.  Trout anglers enjoy the glen, as do whitewater kayakers in high water.

We parked in a lot along Lithia Valley Road and followed the trail above the creek.  The trails are not marked, but are easy to follow.  We hiked to the top of a mushroom rock outcrop overlooking the glen.  The views were beautiful.  We were able to descend to the ledge below the outcrop to enjoy the rapids and cascades, not to mention the unique potholes in the rock.  

We climbed back up and hiked the trail as it clung to the side of the glen, the creek roaring below.  We descended to a large pool, meadow, and a large picnic shelter.  The pool was beautiful as the deep waters swirled, and the meadow was adorned with wildflowers.  Swimming is not allowed in the glen as several people have drowned.

On the hike back out, we retraced our steps, enjoying the scenery of the glen.  The total hike was less than a quarter mile.  Little Rocky Glen is ideal for a quick visit to enjoy the beauty of nature.

We parked at 41.554341, -75.833674. There is parking for about five or six cars.