Hike to Stairway Lake and Falls-Stairway Wild Area (Delaware State Forest)

The Stairway Wild Area is a place worth exploring with waterfalls, a lake, view, and extensive, abandoned bluestone quarries. Our route was about seven miles long and this hike is moderate to challenging. I think it is one of the more interesting hikes in the Poconos. Also some trail junctures have signs and the trails a blazed fairly well, although some of the lesser hiked trails are likely overgrown in summer.

Due to the trail layout, our route was little convoluted, but I enjoyed and would recommend it. We began at the parking area for the Stairway Lake Trail. The Boundary Trail may be shorter and it appeared to have a parking area as well, but was missing a sign.

We hiked the blue blazed Stairway Lake Trail through hardwoods with a large wetland off to our left. The trail was level and rolling, and easy to follow. The blue blazes are bit faded and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are repainted yellow in the future. Reach an old forest road and turn left. Notice the yellow blazes. Follow this old road and pass two yellow trails to the right. You will use both on this hike. The old road reaches some large ledges and climbs gradually. Reach sublime Stairway Lake, a truly scenic place. The lake is undeveloped and was formed by a small dam. A small peninsula juts out into it. On the trail, walk out to a fine view looking down to the Delaware River and into New York. There is also a campsite. This must be an incredible place to camp.

Retrace your steps down the hill and turn left onto the next yellow trail under hemlocks. The trail bends right, but to see Stairway Falls, you will need to go off trail to your left. Drop down to see the falls. It’s an odd falls, as it tumbles down a series of ledges with good height. But the flow seems dispersed over the ledges and the stream is small. It’s a nice feature but do not expect to be wowed, unless there is high water, or it is winter.

The yellow trail curves down, joins the Cut Trail. Turn left and descend. Cross Stairway Run along an old forest road. Large cliffs rise to your left. The gorge is to your right. The trail levels and then descends gradually with hemlock and rhododendron. Signs of the old bluestone quarries become more frequent, with ledges and piles of rock. Look for a small pond to the left of the trail.

A small stream joins the trail and the descent continues with more old quarries. Reach the bottom and make a sharp right, it is easy to continue straight. The ledges and old quarries continue. Barberry also joins the trail and there are dead hemlocks. A railroad is below you to the left. Hike along old quarries and piles of rock. There are also some small stone ruins. Soon, boulders and ledges appear along the trail.

The trail descends to Stairway Run and crosses it, but it is easier to just use the railroad. Now climb up the gorge of Stairway Run with ledges and hemlocks. Look for a cascading waterfall just off trail to the right; it is about fifty feet total. The trail then winds into beautiful hemlock and pine forests. The trail levels and reaches a juncture with a sign, and the front of an old, rusting Ford. Turn left. The trail is level with more ruins and another old, rusting vehicle off to your left. Reach the old forest road you walked in on and turn left. Retrace your steps back to the parking area.

When is the best time to hike here? I think it might be winter. Stairway Falls transforms into incredible ice flows. It is really worth seeing. The many ledges along this hike often feature ice flows and draperies.

Parking is at approximately 41.404461, -74.775261.

Stairway Falls in winter
Stairway Lake

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Hike the Smith’s Knob and Painter Run Loop-Loyalsock State Forest

This is a classic dayhike loop in the Loyalsock State Forest featuring several great vistas, Smith’s Knob, and beautiful streamside hiking along Painter Run. This loop is about six miles long and is challenging.

From the parking area, hike up Little Bear Road for about three quarters of a mile. Turn left onto the yellow blazed Painter Run Trail and hike behind a cabin. Follow the trail into the woods and along scenic Painter Run. Hike up along the run with many cascades and mossy rocks. In summer there are wildflowers. Cross the creek a few times by hopping on rocks. The surrounding forest is a mixture of hemlock and hardwoods. It is a gradual climb along the run and very scenic. At the top, make a sharp left onto the Loyalsock Trail (LT).

The rest of the hike follows the LT. Hike across the plateau with laurel and pine, going on and then off a logging road. The forest is scenic and the hiking is rolling. Reach the edge of the plateau and begin to climb. Pass a great view of the Loyalsock Creek far below. The climb steepens with rock ledges as you climb the flank of Smith’s Knob. Reach the top with a campsite and an awesome view looking east as PA 87 cuts a straight line through the forest. Spend some time here. Sunrises here are amazing.

Continue along the ridge and pass a view to the south. A steep descent follows with loose rock, be careful. Level terrain follows as the trail follows an old woods road, pass a side trail to the right. There is laurel and hemlock along the trail. Reach another great view of the Loyalsock Creek. Begin a long descent that steepens. Enjoy the beautiful forests with an understory of striped maple. Return to the parking area and your car.

Parking is at 41.356282, -76.859839.

Painter Run

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Hike the Cornelia & Florence Bridge Nature Preserve

The Bridge Preserve is a great place for an easier hike with rolling and level terrain, winding trails, and good scenery. Many of the trails are wide and trail junctures have signs. The forests are mostly hardwoods with glades of ferns and some laurel.

From the parking area we hiked down the Cornelia Trail and crossed a stream or wetland. Then we turned right onto the Florence Trail as it gradually climbed a hill and went behind some houses. The trail left the houses and went deeper into the woods. We continued on to the pond, a quiet, serene place with a small pond set in the woods. We retraced our steps to the juncture with the Frank Trail.

The Frank Trail meandered through beautiful woods with big hardwoods and lots of ferns. We gradually climbed a hill and reached a large meadow with a pavilion and many pine trees. We completed the loop with the Cornelia Trail and retraced our steps back to the parking area.

Our route was about three miles long, was fairly easy, and would be good for kids or older hikers. Parking is at 41.359105, -74.888367.

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Hike the Fred Woods Trail- Elk State Forest

The Fred Woods Trail is one of the most scenic and popular trails in the PA Wilds. It is also unique in being a scenic trail that is also fairly easy, making it ideal for younger hikers. The trail features views and impressive rock outcrops and chasms. The hardest part of the hike might be the drive. Mason Hill Road from Driftwood is a bit rugged and a vehicle with some clearance is recommended. Usually, Mason Hill Road is in good condition once on top of the plateau. On our visit, it was under construction and still a bit rugged. It is also possible to drive from the west, but I do not know the road conditions from that direction.

The Fred Woods Trail is about 4.5 miles long and is named after a forestry worker who died in an accident while performing his duties.

From the parking area, follow the yellow blazed trail into hemlocks and across small streams. The trail follows an old forest road. You will then reach the start of the loop. I like to go left, or clockwise. The trail meanders through the woods, which are open with hardwoods and some ferns. The trail makes it way to the edge of the plateau offering great views when there are no leaves on the trees. The terrain below is very steep. The Bennett Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek is over a thousand feet below.

Reach the first vista, Huckleberry Vista, from a meadow of lowbush blueberries. This looks up the drainage of the Bennett Branch and is a great view, particularly for sunsets. The Fred Wood Trail continues on the plateau, passing some boulders. The terrain is rolling.

Reach an intersection with the Rock Trail and turn left to the beautiful Water Plug Vista with views of the deep gorge below. The trail climbs gradually and begins to enter the rocks. Enjoy the massive sandstone blocks covered with moss, ferns and lichens. Some support entire forests on top. It is a truly beautiful place. Follow the trail into the highlight, a stunning chasm a few hundred feet long and over thirty feet deep. The Rock Trail makes its way towards Water Plug Vista, but I prefer to enjoy exploring the maze of rocks and return on the main loop of the Fred Woods Trail. The hike again features open hardwoods and fern glades. Complete the loop and retrace your steps back to the parking area.

For the map above, black dots are the massive rocks and boulders.

While in the area, a visit to the Bucktail Overlook is a must see. The vast views are stunning from a huge mountaintop meadow. Look over the huge plateaus and deep canyons.

Parking for the Fred Woods Trail is at about 41.362360, -78.183133. Bucktail Overlook is at 41.349790, -78.153461.

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A Winter Hike along Sullivan Branch-SGL 13

This area of SGL 13 is famous for its waterfalls, and I’ve visited numerous times. However, I’ve always wanted to see Sullivan Branch in winter with its frozen falls, ice caves, and ice flows. Sullivan Branch is a stream of great beauty that I had seen in every season, but winter.

The first issue is access. If there is snow, Sullivan Falls will likely be inaccessible and there will likely be no available parking along Jamison City/Sullivan Falls Road. As a result, we parked near the game commission buildings along Grassy Hollow Road. We hiked up the road and crossed East Branch Fishing Creek on the ice. There is no bridge. Naturally, do not do this hike in high water. Crampons or microspikes will be necessary.

From there we walked up the road to Sullivan Falls and scrambled to the base of the falls. These falls were stunning in winter, and were completely frozen over. Chandeliers of ice grew out of the cliffs surrounding the falls. A transparent sheath had formed over the falls and we could see the water pulsating downwards. And it was so silent.

We returned to the road and then followed an unblazed trail along an old forest grade. We crossed Big Run and made our way up Sullivan Branch. After crossing Pigeon Run, we descended to see the falls. The falls were totally frozen over and an incredible ice cave formed with stunning saw-like icicles. We could hear the water still flowing, and falling, within the columns of ice.

We returned to the trail and hiked up a ways, then we dropped back down to Sullivan Branch and the next big falls. We were able to climb some of the frozen falls. We were treated to falls after falls locked in ice, surrounded by rocky glens with draperies of ice. We took care crossing Sullivan Branch as it has deep bedrock pools in places.

Next was a long bedrock glen surrounded by cliffs. Here we were treated to amazing ice flows and caves that had a blue hue in the bright sun. Hundreds of clear icicles adorned the cave. It was incredible. A tough scramble followed and then we reached another large falls with more ice flows. We were also able to climb this falls.

We returned to the trail and pushed on to the top falls on Sullivan Branch. I was tired and doubting this decision, but I’m glad we did. This top falls had amazing ice flows in a glen of hemlocks. A beautiful sight to see.

From there we retraced our steps back along the unblazed trail and the road to our cars. To my surprise this hike was about eleven miles long. Parking is at 41.315179, -76.348937.

For the map above, red is off trail and brown is an unblazed but established trail. The map is for general directional purposes and does not represent an exact GPS track.

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Hike to the Waterfalls of Catlin Brook Gorge-SGL 57

Catlin Brook is as demanding and rugged as it is special. A stream that plummets down a steep gorge with numerous waterfalls and tiers of cliffs. There are no marked trails, there are no signs. Only experienced hikers should attempt this demanding hike. Do not try to hike from Catlin Hollow Road as it is private land; a long hike from Stony Brook is required. It is about 16 miles long.

I described this hike a few years ago. It is worth reading that report. However, this route is different. It is the best and less demanding route as it utilizes an old woods road on the east side of the gorge. This is a far better way to descend into the gorge. Of course, climbing the gorge is very demanding. It is steep, with loose rock, which is probably the greatest risk. There is no requirement for special climbing equipment, but in a few places there is exposure. There is stinging nettle in summer, which recedes as you climb.

The brook can be a trickle in summer or drought, and you don’t want to make this long hike to see dry waterfalls. As a general guide, the USGS gauge for the Loyalsock Creek at Montoursville should be 2.5 to 3 feet for good flow at Catlin Brook. You can also see the brook as it flows under Catlin Brook Road to see how well it is flowing. Do not attempt in high water as the gorge will be very dangerous.

This past summer had a lot of rain so my friends and I decided to tackle Catlin Brook. I think it ranks as one of their most demanding and memorable hikes.

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Wyoming County is home to some world class scenery and one of the gems is Catlin Brook.  This is one of the most rugged streams in the state as it plummets off the plateau, creating numerous waterfalls and canyons of rock.  However, hiking here has a price; it is a long hike in and it is very challenging.  There are no marked trails.  Climbing up Catlin Brook should only be attempted by experienced hikers due to the steep terrain and loose rock.  However, the incredible scenery more than makes it worthwhile.

We did this hike in the summer and began at Stony Brook, following old logging roads past flood scars.  All the creeks were flowing well due to recent rains.  The forests were covered in green and ferns carpeted the forest floor. We passed meadows, tumbling streams and small waterfalls.  As we hiked further up, deep green red spruce rose through the trees.  On this hike we followed a new route, sticking to the old forest roads to Catlin Meadows.  This made for an easier hike compared to our previous journeys to Catlin Brook.

The meadows stretched across the plateau, but were too wet to cross.  Sometimes, pink and purplish flowers adorn these meadows. The faint grade disappeared.  We crossed the swampy outlet and veered right into hemlocks, and soon found the old forest road again as it tunneled through deep hemlocks.  Springs and small streams seeped from the moss.  We reached the edge of the plateau and began to descend.  The old road provided easy passage.  We descended as the old road followed some switchbacks.  Off to our left was the gorge, and it roared with the sound of falling water.  We all looked at each other with both excitement and nervousness.  What were we getting ourselves into? 

We left the old road and dropped down to the creek along the game lands boundary. The creek was flowing powerfully.  Stinging nettle greeted us and there were more than a few curse words directed at these plants.  We reached the first falls as it surged through a chasm.  Above, a powerful falls plummeted down smooth red bedrock as a side falls joined the scene.  We all looked at each other in amazement.  Above us the canyon rose with tiers of cliffs and ledges. What was ahead?  We would soon find out.

We made our way up the gorge, contorting our bodies to avoid the stinging nettle.  Some nettle burned, other plants were harmless.  The creek cascaded down over boulders and ledges, and the nettle would move in the breeze created by the falling water.

Off to our left, springs flowed over dark ledges creating translucent draperies of water.  We scrambled up the steep terrain.  Walking along the creek provided some refuge from the nettle.  Up the creek we slowly climbed, sometimes on all fours.  The gorge has a lot of loose rock and we had to be careful where we stepped.  Some rocks would slide down the creek.  Everyone seemed silent, dumbfounded by what they were seeing.  We looked at each other and just shook our heads.  The gorge is so steep, the earth just seems to fall away into oblivion.

We reached the heart of the gorge, with a wall on the left over a hundred feet tall and a series of incredible waterfalls.  Springs plummeted down the wall.  In winter, there are incredible ice flows here.  We took a break at the base of the falls and soon began to make our way up, climbing along the ledges above the water.  We had to be careful, as there was some exposure along the ledges.  Above use were more falls, we were surrounded by the roar of water.  And then there were more waterfalls.  One after the other.  The gorge seemed to get even steeper and the falls were often encased in glens of cliffs.  The terrain finally began to ease as we neared the top, but we could still see a series of waterfalls through the forest, gowns of white between the trunks of trees.  Everyone was amazed.  

We scrambled up some mossy boulders and passed the final falls.  Then we crossed the “Spooky Forest”, a deep hemlock and pine forest with gnarled, twisted trees.  Exhausted, we reached the old forest road and crossed the outlet of the meadows, not caring as our legs sunk into the muck.  Our legs and feet were soaked anyways. We made the long hike back down along Stony Brook, reaching our cars as twilight descended along the isolated gorges and valleys of the Mehoopany Creek.  

Catlin Brook is an amazing place that we are lucky to have in Wyoming County.  Hiking up the gorge should only be attempted by experienced hikers.  Do not hike it in high water, and a winter traverse will require ice climbing gear. 

For the map above, brown is old forest road or grades, which can be faint in places. Red is off trail. The above map is for general directional purposes and does not represent an exact GPS track.

Parking is at about 41.466889, -76.161620.

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Hike the Van Scott Nature Reserve-Delaware Highlands Conservancy

Located near Honesdale, the Van Scott Nature Reserve is a great place to hike with about three miles of intersecting trails featuring great scenery. There is a pond, woodlands, an old cemetery, and extensive fields and meadows. Probably the highlight are the excellent views from the fields. You can see from the Catskills to New Jersey’s High Point.

Park behind the barn at the conservancy’s office. We followed a rather convoluted route. First we hiked down to the pond along the Explorer Trail. The trail went around some fields. Next we hiked the Woodland Trail, which as the name implies, goes into the woods. The forest is mostly open hardwoods with some ledges. Next was the Butterfly Trail, which has the best views of the hike. The views are rather impressive and extensive thanks to the vast fields and meadows. Do not miss hiking to the highest point of the hill for the best views. Fall would bring great colors, as would spring and summer with all the wildflowers.

We also saw an old cemetery along the Explorer Trail. The Bluebird Trail was another fine hike with more views.

The terrain is moderate and hilly in places, but it is never very steep or difficult. The Van Scott Nature Preserve is worth exploring and offers a different kind of hiking experience in the Pocono region.

Parking is at 41.597093, -75.125123.

Explore the Cascades of Henry Lott Brook-SGL 57

Henry Lott Brook is one of many beautiful streams in the wonderland that is SGL 57. The brook has carved a scenic gorge into the plateau filled with boulders, pools, grottos, slides, cascades and small waterfalls. There are no towering falls on this brook, but the scenery is non-stop. The hike into the gorge is off trail, there are no trails, signs or blazes. This hike is best for experienced hikers. Do not attempt in high water.

From the parking area, simply follow the gated forest road as is winds its way up the plateau. There are lots of wildflowers in the spring and summer. The road levels and reaches a logged area with some views. The road begins to veer left. Here, look for logging grades descending. Follow them as best you can, as far down as you can. Bushwhack down to the brook.

Now, follow the brook up. You will soon be treated to grottos with dripping springs and boulders. Cascades dance from everywhere. Moss and lichens carpet everything. You have entered a different world. We were amazed by the scenery. In places you will encounter landslides and thickets of birch trees. We found it was best to bypass them to the right, if heading upstream. These landslides and thickets are more of a problem in the lower half of the brook.

As we climbed, the scenery only improved. We reached more incredible cascades and massive boulders. Cliffs and ledges of the gorge reached over a hundred feet tall on the right. The brook tumbled down bedrock grottos with deep pools. The water was a deep amber from the spruce swamps at its source. Around every bend there was something to see.

We reached an amazing grotto covered in moss and layers of bedrock, framed by large smooth boulders. There was a ten-foot falls with a chokestone, we called it Chokestone Falls. A magical spot. But the brook didn’t stop. Ahead were jumbles of large boulders, cascades and mini gorges with bedrock slides. We reached a long bedrock slide with a cliff on the right, to the left were large boulders. We were going to try to do a grand loop with Somer Brook, but I wasn’t feeling well. We climbed to the road and hiked out, enjoying the wildflowers, and a black phase rattlesnake tightly coiled.

The map above is for general directional purposes. Red is off trail. The hike is 6-7 miles long and is rugged.

There are so many places of hidden beauty waiting to be explored. Get out there.

Parking is at 41.473815, -76.142560.

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Hiking at Lackawanna State Park

Lackawanna State Park has miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. While there aren’t mountainous vistas or towering waterfalls, I enjoy hiking here due to the diversity of habitats and scenery. The many trails create numerous loop options. This loop circles the northern half of the lake and is about 5.5 miles long. It has streams, meadows, views of the lake, and lots of hemlocks. Most trails have signs and many trail junctures are numbered.

Park at Lot 1, cross PA 407 and begin on the Orchard Trail as it meanders through pines, small meadows and through the woods with some views of the lake. Reach PA 438 and turn right onto the road, then left off the road onto Bull Hill Trail, a highlight of the hike. Bull Hill explores hemlock forests along Whites Creek and is a very scenic area. Reach a field and walk along the perimeter. Turn back into the woods, to the left, following the Bull Hill Trail. Enter a beautiful hemlock forest and climb gradually along the side of a hill. Snow covered the forest floor and draped the trees. Reach the top with large rock walls and hardwoods. Enter the Ziegler Preserve, owned by the Countryside Conservancy. We hiked the scenic trails in the preserve, and were going to hike into Gardner Spencer Preserve, but we did not have the time. So we made a loop in the Ziegler Preserve and descended to the parking area, crossing PA 438.

We followed a trail across the road down to the South Branch Tunkhannock Creek and crossed the bridge at Cole Road. We followed the Basset Path and then the Lakeshore Trail through groves of hemlocks and views of the lake. There were rock ledges off to our left. The next scenic area was the Kennedy Creek Inlet, a glen with hemlocks and a footbridge. We continued on the Ranger Trail to PA 407, turned right to cross the bridge and returned to Lot 1.

Parking is at 41.564287, -75.708262.

Support the Countryside Conservancy and visit their many preserves.

A map of the trails at the state park and surrounding preserves. Lots of hiking to do!

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Hike the Gooseneck (Buffalo Creek Gorge)- Bald Eagle State Forest

The Gooseneck is unlike any other place in Pennsylvania, a rugged gorge surrounded by vast fields of talus slopes. These talus, or rock, slopes, offer non-stop views. Gorges like this are rare in the ridge and valley region of the state. Buffalo Creek flows through the gorge and can be heard on the hike. This hike is very rugged, and most of it is off trail. Care is required to traverse the talus slopes. Do not attempt if the rocks are wet.

We began at the Frederick Trail along Old Shingle Road where there is space to park. This trail is blazed. It is best to follow it down to Buffalo Creek. At the creek, head off trail and hike down the creek, which is scenic. Reach the first large talus slope and climb. This is Weathertop and it has excellent views from the summit, including one looking down the gorge. This is a beautiful spot, so spend some time here.

A very rugged descent follows to the talus slopes below, which offer more views of the gorge. Some of the rock blocks are large, and some shift, so take care. The hiking is intense, but well worth it. We crossed the talus slopes and then dropped down to the creek, which we also crossed.

Next were the talus slopes on the south side of the creek, which offered even nicer views. We climbed to the Two Towers, where there was an excellent view looking down into the lowlands. The towers are massive rock cairns. We retraced our steps down and crossed the creek again, climbing the slopes to the north.

More views greeted us. We found an old grade which crossed the talus slopes, the workmanship to build something like this was impressive. We hiked the grade down a little to more fine views. However, we soon turned around and climbed the final series of talus slopes, to more, you guessed it, views.

We then entered the woods, fearing a gruesome bushwhack through laurel. To our surprise, we came upon a hunter’s trail that was fairly easy to follow, although it was faint in spots. This trail took us back to the road, which we followed to the cars.

This is an incredibly challenging and rewarding route for experienced hikers. The terrain is very different and unique, and the views are beautiful. This loop is 4-5 miles long. Parking is at about 40.949931, -77.198476.

For the map above, red is off trail. Orange are blazed trails, although they may be blazed a different color.

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