Mountain Springs Loop

Small stream at Hall of Hemlocks

One of my favorite hikes is a combination of the Cherry Run and White Gold Circuit hikes, described as hikes nos. 27 and 29  in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”. This route follows the eastern part of the Cherry Run hike, and the western part of the White Gold Circuit hike.   This loop has it all- views, hemlock forests, cascades, streams, ponds and some history.  It is also moderate in difficulty and about 7-8 miles in length.

Hall of Hemlocks trail

I parked at The Meadows along Mountain Springs Road and entered the woods on the unblazed, unsigned Hall of Hemlocks trail.  The trail follows an old grade along the edge of the plateau, passing small streams and deep hemlock forests with ground pine.  It is very scenic.  The trail gets closer to the edge of the plateau with rock outcrops and partial views.  The trail moved away from the edge and climbed into a hardwood forest, this section can be a little hard to follow if there is snow or leaves on the ground.  It is likely easier to follow in summer.  I followed the trail back to the edge with more hemlocks and a small stream with a trickling falls.  The hemlocks continued as I descended to beautiful Cherry Run with its cascades.  Without a bridge, I made my way across the water using rocks.  I soon reached the yellow blazed Little Cherry Run Trail in Ricketts Glen State Park, where I turned left.

Little Cherry Run Trail

This is a gorgeous trail with two bridges as it closely follows Cherry Run with all its rapids and cascades in a narrow gorge.  It looks like this trail is becoming quite popular.  There is a large rock outcrop, pool and small falls at the bottom of the trail.  I then turned left on the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail, which followed an old forest road and also doubles as a snowmobile trail.  This was another scenic forest walk with more hemlocks, birch, and maple.  I could hear Bowmans Creek flow below.  I reached the end of Mountain Springs Lake, following the trail to the left.  The lake has been officially drained, but when enough water flows in, it does fill back up.  I was lucky to see the lake full once again.  The trail went along the north shore of the lake with many nice views.

Mtn Springs Lake

I reached the end of the lake and passed the dam, heading straight on the dirt road.  Old foundations for the ice industry were to the right.  I turned right, or straight onto an old grade where the dirt road turns left.  This obvious grade headed east, passing on the north shore of the wetlands of what once were Ice Dam No. 1.  I had not hiked this trail before and I enjoyed it.  Bowmans Creek meandered within this wetland with many beaver dams.  I reached the end of the wetlands at the remnants of the dam and deep meandering pools.  I turned left onto an old forest road and climbed up to the dirt road.  This was now a part of the White Gold Circuit.

Outlet of former dam of Ice Dam No. 1

I crossed the road and followed an obvious trail up a gradual slope back to the plateau. As I neared the top, huge boulders and ledges rose above me.  This is a beautiful trail.  The trail kept close to the edge with views through the trees.  The views opened up from cliffs and ledges of the lake and the streams that roared below.  This is a nice place for a sunset.  The trail left the cliffs, meandering through woodlands, and reached Beech Lake Road.  I turned left on the road, took the grassy grade on the right out to Beech Lake to see some ducks and geese.  To my surprise, there was no ice on the lake, which reflected the blue skies and white clouds.  I retraced my steps and returned to my car.

If you’re looking for a new place to hike, I highly recommend this superb loop.  While all trails are not blazed or signed, all trails and grades are well established and this loop is fairly easy to navigate.

On the drive home, I stopped by the Hayfields in Ricketts Glen State Park.  I never really hiked here, so I explored the meadows and wetlands, and enjoyed a sunset in the frigid breeze.  I also stopped by the former site of the lumber town of Ricketts, once home to 800 people, but now replaced by forest.  It is amazing all the lives that have come and gone in a place that is now so isolated.

More pictures.

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Hiking this loop is easy, it is about 7-8 miles long.  Terrain is moderate with gradual inclines and declines.

1.  Park at the Meadows along Mountain Springs Road.  N41 21.574  W76 14.120

2.  Enter the unblazed Hall of Hemlocks trail into the woods and bear left onto an old railroad grade.  There may be some yellow or blue paint blazes, but they are infrequent.  N41 21.519 W76 14.138

3.  Cross some small streams and enjoy the hemlock forests.  N41 21.068  W76 13.920

4.  The trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau.

5.  Leave the hemlocks and enter a hardwood forest.  Trail may be a little harder to follow through here, especially if there is snow or leaf cover, but it is discernable.

6.  Trail moves away from the edge of the plateau, going off and then onto an old grade.

7.  Trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau with more hemlocks.

8.  Cross a small stream with a seasonal falls.  N41 20.522 W76 14.531

9.  Enjoy more hemlocks above Cherry Run and descend.

10.  Cross Cherry Run (no bridge) and meet the Little Cherry Run Trail, blazed yellow.  Turn left on this trail.  N41 20.815 W76 14.929

11.  Hike the trail down along Cherry Run, very scenic.

12.  Turn left onto the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail.

13.  Hike to Mountain Springs Lake, walk to the dam and parking area.

14.  Continue straight on dirt road.  Ice industry ruins on right.

15.  Where dirt road turns left and climbs, continue straight onto obvious old forest road.

16.  Hike above the wetlands of former Ice Dam No. 1.

17.  Reach four way intersection, turn left and climb to dirt road.  N41 20.828  W76 12.565

18.  Cross dirt road and follow obvious footpath as it goes through pickers and up an old grade.

19.  Trail bears left on an old grade, near edge of plateau.  N41 20.903 W76 12.800

20.  Trail turns right and climbs, levels below cliffs and ledges.

21.  Reach the top of cliffs with views of the lake.  N41 20.773 W76 13.509

22.  Trail meanders through woodlands and ends at Beech Lake Road.  N41 21.538 W76 14.005

23.  Turn right onto obvious forest road to Beech Lake.  N41 21.555 W76 13.822

24.  Retrace your steps and return to your car, which is nearby.

Map

Vistas of SGL 207

View of Nanticoke

SGL 207 is southwest of Wilkes Barre, between US 309 and I-81.  I recently became interested in exploring this game lands, with its many ridges, rock outcrops, ponds, and wetlands.  I parked off of US 309 near Mountaintop, at a game commission parking area at the end of Brown St.  I then followed a gated railroad grade as it wrapped around the mountain above US 309; I believe this may become a rail trail in the future.  The old grade cut through the bedrock.  Below was Solomon Creek and the famed Ashley Planes which were inclined planes that brought coal up and out of the Wyoming Valley.  The overgrown planes still exist today and were an engineering marvel of their time.

At the second powerline, I turned left and then right, following another powerline swath.  The terrain was quite hilly as I went up and over ridges.  I was treated to some amazing views of Wilkes-Barre and I could see I-81 in the valley far below.   Large rocks and ledges adorned the forests.  I hiked around some wetlands embedded in between the ledges.  The trail followed the powerline and soon brought me to the southern ridge, with some nice views to the south.  Here, I began my bushwhack, heading northeast along an exposed ridge with non-stop views over the forests and ponds below, walking around seasonal wetlands and ponds.  I made my way back to the powerline and soon returned to the woods to a couple large boulders at the top of a ridge with some nice views.  SGL 207 also features several meadows with grasses over bedrock and bare soil.  I then retraced my steps to my car, passing several people hiking the old railroad grade.

SGL 207 was worth visiting and has some of the best views of Wilkes Barre.  I’d like to return to hike the rest of the old grade, although I doubt I’d hike the same route I did on this trip.

More photos.

Map of SGL 207.

Roaring Run Watershed and Buttermilk Falls

I was recently in western Pennsylvania and decided to stop by two parks on the way home.  First was the Roaring Run Natural Area and Watershed, near Apollo, PA (not to be confused with the Roaring Run Natural Area in the Forbes State Forest of the Laurel Highlands).  This preserve has several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, not to mention a rail-trail.  The trails lead to views, big boulders, a falls, and scenic streams.  I hiked down the Rock Furnace Trail along Roaring Run.  The trail was wide as it stayed above the creek, with hemlocks down below.  Ledges draped with icicles rose over the creek as the sound of rapids filled the air.  The fresh snow created a winter wonderland.  There were also several large beech trees, and wild grapevines.  The trail dropped down to the creek as Rattling Run joined; I had hoped to see the falls on Rattling Run, but it is private property.

Icicle smile

I continued down along Roaring Run, passing a small falls and large boulders.  The creek is very scenic with its large boulders and pools.  I reached Biddle and Camel Rocks, but could not see any signs of an old furnace.  The rocks were massive, house-sized boulders.  The trail crossed the creek over a suspension bridge and soon reached the rail trail at the large Kiskiminetas River.  I turned around to enjoy the many huge tulip poplar, beech, and maple trees. It is great to see many communities in western Pennsylvania embrace the outdoors with new trails, rail trails, and parks.

Suspension bridge over Roaring Run

I then drove an hour east to Buttermilk Falls Natural Area, a park belonging to Indiana County.  Here, the snow was deeper and soft, again creating a gorgeous winter wonderland.  The falls is about 46 feet tall, located in a small gorge.  It was once owned by Mister Roger’s grandfather, and Mister Rogers spent a lot of time there as a child, and the experience would later help inspire his famous children’s program.  Trails lead to the top of the falls, but I wanted to see the bottom.  I couldn’t find a trail, so I meandered down to the creek, passing through and between snow covered boughs of fallen trees.  I made my way up the creek and to the falls as it shimmered in the bright sun with all its ice and snow.  It was a beautiful sight.  It is possible to hike behind this falls, but I did not.  The water danced down the smooth face of the falls, fringed with icicles.  I climbed out of the steep glen, trying to avoid sliding back down on the snow.  Above the falls was an old basement ruin of the cottage that belonged to Mr. Roger’s grandfather, plus a small dam creating another falls.  I returned to the car for the drive home.

Western PA has many scenic spots just waiting to be explored, get out there and see them.

More photos.

Snow wonderland below Buttermilk Falls

Appalachian Trail: Hike to Knife Edge and Bear Rocks

View from Knife Edge

We recently returned to the famous Appalachian Trail (AT) in PA to hike one of its more scenic, and rugged, sections.  We parked off of Route 309 and soon began hiking north on the AT, passing small campsites and thickets of laurel.  The trail was nice, but became increasingly more rocky.   There were some nice views to the south over the rolling farmlands and distant ridges.

View from Knife Edge

The trail crossed a powerline with views and a cairn.  From there, the rocks began to take over as we reached the crest of the ridge with a fine view.  Further up the cliffs was a lone vulture, looking quite large as it enjoyed the sun.

Rock hopping soon followed as we passed several other hikers.  Large outcrops were to our right.  We followed the trail as it scrambled up the rocky spine of the Knife Edge and its superb views.  I could see the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock in the distance.  We sat and got a bite to eat in the bright sun.

Scrambling the rest of the Knife Edge was fun and we were soon back in the woods, which featured more hemlocks and another good view to the south as we hiked across the rocks.

Soon, Bear Rocks appeared to the left and I followed the blue trail to the top, which requires some scrambling.  This is one of the best rock outcrops along the AT in PA as it towers over the trees and provides several views to the east and north.  I followed the spine of the outcrop, enjoying all the views and the scrambling, finishing with a view to the west.  I dropped from the rocks and returned to the AT, retracing our steps back to the car under a setting sun.

Peeling bark on dead tree

This is an easy hike in terms of elevation gain, but challenging due to the rocks, Knife Edge, and Bear Rocks.  There are several fine views.  It is about 3.5-4 miles one way.

More photos.

Angel Falls and Ketchum Run Gorge-Loyalsock State Forest

Ketchum Run

I recently met up with Mike and Dani to do some hiking in the Loyalsock State Forest.  The plan was to see Angel Falls and Ketchum Run Gorge with their waterworks.  Brunnerdale Road was a fairly easy drive despite some packed snow and ice and we soon began our hike to Angel Falls along the Loyalsock Trail.  It had been years since I hiked to the falls, and it was great to revisit.  Angel Falls was one of the first hikes I did in the state forest many years ago and it made me realize how special this place was.  The trail provided a steady climb and then crested the top of the plateau.  We turned left on a blue side trail to the falls.  I immediately saw all the huge tulip poplar trees growing above the falls, something I had not noticed before.  Some were truly massive.  Tulip poplars are the tallest of the eastern hardwoods, reaching 200 feet.  In several decades these trees will be true giants like those at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest near the Great Smoky Mountains; hopefully they will never be cut.

Angel Falls

We hiked to the top of the falls to enjoy the view and then walked to the bottom to see the cascading water in its splendor.  Icicles framed the falls.  Angels Falls is a beautiful place, cascading about 70 feet, with more waterfalls below.  Cliffs surround the falls.  Nearby, someone installed a rope swing from a tree with a view of the falls.  Angel Falls flows most of the year, but is reduced to a trickle in Summer, and can dry completely during drought.  After taking lots of pictures and enjoying the scenery, we hiked back to the car.

Ketchum Run

Next we drove to High Knob Road and parked to hike down Ketchum Run, one of the state forest’s crown jewels.  The trail had more snow than our hike to Angel Falls, and it was noticeably colder.  We spoke to a few backpackers as they reached their car.  The creek had several small cascades and some hemlock forests as we walked on a ski trail.  We went off trail and hiked along the creek to see its two beautiful off trail falls, including one that slid off an angled boulder.  Snow covered the glen as ice draped the exposed rock.  We continued down Ketchum Run, passing campsites, in the isolation and beauty of the gorge.  We carefully hiked into the narrow gorge, but it was slow going with the ice and snow.  This gorge is truly beautiful.  Waterslides tumbled beneath us.  We reached the top of Lee’s Falls, but decided to turn around due to the slick conditions and fading light.

Back at the car, we decided to drive to High Knob Overlook to see the sunset as the light filtered through the passing clouds.  We could see distant snow showers across the horizon.  It was bitter cold but the view made up for it.  A drive home in the dark followed.

More photos.

 

Cathy’s Trail and Long Pond Barrens

Over the last several years, vast areas of the Poconos have been set aside as preserves, many with trails.  The Poconos are famous for its waterfalls and gorges, but its plateau is home to extensive wetlands and streams that harbor incredible diversity.

Cathy's Trail

The Nature Conservancy has several parcels of land that make up the Long Pond Preserve.  We traveled to hike Cathy‘s Trail, a short two mile loop.  We parked at the Nature Conservancy visitor center, crossed a playing field to the right, and soon found the trail.  The trail is level as it explores scenic woodlands of maple, pine, spruce, and beech.  Parts of the trail do get wet from a nearby swamp.  We hiked near a small boulder field and returned through more open hardwood forests to a meadow, which we hiked around back to the car.  Overall, this is a nice easy trail that is good for kids.  I really enjoyed the deep spruce forests with the moss and ground pine.  We could hear traffic from I-80.

Next was a visit to the Long Pond Barrens.  Parking off of PA 118 is non-existent.  This preserve features an extensive selection of wide, mowed paths through fields of blueberry and stunted oak, with pitch pine.  It is easy to hike a variety of loops. No trails are marked or signed, we navigated them using the Google earth map on our phone.  Several areas are wet.  It was a unique place with the pitch pine rising over the stunted forest and brush.  While nice, it is not as scenic as the Eales Preserve.  I think the best time to see this preserve is a sunny day after a snowfall, or during fall foliage season when the meadows explode with color.

I hope to explore more of the Poconos.

More photos.

Sawtooth Trail, Cold Run Waterfalls, Turtle Rock, and Vinegar Run- Worlds End State Park and Loyalsock State Forest

Sawtooth Trail follows top of these ledges

I remember, many years ago, opening the old green state park map of Worlds End for the first time and seeing the waterfalls and vistas and trails.  It was as if I had been given a key to a whole new world, one that I never knew existed.  I had to see these places, I thought.  After hiking all the trails at Worlds End, I moved onto the surrounding Wyoming (now Loyalsock) State Forest.  Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Worlds End State Park and the Loyalsock State Forest.  For a while, it was really the only place I seemed to hike and both remain among my favorite places I’ve ever visited.  But after a while, I moved on to new destinations.  However, it is always great to find out that Worlds End and the Loyalsock still have secrets I never knew existed.

Sawtooth Trail

I recently learned of an unmarked, unsigned, and unofficial trail called the Sawtooth Trail, which explores the crest of conglomerate boulders from the Rock Garden to the Link Trail.  I drove up to Canyon Vista and parked, walked back to the Rock Garden, bearing right on the trail that goes in between the rocks.  I walked the top of the rocks to the end, and with a little effort, found a trail to the left.  This trail had a tread I could follow, as it meandered through the woods and soon brought me to huge boulders and deep crevices, as large as the Rock Garden.  The trail stayed on the top of the rocks, revealing deep green hemlock forests with moss and ground pine.  The forests were beautiful.  The rocks were even more amazing.  There were dripping springs and ice flows.  Large square boulders broke off creating passages.  The scenery only got better as I followed the edge of a series of triangular ledges, jutting into the forest.  This was the namesake of the trail, as they appear to be the teeth of a saw.  The bedrock was milky white, tinged with moss, perfectly straight and angled.  The trail continued along the cliffs and ledges; sometimes the trail was a little hard to follow, but with a little effort, I found it again.  The forest continued its beauty.  As I headed east, the ledges became smaller and then the trail dropped below them.  I soon reached the Link Trail.

Triangular outcrops, Sawtooth Trail

The Sawtooth Trail is an excellent trail, and you can make a great loop by following the Link Trail back to Canyon Vista, but that was not to be my route on this hike.  I went off trail and continued along the cliffs to the east.  There were some cool outcrops, but nothing that rivaled the Sawtooth Trail.  I soon reached Cold Run Road.  I wasn’t sure where to go.  I came upon Cold Run and decided to see what the creek had to offer.  I followed it down to a series of waterfalls and cascades.  I was impressed by the scenery as the creek tumbled down ledges and boulders.  I was going to turn around, but something told me to explore more.  I went down the steep slope to see more falls.  A stream joined from the left, with more cascades in a deepening gorge.  Wow, I thought.  Below was a 15 foot falls, and further down, was another 15 foot cascade over mossy bedrock ledges, surrounded by springs.  The ice flows must be amazing when it’s cold, I thought.  I hiked back up the steep gorge as my legs burned.  I hiked below a colorful rock outcrop and returned to Cold Run Road.

Sawtooth Trail

I decided to go off trail again to explore another escarpment of ledges that brought me to the Worlds End Trail with all its boulder mazes and outcrops.  I explored the tunnel and then returned to Canyon Vista.

Cold Run

I had another place to visit, another unofficial trail above Vinegar Run, which led to a formation called Turtle Rock.  I found the place to park, but no sign of a trail, so I bushwhacked to the edge of a series of impressive cliffs in a hemlock forest, adorned with rhododendron, a rarity in the Loyalsock.  The terrain was surprisingly rugged and beautiful.  I came upon Turtle Rock; part of the outcrop does resemble the head of a turtle with an eye and pupil.  The ledges continued under hemlocks until I reached private property.  I dropped down to Vinegar Run and hiked up it, passing rapids and a secret campsite.  The highlight was a beautiful falls over fractured, mossy bedrock.  I saw a grade above me and hiked up to it; it was the Link Trail.  I was exhausted, so I was happy to find a real trail.  I hiked it to Cold Run Road and returned to my car.

Tunnel on Worlds End Trail

This was an amazing day exploring new places in the Loyalsock.  Sawtooth Trail was awesome, Cold Run was beautiful, and Turtle Rock was a special place hidden among cliffs and hemlocks.  The Loyalsock still has secrets.

More photos.

Turtle Rock

 

Vinegar Run

 

Trail map

How to find the Sawtooth Trail…

  1. Where it begins at the end of the Rock Garden, above Canyon Vista.  N 41 27.677  W 76 34.426
  2. Where it ends at the Link Trail.  N 41 27.537  W 76 33.910

Location of Cold Run Waterfalls (there are many cascades, here are two):

  1. Falls below where the two forks meet:  N 41 27.621  W 76 33.436  andN41 27.675  W 76 33.307

Cold Run