Hike to Swatara Falls


Swatara Falls

Swatara Falls has become a well-known destination in Schuylkill County. And for good reason. It is a beautiful waterfall, about 25-30 feet in height, in an area of the state where there are relatively few waterfalls. The hike also looks down into a gorge with rhododendron jungles. Cliffs and huge boulders also rise over the trail near the falls, creating an impressive setting.


How do you hike to it? It is fairly easy. I’m not sure who owns the falls. It is a popular place and appears open to the public. There were no “No Trespassing” signs that I encountered on this hike. All the trails follows old logging or jeep roads, and do not have blazes or signs. The hike is about 1 mile, one way.

  1.  Park on the south side of PA 25, it is pull off parking. 40.662356, -76.360001
  2. Cross PA 25 and hike up PA 25 for 75 feet to an obvious trail. Enter the woods.
  3. At first trail juncture, turn left.
  4. At second trail juncture, a four way juncture, turn right.
  5. At third trail juncture, turn right and descend.
  6. The grade curves down and then follows a level, straight grade above a rugged gorge. Rhododendrons grow along the trail.
  7. Follow this trail straight. Rhododendrons become more thick but the trail is obvious. Cliffs and boulders rise above the trail.
  8. The trail ends at the falls. Return the way you came.

Swatara Falls is a beautiful, rugged place with soaring cliffs and boulders. There is some graffiti. I’ve been told the creek is very scenic above the falls, with additional smaller falls. I’ve not seen them. To hike above the falls, cross the creek and scramble up.


Please treat this place with respect and keep it clean.

More photos.




Painter Hollow Falls-Loyalsock State Forest


Painter Hollow Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

This is a hike to one of the state forest’s least known waterfalls. It is also odd in that the falls is fairly close to a road, but access is blocked by private property, so a 4 mile hike (one way) is required. This entire hike follows forest roads or old grades. None of the trails have signs or blazes, except for some old red faded blazes.



I parking my car along Hoagland Branch Road; ahead it was closed due to severe flood damage. I first walked a little along Hoagland Branch, which was devastated by floods in 2016.  It was still a beautiful stream with its bedrock rapids and deep, clear pools.  I began my hike up the gated Middle Hill Rd. The old road gradually climbed up the mountain, passing small seasonal streams and a few hemlocks. After two miles, I encountered a deer fence at a “Y” in the trail. I turned left and went through a gate in the fence.


The trail now featured some deep hemlock forests and rock outcrops; I was now hiking within the fence. I reached another “Y”, passed outside the fence, and turned left. The trail descended slightly and soon reached a small open area that was overgrown. Here, I followed an obscure grade to the right, blocked by a fallen tree.


The grade was easy to follow, although there was some brush and fallen trees. I avoided any grades to the left. The grade crossed a stream and continued downhill, entering the gorge of Painter Hollow. The grade steepened and the creek soon came into view with a red rock gorge and a ten foot falls. The grade crossed the creek with red bedrock cascades and slides. Just below was Painter Hollow Falls.


I scrambled down to see a beautiful 30 foot falls over red bedrock into a deep pool. Icicles draped the ledges and springs dripped. Downstream was a large boulder and more red bedrock slides. The creek then entered private land and some more falls, which appeared to be lower than Painter Hollow Falls. This creek is small and is likely dry in summer or dry weather.


I then retraced my steps back to my car.

More photos.


Stony Run Hike-Loyalsock State Forest


Rock shelters above Stony Run.

The Stony Run Trail is one of the Loyalsock State Forest’s little known trails. It is also one I’ve always enjoyed hiking. I returned recently to hike part of the trail and to do some off trail exploration in the Stony Run Gorge.



I parked at the Hillsgrove maintenance/ranger station and followed the red blazed Old House Trail, which began a short distance down the road near the cabin. I crossed Dry Run, getting wet feet along the way. Dry Run does not have a bridge, so do not attempt to cross in high water. The Old House Trail, which is also a part of the bridle trail system, curved up into a scenic pine forest, and then I turned right onto the yellow Stony Run Trail.


This trail crossed a rocky talus slope and then dropped into Stony Run, crossing the tumbling run without a bridge. The trail is faint in places and the blazes are faded, but the trail can be followed. The trail then followed a grade and went up the side of the gorge, above the creek. But I had a different way in mind.


I decided to hike off trail and just go up Stony Run itself. I soon entered a gorge with non-stop cascades and pools, but no sizeable falls. The gorge narrowed as I climbed and I soon saw some bedrock cascades as cliffs rose above me. I reached a hemlock forest with more beautiful cascades and passed a nice campsite, where I rejoined the Stony Run Trail.


The trail entered thick laurel, but there was a clear passage. This would be a great hike in June to see the laurel bloom. The trail became wet as I crossed Stony Run, and also more overgrown, but I was able to stay on the trail. The trail continued, left the laurel, and entered an open hardwood forest. However, I left the trail again, following a bushwhack along a cliff line.


There are cliffs on the north rim of Stony Run Gorge. At first, the laurel was very thick, but became more open as I reached the cliffs. There were beautiful overhangs, a cave, and boulders. I found a way to the top of the cliffs, battling laurel, where there was a more open cliff line and nice hiking along a well established bear path. I also enjoyed three nice views across the gorge, but the views were not expansive. I continued west along the cliffs, but the trees blocked any further views. I dropped down a little into a drainage and explored some more outcrops. I then entered a beautiful, open hardwood forest with large, towering trees. I made a note to return in the summer.


I dropped down to the red Old House Trail and followed the grade back to my car. On my drive out, I saw Andrea Falls and the rebuilt CCC era Dry Run picnic pavilions with its heavy timber beams, a beautiful spot for a get together.


If you don’t want to bushwhack, just hike the Old House and Stony Run Trails Loop, it is a great hike with isolation, cascades, hemlocks, laurel, rock outcrops, and a nice campsite. The whole loop is almost five miles.  This loop is described in Hike No. 46 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.


More photos.


Cape Run Gorge and Waterfalls-Loyalsock State Forest


Tallest falls on Cape Run, Loyalsock State Forest

The Loyalsock State Forest is known for its many beautiful streams and gorges. Hikers have long known of one of the forest’s crown jewels, Ketchum Run, and have even begun to explore Scar Run and its waterfalls, just to the east of Ketchum. However, there is a third stream worthy of checking out-Cape Run.


Cape Run is to the west of Ketchum and the Loyalsock Trail explores the upper drainage of the run. Few hikers have ever explored it. I recently hiked all of Cape Run on state forest land, and it is a very beautiful place. A true hidden gem.


I parked off of High Knob Road and walked a gated forest road back to the Loyalsock Trail, on which I turned left. The trail descended, crossed the east branch of Cape Run, and then continued to the west branch of Cape Run. Here there is a fifteen foot falls. I left the Loyalsock Trail and went off trail down the west branch of Cape Run.


To my surprise I found an old grade that was in decent shape and made hiking the creek fairly easy, although there are some stream crossings without bridges. I was soon treated to cascades, pools, and boulders in the narrowing gorge. I then reached a 12 foot falls over a broad, mossy ledge that I called Notch Falls as the creek flowed through a notch in the ledge. Cascades and mossy grottos continued until I reached the point where the east and west branches of Cape Run met.


This was a gorgeous spot as I looked up both glens and its cascades. I continued downstream on the grade, enjoying an incredible mossy forest. Moss covered the rocks and coated the trees, giving it a Pacific Northwest vibe. I’d love to see this forest on a misty summer day, the greenery must be incredible.


I saw a 20 foot falls over two drops followed by a long slide. More slides continued with bedrock pools. Cape Run then entered a beautiful mini-glen with a broad seven foot falls into a beautiful pool. Another broad four foot falls was downstream. This section was very scenic. I reached the state forest boundary and turned around.


I returned to where the two branches of Cape Run met and hiked up the east branch. This gorge was narrower and steeper and featured several smaller falls and one steep bedrock slide. Ledges loomed above to the right as club moss provided a deep green carpet. I left the creek and climbed up to the Loyalsock Trail and retraced my steps to my car.  Total length of the hike was about 3-4 miles.


Cape Run is a truly beautiful place, a hidden realm in the Loyalsock State Forest.


More photos.


Dry Run Gorge Vista and Titanic Rock-Loyalsock State Forest


Dry Run Gorge Vista, Loyalsock State Forest

I recently went out to explore the north rim of the Dry Run Gorge. It proved to be a beautiful hike. I parked at the Hillsgrove ranger/maintenance station and hiked up the red blazed High Knob Trail, which follows a gated, grassy forest road up the mountain. After hiking for almost a mile, I turned left and went off trail, hiking up to the ridge.


I soon encountered large cliffs, overhangs, and ledges. I continued west, traversing the rugged terrain and angled boulders. I stayed at the base of these cliffs. I soon reached a remarkable spot of several gigantic boulders. One was 75 feet long, angled slightly downhill, and the end looked like a bow of a ship hitting another huge boulder, so I called it Titanic Rock. Other house-sized boulders were nearby, looming through the forest. The cliffs only added to the fine scenery. This looked like a good spot for rock climbing or bouldering.


As I proceeded west, the boulders and ledges decreased in size. I then reached an open hardwood forest with some large trees and a small, spring fed stream. The laurel loomed ahead.


Mountain laurel loves to grow along cliffs and its tangled jungles makes hiking tedious. I found some herd paths that allowed somewhat easy travel through openings in the laurel. I returned to the cliffs where I was now on top.


I followed a bear path, which are common along the tops of cliffs in the Loyalsock. I still had to deal with the laurel, but it was a little easier hiking. The large white pine trees made the forest scenic and aromatic. I then reached the top of cliffs with fine views across Dry Run Gorge and into Ogdonia Run, looking over tiers of ridges and canyons. The distant canyon of Ogdonia Run had made side glens, creating tiers of descending ridges. It was a remarkable view with virtually no sign of development. Most surprising was how loud and clearly I could hear Dry Run flowing, despite being almost 1,000 feet above it. It was like I was sitting right next to the rushing stream.


I continued along the ridge to the west and then to the north. There were more ledges and cliffs, but no more open views. I then made my way back to my car.

If you like vistas and huge rocks, this is the hike for you.

More photos.


For the map above, the black route is the off trail route.

Jackson Trail Waterfalls-Loyalsock State Forest


The second falls below the Jackson Trail, Loyalsock State Forest

Below the steep Jackson Trail in the Loyalsock State Forest is a deep, rugged gorge.  Within this gorge are three beautiful waterfalls.  I parked along PA 87 and made my way up the gorge and I was soon treated to a beautiful 15-20 foot falls over a broad ledge.  It almost appeared as if one could go behind this falls.


I continued up the gorge.  It was very difficult climbing around the waterfalls, so I would climb to the Jackson Trail, get above the falls, and then descend back into the gorge.


The gorge is very steep with loose rock, which it made it difficult to hike.  The second falls was probably my favorite as it was a graceful spout in a hidden grotto.  It was about 15 feet tall.


I continued up the gorge and reached the third and final falls, about 20 feet tall in two drops, it appeared from a mini-chasm.


I scrambled to the Jackson Trail and hiked back down.  Even though this trail was steep, it was far more forgiving then the hike up the gorge.


This unnamed stream is not in view of the Jackson Trail, although you can clearly hear the waterfalls from the trail when the stream is running.  You must go off trail to see the falls, which are close to the trail, but well below it.  This stream is also seasonal.  The bottom falls is the most accessible and is a short walk from where the Jackson Trail ends at PA 87.

Another of the Loyalsock State Forest’s hidden gems.

More photos.


Exploring the Upper Mehoopany Creek-Waterfall Gorge and Mythical Falls


Mythical Falls, SGL 57

The Waterfall Gorge and Mythical Falls illustrate just how beautiful SGL 57 is for those willing to explore it.  This area of the gamelands is particularly isolated and beautiful, with several waterfalls, gorges, and unique rock features.



We began by walking down Southbrook Road for about 4 miles.  We left the road before reaching Opossum Brook and crossed the icy cold Mehoopany Creek.  We soon entered the Waterfall Gorge, one of the gems of SGL 57.  This narrow gorge features four waterfalls, and many smaller ones.  The tallest is about 50 feet.  It is remarkably beautiful.  At one point in the gorge, I looked up to see waterfalls leaping down over ledges.  This is a very steep gorge, so it is difficult to get around the falls, but the scenery is worth it.  It is possible to go behind the top two falls.


We then hiked to the southern rim of the gorge to a large cliff with a partial view.  Here we found a well-used footpath, so we followed it.  This footpath took us to the next stream to the west, which we crossed near a private property line.  The trail continued, and we came upon some large cliffs and overhangs with a “rock house”, or a small room of rock with openings for windows.  Our hike passed some rock outcrops and chasms and then followed a ridge with thick, towering blueberry bushes.  It was a wonderful trail.


This trail headed north, and we needed to go west, so we dropped down to Mehoopany Creek, where we came across another well used trail.  There appears to be a whole network of trails that I hope to explore someday.  This trail headed north along a stream, so we left it, crossed the Mehoopany Creek, and hiked upstream.


I love this section of the Mehoopany Creek because it is so isolated and beautiful.  We enjoyed Black Bear Falls and its grotto and soon Mythical Falls came into view with its broad veil of water.


A side stream cascaded down nearby.  It is such a gorgeous spot.  The trail system we discovered also accessed Mythical Falls, as we saw the trail approach it from the other side of the creek.


We then explored some impressive boulders and cliffs above Mythical Falls and then hiked back out to our cars.


This place should be a national park.


More photos.


For the map above, the yellow denotes established trails or gated roads.  Red is the off trail route.  It is 4.5 miles, one way, to the Waterfall Gorge.