Rider Park

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View of Smiths Knob from Rider Park

After enduring the vicious mosquitoes at Jacoby Falls, I decided to give hiking a second try at nearby Rider Park.  There I was met with pleasant conditions.  No bugs, and a slight breeze.  My enjoyment of hiking returned.

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Rider Park is privately owned, but open to the public.  It was a gift of Thomas J. Rider to the local community.  It is a beautiful park with 10 miles of trails arranged in a variety of loops that go to vistas, explore forests, and cross meadows filled with wildflowers.  The terrain at the park tends to be moderate with gradual changes in elevation.

What trails should you hike at the park?  Do not miss the Katy Jane or Francis X. Kennedy Trails.  The Katy Jane Trail is a 2.5 mile loop that goes to two beautiful vistas that look south over foothills and farms to distant ridges.

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The Francis X. Kennedy Trail passes along meadows, enters the woods, and reaches a beautiful view looking up the narrow Loyalsock Creek valley to the distinctive peak of Smiths Knob.  It is about a mile long.

The Meadow Loop, as the name implies, circles meadows and fields which are great for birdwatching and wildflowers.  Cheryl’s Trail explores the more isolated northern parts of the park with forests and small meadows.  This trail also connects to others in the Loyalsock State Forest.  In fact, it is possible to hike from Jacoby Falls to Rider Park.

Rider Park is a great place to take a hike.

Map and brochure.

The parking area is located at 41.347179, -76.936413.

More photos.

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Hike to Jacoby Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Jacoby Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

Jacoby Falls has become a popular hiking destination in the Loyalsock State Forest.  A linear trail, 1.6 miles long, reaches the falls.  I had been to the falls several times, but decided to explore the creek above the falls to see what might be there.  There looked to be a gorge and possibly some waterfalls.

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I parked at the trailhead and crossed the boardwalk as purple ironweed was in bloom.  The trail is blazed yellow and I made good time through the hemlock forests.  The creek soon joined the trail and it was flowing well.

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But this beautiful hike also had swarms of mosquitoes.  I had not encountered such oppressive bugs for many years.  I tried to hike fast.  I crossed a small side stream and descended to a narrow pipeline swath.  To the left was another side stream that features its own waterfall in high water.

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The trail followed the pipeline swath as it crossed the creek a few times.  It then veered left into the woods and climbed up the rocky glen to Jacoby Falls.  This falls is so beautiful, in a grotto of cliffs with veils of falling springs.  It is possible to hike behind this falls, which is about 30-35 feet tall.  In winter there are incredible ice flows.

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My hike did not end here as I intended to bushwhack upstream.  I scrambled above the falls to the right and followed the creek with smooth bedrock slides and ledges.  I followed the pipeline swath for a little ways, but returned to the creek.  I hiked through scenic hemlock forests and reached a beautiful cascade about ten feet tall.  I continued up the creek, off trail, as the gorge narrowed.  There were no more waterfalls, just some small cascades near the edge of the plateau.  Springs flowed down the steep slopes as a mist hung along the creek.

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I retraced my steps and sped through the forest, trying to evade the mosquitoes.  As luck would have it, the bugs abated as I neared my car.

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While a hike to Jacoby Falls, and the cascades and ledges immediately above it, is very enjoyable, I would not recommend hiking up the gorge in its entirety.

Trailhead is located at  41.376850, -76.920176.

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Marie Antoinette Lookout-Route 6

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Sunset from the Marie Antoinette Lookout.

Between Wyalusing and Towanda, there are two lookouts along Route 6-Wyalusing Rocks and Marie Antoinette.  While I had been to the Wyalusing Rocks several times, I couldn’t recall when I had been to the Marie Antoinette Lookout.  After driving by a thousand times, I decided to stop by.  And I chose the perfect time, just as the sun was setting.

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I pulled in and was immediately impressed by the view, which I think is even more beautiful than the Wyalusing Rocks.  Here, the lookout is over 400 feet above the Susquehanna River and offers a tremendous view of the sweeping river.  To the left, the river appears to enter a canyon as it becomes surrounded by steep, forested slopes.  In the distance are rolling mountains.

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Below the overlook is a field and the French Azilum where the French nobility hoped to find refuge during, and after, the French Revolution.  It was hoped Marie Antoinette would join them.  While a few nobility did arrive, the settlement didn’t last long.

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As I sat at the view, the sun began to melt into the clouds and disappear behind the horizon as twilight shrouded the Susquehanna River.

The lookout is located at 41.731054, -76.297383.

More photos.

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Lambs Lookout-Tioga State Forest

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View from Lambs Lookout, Tioga State Forest.

Lambs Lookout, also known as Lambs Vista, is a little-known vista in the eastern end of the Tioga State Forest.  For some reason, it is not shown on the state forest maps.  It is notable for its fine view to the east, and the fact you can see Elk Mountain on a clear day, an incredible distance of over 50 miles.  Vast plateaus rise to the southeast, as rolling farmlands spread out below the vista.

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This is not a hike, as a road goes to the vista.  There is a field and a picnic table.  There are spruce forests near the field.  A trail does climb to the vista, I presume it comes from the road below.  I did not hike it.

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This is an incredible view for sunrises.  The view is located at 41.690172, -76.866366.

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County Bridge Campground- Tioga State Forest

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Sign at County Bridge Campground

Nestled in an isolated valley along the Tioga River, County Bridge is an ideal place to get away.  This small, scenic, and clean campground has about 14 sites set in the woods or along the Tioga River (which is the size of a large stream).  Some sites can accommodate small RVs; all of them can accommodate tents.

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The sites are first come, first served, and there are no reservations.  There is a self-registering kiosk at the entrance, water, and a bathroom.  There are no showers.  The cost is $10 a night.

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Across the road is a picnic area.  The campground is an ideal base to explore the eastern Tioga State Forest, such as Fall Brook Falls, Sand Run Falls, and Lambs Lookout.  The McIntyre Wild Area and Rock Run, both in the Loyalsock State Forest, are a short drive away.  The town of Canton, with stores and restaurants, is about fifteen minutes away.

If you are looking for a quiet place to camp along a babbling river or in the woods, County Bridge is the place.

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Fall Brook Falls-Tioga State Forest

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Fall Brook Falls, Tioga State Forest

Fall Brook Falls is a beautiful spot in Tioga County. Once a well-known destination, as evidenced by a metal guardrail along the rim of the gorge and a quaint stone footbridge, Fall Brook now seems forgotten.

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Here, Fall Brook tumbles through an impressive gorge, about 60-70 feet deep.  There are two falls, slides, cascades, rapids and pools.  Cliffs and ledges surround the creek, and a seasonal falls flows on the other side.  Hemlocks tower over the gorge.

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The creek used to be afflicted with acid mine drainage.  Now, it is treated with limestone and the water quality is much improved.

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From the pull off parking area, walk the forest road back and then veer left across the stone footbridge.  Enter a grove of hemlocks above the creek.  The trail is obvious, but it is not blazed or marked.  A guardrail lines the top of the gorge.  Look down on the first falls, a slide.  It is hard to see the second falls since the gorge is so steep.  Be careful walking along the edge of the gorge.

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A trail descends to the creek at a slide and deep pool.  To see the falls, I recommend you hike off trail and head upstream into the gorge.  As long as the water isn’t high, this hike isn’t too difficult.  Watch for slippery rocks.  The gorge is very impressive from the bottom with the cliffs and falls.  Stop at the falls, about a 12 foot drop into a deep pool.  It is too difficult to climb above this falls.  Return the way you came.

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The parking area is at 41.678956, -76.989407.

More photos.

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Catlin Brook Gorge (SGL 57)- The Most Rugged Gorge in PA

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Just a few of the waterfalls in the incredible gorge of Catlin Brook, SGL 57.

WARNING: The hike down into Catlin Brook Gorge (aka Catlin Hollow) is very steep and potentially treacherous. Do not attempt unless you are a fit and experienced hiker accustomed to such difficult terrain. You should be experienced with off trail hiking. Do not attempt a hike in the gorge during high water.  Do not do this hike alone.  Do not access the gorge from the bottom as it is private land.

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Catlin Brook holds a unique position among Pennsylvania’s streams. It is the steepest gorge of a stream of its size in the state. At one point it drops 800 feet in a quarter mile. It is in a gorge of incredible rugged beauty with tiers of ledges, side stream springs that flow from the earth, and a towering rock overhang that has its own 70 foot falls in high water. And there are over ten waterfalls at least ten feet in height. Three of the tallest falls are close together and are over 100 feet tall in total. It is rarely explored. For this reason I call it the “Holy Grail of PA Waterfalls”. No other waterfall gorge in the state is as rugged, or as hard to reach.  The route (with GPS coordinates) is described, to near the top of the gorge, in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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In reality, the gorge is close to Catlin Hollow Road, near Lovelton. However, private land blocks that access, so a long seven-eight mile hike, one way, is required to reach the gorge. If Catlin Brook is flowing well, the hike is more than worth it with plenty of great scenery along the way.

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How do you know if Catlin Brook is flowing well? Just drive up Catlin Hollow Road to where it crosses the brook. If it is flowing, you are good to go. As a very rough correlation, the USGS gauge for the Loyalsock Creek in Montoursville should read at least 2.5 to 3.0 feet for good flow on Catlin Brook.

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I’ve been to the gorge twice before. I hiked up the bottom part once, and descended the side of it in winter when it was ensconced in incredible ice flows. I had never seen the entire gorge.

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With one of the wettest Summers on record, I knew it would be flowing. I recruited Ryan for this epic hike and we set out from the small parking area along Windy Valley Road at Stony Brook. We took the forest road, passed a cabin, and descended slightly to a stream that washed out the road with cobblestone. We hiked through the beech saplings and continued on the road to a gate. The road was washed out past the gate, so we hiked in the woods, parallel to Stony Brook. The old road returned and we continued hiking up it.

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At an old metal culvert pipe on the left, we turned left and followed an old grade to Stony Brook. This grade has been washed out by the creek so we picked our way along faint trails until we reached where Red Brook and Stony Brook joined. Here we crossed Stony Brook into some hemlock saplings. We promptly turned right and made a challenging crossing of flood torn Red Brook and picked up another old grade. This old grade is wet in many places. It took us into a scenic Spruce Gorge and crossed the creek as the Crystal Cascade, a scenic, serene spot with large white boulders, pools, and cascades. We took a break among the spruce and smooth, white boulders. It felt like I was in New England.

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The grade continued until we reached a creek that joined from the right. Here we turned right. There used to be an awesome mountain bike trail here, but it is largely gone now. Our route stayed above the creek with its cascades as we hiked under hemlocks and maples. We reached a grove of hemlocks and turned left, crossing the creek. We soon met an old grade and turned right. This old grade brought us to another grade and old ATV trail where we turned left.

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This grade took us to Catlin Meadows, a beautiful high elevation bog with wildflowers and sublime scenery. As we took a break, an osprey circled the meadow looking for prey. It would flare its wings, pivot, and swivel to the ground for the kill. What an amazing sight.

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The grade circled the meadow, but became overgrown near its outlet. We crossed the outlet and followed the old grade as it proceeded northeast. After a few hundred feet, we left the grade and went off trail to the left/northwest into a hemlock forest. We descended and went around the east end of another wetland meadow. Here we entered the Spooky Forest- a hemlock forest filled with trees that have bare, bleached branches. We then reached Catlin Brook at the edge of the plateau.

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Now the fun began. We descended over ledges and mossy boulders with cascades. After a level area, the gorge began, and so did the waterfalls. One after the other, hidden in glens of cliffs. We would descend the edge of the gorge, drop below the cliff line, and then enter the gorge to see the falls. Because of this approach, we ended up descending the gorge along the creek itself. (I highly recommend that you do not follow this approach. Descend along the steep west side of the gorge, and then climb along the creek. It is possible to scramble up along the creek until the top part, where you will need to cut west and above the cliffline to see the other waterfalls. Take your time hiking up the creek and slopes of the gorge, the rocks do shift and move).

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We reached a remarkable place with three waterfalls, each 30-40 feet in height, one after the other, in a stunning grotto. Below the third falls was a huge overhanging amphitheater of rock with countless springs, and a 70 foot falls in high water. The beauty was stunning. We were able to scramble down the third falls on the west side. Below were smaller waterfalls and many rocks and boulders, so it was easier to descend, although our legs were aching. This hike required such intense concentration and focus. The waterfalls soon returned, each about 10-12 feet tall. We encountered a 20 foot falls, which we descended on the west slope, and then some smaller falls that lead to a stunning 30-40 foot falls over deep red bedrock. It was breathtaking.

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Below was a slide, grotto, and a 20 foot falls, but we did not hike to them. We had to make sure we had enough daylight for the long hike back. I had seen them before and they are beautiful. All of the falls are on the gamelands. Private land begins below the bottom falls.

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The hike out of then glen was very arduous, but we made good time. We retraced our route, spooking a coyote along the way as it slipped silently and effortlessly through the forest. They are such incredible, elusive animals. It loved hiking through the deep forests in twilight, as dusk filled the gorges and valleys. We reached my car in the evening, exhausted and electrified by what we saw and what few others have seen.

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Catlin Brook exemplifies the hidden beauty of Pennsylvania. In any other state, it would be a hiking and a world class ice climbing destination. Here, it is unknown. Such is the case with SGL 57, which easily has the beauty and diversity to be a national park.

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The sanctuary of Catlin Brook Gorge requires a price to enter. With effort, sweat, and patience this experience can be yours as well. And it will be one that you will never forget. A piece of your memory will always reside in the depths of this incredible gorge.

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  1. This is an exceptionally beautiful and rugged hike.  About 8 miles, one way, to the gorge.  Plan for an all day hike.
  2. There are no blazed trails, or signs, although most of the hike follows old logging roads or grades.
  3. Do not attempt in high water or freezing conditions.
  4. Do not trespass on private land at the bottom of the gorge.
  5. Catlin Brook can be reduced to a trickle in Summer or dry periods.  The brook flows most of the year.
  6. The gorge is very challenging due to the very steep terrain and loose rocks.
  7. Stinging nettle was not a big issue in the gorge.  There were patches of it, but it did not inundate the gorge.
  8. It is best to descend the west side of the gorge, and then scramble along the creek to see all the falls.
  9. Do not hike the gorge alone.
  10. Enjoy this stunning place and treat it with respect.

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