Best Hikes in the Loyalsock State Forest

The Loyalsock State Forest is one of Pennsylvania’s beloved places due to its rugged scenery and outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.  It is home to waterfalls, gorges, ponds, chasms, giant rocks, hemlock forests, meadows and wetlands.  There are whitewater rivers and numerous trails.  Over the last ten or so years, it has evolved into a recreation destination due to its scenery and relative proximity to Philadelphia and New York.  It is now host to some of the finest trail run competitions in the eastern U.S.   The Loyalsock is a different place, serene and pristine, across its 115,000 acres.  For the hiker, where should you go?  The Loyalsock offers many hiking opportunities. Some of the parking below is pull off parking  The following list is not in any particular order.

  1. Haystacks and Dutchman Falls.  A popular and fairly easy-moderate trail that is good for kids.  Enjoy waterfalls, Loyalsock Creek, hemlock forests and the impressive Haystack Rapids, formed by Burgoon Sandstone, an ideal place for camping and swimming.  No fires are allowed at the Haystacks.  About five miles total.  Park at 41.448291, -76.453318.
  2. Rough Hill Trail.  A short, rugged and rocky trail to two excellent views.  Do not miss the upper view, from which you can see the distinctive peak of Smiths Knob.  About 2.5 miles long, moderate to difficult.  Park at 41.397434, -76.759352.
  3. Angel Falls and Kettle Creek Gorge.  This is the scenic heart of the Loyalsock with the area’s tallest falls, views, great camping, and cascades.  Do not miss the falls below Angel Falls, including Gipson Falls.  Kettle Creek is isolated and beautiful.  You can make a nine mile loop with gated McCarty Road or the Ridge Trail.  Moderate to difficult and best for more experienced hikers.  Park at 41.385226, -76.668243.
  4. Dry Run Gorge and High Knob Loop.  A rugged, challenging ten mile loop around Dry Run Gorge.  Follow the High Knob, Loyalsock, and the bridle or Stony Run Trails.  Enjoy waterfalls along Dutters Run, Mary’s View, High Knob Overlook, and a small backcountry pond.  Begin at the Hillsgrove Ranger Station.  Better for experienced hikers.  Parking is at 41.420715, -76.704107.
  5. Ketchum Run Gorge. The gem of the Loyalsock, featuring an incredible gorge with waterfalls, chasm, cascades and pools, plus two vistas- Upper and Lower Alpine.  Moderate to difficult.  Use the Loyalsock, Fern Rock, and cross country ski trails to make a nine mile loop.  Parking is at 41.437704, -76.608134.
  6. Fern Rock Nature Trail.  An easier trail that is great for kids, and has some excellent scenery.  There are hemlock forests, boulders, wetlands, meadows, and cascades and small falls on Ketchum Run.  About three miles.  Parking is at 41.437704, -76.608134.
  7. Sharp Top.  Hike the Old Loggers Path from Pleasant Stream Road up to this stunning vista. Pleasant Stream is sizeable and has no bridge.  Return the way you came. 
  8. Dutters Run/Old Bark Loop.  A 4.5 mile hike with gorges, view, and waterfalls using the Loyalsock, Old Bark and Dutters Trails.  Moderate to difficult.  Park at Dry Run Falls.  Parking is at 41.430374, -76.670462.
  9. Smiths Knob and Painter Run.  An excellent 6 mile loop with excellent views, including from the top of Smiths Knob.  Finish the loop along scenic Painter Run and Little Bear Creek Road.  Challenging.  Parking at 41.356244, -76.859745.
  10. Jacoby Falls.  Hike to a beautiful 35 foot falls, can be dry in summer.  Great ice flows in winter.  1.5 miles one way, east to moderate.  Parking is at 41.376781, -76.920105.
  11. Allegheny Ridge.  Hike the Loyalsock Trail from PA 87 or Little Bear Creek Road to an excellent view from the Allegheny Ridge.  Hike is easier from Little Bear Creek Road.  Can make a great loop with the rugged, faint Graf Woolever Trail, which has cascades.  About 5-6 miles in length.  Parking is at 41.356244, -76.859745 or 41.361348, -76.877051.
  12. Matt Mertes Trail.  A short loop with a nice view, pine forests, and a small stream with cascades.  About two miles.  Trail is at 41.354471, -76.912665.
  13. Rider Park.  A separate park adjacent to the Loyalsock State Forest, this park has many trails with meadows and great views.  Don’t miss the Katy Jane and Francis X. Kennedy Trails.  Various lengths possible.  Parking is at 41.34714203490246, -76.93652528242814.
  14. Rusty Falls and Shanerburg Run.  Follow the bridle trail up along scenic Shanerburg Run with small cascades and meadows.  An unmarked side trail leads to beautiful Rusty Falls.  Complete the loop along Shanerburg Road.  About four miles.  Moderate in difficulty.  Parking is at about 41.438860, -76.531650.
  15. Rock Run.  One of PA’s most scenic streams with incredible bedrock pools, chasms, grottos, cascades and slides.  Most people just walk along the creek, there is no trail system.  Parking is along Rock Run Road.
  16. Miners Run.  Hike up along the creek to stunning waterfalls and giant boulders.  There is a trail on the east side of the creek, but it is high above the creek. Moderate to challenging, about a mile long.  Pull off parking is at 41.515958, -76.916716.
  17. Devil’s Elbow Natural Area.  Hike the Sand Spring Trail through hemlock forests, along creeks, and wetlands with diverse plant and animal life.  Easy hike, about three miles.  Parking is at 41.564650, -76.830177.
  18. Rattlesnake Point.  Starting from Camp Susque, hike a narrow, rocky trail up past a seasonal falls and up a glen.  It leads to an awesome view of the Lycoming Creek valley.  About 2.5 miles, challenging.  Parking is at about 41.419782, -77.033593, hike begins across PA 14. 
  19. Bar Bottom Hollow. A more challenging hike with no official trails, follow old forest roads into a gorge with several beautiful waterfalls and cascades.  Parking is at 41.377218, -76.891417.

Hike to Chimney Rock-Tioga State Forest

This hike leads to one of the finest views of Pine Creek. There are two ways to begin. You can begin along PA 414 and hike up the Bull Run Trail; this way is longer and more challenging, but makes the view more rewarding. The other way is to drive to the end of Old Mountain Road and park. This way is much shorter and easier, however, the road can be muddy and rutted, so a vehicle with clearance is recommended.

I began from PA 414 and hiked up the yellow Bull Run Trail. This was a scenic trail, and the steady climb wasn’t really all that bad. Bull Run is a small creek and can dry up in the summer. When flowing, it has many small waterfalls and cascades, making for great scenery. Moss, ferns, and hemlocks adorn the trail up Bull Run. As I reached the top, there were many saplings; this was an area that was burned in a fire years ago. The trail leveled off and went through the saplings and some small meadows. I then reached Old Mountain Road.

I turned left and followed the sign for Chimney Rock Trail, also blazed yellow. The trail went through groves of pine and along some meadows. This area was also burned years ago. The trail moved towards the edge of the plateau with some nice views through the openings in the trees; in winter the views would be extensive with the bare trees.

The hiking was level along the edge of the plateau and then a gradual descent began. I hiked past ledges and the descent steepened with large rock outcrops. The woods were open with oak trees. The final stretch to the view was quite steep, but manageable.

Chimney Rock Overlook is impressive with its views of Pine Creek, and the ridges, peaks, and plateaus that surround it. The terrain is diverse and beautiful. Hundreds of feet below is the rail trail and a bridge across the creek. There is a flag at the view. This view is great for sunrises.

There is another view, a short distance off trail, at the point of the plateau. It offers a great view looking down Pine Creek.

From here, retrace your steps.

Parking at PA 414 is at about 41.534728, -77.426813. Parking on Old Mountain Road is at 41.542423, -77.437155. From PA 414, this hike is about three miles, one way.

Scroll through the photos.

Hiking the Birch Trail-Tioga State Forest

The Birch Trail is an isolated hike located deep in the Tioga State Forest, near Leetonia. It features a narrow ridge with views and many unique rock formations. The drive to it along Cedar Run is beautiful, with gorges and waterfalls.  Cedar Run is a well-known trout stream with many pools, slides, and grottos.  I began at the parking area in Gleason Hollow, it is pull off parking, and there is a beautiful bedrock pool in Cedar Run nearby.  Cross the road and begin on the Birch Trail, where there is a sign.

The trail is blazed red and soon makes a steep climb up the ridge under pine trees.  Leave the pine trees and reach the narrow ridge, where rock outcrops begin to appear.  Scramble up some ledges and reach a scenic double vista off both sides of the ridge.  Mountains and gorges surround you.  Continue to follow the ridge with a moderate climb.  The red blazes become more infrequent, but there is generally a path to follow.  The narrow ridge is very unique, with many interesting rock outcrops and formations.  There are columns of rock, and one formation that resembles a mushroom.  The trail sign near the parking area calls these the “Chimney Rocks”.  The ridge is often composed of ledges.  Enjoy two views off the left, of west, side of the ridge.  Climb up the ridge and reach the plateau, and a deer fence.

The trail crosses through the fence and becomes more overgrown with briars.  The blazes are still there, but infrequent.  This may be tough to follow in the summer.  Climb gradually and reach the end of a forest road.  Follow the road as it descends.  Again, blazes along the road are infrequent.  The trail makes a discreet turn to the left, it is easy to miss.  Descend into Callahan Hollow and pick up an old grade.  The trail curves into a scenic pine forest and descends to Cedar Run.  There is no bridge across Cedar Run, so expect wet feet.  There was a fallen tree a hundred feet or so upstream that you can cross.  

The Birch Trail enters a beautiful spruce forest with moss.  Climb up to Leetonia Road and another trail sign.  Turn left and walk the road back to complete the loop.

This description follows the loop counterclockwise.  While the ridge is the most scenic part of the hike, I enjoyed the entire loop.  The loop is about four miles long.  

Pull off parking is at 41.579730, -77.473997.

Hike to the Sinnemahoning Canyon Vista and Sinnemahoning Spine-Elk State Forest

The PA Wilds are a special place, and one that I enjoy visiting.  Its isolation, rugged terrain, countless trails, parks, streams, and wild elk make it an ideal destination.  One of the most scenic places in the PA Wilds are around Sinnemahoning and Driftwood.  Here, towering plateaus and deep canyons rise above the large Sinnemahoning Creek.  This hike leads to one of the most stunning vistas over the Sinnemahoning Creek, and one of the finest views in all of the PA Wilds.

I first did this hike over a year ago, when I looked for a view that turned out to be quite nice.  Little did I know a really spectacular view was on a ridge just to the west.  Suspecting there was such a view, I returned to explore more.  I parked at a pull off along Montor Road and walked around a gate, heading south on an old forest road.  No trails have blazes or signs.  The old road soon joined a grassy pipeline swath, which I followed for several hundred feet.  Watch for a discreet turn to the left through some pine trees.  Follow the old road through laurel and open hardwoods with ferns.  The old road is easy to follow, although it is a little brushy in places.  I hiked on a bright sunny day, which illuminated the forest with a fluorescent green.  Ferns waved in the wind, just turning yellow as Autumn approached.  

The old road descended gradually and ended at an open meadow.  I headed west, off any trail, crossing some springs and walked through the open woods at the edge of the plateau.  A strong wind blew down the canyon.  I then reached an area, several hundred square feet in size, of uninterrupted moss carpeting the forest floor.  I then dropped down this ridge, which became steep over some ledges.  The ridge leveled and brought me to a stunning, incredible view of the Sinnemahoning Canyon.  This was a 180 degree view of the 1,300 foot deep canyon, with ridges, plateaus, and gorges.  The view would be incredible for sunrise or sunsets, and would be amazing above the mist and clouds in the morning.  The view is from a towering, reddish rock outcrop.  One rock at the view looked like an anvil.  I sat here for a while, amazed by the beauty.  The shadows of clouds sailed across the mountains.  I could see up the gorge of another creek, where a long, sloping ridge looked ribbed from the drainages of small side streams.  I called this view the Sinnemahoning Canyon Vista.  

I then headed west, off trail, along some old deer paths through the laurel.  I hiked to the next ridge to the west to look for another rock outcrop.  I found it, but the view was largely overgrown.  I retraced my steps and hiked down to the Sinnemahoning Spine, a very narrow ridge with views, ledges, overhangs and outcrops.  It is a unique and beautiful feature.  Wooded slopes plummeted from both sides of the narrow ridge.  The ridge had small grassy meadows and twisted pine trees.  The spine ended at a nice view and some large rock overhangs.  The spine would be beautiful when the leaves are off the trees. 

I then hiked over to the “original” vista from my first hike here; noted as “vista” on the map above.  The view and rock pedestals make this a beautiful spot.  From there, I returned to the meadow and hiked back out to Montour Road.  Montour Road is in good shape and a car can handle it.  However, do not drive on it if there is snow or ice.  This hike is about six miles long.

Parking is at  41.325439, -78.042667. Sinnemahoning Canyon Vista is at 41.302421, -78.051076. The other vista is at 41.300120, -78.048657. Sinnemahoning Spine is at 41.296699, -78.044167.

For the map above, red is off trail. However, the woods are open and walking is fairly easy, although steep down to the vistas. Brown is an old forest road. No trails have blazes or signs.

Enjoy this incredible place! Pennsylvania is beautiful.

Stone Cutter and Tiadaghton Trail Loop-Tiadaghton State Forest

This is a great dayhike loop in the Pine Creek Gorge, offering views of the creek, rail trail, two fine views, rock outcrops and a small stream.  It is about five miles long.  Parking is at two places in Ramsey, and both have limited parking for about four or five cars.  

From the parking area, follow the rail trail to the left or south and cross Pine Creek on an old steel bridge.  Enjoy views of the creek and surrounding canyon.  Continue on the rail trail and look for a discreet trail juncture to the right.  Take it and follow the yellow blazes.  Continue straight up the hill on the Tiadaghton Trail.  Reach an old quarry site, and the climb becomes steeper; avoid the trails that join from the left.  The climb remains steep as you ascend the ridge, passing some rock outcrops.  Reach the ridge with more unique rock outcrops and ledges.  Another climb brings you to a stunning 180 degree view of the Pine Creek gorge from rock outcrops.  Enjoy the superb scenery.

Continue on the yellow Tiadaghton Trail as it climbs up the ridge; however, this climb is much more gradual.  Moss and pine trees often adorn the trail.  Descend gradually along the narrow ridge.  In winter, expect extensive views through the bare trees. The yellow Turkey Vulture Trail joins from the right.   Reach a second view looking down the gorge, another beautiful sight.  Turn left onto a  trail and leave the Tiadaghton Trail.  Descend to the Stone Cutter Trail which follows an old forest road above Bonnell Run, a small, babbling creek with some small cascades.  Follow the Stone Cutter Trail down, enjoying views of the creek and the valley.  The trail does not get very close to Bonnell Run.  

Reach the orange Mid State Trail, and you can go either way.  Left will take you along an old grade that will descend to the rail trail.  Right, or straight, will take you down Bonnell Run and you can connect to the rail trail at the bottom; just be sure you do not continue following the Mid State Trail up the mountain.

Hike the rail trail to the left with many wildflowers.  Pass a camping area and some shelters.  Cross the bridge over Pine Creek and retrace your steps.  

Parking in Ramsey is at 41.284498, -77.324630 or 41.284322, -77.321053.  Again, parking is limited.  

Explore Falls Creek and Long Valley Run-SGL 36

This hike explores impressive waterfalls and giant rocks.  It is largely off trail and should only be attempted by experienced hikers.  The Schrader Creek valley is a remarkable place to explore, with many waterfalls, views, giant rocks, mines, and other ruins from the mining era.  Schrader Creek itself has many whitewater rapids and attracts paddlers when the water is high.  It is a special, and relatively unknown, area.

For this hike, park near Long Valley Run, as that parking area is larger.  If you don’t have two cars for a shuttle, walk Schrader Creek Road to Falls Creek.  Cross the bridge over Falls Creek and continue on Schrader Creek Road for a short distance.  Turn right onto an old forest road (brown on the map) with an established footpath.  Hike up it.  Cross a side stream and reach a meadow.  Leave the old forest road and follow a trail down to Falls Creek.  Enjoy all the falls and cascades.  It is a beautiful creek.  Hike up the creek to see more waterfalls.  Enter a gorge and reach Bradford Falls, about 70 feet tall.  This is an incredible falls.  The old logs and stones that once cluttered the base of the falls have mostly washed away, making the falls even more scenic.  

Now you must get around Bradford Falls; you can scramble up either side, but I usually go on the west side.  Be careful as the terrain is steep.  Above Bradford Falls is a gorge and scenic Barclay Falls, about 30 feet tall.  Continue upstream to a gorge with cliffs and cascades.  Reach Lamoka Falls, and above that, Laquin Falls.  The hemlocks enhance the scenery along this already beautiful creek.  Falls Creek is one of the finest waterfall gems in the Endless Mountains. 

At the top we saw and old mine and headed west along the escarpment of the plateau, following a grade.  There were large cliffs, rocks, and remnants of old mines.  The graded faded into laurel and we turned around, returning to Falls Creek.   We crossed the creek and walked through a hemlock forest, heading towards the escarpment.  The laurel was moderately thick in places, but overall was not bad.  We reached the escarpment, enjoying some large rock outcrops.  We continued on, exploring more rocks and ledges, while finding passage through the laurel.  I saw some large rocks above us, so we hiked up.  There were giant boulders, and a cave we scrambled through.  The scramble was a ton of fun.  We explored more rocks and then went closer to the escarpment to enjoy a view through the trees.  

Next was a hike on top of an impressive cliff line, it was beautiful with the pine and hemlocks.  A bear path offered easier passage on top of the cliffs.  I hope to return to explore the base of the cliffs.  We reached another outcrop with a partial view, but three beautiful yellow phase rattlesnakes claimed it for themselves.  We gave them a wide berth and moved on along the cliffs.  The cliffs revealed some unique formations and chasms.  We continued on, but the rocks became smaller and the laurel began to take over.  We battled some laurel and saw more large rock outcrops and boulders.  We reached an unnamed tributary of Long Valley Run and descended, passing small cascades.  We reached a grassy road along Long Valley Run and walked down it.  While this section was scenic, I’m not sure it was worth the effort.  As a result, you might want to consider the yellow route on the map as a shortcut to the Long Valley Run Cascades.  

Where the forest road crossed Long Valley Run, we went off trail and followed the creek downstream.   While Long Valley Run does not have towering waterfalls, it does have an assortment of beautiful, unique cascades with bedrock that almost seems sculpted and polished.  It was a highlight of this hike.  The water was also a unique shade of translucent blue.  The car and parking area were nearby.  This hike is 6-7 miles long if you also hike the road.

Falls Creek and Long Valley Run are described separately in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

Parking is at 41.650020, -76.568232 for Long Valley Run, or  41.641295, -76.593426 for Falls Creek.

For the map above, brown is an old forest grade, red is off trail, black dots are large rocks and boulders.  V is for vistas, which are partial views.  

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Hike the Golden Eagle Trail and Dragon’s Back Trail Loop-Tiadaghton State Forest

I met some friends from college to hike this excellent loop, totaling 10.3 miles.  It follows the classic Golden Eagle Trail and the fairly new Dragon’s Back Trail featuring several views, rock outcrops, and cascades.  It is considered one of the finest dayhikes in the state.  I recommend adding the Dragon’s Back Trail as I feel it is more scenic than the Golden Eagle Trail along Bonnell Run, which is still very scenic with a gorge of open hardwood forests.

From the parking area, we crossed PA 414 and began on the GET as it climbed up a gorge.  We turned right to begin the loop as falls tumbled below us to the left.  We made the long climb up to the ridge, which steepened as we neared the top.  It was getting warm and the sunlight filtered through the forest.  We reached the ridge and enjoyed the breeze as we descended passing a fine view to the left that looked up Wolf Run and then shortly thereafter, the classic view from Raven’s Horn and its unique rock outcrop.  The view was stunning as we looked into the Pine Creek Gorge as green mountains surrounded us.

Our descent continued along the ridge, passing more unique rock outcrops.  The trail then followed Wolf Run, which was flowing low, but has many cascades and small falls in a deep gorge.  We passed outcrops of flagstone, with sheaths of rock that looked stacked.  The trail along the creek was beautiful, and we crossed it several times.  When flowing well, Wolf Run is truly beautiful.  As we neared the top, there was a an old growth forest of giant pine and hemlock.  We reached our first view and then hiked through the laurel to an old forest road, which we took to Beulahland Vista, a gorgeous view looking over the fields and mountains of northern Pennsylvania.  

We continued on the grassy road, passing another excellent view, Bonnell Run Vista.  The GET then turned left, but we continued straight on the grassy forest road to hike the Dragon’s Back Trail.  We soon entered the woods and followed the yellow blazes along the forested ridgeline that narrowed with steep slopes on both sides.   We enjoyed another view, Webber’s Vista, looking down on Slate Run. We made another short climb, and then descended on a series of grades that switchbacked down to PA  414.

We crossed the road, walked down to the rail trail, and turned left on it.  The rail trail had great views of Pine Creek, wildflowers, and even an old cemetery.  It was a great way to end the hike.   We reached our cars and went to Slate Run for a meal.  

Pine Creek Gorge has dozens of excellent hiking trails for any ability.  However, hiking here generally means climbing.  The views make it more than worth it.  

Parking is at  41.439008, -77.511436.

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Hiking at Erie Bluffs State Park

Erie Bluffs State Park is one of PA’s newest state parks, and surely one of its most unique.  This park has a hiking experience unlike any other in the state.  Imagine hiking with the sound of the surf, with views across Lake Erie, which may as well be a freshwater ocean.  There is a beach, inlets, ravines, and trees of impressive size.  The trails that exist here are far more extensive than what is shown on the map.  I do not know if these trails are official.  For the best hike, you should incorporate these trails (brown on the map).  They often have some blazes, but not always, and are clearly established.  They are also very curvy.  They appear to primarily be used by mountain bikers.  The hiking here is relatively easy, but you should be good with navigation to use the brown trails on the map above.

From the parking area, begin on the Transition Trail as it crosses fields with bird houses.  There are also many wildflowers.  The trail follows a woodline and reaches a four-way intersection.  Turn right on the Lookout Trail as it follows the edge of the gorge and offers the first views of the giant hardwood trees that call this park home.  Some of the trees here are gigantic, with oak, maple and tulip poplar.  Erie Bluffs is the Cook Forest of hardwood trees.  Reach another intersection; the view here is ok.  Follow an unblazed trail down the slope to superb view of the lake from the top of the bluffs.  The forests are unique at top of the bluffs; it is open with hardwoods.  Be careful along the bluffs, as they are eroding.  It is awesome to hike with sounds of the surf and views of the lake.

Follow the unblazed trail down to the Fisherman’s Foot Path and walk out onto the beach and inlet of Elk Creek.  Enjoy the beautiful scenery.  It is hard to believe you are in Pennsylvania.  Retrace your steps back up to the Bluffs Edge Trail.   Where that trail makes a sharp left, continue straight on an obvious trail.  These trail meanders wildly, around ravines and back to the bluffs with some views.  The scenery is unique, and the ravines are almost 100 feet deep.  You may notice some different paint blazes on the trees, but the trails do not have signs.  I tended to keep turning right to get to the bluffs, and then the trails would veer left to go around the ravines.  

We then reached the Timber Trail and followed it for a while, passing more giant hardwoods and beautiful forests.  We then turned right again for one of the most scenic parts of the hike as the trail followed the edge of a deep ravine, and then followed the top of the bluffs.  It was beautiful with the wind, surf, and views.  Next was the yellow West Overlook Trail along the edge of Duck Run’s ravine.  We found a trail to drop into the ravine and it was stunning to walk down it with the creek and huge trees.  We hiked to the shore with views of the lake and a small slide where Duck Run flowed into the lake.  When it is calm, and the lake is low, it is possible to hike along the shore.  I hear it is an amazing experience.

We hiked out along the Duck Run Trail, dropped back into the scenic ravine, and followed the Whitetail Crossing and Black Oak Savanna Trails, which crossed more fields and meadows with wildflowers.  Next was a right turn on the Transition Trail back to the parking area.  

This route was 8-9 miles long.  Parking is at 42.015128, -80.376735.  While in the area, visit famous Presque Isle State Park and the city of Erie, which has many breweries. 

Scroll through the photos.  

Hike the Toms Creek and Landis Lake Loop-Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

This is an enjoyable 4ish mile loop in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  It features cascades, streamside hiking, gorge rim, hemlocks, a beautiful lake and wetlands, and waterfalls when the creek is flowing well.  It is a hike of great diversity, with many wildflowers, birds, and wildlife, especially near the lake and wetlands.  This entire hike follows established trails, some are unblazed.  This route is similar to that found on AllTrails, with some modifications.  

From the Toms Creek picnic and parking area, walk to the back of the picnic area and pick up the obvious trail as it goes upstream with views of Toms Creek.  It is an easy, gradual hike.  There are cascades, boulders and pools in the creek.  Large trees rise overhead, including tulip poplar and its distinctive blooms which had fallen to the forest floor.  This official trail comes to an end at a bench with views of the creek.  Now pick up the unblazed trail, which is obvious and goes upstream with more views of the creek and its cascades. 

Begin a steep climb up the slope and the trail turns left, following the rim of the gorge with forested views looking down towards the creek.  The forest has many hemlocks.  Intercept a trail with blue blazes, follow it and cross a small stream.  Go uphill.  The trail levels off as it nears Landis Lake with many hemlocks and pines.

We lost the blue trail around a blow down.  I believe it follows the dotted blue route on the map, but I did not hike that.  A better way is to follow an unblazed trail that goes along the shore of the beautiful, serene lake.  I felt as if I were in the Adirondacks.  Enjoy the scenery, birds, and lilypad blooms.  Landis Lake is a place where you’ll want to relax and enjoy.  The unblazed trail soon reaches a bridge at the outlet of the lake.  Reach an old road. 

We turned left on the road to enjoy more views of the lake and many wildflowers.  Reach a gate and hike around it, I believe this is now an open road to cars.  We saw a large wetland with many dead, standing trees.  On top was a heron nest, and a group of herons with the chicks, who looked too large for the nest.   The adults flew away, their massive wings flapping, before disappearing over the trees and down to the Delaware River where they feed. It was a great experience to see these incredible birds.  We went back to the footbridge at the outlet of Landis Lake.

Now we just followed the old road down, now largely covered by grass and vegetation.  Wooden guardrails still accompany the road.  We soon came upon a gorge with cascades and falls, some over twenty feet high.  The creek was low, but when running well, these falls would be beautiful.  The gorge looked deep and rugged, and I’m sure it hides more waterfalls.  The old road meandered down the mountain, often under pine trees.  We hiked around the gate, turned right on the road, and walked the short distance back to the parking area.  Near the parking area, notice the giant European beech tree and its red leaves. 

For the map above, brown is the official Toms Creek Trail, red are established but unblazed trails, blue is a blue blazed trail, black are old roads. The blue dotted route may be the AllTrails route near the lake. All routes are established, there is no bushwhacking. Enjoy this beautiful hike.

Parking is at 41.126645, -74.955010.

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Anders Run Natural Area-Cornplanter State Forest

Anders Run Natural Area is a tiny gem in northwest Pennsylvania, adjacent to the massive Allegheny National Forest.  It protects a valley that harbors an old growth forest, with towering pine trees.  These trees are among the tallest in the eastern United States, and are over 400 years old.  There is a yellow blazed trail system that explores the forest and valley. 

On this hike, we did the small loop via the cross connector.  This hike was less than a mile.  The natural area is just 96 acres in size.  Anders Run flows through the natural area, a small stream that is biodiverse; it is even home to lampreys.  

From the main parking area, we followed the trail into the woods and the large pine trees soon came into view.  Even larger trees were down the slope, almost out of view.  The trail took us to a road, where we turned left, walking the road.  More giant trees were along the road.  The trail made a discreet turn right into the woods and we followed the yellow blazes, crossing some bridges.  The cathedral of soaring trees was impressive as moss and ferns adorned the ground.  Anders Run babbled softly to the left as it flowed under logs and into clear pools.  

We decided to hike the cross connector and it was my favorite part.  The trees were beautiful as they reached into the sky.  It truly felt primeval.  It was like Cook Forest State Park, just smaller in size.  The cross connector trail crossed the road and we turned right onto the main loop.  There were still some large pine trees as the trail went in and out of small drainages.  Most of the trees were beech and other hardwoods.  We soon returned to the car.  

If you want a longer hike, just follow the main loop which is over two miles long.  The trails were narrow and brushy in places, but were easy to follow. 

If you’re looking for a short, easy and beautiful hike to do near the Allegheny National Forest, don’t miss Anders Run Natural Area.

Parking is at about 41.824727, -79.275683.

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