Hiking at the Howland Preserve

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The Howland Preserve is the amazing gift of Ernest Howland, who donated his family’s 669 acre farm on the Vosburg Neck to the North Branch Land Trust to be conserved forever.  This is probably the largest donation of private land for public use in the history of Wyoming County, which had few sizeable parks or trails.

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The Vosburg Neck is one of the Susquehanna River’s highlights.  Here, the river flows around the neck, creating an oxbow loop, as mountains tower over 1,000 feet above the river.  Bald eagles have nested along the Vosburg Neck and herons, ducks, and many other birds are a common sight.  Giant silver maple and sycamore trees rise on the shore.

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I’ve been to the Howland Preserve many times.  Volunteers have been working on expanding the trail system, which is open to both hikers and mountain bikers.  There are about 8 miles of trails, and more are planned.   The trails explore the river, old canal, ravines, woodlands, and diverse forest types.

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We returned for a quick hike.  Our hope was to see Howland’s impressive dogwood blooms.  Due to recent rains, the trails were wet, but that did not deter us.  We began on the Vista Trail as it switchbacked up the slope under beautiful dogwoods in full bloom, and then through a pine and spruce forest.  The woodlands were gorgeous with large trees and hundreds of dogwoods in bloom throughout the forest.  It was truly beautiful.  I don’t think I’ve ever hiked a forest with so many dogwoods.  The forests were open in places with meadows of ferns.  We reached the vista, which is nice but just a small view through the trees, looking across the river to the farmlands on the other side.

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Next we hiked my favorite trail at the preserve, Howlin’ Down as it meandered between and along impressive rock walls and more dogwoods.  Springs bubbled from the ground and several sections of the trail were wet, resulting in mud-caked shoes.  The coolest section is where the trail is on the edge of a deep ravine shaded with a few hemlocks.  We were even treated to a small waterfall.  The trail dropped down, crossed a small stream, passed above an old spring house, and then we returned across meadows on the Old Farm Road.  The sweet smell of honeysuckle filled the air.

Whether you like to hike, ride, or paddle, be sure to visit the Howland Preserve, a best kept secret in Northeast Pennsylvania.

More photos.

Friends of Howland Preserve.

Trail map.

Map and location.

Nearby is the Endless Mountain Nature Center.

Stony Fork Waterfall Hunting-Tioga State Forest

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In the Tioga State Forest, the stunning Pine Creek Gorge gets all the attention, and crowds.  Want to see a place just as beautiful, but off the beaten track?  Look to the next creek to the east-sublime Stony Fork.

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I first experienced Stony Fork years ago while scouting a route for the Mid State Trail’s northern extension.  I was amazed by its beauty.  There were rapids, cascades, grottos, and deep pools.  Due to its beauty, I insisted the Mid State Trail include Stony Fork.  Thankfully, others agreed.

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I recently returned to Stony Fork to check out some of its tributaries and hunt for waterfalls.  First, I hiked up Black Run with its deep, rugged gorge.  Since there was no trail, I was forced to bushwhack.  I soon came upon a 20 foot falls next to a beautiful cliff.  Upstream the creek became even more beautiful with non-stop cascades and waterfalls over ledges and squeezing between mossy boulders.  Slides fed pools of water over reddish bedrock.  Already, my hike was worth it.

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I hiked down along the rim of the glen through thick laurel, passing a large rectangular boulder sitting on its end.

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I then headed down to the Mid State Trail for a short hike.  It was nice to see the route I scouted all those years ago now is a trail people use and enjoy.  I passed Paint Run and decided at the last minute to hike it.  I’m glad I did.

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Paint Run is probably the most scenic of Stony Fork’s tributaries.  This creek was very impressive, with a variety of falls, slides, pools, and rapids, often flanked by ledges and cliffs.  One slide was over 100 feet long.  In places it reminded me of the famous Rock Run.  The beauty of this creek was non-stop as it tumbled over smooth bedrock and around large ledges.  I particularly liked one slide with a series of large mossy boulders.  It carved a deep gorge through which echoed the sound of the rushing water.  Moss, hobblebush, and violets adorned the creek.

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I climbed up the south slope of Paint Run’s gorge and found an old grade which returned me to where I began, behind an old cabin along Stony Fork Road.

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I then hiked to the East Branch Stony Fork where there was an impressive grotto and slide in the sandstone bedrock, with deep, smooth pools shaded by hemlocks.  A beautiful spot.  It had the feel of a rainforest as hemlock logs had fallen over the creek, clothed in moss.  Slabs of rock had fallen from the sidewalls into the water.  Another smooth ledge was angled just right to create of perfect sheet of sliding water.

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I headed south to the next unnamed drainage and began the hike up it.  I was immediately greeted with more waterfalls and cascades with moss covered ledges, dripping with water.  There were four or five falls, with the tallest being about 30 feet.

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I descended the glen and crossed Stony Fork above a rapid before returning to my car. The hidden places are often the best and PA is filled with them Continue reading

Hiking to Tamarack Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

Tamarack Falls

One of the Loyalsock State Forest’s best kept secrets is Tamarack Falls.  In my opinion, it is one of the most scenic falls in the state forest due to its beautiful hemlock shaded grotto with fractured cliffs and cascades.  It really feels like a place set apart.

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I parked along Loyalsock Road where it crosses Tamarack Run.  From there it was an off trail hike south (or downstream) along the creek.  The terrain is rocky, but the scenery is simply breathtaking with bogs, hemlocks, and deep green carpets of moss.

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I crossed a gated forest road and continued along the creek, as it tumbled among moss covered rocks between boggy areas.  I then entered the top of the gorge and I soon reached the top of Tamarack Falls.  It is best to see and approach the falls from the east side, or left if descending along the creek.  There is a stunning hemlock grotto with rapids and cascades below the falls.  Be careful descending to the creek and be sure to hike around the cliff rim.  The cliff is fractured and features a small cave.  Be careful of the loose rock along the creek.  The scenery is simply stunning.

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The falls is about 20-25 feet tall and widens as the water drops.  Ledges and boulders large crown the glen.  Cascades continue below the falls and out of the glen.  There is also an old grade at the bottom of the glen.

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Afterwards I stopped by Sones Pond and continued north to PA 87.  Along Rock Run Road I saw some beautiful seasonal falls on the left.  I suspect some other streams in this gorge may also have waterfalls, but that will be an exploration for another day.

Want more waterfalls?  Nearby is Coal Run, the outlet of Sones Pond, which has three or four off trail falls.

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Enjoy this special place.

More photos.

Location of Tamarack Run.

Falls off of Rock Run Rd.

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Hiking to Tamarack Falls is easy, but off trail.

For the longer and more scenic route:

  1. Park along Loyalsock Rd. where it crosses over Tamarack Run.  N 41 28.584  W 76 31.891
  2. Hike south along Tamarack Run for about .75 of a mile.
  3. Reach the top of Tamarack Falls, go on the left or east side.  Descend carefully, hiking around the ledges at the top.
  4. Tamarack Falls are at N 41 28.094  W 76 31.880.
  5. Retrace your steps.
For the shorter route.
  1. Park here along Loyalsock Rd.  N 41 28.296  W 76 31.695
  2. Walk to the right, counterclockwise, around deer fence.
  3. Leave deer fence when you hear the sound of a falls, descend to the creek.
  4. Hike to the above coordinates for Tamarack Falls.

Waterfalls of Somer Brook Gorge-SGL 57

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Somer Brook is located deep in SGL 57.  It has carved a deep gorge in the plateau featuring big rocks, rapids, pools, slides, and several waterfalls.  It is a place of rugged, dramatic beauty.  A few weeks ago, I decided to check out this gorge.  With recent rains, and the game lands road to the top of the mountain opened for turkey hunting season, it was an ideal time to do some exploring.

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I parked at the last parking area before the gate and followed the gated roads, which were flowing with water through the spruce forests.  The woods were incredibly aromatic.  I turned right on the next road and crossed Somer Brook, rushing with water.  I continued on the road as it went around the top of the plateau until I reached a discreet side stream.  My bushwhack began as I descended this stream.

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This small stream proved to be gorgeous with a slide and then a 15 foot falls over a cliff.  Below was a gauntlet of large boulders and nonstop cascades and pools.

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The scenery became even better.  Three stream joined at the same place among a slope of large boulders.  There were waterfalls and cascades everywhere as the water tumbled over the boulders.  It was breathtaking.

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These three streams converged into a larger one that continued with cascades until it disappeared over the edge of a grotto.  I descended into the grotto to see a place of great beauty.  A 20 foot falls with huge car sized boulders at its base, followed by more waterfalls.  Ferns covered some of the boulders.  I named this place Atkinson Falls.

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As I negotiated the tough terrain, there were many loose rocks that shifted under my feet.  I stepped on one rock, and the other end shot up, slamming into my shin.  It was very painful as blood oozed from my leg.  I had no choice but to keep walking.

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Below was an 8 foot falls with a long slide over red bedrock.  I could see Atkinson Falls above through the trees.  This unnamed creek continued with rapids and boulders until it joined a rain swollen Somer Brook.

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Somer Brook worried me- it was a raging whitewater river as it surged between boulders and swirled through pools.  I needed to find a safe place to cross.  I made my way up the creek and found a calm, shallow pool above some rapids.  With my poles, I made it across safely but the current was surprisingly strong.  I looked upstream to see Somer Brook choked with boulders and whitewater.  This place was wild, untamed.

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I found another unnamed sidestream and began the arduous hike up.  My legs shook with pain and exhaustion.  This sidestream was filled with cascades over boulders, but no distinct falls.  I then reached Southbrook Road.

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I followed the road a short distance and then saw an old, discreet grade to my left.  I knew this led to the base of Somer Brook Falls, the tallest of them all.  I reached the base of the falls, crossing the powerful creek again above a 15 foot falls.  The base of the falls was filled with natural foam from the reddish swamp water.   I reached the point where the two branches of Somer Brook joined- it was awesome.  The forest and gorge were filled with the roar of water.  Trees dripped with moisture.

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I made my way up to Somer Brook Falls and it was a stunning sight as a torrent plummeted 80 or so feet through a chasm.  This is an amazing falls.  I made my way up the top of the chasm through a forest of hemlock and spruce.  Above is a beautiful spruce forest with a 3 foot falls over pebbly conglomerate.   I made my way through the deep green spruce forest over the blood-colored water from the tannins in the spruce and hemlocks.  I returned to the road and made my way back to the car.

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This is an amazing place, a gem in not only SGL 57, but all of Pennsylvania.  I’m glad I was able to experience it.

Location of Somer Brook Gorge.

More photos and videos.

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GPS coordinates of the scenic places in Somer Brook Gorge:

Boulder Cascades (above Atkinson Falls):  N 41 26.376  W 76 09.646

Atkinson Falls:  N 41 26.383  W 76 09.678

Somer Brook Falls: N 41 25.834  W 76 10.123

Parking area:  N 41 25.087  W 76 09.817  (Road to parking area is only open during the fall and spring hunting seasons)

My route:

My route

Scar Run Waterfalls and Gorge-Loyalsock State Forest

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Located north of the more well-known Ketchum Run Gorge, Scar Run Gorge is one of the Loyalsock State Forest’s hidden jewels.  My goal was actually to see a pine forest north of the gorge, but I ended up hiking Scar Run as well.

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I parked off of Coal Mine Road where it meets the gated Randall Road.  I followed the gated road and its yellow and blue blazes.  At a Y, I followed the road to the left, leaving the blazed trail to the right.  This road went through a series of four deer fences and ended at the edge of the pine forest.  From here, it was off trail hiking.

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The pine forest was quite beautiful, comprised mostly of red pine with some spruce, white pine, and random apple trees.  It had a dark, haunting quality to it, and would be a beautiful place to visit after a snowfall.  A small, marshy pond was embedded in the forest.  The ground was carpeted with thick layers of needles.  The southern part of the pine forest was at a lower elevation and featured thick white pine.  Pine forests of this size are rare in the area; this one covers roughly 80-100 acres.

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I hiked to the edge of the plateau to see meadow areas with thousands of mayapples growing.  I was going to retrace my steps, but then thought, why not return along Scar Run?  So I bushwhacked down to Scar Run, following some old grades.

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Scar Run is a stream of great beauty, featuring many waterfalls, pools, and green moss grottos.  It is described in Hike No. 42 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.  An old grade started on the south side of the creek, but then crossed to the north.  A variety of wildflowers were growing.  The grade is close to many of the falls, offering fine views of the scenic creek.  In some places, the grade is washed out.  I was particularly happy to see trout in Scar Run.  Ledges glistened with springs as large trees towered above ferns.  Moss seemed to cover everything near the creek, creating a ribbon of emerald.

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The old grade crossed the creek with more waterfalls to the left.  I simply followed the grade back to Randall Road and my car along Coal Mine Road.

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Afterwards I drove down Coal Mine Road to the Loyalsock Trail and hiked out to Alpine Vista.  The view was beautiful as shafts of sunlight penetrated the brooding clouds to the fresh leaves of the fluorescent forest below.

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If you love waterfalls, check out Scar Run.

More photos.

Location of Scar Run.

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Hiking Scar Run is fairly easy.  All GPS coordinates from Google Earth.

  1.  Park along Coal Mine Rd.  41°27’50.03″N  76°36’36.04″W
  2. Walk the gated road, bear left at 41°27’53.77″N   76°36’37.19″W
  3. Follow this obvious road, which becomes more brushy through a series of 4 deer fences.
  4. Pine forest is located at 41°28’36.90″N 76°37’22.50″W
  5. Want to just see Scar Run and its waterfalls?  Go to the old grade at 41°27’50.76″N  76°36’39.28″W.  Hike the grade down to Scar Run.
  6. Scar Run has lots of stinging nettle in summer.  Do not attempt in high water.

Hiking Hunts and Pigeon Runs-Waterfall Wonderland (SGL 13)

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As many of you know, the Waterfall Wonderland in SGL 13 is a place of amazing natural beauty.  I love it for not only its waterfalls, but also its isolation, deep gorges, and large trees.  I returned a few weeks ago to explore two tributaries of Sullivan Branch-Hunts Run and Pigeon Run.  I explored each tributary on separate hikes.

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Hunts Run

First I hiked to Hunts Run.  Thanks to recent rains, Sullivan Branch and Sullivan Falls were flowing high.  I made my way up Sullivan Branch, enjoying the gorge, rapids, and cascades.  I saw Pigeon Run Falls with its plummeting sheet of water and continued up the creek, enjoying all the falls and deep pools.

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I crossed Sullivan Branch and hiked up the slope, reaching an old grade that brought me to Hunts Run.  The hike up Hunts Run was scenic, but there were no waterfalls, just non-stop cascades over mossy boulders.  This glen was scenic and isolated.  At the top I explored some large cliffs and overhangs.  What was most impressive was a forest of old growth hemlocks, with many large trees.

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I then made my way back down to Sullivan Branch, and returned to my car.

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Pigeon Run

My second hike took me up Pigeon Run, a stream well known for all its waterfalls.  This hike did not disappoint.  This creek had five or six waterfalls in beautiful grottos and overhanging ledges.  The last falls was a slide that spread out like a fan, just below a private property line.

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Pigeon Run became a gauntlet of steep boulders and more cascades in a very rugged glen.  Many trilliums grew on the boulders.  I followed the game lands boundary to a stunning place at the top of the gorge.

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Massive, ancient hemlocks surrounded this place, as cliffs and ledges rose over me.  At the top was a beautiful 40ish foot falls that tumbled down three or four drops.  I called it the Falls of the Hemlocks, located at N41 20.815 W 076 19.825.

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This felt like a wild, primeval place.  I followed the cliff rim west, back to Sullivan Branch.  This was a beautiful place with large cliffs crowned with more large hemlocks.  There were views of the gorge below through the trees.

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I made my way down the slope, passing boulders and rock outcrops back to the unblazed trail above Sullivan Branch, which I took back to my car at Sullivan Falls.

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More photos.

Location of this place.

Hoagland Chasm and Weed Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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South of Shunk, just within the Loyalsock State Forest, is a place of great beauty that is fairly easy to reach and that few know even exists.  Weed Creek and Hoagland Branch join among waterfalls, chasms, gorges, deep pools, and rapids.  Hemlocks shroud this special place.  I call it the Hoagland Chasm and Weed Falls.

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I parked along the road where Bear Wallow Road meets Dry Run Road.  I then hiked an obvious, gated old grade to the north as it curved through drainages and then began a long, gradual descent to Slaskey Run.  I noticed a faint footpath on the grade.  The forest was beautiful with many large hardwoods and countless spring wildflowers, not to mention many large areas of ramps.  At Slaskey Run there was a private property line so I followed an obvious grade to the right as it continued a gradual descent.

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Below Slaskey Run tumbled over small waterfalls and slides.  The largest falls is about 7 feet tall.  As I neared Weed Creek, another grade was to the left.  I took it.  It followed the top of Weed Creek’s gorge and then descended to the water.  From here, I walked in and along the creeks.

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Weed Creek promptly entered a hemlock shaded gorge with steep slopes and ledges.  The creek danced down slides and rapids with deep pools.  It was very beautiful.  The gorge opened up and I soon found myself on the top of Weed Falls, a scenic, curving 30 foot falls.  I was able to scrambled down the side of the falls and entered a stunning grotto as cliffs rose around me topped with hemlocks.

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I continued down Weed Creek with more rapids and slides.  I then reached a beautiful sliding cascade where Weed Creek joined Hoagland Branch.  The beauty of this spot was amazing with deep translucent pools as cliffs hemmed in Hoagland Branch.  The sounds of the rushing creek echoed against its rocky confines.  I was amazed by this place.

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I turned left and hiked upstream along Hoagland Branch; I was speechless.  I entered a spectacular chasm as red rock rose above me with angled buttresses.  The creek had carved into the bedrock deep pools and slides.  Hemlocks towered overhead.  As I hiked up the chasm, the cliffs grew taller, everything was deeper and darker as if I was entering a different realm.  There were no waterfalls, but several slides and rapids with deep pools.  It rivaled the famous Rock Run.  The floods from last Fall had scoured the sides of the chasm along the angled contours of the red bedrock.  The northern end of the chasm ended at a private property line.

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I retraced my steps back to Weed Creek, mesmerized by the scenery.  I explored more of Hoagland Branch below Weed Creek to see the deep pools glowing in the bright sun.  There were rapids and deep pools.  A cabin was further downstream on the left.  I saw the state forest boundary and turned around, retracing my steps back to the car.

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A place of remarkable beauty hidden in the shadows of gorges and hemlocks, I will be back to Weed Falls and the Hoagland Chasm.

More photos.

Map to Hoagland Chasm and Weed Falls

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Hiking to Hoagland Chasm and Weed Falls is easy.  The grade down to Weed Creek is obvious.  There are no marked trails or signs.

  1.  Park at the juncture of Dry Run Road and Bear Wallow Road.  Park along the road, space is limited.
  2. Follow the obvious, gated grade north of the road as it curves and then gradually descends through a beautiful hardwood forest with many spring wildflowers.
  3. Reach Slaskey Run and a private property line; turn right onto obvious grade.
  4. Small waterfalls along Slaskey Run below the grade.
  5. As you near Weed Creek, look for a faint grade that curves left.  Follow it above Weed Creek Gorge with views of the gorge.
  6. Descend to where Weed Creek and Slaskey Run meet.
  7. The rest of the hike follows the creeks.  You must hike in and along the water.  Do not attempt in high water.
  8. Hike Weed Creek downstream into a beautiful hemlock gorge.
  9. Reach the top of Weed Falls.  Possible to scramble down north side of the falls, be careful.  Otherwise hike around it.
  10. Beautiful grotto or gorge below Weed Falls.
  11. Reach juncture of Weed Creek and Hoagland Branch at a sliding waterfall.  Scenery is superb.
  12. Turn left and hike Hoagland Branch upstream into the stunning chasm.  Chasm is about 1,000 feet long and ends at a private property line.  Be careful hiking in the chasm and watch for the deep pools.  Again, never attempt in high water.
  13. Retrace your steps.
  14. Please treat this special place with respect.
  15. Hike is about 1.5-2 miles, one way.

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