Loyalsock Backpacking Trail Medley

Purple is an unblazed path. Red dots are campsites. Yellow is Cold Run Trail. Blue is Canyon Vista Trail.

The Loyalsock State Forest has established itself as the premier backpacking destination in eastern Pennsylvania.  The forest is home to miles of trails that explore gorges, waterfalls, vistas, and rock formations.  A few months ago, I went on an overnight backpacking trip on a variety of trails through the state forest featuring some of its fine scenery.  Bryan, Dan, and Matt joined me on this trip.  This hike was about 17 miles.

We met at the Worlds End State Park office (located at 41.471808, -76.581784) and shuttled a car to a pull off along Coal Mine Road (located at 41.456752, -76.628380).  We hiked down the road a short distance and turned left onto the Loyalsock Trail (LT); much of our hike would be on this trail.  The LT brought us to impressive Alpine Vista as it looked down the Loyalsock Creek valley.  The trail descended steeply to Lower Alpine Vista and its equally scenic view.  There we saw two men hunting for snakes.  The trail continued to drop down to beautiful Ketchum Run.  We hiked up along the stream with its rapids and cascades.  We took a break a Rode Falls and climbed up its ladder.  We climbed up the gorge, under giant hemlocks as the water roared below.  Ketchum Run is such a beautiful place and is one of the gems in the state forest.  Next was Lee’s Falls and an impressive chasm upstream.  

The hike up Ketchum was a pleasure as we passed campsites under hemlocks.  The LT turned right and crossed the run, but we followed an unblazed trail upstream where we enjoyed two more falls and bedrock cascades.  We reached a blue blazed trail and followed the Ketchum Run Trail.  Our next turn was right onto the yellow Ketchum Run Nature Trail; this turn was discreet.  The trail returned us to Ketchum Run with its bedrock cascades, falls, and pools.  This was another great trail as it meandered along streams, ground pine, and hemlock forests.  We soon reached the parking area and took a break at a shelter.

Our hike continued by turning left onto Worlds End Road and a quick left onto a red/blue ski trail under more hemlocks with carpets of moss.  After turning left onto the red trail, it took us back to Coal Mine Road for a short road walk, we turned left off the road, on the red trail as it followed a narrow grade to the LT where we turned right.  We would follow the LT all the way to Canyon Vista.

The LT was a beautiful hike as we passed streams, hemlocks, meadows, and nice campsites.  The trail climbed to a ridge and then descended, passing some large rock outcrops.  We descended to the east branch of Double Run and saw the orange sulphur spring and enjoyed Mineral Spring Falls.  We found a nice campsite along the LT and settled in for the night with a campfire and conversation.  It was neat to see the foliage in the trees turn to yellow and orange in the setting sun. A small stream babbled through the night.

We were up early the next morning and the trail was beautiful, a thread through open forests and meadows of ferns.  We soon reached Canyon Vista and enjoyed the trail, as well as the mazes of the Rock Garden behind it.  Next was the blue Canyon Vista Trail which featured some giant rocks and passageways that everyone enjoyed.  I then took them on the new yellow Cold Run Trail, a highlight with its gorges, waterfalls, views, rock outcrops, and boulder arch.  We passed two women hiking who proclaimed this was their favorite hike and that they hike it every week.  We returned to the blue Canyon Vista Trail and dropped down to the Loyalsock Creek which we walked along enjoying the rapids and scenery.  A climb took us to Warren’s Window and then we descended to Double Run with its waterfalls and cascades.  We hiked back to the park office along the Link Trail.

Everyone enjoyed the diverse scenery of the Loyalsock, although they weren’t thrilled with the final climb to Warren’s Window.  This is such a beautiful area and I’m sure it will not be our last hike in the ‘Sock.

View this post on Instagram

Dan at Rode Falls, Loyalsock Trail.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on

View this post on Instagram

Loyalsock Trail.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on


A Hike at the Woodbourne Forest & Wildlife Preserve

Established in 1956, Woodbourne Forest is one of the first preserves owned by The Nature Conservancy.  It covers 648 acres and features wetlands, meadows, streams, impressive rock walls, beaver dam, and an old growth hemlock forest.  Woodbourne is home to a remarkable diversity of plants and animals; it is an ideal place for birdwatching with its various habitats. Woodbourne is also a great place to bring kids for a hike.

There is a network of seven miles of trails at the preserve.  On this hike, we followed a three mile loop along the Swamp and Woodruff Hill Trails.  From the parking area (please note the parking area is located at the top of a hill and it can be difficult to see oncoming traffic) we followed the Swamp Trail down through fields and meadows with wildflowers.  We entered the forest as the trail meandered down to a large swamp with a viewing platform.  There were countless birds, lilies blooming in the water, and a chorus of frogs.  A muskrat swam in the water below us.  This place teems with life and is the perfect place to look for animals.  

The Swamp Trail meandered along the shore under hemlocks and then veered left over a boardwalk; this would be our return route.  We kept right onto the Woodruff Hill Trail as it crossed a meadow and entered the woods with some giant oak trees.  The trail was a bit wet as it explored the forest, but it was a pleasure to hike.  The trail turned left and followed a small stream to where it joined a larger one.  I enjoyed hiking along the creeks under large trees and across carpets of ferns.  The trail crossed the larger creek and meandered through impressive stone walls and beneath more large trees.  We soon reached the outlet of the swamp we were at earlier where there was a beaver dam.  We crossed the creek and rejoined the Swamp Trail through the beautiful old growth hemlock forest along the shore of the swamp. The sun reflected off the water and illuminated the hemlock forest from below.  This is a great section to hike.  We crossed the boardwalk and retraced our steps back to the car.

If you like hiking through forests, meadows, and along streams and rock walls, Woodbourne is the place for you.  The forests are scenic and isolated.  The swamp is a highlight with its wildlife.  The streams are relaxing and the stone walls will impress with their size and craftsmanship.  

We parked at 41.761158, -75.897911.  

Mid State, Pine Creek, and Water Tank Loop-Tioga State Forest

The Pine Creek Gorge is a popular hiking destination, with many of the trails on the west side of the gorge.  Thanks to the Mid State Trail, Pine Creek Rail Trail and the Water Tank Trail, there is also a great hiking loop on the east rim.  This loop is about six miles long.  Ian joined me on this hike.

We began hiking from a parking area on Clay Mine Road and walked down the road to the MST, on which we turned right.  The MST explored some boulders and meandered through the forest until it eventually made its way down to Water Tank Run.  We passed springs and thickets of laurel with pine.  At Water Tank Run, the yellow Water Tank Trail joined the MST; this would be our return route.  

We continued on the MST as it explored beautiful forests and more laurel thickets.  The trail was a pleasure to hike.  We crossed the other branch of Water Tank Run and continued on the MST.  The trail took us into gorgeous open forests with meadows of ferns, sunlight dappled the forest floor as the ferns waved in the breeze.  A yellow side trail to the right took us to a fine view from the east rim, looking across the gorge.  Thunderstorms rumbled to the north from dark, ominous clouds.  There was also a view looking south, but it was mostly grown over.  We retraced our steps back to the MST and soon reached Stone Quarry Run.  Here, the MST turned right and descended along Stone Quarry Run.  (Keep in mind the MST is presently being rerouted and it will go across Stone Quarry Run and down Fork Hill with two vistas, this route is shown as red on the map).

The trail down Stone Quarry Run was beautiful as we followed a narrow grade above the deep gorge.  We could hear the creek cascading far below and the open forest allowed us to see the other side of the gorge carved by Stone Quarry Run.  The trail became steep near the bottom.  We reached the Pine Creek Rail Trail and there was a fifteen foot falls on Stone Quarry Run.  

The next part of the hike followed the rail trail, which is not blazed but obvious.  We hiked up the trail as storm clouds gathered to the north.  Pine Creek flowed along the trail as kayakers sailed by.  Flowers adorned the bank and bicyclists passed us.  Many bicyclists from the Philippines passed us and one stopped and warned us about some snakes ahead and their massive size.  His alarm caught me by surprise as I thought the Philippines must have some pretty fearsome snakes.  We hiked on, but never saw the snakes.  We reached Water Tank Run.  I hiked an unmarked trail on the south side of the run (black on the map above) to a stunning 30 foot falls.  It was a little tough to get to the falls due to the steep terrain, but a path with a rope provided some assistance.  I hear there is a double falls upstream, but we did not have time to see it.  

We returned to the rail trail and then turned right onto the yellow Water Tank Trail, which is on the north side of Water Tank Run.  The trail was very steep, but that was not our only concern.  The clouds opened up and we were treated to a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightning.  There was little we could do, so we trudged up the steep trail as heavy rains doused the forest.  The trail became more gradual and the rain began to ease.  The gorge of Water Tank Run was beautiful with cascades.  The gorge was deep and impressive, as the trail clung to the side of it.  We crossed Water Tank Run, reached the MST, and retraced our steps back to the car.
This was a beautiful and diverse hike that offered a bit of a challenge.  Once the new MST route down Fork Hill is complete, it will be best to begin at Blackwell and I expect Stone Quarry Run will become a cross connector trail.  

We parked at 41.603757, -77.373709.  Parking in Blackwell is at 41.556268, -77.381904. 

Waterfalls of the Briskey Brook Gorges-SGL 66



SGL 66 has been a hiking enigma to me- few trails, isolated, and with limited road access. In all my years of hiking, I had never stepped foot into it. This year I finally did and it began to reveal its hidden beauty- waterfall glens, massive rocks, chasms, wildflowers, and diverse wetlands. We explored this area over two hikes. On the first hike our goal was a gorge on the northern slope of SGL 66 which promised to have waterfalls. Initially we named this unnamed creek the Trillium Gorge due to all the trilliums that were growing. We then changed the name to reflect the mountain from which it flows-Briskey Brook.  On the map it is referred to as the East Gorge.  Ben joined me on this hike.

I like hikes that begin with some mystery, not knowing what to expect. Will the hike be surprisingly beautiful or a waste of time? We followed a gated game commission logging road north for a half mile. Where the road turned left, we went right and crossed the creek, following an old railroad grade north. This grade was overgrown in places, and often wet, but it was followable. We circumvented a wetland and hiked through groves of hemlocks. One interesting spot was some metal ruins, possibly of a boiler of some kind. The metal was still as solid as the day it was made.

The grade continued north and as we neared the escarpment of the plateau, we left the grade and descended off trail, exploring massive rocks and chasms. We dropped down into the gorge, where we could hear waterfalls. At first we followed a small runoff stream, where we saw a small falls. At first, I thought that was Briskey Brook. But then Briskey Brook revealed itself as it descended a rugged gorge. The waterfalls were beautiful, and one reaching over 30 feet tall. I was also impressed by all the trilliums growing, including acres of dutchmans breeches. The wildflowers were beautiful. Ben and I were immediately stunned by this hidden gorge. We wondered if there were more falls downstream, but time wasn’t on our side. We made our way up the gorge, encountering falls after falls. Some were slides, other steep drops into pools. At the top was a beautiful grotto of fractured bedrock that we were able to climb into.  We eventually made our way back the way we came. 

On the second hike, our goal was the West Gorge, as shown on the map.  We hiked in on the old railroad grade, left it, and headed north to the top of the East Gorge.  We then descended to the bottom of the West Gorge.  From there we hiked up.  The best falls were at the bottom, at about 25 feet tall. There were many other falls and cascades, between 5-15 feet tall.  We encountered grottos of bedrock and moss covered boulders.  The top falls of the West Gorge featured another grotto and a beautiful 20 foot falls.  The West Gorge was very scenic, but not as scenic as the East Gorge.  The stream in the West Gorge is also smaller than the one in the East.

We then hiked south near some wetlands to some incredible rock features.  We explored massive boulders, mazes, and outcrops.  If you are hiking to see these falls, then you must also include a visit to these impressive rocks.  We then hiked south, off trail, back to the railroad grade and returned to our cars.

The map shows an ideal route that includes boulders and mazes, and both gorges.  It is best to go down the West Gorge, and then up the East Gorge since that is the more scenic one.  Be prepared for very steep terrain.  

The northern escarpment of SGL 57 and 66 is PA’s secret waterfall world with several streams featuring dozens of waterfalls.

For good flow, the Loyalsock Creek USGS gauge should read at least 2.0 feet. For the pictures below, Trillium Gorge has been renamed Briskey Brook Gorge.

We parked at 41.481973, -76.272910.

This hike as shown on the map is about 11 miles.

View this post on Instagram

Slot canyons in SGL 66.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on

Aqueduct Falls-Pinchot State Forest

Red is the hike to the aqueduct. There are no blazes or signs. Yellow is a fisherman’s trail.

The Pinchot State Forest has parcels of land across northeast Pennsylvania.  One of those parcels is north of Nanticoke, along PA 29 and Harveys Creek.  It is appropriately known as the Harveys Creek Tract.  This tract features whitewater, waterfalls, trout fishing, and incredible views from Tilbury Knob.  There is also the remnants of an abandoned aqueduct, and a nearby waterfall, known as Aqueduct Falls.

Park along PA 29, either at 41.239716, -75.994988 (very limited parking), or a larger pull off further down PA 29, located at 41.238910, -75.996865.  This is not a marked or blazed trail, there are no signs.  There is a narrow trail you can follow up along Aqueduct Run.  Hike up the run and you will soon reach a 15 foot falls.  Upstream are cascades and a long slide.  Above that is the main drop of Aqueduct Falls, and it is impressive at about 40-50 feet tall, with more falls above.  In higher water, there is another falls to the side.  The falls are very scenic and it may be possible to go behind them.  It is one of the most scenic falls in the Wyoming Valley region.

To see the aqueduct, climb the steep bank to the left or north of the falls, the trail is faint.  You will soon reach the aqueduct.  It is still in very good condition and it made of concrete as it wraps around the mountain.  There is often water in it, but it is abandoned.  The aqueduct once provided water to the Wyoming Valley from Pikes Creek Reservoir, I believe.  Hike the aqueduct to the south and cross Aqueduct Run, where there are more falls.  Continue south to some giant, leaking pipes; here the aqueduct appears to enter a pipe underground.  Below you is the old spillway for the aqueduct system, there are no falls but there is a streambed of concrete and stone that is often covered in moss.  It really isn’t worth exploring the spillway.  Return the way you came.

Near the larger pull off, a fishermans trail follows Harveys Creek where there are rapids and pools.  It is very scenic.

The aqueduct is a unique historical feature that is worth exploring, hopefully it will be preserved.  To the south is Tilbury Knob, an official trail does not yet reach it but the views down the river are spectacular.  

Hiking Coalbed Swamp-SGL 57


As the numerous articles in this blog illustrate, SGL 57 is a place of incredible beauty and diversity. Just when I think I’ve seen all it has to offer, I discover someplace new. That happened to me this past Spring. I’ve long known of Coalbed Swamp, it is one of the most biodiverse places in the region and a favored destination for birdwatchers searching for rarer species.  I’ve explored the northern part of the swamp. But, I didn’t think much else was there. I was completely wrong.

Ben suggested a visit to Coalbed Swamp and we explored it over two hikes. This place blew me away. The rock formations, chasms, caves, and spruce forests with carpets of moss made this an incredibly beautiful destination. The isolation only added to its splendor. This place does not feel like Pennsylvania, but instead northern Maine.

Want to hike Coalbed? You should be an experienced and adventurous hiker. Keep in mind a few things. First, this is mostly an off trail hike. The hike roughly goes around the perimeter of the swamp. Second, the mountain laurel is very thick on the southern part of the hike along the boulders and ledges. Third, it is best to go when the game commission gate on the access road is open during hunting season, typically the in Fall, late September to early January, and mid-April to the end of May. When the gate is closed, hiking up Red Brook from the parking area near Stony Brook Lane makes for an incredibly satisfying round trip. Park at the coal mine, located at 41.472084, -76.205270. Fourth, expect wet areas and wet feet.

From the coal mine, the entrance is now gated, we scrambled to the top of it and walked to an eroded old forest road or ATV trail. We took this to the right and soon turned left onto a more obscure old ATV trail which entered a hemlock forest an a bog. We crossed the bog and continued on the old trail. (It is possible to hike to the left of the bog to bypass it.) It descended at the location of a second mine entrance, which was flooded. Do not enter this mine.

An off trail hike followed to the west as we followed a line of cliffs and ledges. In places the laurel and blueberry bushes were very thick. We dropped down to some large rocks which revealed an amazing rock maze and chasm a few hundred feet long and maybe 30 feet deep. The passages were awesome to explore. We hiked along a cliff wall and some overhangs. Soon, the laurel became very thick and we did our best to hike through it, staying close to the cliffs. It may be easier to hike the top of the cliffs to bypass the thick laurel below, as there is a somewhat overgrown bear path.

The laurel receded and we entered a spruce forest of amazing beauty with mist and carpets of moss. Truly amazing. We also saw some black spruce, rare for this area as it is usually found further north. We could not believe the sublime beauty of this forest. The rocks also amazed us with giant boulders and stacks that loomed through the trees. We came upon Arrowhead Rock, an impressive pedestal with a giant triangular rock on top, perched as if it were about to fall off. Behind Arrowhead Rock was a chasm and one of the larger caves in SGL 57. A couple hundred feet north is Underworld Chasm, a deep, sheer chasm into the bedrock, 30-40 feet deep, only a few feet wide, and was frigid cold despite it being a warm day on our hike. Springs dripped down the sides of the chasm, and part of Underworld Chasm was underground, capped with rock and trees.

On our first hike we continued along the southeast perimeter of the swamp which revealed more spruce, impressive rocks, and amazing habitats. We then reached the old forest road above the mine and returned to our cars.  On the map above, the route from Underworld Chasm to the coal mine is not shown.

On the second hike, we hiked around the west side of Coalbed Swamp, revealing more spruce, moss, and rock balds. The forests were incredibly scenic. It was difficult to get open views of the swamp. We reached the old forest road north of the swamp, took that south to Red Brook with more giant rocks, and back to our cars. You can easily hike 5-7 miles exploring the Coalbed Swamp area.

If you want to explore the swamp when the game commission road is gated, one idea is to hike up Red Brook from Stony Brook and Windy Valley Road.  Red Brook has a beautiful gorge and two waterfalls.  See the Red Brook Gorge Loop hike.

Be careful, bring a friend, treat it with respect and enjoy this special place.

Photos and video:

View this post on Instagram

SGL 57 rocks, in the boulder mazes.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on

View this post on Instagram

SGL 57 has endless rock features.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on

View this post on Instagram

Forests of SGL 57.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on


Thomas Run Falls and Little Schrader Creek-SGL 12


Black follows gravel or logging roads.  Red is off trail.  Yellow is an established trail up along Little Schrader Creek; it is not blazed or signed.

Southern Bradford County is home to SGL 12 and 36, vast public lands that feature remarkable natural beauty. Near the former logging town of Laquin, now a shadow of its former self with only a few homes and cabins, is an isolated hike to beautiful streams and waterfalls. Laquin was once home to 2,000 people, now, you will likely have this hike all to yourself.

From the game commission parking area, hike around the gate and simply follow the gravel road, which was once a railroad. After a half mile, cross Little Schrader Creek on a bridge and see a distinct path to your right crossing a small meadow. Remember this spot for your return from Thomas Run Falls, for it is the trail to the falls and cascades on Little Schrader Creek.

Continue hiking the road. Overall, it is a nice hike. One highlight are some large meadows which offer views, not to mention opportunities to see wildlife and birds. Reach a new logging road to your right (located at about 41.604664, -76.675140). Turn right and follow for a thousand feet until the road makes a sharp right turn. Here, go off trail to the left; there may be an old grade. You will soon reach Thomas Run. Hike off trail up the run. You will enter a gorge with cascades and boulders. Cliffs loom overhead. Thomas Run Falls soon comes into view and it is a beautiful setting. Counting the cascades just downstream, the height of the falls is 20-25 feet. What is unique is that you are gorged in, there is no safe way to hike above the falls as it is surrounded by cliffs. It is a truly beautiful, out of the way spot. The falls are located at about 41.606006, -76.681902. Return the way you came.

Back at Little Schrader Creek, take the path across the meadow, now on your left. The path has no blazes or signs, but it is well established. The path follows impressive old grades with huge stone retaining walls, some of which are collapsing. Enter an impressive gorge with rapids, cliffs, and cascades. The first falls is a narrow chute with overhanging ledges and a deep pool. The path continues across another meadow and into a second gorge with another falls and pool. It is hard to get good photos of both falls due to their position. Little Schrader Creek is very scenic and is well worth the hike. It is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains. Return the way you came.

Park at 41.624435, -76.659780. The hike is about two miles, one way, to Thomas Run Falls. No trails have signs or blazes.

Photos and video:

View this post on Instagram

Thomas Run Falls, SGL 12.

A post shared by Jeff Mitchell-Outdoors Author (@hiking_mitch) on