The Fred Woods Trail is named after a forest worker who died on duty in 1975. It is one of the finest dayhikes in northcentral Pennsylvania. I had long wanted to hike this trail, which is known for its views and massive rock outcrops.
This is also an isolated trail to reach. You must follows dirt roads off of PA 555. Be aware that Castle Garden/Mason Hill Road is narrow as it traverses very steep terrain. A car can handle this road, but take your time.
Despite the trailhead’s isolation, it was filled when I arrived. By the time I finished this hike it was easy to see why.
The trail is mostly level and easy. It is ideal for kids. Despite the ease, you get a lot of scenery.
The trail began by going through thick hemlocks. The woods opened up with hardwoods and ferns. I soon reached the loop. I turned left to begin the loop; this is least-hiked side of the loop. Most people go right to the big rocks. The trail was rocky in places and meandered between some nice sized boulders. It soon reached the edge of the plateau. The sides of the plateaus in this region are incredibly steep; the earth just falls away. It is odd to be hiking on such an easy trail surrounded by such rugged and steep terrain. There are many views through the trees. In winter, there would be extensive views.
The trail soon leads to its finest view- Huckelberry Vista. Massive plateaus rise in the distance; to the west is a narrow gorge. Mountains rise higher to the west. It is an impressive sight. I sat there for a while, as a red-tailed hawk soared overhead.
I continued down the trail as it began to wind in between big rocks. I hiked down to the second vista, Water Plug Vista, also a nice view of the deep valleys and high plateaus. I continued on the loop as massive boulders rose above the forest floor, with hemlocks growing on top. I soon reached the Rock Trail, the highlight of the hike. It cannot be missed.
Massive boulders and ledges are jumbled and severed along faults and cracks. Moss clothe the rock faces. Roots of trees twist and bend into crevices. The massive rocks have separated to reveal chasms, one into which the trail ventures. It is an impressive wonderland of geology. The chasm narrowed at the far end, so I had to squeeze through. The trail then wandered on top of the rocks, descended, and passed a small cave. It was a fascinating place. One rock was colored orange, others white. Angles pointed and turned in every direction. Some rock faces were curved, sloped, or concaved.
I returned to the main loop as it explored more rock outcrops, green with moss and hemlocks. The rocks receded gradually and the trail returned to the woods alone, before completing the loop.
The Fred Woods Trail is a beautiful and impressive place that is well worth the drive. I was happy I was finally able to visit.
I thought I was done exploring, but I was wrong. One more hidden gem awaited on my day of exploration.