I recently decided to hike the north loop of the Pinchot Trail, but include the Watres Trail and the view from Big Pine Hill. I reached the main trailhead to see that it has been re-furbished with new signs and other amenities. The Pinchot in the spring is a trail of endless green with every imaginable hue and shade. The trail wandered through spruce, hardwoods, and thickets of mountain laurel and blueberries. Sheep laurel battled though the layers of vegetation for a glimpse of the sun. The laurel was on the verge of blooming; what an amazing flora display it will be.
I crossed Spring Run as it flowed from the ground into a pond of sorts, it looks as if beavers have dammed the creek. The trail meandered up hill through jungles of laurel. I soon reached the yellow blazed Watres Trail, where I turned right. The Watres Trail is not as well established, but is still a nice trail as it explored more woodlands, meadows, and ledges. It passed near a boulder field that is flooded in early spring, creating an odd pond filled with rocks. I soon reached scenic and pristine Panther Creek, which the trail followed a little ways until the creek disappeared into a ravine. Although there were no established sites, there is some good potential camping along this creek.
The Watres Trail climbed up to the ridge and explored hardwood forests with carpets of ferns before descending towards Painter Creek through a tunnel of hemlock. The hemlocks looked healthy throughout the forest with lots of new growth. Looks like the harsh winter helped them against the wooly adelgid.
I returned to the Pinchot Trail and turned right, passing a nice campsite and crossing Painter Creek. I passed a father and son backpacking and told them the campsite was just ahead. I crossed a road and continued up to a side trail that took me to the top of Big Pine Hill.
Several people were at the vista, enjoying the view in a brisk wind. One man was talking about visiting Choke Creek Falls next, another had a large camera and tripod. Views over the rolling plateaus stretched in every direction, you could probably see for 20-30 miles. The sun fought through the fast moving clouds.
I returned to the parking area to see it packed with cars. On the drive out, I passed several kids and two adults backpacking. Nice to see people enjoying the trails.
The north loop of the Pinchot Trail is a great overnight backpack or as a long dayhike. You can extend the trip by taking the Watres Trail, which is even more isolated. This yellow blazed half loop begins and ends on the Pinchot Trail.
Information on the Lackawanna State Forest.