Middle Loyalsock Loop – Backpacking

High Knob Pond

High Knob Pond

My initial plan was to drive out to the Square Timber Wild Area in the Elk State Forest, but a late start scrapped that idea.  So I settled on a loop I’ve been wanting to do in the middle of the Loyalsock State Forest, and along the middle section of the Loyalsock Trail.  I call it the Middle Loyalsock Loop and it follows bridle trails, various hiking trails, and the Loyalsock Trail.  While there are several routes you can take, this route is roughly 20 miles.

I began at the Ketchum Run Nature Trail parking area and began by hiking the loop clockwise.  I crossed Worlds End Road and walked through the equestrian campground.  The bridle trail was muddy in places, but featured nice hemlock forests and small streams.  A meadow marked the first intersection where I turned right onto a wide grassy grade with hardwood forests.  The route curved back west to High Knob Road, which I crossed.

The bridle trail continued along a powerline swath followed by deer fences where there had been some logging.  These forests were afflicted by windstorms and insect infestations years ago.  The trail became more scenic as it entered the woods.  I could not find the turn to the High Landing Trail, which I planned to take.  Regardless, the bridle trail was a nice walk.  I saw some wild turkeys and a scenic meadow.  The trail curved to the north and I turned left.  I initially planned to hike the bridle trail, to the Stony Run Trail, pass the Hillsgrove Ranger Station, and then hike up the High Knob Trail.  However, I had already hiked those trails so I decided to hike the Loyalsock Trail so I could access a bridle trail I had never explored.  Soon the Loyalsock Trail (LT) came into view, where I turned right and dropped to Dutters Run.  I took a break at a falls when a group of AMC hikers passed by.  They were a very friendly group and it was nice to meet everyone.  I continued down Dutters Run, which is such a scenic place as the creek flows through a mini-gorge with several falls.  I continued on the LT until it began its climb to High Knob Road.  I hiked off of the LT and beared left onto a nearby bridle trail.

This trail was a very nice hike through deep woods.  I descended to a surprisingly large stream, considering how high I was on the mountain.  I decided to go off trail since I suspected there might be a waterfall.  I was proven right.  A 20-30 foot falls soon appeared over several steps as the creek tumbled down the steep glen below the falls.  I named it High Knob Cascades.

I soon returned to the bridle trail, which offered superb woodland hiking.  It traversed the side of the mountain, offering views through the trees down the Dry Run Gorge.  It was a very enjoyable walk.  I soon reached the High Knob Trail, where I turned right.  A short climb brought me to the Jackson Trail, where I turned left to see the High Knob Pond.  I was soon at the pond.
I do not know if the pond has an official name, but it is a very serene spot.  It is several acres in size and is surrounded by a forest of pine and laurel.  It is peaceful and untouched.  I sat there, eating a snack, as the breeze wandered through the trees and some ducks floated in the distance.  I wanted to camp here, but it was too early in the day.  I never hiked the Jackson Trail west of the pond, so I decided to give it a try.
The Jackson Trail was surprisingly beautiful and well-established, considering that it really doesn’t go anywhere, other than down the mountain to PA 87.  It featured a diverse forest of pine, hemlocks, laurel, and hardwoods.  The coolest feature was a large frog pond, hidden by the laurel and moss, just off the trail.  It appears to hold water all year, and several globs of frog eggs were floating or congealed on the shore.  I turned around at the edge of the plateau, before the Jackson Trail makes it steep descent.  I enjoyed some more views of the High Knob Pond, and then continued on the High Knob Trail to its namesake.
I’ve always enjoyed the High Knob Trail; it is just a nice trail to hike.  I passed small streams and a walled spring.  Soon I was at the foot of High Knob.  I stashed my pack and scrambled up the steep trail to the view as the sun began to set.  The view, as always, was beautiful.  I continued on the bridle trail north of High Knob.  I probably wouldn’t hike it again.  It was very wet initially, but then followed a wide, dry grade up to the LT, where I turned left.  I descended to scenic Cape Run and checked out the waterfall just off the trail.  I climbed up to Split Rock as the sun set, illuminating the bare branches and twigs with a sheen that resembled spider webs.  Split Rock was an interesting place; it had been years since I last visited it.  I descended to Ketchum Run just before night fall and quickly set up my tent.  I got a quick bite to eat, and was soon asleep.
High Knob Overlook

High Knob Overlook

The next morning revealed the warm glow of the rising sun.  I was soon up and hiked down to see Lee’s Falls.  Ketchum Run is such a beautiful place.  The light angled with shafts that pierced the dark hemlock forests.  The sun began to illuminate the narrow gorge as the water danced over slides and cascades.  I reached the top of Lee’s Falls and took some pictures as the water roared.  I then headed upstream and reached two more off-trail waterfalls in mossy grottos, with numerous waterslides.  A hemlock tree hung off a ledge with roots that resembled the legs of an insect.  This place is magical.
Ketchum Run

Ketchum Run

I hiked out along the Ketchum Run Nature Trail as the sun electrified the ground pine and hemlock forests.  I soon reached my car, completing the loop.  It was great to be back in the Loyalsock.
********
This is a nice alternative to the more popular Loyalsock-Link Loop.
Highlights:  Several waterfalls, High Knob Pond, High Knob Overlook, Split Rock, Ketchum Run, Dutters Run, scenic woodlands, good camping, moderate terrain with no big climbs.  The loop can be extended along the Old House, Stony Run, and High Knob Trails via the Hillsgrove Ranger station.  The entire Ketchum Run Gorge and Alpine vistas can also be included in a longer loop.
Issues:  For two miles west of Worlds End Road, the trail follows deer fences along logged areas, this section is not very scenic and route finding can be tricky since blazes are infrequent.  There are several stream crossings without bridges.
Route of the loop.

Route of the loop.

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