The Hoagland area west of Hillsgrove is one of the most overlooked places in the beautiful Loyalsock State Forest. Hikers flock to the better known places, like the Haystacks, Rock Run, Old Loggers Path or the Loyalsock Trail, ignoring the forgotten and little known trails along Hoagland Branch and Mill Creek.
Hoagland Branch is a stunning mountain stream, gathering its waters near Shunk and then cutting a gorge through the plateau filled with rapids, slides, and deep swimming holes scoured out of bedrock. Side streams tumble down to Hoagland Branch with an assortment of waterfalls.
After being away for several years, the plan was to do Hike No. 48 (Hoagland Loop) in Hiking the Endless Mountains. Of course, things did not work out as planned.
We began along Hoagland Branch Road and soon found the Trout Hole Trail; it is too bad this trail appears to be abandoned because it is a nice one. Some old red blazes and a treadway remained. We climbed up along the plateau through a misty forest, under ledges. We soon reached Warburton Hollow. I decided I needed to see the waterfalls in this hollow, so we climbed up along the tumbling stream. It was beautiful as the creek dropped over moss covered boulders. I then noticed an obvious path on the east side of the creek, following an old skid trail uphill. Why would there be a trail? Naturally, it must go somewhere for a reason, so our exploration began.
The hollow was impressive with non-stop cascades, and larger falls and slides soon appeared over scoured bedrock. Large hemlocks rose over the hollow. What a gorgeous place.
We reached the top and headed east along the plateau rim, hoping to intersect the Trout Hollow Trail again. There were foggy hemlock forests and carpets of club moss over fractured bedrock boulders. We then reached a stunning boulder city, smooth and glistening as if they had been polished. Gowns of moss covered the tilted boulders. Large ledges loomed through the mist, hiding a small cave. More large hemlocks adorned this special place. A large spring bubbled from the forest floor and we soon reached the Trout Hole Trail. We followed the trail down to some large boulders, including Pacman Rock, and a delicate spring seep falls my friend Ryan called Ponytail Falls. Next to the falls was a unique mushroom rock formation.
We turned around and climbed up the plateau passing more mysterious, misty hemlock forests. The scenery was beautiful. At the top we reached a forest road, which we followed to the right. Hoagland Vista was fogged in and we soon reached the Browns Trail. We meandered down the trail when I heard a distinct waterfall. I looked to my right to see a hidden glen, incised it what appeared to be a large mound of dirt. There I saw a ten foot falls and fractured rock ledges. We followed Browns Trail, passing more large trees above a gorge. Stunning Swamp Run soon came into view.
Swamp Run is an amazing stream. A powerful slide and large pool greeted us. The run featured numerous falls, cascades, and pools over bedrock. It is one of the state forest’s best kept secrets. We hiked upstream to impressive Triple Falls and then back down to powerful Emerald Falls as it hurtled over an overhanging ledge. The creek was powerful, and incredibly beautiful. We bypassed a landslide and reached Hoagland Branch. We could have followed an unblazed trail back to the road, but we decided to ford the frigid stream. My feet froze in the water as I battled the current. We made it across safely and followed the forest road along Hoagland Branch as waterfalls tumbled down the gorge into pools darkened by the deepening twilight.
What a special place.
Map of Loyalsock State Forest that shows these streams.