The Waterfalls of Hoagland – Loyalsock State Forest

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Waterfalls of Warburton Hollow

 

 

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.

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Moss covered ledges in a hemlock forest

 

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.

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Emerald Falls, Swamp Run

 

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.

More photos.

Map of Loyalsock State Forest that shows these streams.

Serenity Point, Drip Drop Falls, and Bowman Creek- SGL 57

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Drip Drop Falls

 

 

The Bowman Creek watershed between Noxen and Ricketts Glen is a hidden gem, even as hikers continue to explore and discover Pennsylvania’s multitude of special places.  This beautiful mountain valley combines isolation, views, cliffs, big rocks, lakes, streams, ruins, and waterfalls.  Unofficial trails reach some of these highlights, others remain unknown.  I recently embarked to make the unknown, known.

Between Wolf and Bean Runs, the plateau juts out.  I suspected something might be on the plateau rim.  I parked my car at Wolf Run, walked down the road, and turned right up the mountain to begin my bushwhack.  I soon encountered a slope littered with large boulders.  I passed an old grade that followed the contour of the mountain.  I followed this grade a short distance to a small stream, which I then followed up the mountain.

I soon reached Drip Drop Falls, a surprising falls, about 12 feet tall, as it tumbles over some ledges.  Other ledges and boulders surround the falls.  The creek was larger than I expected and appears to flow much of the year since it had a streambed of gravel and stone.  I turned east, following the rim of cliffs.  I soon found Serenity Point as it overlooked the Bowman Creek valley.  This spot was so peaceful as the roar of the creek filled the valley, which was untouched and undeveloped.  Hemlock forests lined the valley floor, 400 feet below.  While the bare forests gave it a stark appearance, I’m sure this view is stunning in the Autumn.  I sat at the vista, taking it all in.  This vista offers a closer view of the valley than the more well-known Wolf/Coyote Rocks view further to the east.  Serenity Point would be ideal to see the sunset.

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Serenity Point

 

I left and passed above Drip Drop Falls; it is rare to find a falls and view so close together.  I continued along the rim of cliffs under towering hardwoods and carpets of ground pine.  I came upon some other views, windows through the bare trees.  I then worked down the mountain back to the road.

I saw no point walking the road back when I knew there was a gorgeous unofficial trail along the nearby Bowman Creek.  I soon found this trail, used by mountain bikers I believe.  It is such an awesome hike, threading under hemlocks, through rhododendron, along pristine Bowman Creek with its pools and rapids.  Some of the hemlocks are old growth and fairly large.  I love this trail.

I returned to my car and drove down the road to check out Beth Run Falls, where Beth Run tumbles into Bowman Creek.  I met two ladies hiking, they mentioned there was an old bus hidden in the woods up the forest road, but I decided to check it out some other time.  Beth Run is a beautiful place and the perfect way to end my hike.

More photos.

Location of Serenity Point (exposed white ledge through the trees).

Where I parked.

 

Hall of Hemlocks, Cherry Run, and Beech Lake Loop

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Cherry Run

This is one of the most diverse dayhikes in the region, following both official and unofficial trails in SGL 57 and Ricketts Glen State Park.  This hike offers a taste of everything, from views, big rocks, lakes, wetlands, mountain streams, hemlock forests, gorges, and small waterfalls.  And the terrain is moderate in difficulty.
I started at the parking area along Bowmans Marsh and crossed the road into the state park, following an obvious, unblazed trail.  I continued along an old railroad grade with ties still in the ground.  The forests through here were very scenic, with deep hemlocks, carpets of moss, and ground pine.  Springs bubbled from the earth.  The trail followed the rim of the plateau, offering views through the trees.  I left the hemlocks and entered a bare hardwood forest, only to return to the hemlocks.  A gradual descent brought me to Cherry Run, where I followed one of the state park’s yellow blazed trails.
Cherry Run is a highlight of the hike as it tumbles down a gorge with rapids and small waterfalls.  It is very beautiful with hemlocks and moss covered boulders and ledges.  I took photos of a falls and pool under a huge overhanging ledge, before leaving the gorge and turning left onto a red blazed trail.  I hiked above Bowmans Creek and saw Mountain Springs Lake through the trees.  I was surprised; the lake had been drained, but does refill when enough water enters it.  The lake was peaceful as a fading sun reflected off of the water.
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View of Mountain Springs Lake

I explored some old foundations, remnants from the ice industry that existed here a century ago and hiked down the road to another trail.  I hiked back up the plateau through scenic woodlands as large boulders and ledges loomed to the right.  I looked across the valley to see a large cliff rising through the trees; I made a mental note to explore it in the future.  I reached the top, hiking along the top of the cliffs with several views of the valley below.  Mountain Springs Lake reflected like silver in the setting sun as clouds spread across the sky.
My next stop was Beech Lake, a special, hidden lake that is one of the few, undeveloped natural lakes in the state.  The clear water revealed the rocks and gravel at the bottom.  The sun faded into the bare trees as I hurried back to the car, trying to keep at bay the cold, crisp temperature.
More photos.
Parts of this hike are described in MidAtlanticHikes.com and Hike Nos. 27, 28, and 29 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.

Bartlett Mountain Balds, White Brook Falls, and Bowman Hollow Falls

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Bowman Hollow Falls

A couple years ago I met Mike at Prowl the Sproul.  We hiked Round Island Run in the Sproul State Forest, which remains as one of my most memorable dayhikes.  Rhododendron was in full bloom, filling the forest with white and pinkish blossoms.  The blooms covered the entire mountainside.  The gorge was deep and green, feeling like a rainforest.  Crystal clear waters danced between moss covered boulders as Round Island Falls tumbled over slick ledges.  And just in case the hike wasn’t beautiful enough, there were impressive views over the winding canyons of the Sinnemahoning Creek.
Mike recently mentioned he was coming up to SGL 57 to do some hiking and wanted to see the Bartlett Mountain Balds.  It doesn’t take much for me to want to hike up to the balds, so I was happy to lead him.  The weather was warm, misty, and humid.  It was summer in December, with temperatures near 70 degrees.  As we made the long hike up the mountain, we were soon sweating.  White Brook roared below.  Using my new route that follows trails almost all the way to the balds, we made good time.  However, huge puddles covered parts of the trail, resulting in wet feet.
I have been to, and described, the balds many times.  For me it is a special place, a place set apart.  We poked around the base of the balds, under rock overhangs, between jumbled boulders, and past caves.  A scramble up a ledge brought us to the balds.
Compared to my October hike, when the balds were filled with color and carpets of bright red, this hike was stark but no less beautiful.  The spruce trees added a deep green to the bare trees and exposed white bedrock.  The air was warm and moist as clouds sailed overhead.  We sat to eat as the wind whispered between the spruce trees.  The silence was incredible, with only the distant tapping of a woodpecker.
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Bartlett Mountain Balds

We continued along the north rim of the balds.  I love it through here.  Spruce forests surround smaller balds above chasms and cliffs of bedrock.  It does not look like Pennsylvania.  SGL 57 has the largest mountaintop spruce forests in the state.  We turned around.  The white conglomerate bedrock was wet, reflecting like silver in the muted, misty sunlight.  We followed bear trails, featuring depressions where the bears have consistently stepped for generations, following the same routes to look for food.  This place is wild.
Our next goal was to see Spruce Ridge, but the short daylight would not allow it.  So we headed back down and decided to check out White Brook Falls.  White Brook is a beautiful, tumbling mountain stream featuring non-stop cascades over and around moss covered boulders.  The water was incredibly clear and pristine.  The bushwhack down the stream was tough with fallen trees and unstable, slick rocks.  We soon reached White Brook Falls, notable for its spout of falling water.  It is a very graceful falls.  In high water, a curtain of water also slides down to the left.  We continued down the creek, enjoying all the cascades and water slides.  The hike back to the car flushed a ring-neck pheasant that avoided us by running through the fields with remarkable stealth.
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White Brook Falls

Our final stop was to see Bowman Hollow Falls outside the village of Forkston.  This is an impressive 40-50 foot falls in an even more impressive grotto of white cliffs.  The creek features non-stop slides, pools, and cascades over red bedrock.  A true gem.
We soon went our separate ways.  I think Mike really enjoyed this journey through SGL 57, and I’m sure it will not be his last.
More photos.

Rattlesnake Falls, Pinchot State Forest

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Rattlesnake Falls

 

 

The Pinchot State Forest has grown to include thousands of acres between Montage Mountain and the Nesbitt Reservoir.  Within this new state forest land is Rattlesnake Falls.

 

I parked off of Route 502 and the trail followed an old forest road above the Nesbitt Reservoir.  Several other old grades intersected.  The trail was level through a forest of hardwoods, pine, and hemlock.  I saw the reservoir through the trees as it stretched off into the distance between rolling ridges.  The trail soon entered a glen above Rattlesnake Creek.  The falls appeared, and they were very beautiful.  While only about fifteen feet high, there were encased in a chasm with overhanging ledges surrounding a deep pool.  A large tree trunk was lodged into the pool.  The water was clear, translucent.  The chasm appeared like a deep fault in the forest floor, hiding the creek that flowed through it.  Large pools and cascades were below the falls, adorned with swirling bubbles.

 

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Above the falls were a series of pools, slides, and cascades that tumbled over slick bedrock.   A wall of hand lain stone lined the other side of the creek, once a support for a bridge.  Large pine trees soared into the sky as a carpet of needles covered the ground.  Rattlesnake Creek was very scenic above the falls, lined with moss covered rocks.

 

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Nesbitt Reservoir

 

 

I retraced my steps, leaving the glen and its falls.  I walked down to the reservoir to take pictures of the glass-still water under warm, misty clouds, perfectly reflecting the trees and mountains.

 

More photos.

 

Location of the falls.

Choke Creek Exploration- Pinchot State Forest

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Choke Creek Falls

 

Over the past several years, the Pinchot State Forest (formerly called the Lackawanna State Forest) has grown dramatically to almost 50,000 acres in size.  The Pinchot Trail explores the state forest.  When the trail was laid out in the 1970s, it basically followed the state forest boundary at the time.  There has been some discussion to relocate parts of the Pinchot Trail to take advantage of the fine scenery on this new state forest land.  One potential re-route is to follow Choke Creek from Butler Run to the present location of the Pinchot Trail.  So on a sunny Sunday, I headed up Choke Creek to see what I could find.
I followed a trail to Choke Creek Falls and passed a family out for a hike.  I had this beautiful 20 foot falls all to myself and took some pictures.  The falls has two drops and tumbles into a deep pool.  Downstream was a large beaver dam and pond.
I continued upstream through teaberry and low brush along a faint trail.  I passed another waterslide in the creek.  I stayed in the woods to avoid blueberry thickets and wet meadows.  In places I had a view across the meadows, through which the meandering Choke Creek flowed.  Beaver dams continued along the creek.  Due to the wet conditions, I had to keep distance from the meadows, but enjoyed beautiful forests of pine and spruce.  Some of the trees were quite large.  The setting reminded me of the West Canada Lake Wilderness in the Adirondacks.
I had to circumvent another boggy area, but returned to the creek to see it meander between grassy sedges.  I continued to hike upstream.  The creek had more gradient, with rapids and pools.  I was able to hike closer to the creek since the ground wasn’t so wet.  I passed a couple of cascading waterslides.  The forests became even more beautiful with huge white pine trees and  spruce.   The auburn needles coated the forest floor.  The forests were darker, with moss and some rhododendron.  Up ahead was a larger waterslide that fed a pool.  It was a great spot.  I continued up along the creek as it babbled below me.  Some places really reminded me of the Adirondacks.   I encountered a few more wet spots but soon reached the Pinchot Trail and had a bite to eat at a campsite overlooking the creek.  I returned back to my car along the trail; I felt like I was flying as compared to the bushwhacking I had to do along the creek.
This section of Choke Creek is very beautiful and diverse.  The terrain was easy and the brush wasn’t too impenetrable.  Some wet areas will require any trail to be kept away from the creek; in other places, the trail can be close to it.  Besides the creek, I really enjoyed the spruce and pine forests, and the diverse habitats.  This route would make an excellent addition to the Pinchot Trail.
More photos.

Rough Hill Trail and Sandy Bottom- Loyalsock State Forest

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View from the Rough Hill Trail

Fifteen years ago I went on a guided hike scheduled by the Alpine Club of Williamsport up Rough Hill to enjoy its views.  The hike was led by the indomitable Ruth Rode, a passionate hiking and trail advocate after whom Rode Falls is named.  I remember being surprised by how nice the views were, but over the years I recalled little from the hike.   When I learned a new trail was built up Rough Hill, I was excited to revisit.

The yellow blazed Rough Hill Trail begins at the large parking area at Sandy Bottom.  I followed an old woods road until the trail veered right, passing a vernal pond off to the right and climbing to PA 87.  The trail crosses PA 87, so be careful.  I climbed more steeply along narrow sidehill across slopes of loose rock.  The trail leveled off under some ledges.  I was struck by the beauty of the forest- there were pine, hemlock, laurel, and carpets of moss.  The hemlock was moderately healthy.  Look for a small cairn and a side trail to the right; this juncture is easy to miss.  This yellow blazed trail lead to a nice view over the valley from a rock outcrop.  Don’t stop here, because the upper view is a must-see.

I returned to the main trail and continued the gradual climb as the trail curved through the woods.  I soon reached the loop.  If you go left, the climb is gradual, but the descent to complete the loop will be steeper and rockier.  If you go to the right, you will encounter the opposite.  I went left, climbing along an old grade.  The trail turned right below some ledges and scenic forests of hardwoods, pine, hemlock, and laurel.   Level hiking resumed and soon brought me to the upper view and I was impressed.  Aside from one house in the valley, the view was undisturbed.  Tiers of plateaus descended into the valley; I could hear the Loyalsock Creek far below.  What makes this view unique is the distinctive peak of Smiths Knob in the distance.  This view is superior to either of the Alpine Views on the Loyalsock Trail.  This would be the perfect place to see a sunset.

I sat in the sun to enjoy the scenery.  Old hemlocks and pine framed the overlook.  It was a beautiful, serene place.  A red tailed hawk circled endlessly above me.  Cirrus clouds spread across the blue sky.

I left the vista, vowing to return.  I continued on the loop as it followed the edge of the plateau above ledges and boulders.  A sharp descent between the ledges followed.  The trail continued to descend over rocks.  To the right were jumbled boulders, and one distinct cave opening.  The trail picked up a narrow grade and I soon completed the loop.  I returned to Sandy Bottom the way I came.

 

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Spruce forest at Sandy Bottom

Back at Sandy Bottom, I turned right on the old woods road I initially followed.  Sandy Bottom has a remarkable diverse forest of maple, sycamore, red pine, white pine, spruce, and other hardwoods.  Some of the trees are quite large.  In years to come, this can become an impressive old growth forest.   The old road neared the Loyalsock Creek.  I walked along the huge pristine creek and its clear, long pools to take in the impressive canyon-like scenery.  I followed bear tracks along the shore.  The creek had the sweet, moist smell of a summer day.  I tried to take pictures of the deep, clear current rolling over the stones in the creek.  After hiking the Rough Hill Trail, take some time to explore Sandy Bottom, it is just as beautiful while offering a different perspective.

 

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Loyalsock Creek at Sandy Bottom

On the way home, I stopped by High Knob Overlook to see the sun melt into the clouds as the purple of twilight rose from the horizon.  Another great day in one of my favorite places, the Loyalsock State Forest.

 

Trail map and brochure

More photos