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

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