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.
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.
Location of parking area where I began.
Parts of this hike are described in MidAtlanticHikes.com and Hike Nos. 27, 28, and 29 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.