The Bear Creek Preserve is one of my favorite places to hike in the Wilkes-Barre area. It has over thirty miles of trails that feature streams, wetlands, waterfalls, big rocks, views, and rhododendron tunnels. My favorite loop at the preserve is about 8 miles long and explores Shades Creek.
I began at the parking area and followed the red trail near a kiosk. The trail featured green forests and fern meadows. I then turned left onto the grey trail as it crossed Shades Creek on a footbridge. The grey trail continued on a bank above the creek with extensive rhododendron tunnels and some large pine and hemlock trees. There was also a seasonal stream with a waterfall. I had hoped to see all the rhodo blooms. While I saw several flowers, this year’s blooms appeared to be small and not very common. Some blooms were past peak, others were just beginning. Regardless, this is a very beautiful section of trail. I dropped to Shades Creek, where there is another seasonal falls across the creek, hidden by rhododendrons.
The trail meandered from the creek, exploring a hemlock and moss forest with some wet areas. I returned to the creek. Soon, I hiked by several cascades, slides, and pools. The water was crystal clear. The skies threatened rain, but I remained dry. The clouds did bring out deep green hues in the forest.
I reached the largest cascades, about five feet tall with a deep pool. You can shorten the hike and cross the creek above the cascade to pick up the red trail; this is a wet crossing. There is no bridge. I followed the grey trail as it climbed from the creek to a grade and the purple trail, where I turned right. The purple trail was easy to follow. The trail dropped down through thickets of laurel and rhododendron to another purple trail at a “T” intersection, where I turned right. Here is Bear Creek and a deep pool. The trail crossed Shades Creek on stones under a scenic hemlock forest.
I turned right on the red trail as it explored more beautiful woodlands. The trail went near the same large cascade I was at earlier. The red trail then climbed gradually along rock outcrops and ledges. The forests were mostly hardwoods with ferns. Another large cliff soon loomed in the forest. A green trail joined from the left and I continued on the red trail. The net highlight was another footbridge over a small creek with a falls downstream from the trail. The clouds had lifted and the setting sun sent shafts of light through the misty woods. I then turned left on the green trail as it climbed gradually, and then a sharp right onto the orange trail as it explored the tops of ledges and cliffs before reaching a small view of the hills across Shades Creek. There is a deep crevasse in the rocks at this view. The orange trail features a lot of blueberry bushes, which offer berries in late summer, and red leaves in Autumn. I followed the orange trail back to the parking area just as it was getting dark.
The trails are well established, but do get brushy. There are no signs at trail junctures. The trails are marked with circular placards, with arrows, that are the color of the respective trail. I found the trails easy to follow, but you do need to keep an eye out for trail junctures to make sure you are following the right trail. The most confusing place is at the largest cascade on Shades Creek.
This is a great place to hike and the trails are well routed to take advantage of the scenery at the preserve. Bear Creek is one of many beautiful preserves and trails surrounding Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.