Hike along South Brook, SGL 57


South Brook

With the cooler weather, I’ve returned to SGL 57 to explore more of its hidden places.  My recent hike took me to South Brook, an isolated stream valley deep in the wilderness of the game lands.  My plan was to explore South Brook, a tributary with a falls, and some cliffs and rock outcrops with the hope of finding a view.

Falls on South Brook at outlet of swamp

We hiked along a gated road until we reached a large wetland through which South Brook flowed.  We entered the woods and hiked the perimeter of the wetlands and reached the outlet of the swamp where there was a surprisingly scenic seven foot falls.  Downstream the creek was beautiful, but surrounded by thick spruce.  This place did not feel like PA.  Boulders and rapids filled the gorgeous stream and we had to be careful since all the rocks were slick.  The spruce proved to be too impenetrable, so we found an old grade west of South Brook that we followed until the forest opened up.  We then resumed hiking along South Brook as it bounced down the valley with rapids, pools, and boulders.

Birch Falls

We reached a sidestream and hiked up it, where a 30 foot falls soon came into view as it tumbled down a fractured ledge.  It was a beautiful spot.  Ryan claimed he smelled birch, so we called this Birch Falls.  We then followed the edge of the plateau, passing some rock outcrops, but no views.  Ahead was an odd blueberry meadow that appeared to be a very shallow bog with water over the bedrock.  We made our way through the blueberry thicket and returned to open woods.  A descent to a stream valley followed.  Soon, giant ledges and cliffs loomed above us with overhanging slabs of rock.  It was impressive.  The place appeared to be filled with natural rock shelters.  Above was a partial view across the plateau and valley.  Most of the trees were bare, but the understory was still filled with color.  We continued along the edge, with more cliffs and outcrops, but no more views.  We made our way down.  If I were to hike this again, I would stay at the base of these cliffs to see all the caves and overhangs.

Next was the descent back to South Brook.  We soon returned to the stream ad hiked up it.  This is a beautiful creek, filled with boulders, pools, and rapids.  Cascades slid from boulder to boulder.  Surprisingly, there was little damage from the floods that struck several years ago.  This was a serene, beautiful place that was a pleasure to hike and explore.

View from a cliff

I returned to the old grade to bypass the thick spruce and retraced my steps back to the car.  A great day in the woods.

South Brook

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If you’re feeling adventurous, this is how to explore South Brook.  There are no official trails, and some old forest grades.

  1. Park here.  The road gate to reach this parking area is open from mid-September to February.  41.412984, -76.164307
  2. Hike gated forest road to here.  41.394719, -76.184189
  3. Enter woods, hike around wetland to falls located near here: 41.396824, -76.185766
  4. Hike down South Brook, very scenic but the spruce is thick.  You can use an old grade on the west side of the brook to bypass the spruce.
  5. Reach tributary at: 41.405330, -76.194365
  6. Birch Falls is at: 41.405914, -76.193010
  7. Wet blueberry thicket with cliffs and partial views: 41.410916, -76.198505
  8. Vista with beautiful rock outcrops, cliffs, and overhangs.  41.416315, -76.196322
  9. Cliffline extends to about here, explore the base of the cliffs, no more worthwhile views.  41.417184, -76.202086
  10. Descend to South Brook about here: 41.416439, -76.209972
  11. Hike up the beautiful stream with its boulders, rapids, cascades, and pools back to where you left the road. (No. 3 above).

Pine Island Vista-PA Grand Canyon


Pine Island Vista

I’ve always wanted to check out the elusive Pine Island Vista in the PA Grand Canyon.  Its view seemed unlike any other in the canyon, rising dramatically straight up from Pine Creek, with the other side of canyon so close.  To the north, the steep slopes of the canyon were cloaked in shadows as the creek flowed deep within the plateau.  Unlike the other vistas, it seemed inaccessible, far from any road or official trail.  It was located deep in the gorge.  I finally found enough info to try to find it.

Pine Island Vista

I parked along Claymine Road in the Tioga State Forest at a parking area large enough for about three cars.  An obvious, unblazed trail descended to Pine Island Run.  At first the trail was wide, but it narrowed as I descended under a forest of large hardwoods.  The descent was consistent and never very steep.  I reached an intersection of another old grade above Pine Island Run, with another trail (let’s call this the side trail) to the right (a potential route to the vista by hiking counterclockwise, although I did not hike it).  I followed the trail as it beared left, following an old, overgrown grade with blowdowns.  The trail was still there, but not as obvious.

The trail descended, crossed a sidestream above a seasonal falls and descended to Pine Island Run.  The trail now followed the creek, usually staying on the right/northwest side, but there were some stream crossings.  The trail was faint, but could still be followed.  Pine Island Run was mostly dry, but when it has water it would be very scenic with cascades, bedrock pools and slides.   I reached a grotto of bedrock ledges, hemlocks, and cascades.  Very beautiful.  From here, the trail is not evident as it follows the creek down; again, the right side appears to have the more reasonable terrain.  The beauty only improves as the run enters a gorge with fractured cliffs, long bedrock slides, and two waterfalls about ten feet tall.  I made my way down along the bedrock of the creekbed.  Needless to say, do not hike along Pine Island Run in high water.

Pine Island Run

Pine Island Run wasn’t done as it dropped further into its gorge as cliffs rose above.  I reached the top of a stunning waterfall, if there were water, which had three drops over a long, steep slide.  I made may way along the right of the run, across eroded, steep banks below the cliffs.  I then picked up an old grade and the Pine Creek bike trail soon came into view.  Before reaching the bike trail, an obvious trail went straight up the ridge to my right-the trail to the vista.  First, I enjoyed taking a break along Pine Creek at the bottom of the canyon.  What a beautiful place.   It was quiet and serene.  Minnows darted in a pool next to me.  I then noticed shiny threads drifting through the air, reflecting the sunlight as if electric.  They were spider webs, launched by baby spiders to catch the wind so they could float away.  Something I had not seen before, it was magical.

Pine Creek, bottom of the gorge

I left Pine Creek and began the grueling climb up the unblazed trail.  It was steep with loose rock and followed the spine of the ridge.  A hawk pierced the canopy.  At times, the trail split and rejoined along the steep spine.  I continued the aching climb.  This view better be worth it, I thought.  Steep slopes went down to Pine Creek on one side, and Pine Island Run on the other.  I could see the canyon through the trees.  The terrain eased a little and soon I reached the view, where I disturbed a dozen turkey vultures, flying into the air.

The vista was stunning, and I think it is the best view of the canyon.  It was completely serene with virtually no sign of development, other than a small, distant antenna.  Here, the canyon is quite narrow and cliffs rise hundreds of feet directly above the creek.  These are true cliffs, so be careful along the rim.  I was impressed.  The other side of the canyon seemed so close.  Looking north, Pine Creek disappeared into the shadows of the canyon.  The vultures flew around and below me.  A distant crow squawked.  Red pine trees grew along the cliffs.

I finally forced myself to leave, and decided to explore the trail that went further up the ridge, hoping to find the side trail I passed when I first reached Pine Island Run.  This would make a loop and avoid the steep descent back down the way I climbed, I thought.  The trail was in good shape and easy to follow, passing a few more smaller views of the canyon.  The trail leveled, widened and was easy to follow as it went along the rim and entered a beautiful forest of pine and hemlock with some large trees.  I couldn’t find the side trail I hoped to follow to make a loop and the trail I was on went too far north; I presumed it lead into private property.  So, using my GPS I bushwhacked back to where I first passed that side trail.  At first it was easy hiking, but as usual, I had to traverse a very steep slope back to the run and the trail I was on before.

I did hike the side trail for a little ways; it was an established footpath and it appears its only purpose would be to reach the vista.  It is also the route as described in Chuck Dillon’s Pine Creek gorge hiking guide.  If this trail leads to the vista, it would make an incredible loop and an easier alternative route to the vista.

I climbed up the trail back to my car along Claymine Road, fulfilled with the hike.  To see the true majesty of the PA Grand Canyon, go to Pine Island Vista.

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How to hike to Pine Island Vista.

  1. Park along Claymine Road in the Tioga State Forest.  N 41 37.885  W 077 23.728
  2. Hike obvious, unblazed trail down to a grade above Pine Island Run. N 41 37.614  W 077 24.296
  3. The side trail is to the right (possible alternate route to the vista, I did not hike it)
  4. Continue left on grade above Pine Island Run.  Trail is less obvious, but can be followed.
  5. Descend to and cross the run.  Trail stays mostly on right bank, but there are several stream crossings.  Nettle will be an issue in summer.
  6. Pine Island Run enters a beautiful gorge, trail disappears.  Easier terrain is primarily on the right.  Cliffs, pools, waterfalls, and waterslides make this very scenic. Terrain is steep.  Do not hike this section in high water as it would be very dangerous.
  7. Pick up an old grade.
  8. You can see the Pine Creek rail trail.  Turn right on a steep trail to the vista.  N 41 36.629  W 077 24.412
  9. Vista is located at N 41 36.911  W 077 24.603
  10. Obvious trail continues above vista along the rim and continues north.
  11. I left this trail at N 41 37.568  W 077 24.709
  12. I presume this trail goes into private land.  The side trail may join it at some point.  If so, this would make an excellent loop hike.

Frozen Run Gorge, Masten, and the Loyalsock State Forest


Frozen Run Gorge, Loyalsock State Forest

My friend Mike recently invited me to the Loyalsock State Forest over Columbus Day weekend for some hiking and camping with his friends.  He dangled a hike to Frozen Run to entice me.  Since I couldn’t find a shuttle to hike the Donut Hole Trail, I thought, why not?

Frozen Run

As many of you may now know, Frozen Run Gorge is a pretty special spot.  We went there back in April and vowed to return.  This hike proved to be even more beautiful.  Despite the dry weather, Frozen Run still had water as it tumbled over cascades and between large boulders.  Boulder Falls was a treat as always, except a tree decided to fall across it.  The hike up to the vista was a little grueling as we bypassed large boulders, saw the cave, and soon made it to the top.  The vista was simply spectacular.  In the state forest, only High Knob can rival this view and this is the finest view that can only be reached by hiking.  Colors were popping at the higher elevations, with vivid reds and oranges.  Deeper in the gorge, the trees were still green.  All of Mike’s friends loved the view.  It truly is breathtaking since it allows you to look straight down the gorge as the Pickenville Mountain cliffs are off to the left and broad, rolling plateaus are in the distance.  The cliff rim revealed some more views as we made our way back to the car.

Rob at Boulder Falls

We followed a similar route as in this trip report, only in reverse: https://endlessmountains.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/the-wonders-of-frozen-run-gorge-loyalsock-state-forest/

Kara and Mike

I then decided I wanted to check out some rock outcrops south of Bodine Mountain Road.  Rob, one of Mike’s friends, offered to join me.  We were soon treated to a cliff rim with deep crevices and even a view across the top of the plateau.  Although not nearly as impressive as the view down Frozen Run Gorge, it was great to see the superb fall colors.  We made our way around the cliff rim with more rock outcrops, but no more views.  The east side of this cliff rim had large, jumbled boulders, overhangs, and a formation that looked like Stonehenge.  This was a unique formation, flat on one side, but angled like the bow of a ship on the other, as it supported a flat boulder.   PA has so many places of hidden beauty.

Inside Stonehenge Rock

We drove back to Masten to camp for the night.  I’ve been to Masten many times, but don’t recall ever camping there, or if I did, it was over ten years ago.  We sat around the fire and tried to help Mike take some nighttime photography.  I love Masten, it is so peaceful and serene, nestled in a deep, wooded, isolated valley.  I should camp there more often.

Big Hollow Pond

The next morning, I said goodbye to the others as I scouted the access of two vistas I hope to explore in the future.  I then made a roadtrip across the Loyalsock State Forest, stopping by Big Hollow Pond, Dry Run Falls, High Knob Overlook, and Upper Alpine Vista.

Another great weekend in the sublime Loyalsock State Forest.

Upper Alpine Vista, Loyalsock Trail

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David Lewis, Bellefonte Posse, and Kunes Camp Trail Loop- Quehanna Wild Area



Crossing an autumn meadow on the Bellefonte Posse Trail.



After leading a hike for the Keystone Trails Association’s Quehanna Elk Quest hiking event on the beautiful Fred Woods Trail, I decided to drive to the Quehanna Wild Area and hike some new trails.  My plan was to do a loop including the David Lewis, Bellefonte Posse, Kunes Camp, Ligament, and Twister Trails.  This loop is roughly 9 miles long and the terrain is level or rolling with some wet areas.

Meadows with ferns on fire

I parked along the Quehanna Highway at a lot across the road from where Wykoff Road meets.  This is also an elk viewing area.   It was a beautiful cool, sunny day as I began the hike along the David Lewis Trail.  I followed a grade past the restrooms, turned right on another grade, and followed the trail to the left into the woods.  The trail was level and easy as it explored gorgeous forests of spruce, open hardwoods, and then a combination of spruce and hardwoods.  The trail also crossed a wet meadow with snowgrass and ferns that were a deep orange.  As I headed west, I crossed a few small meadows and then entered another spruce forest.  I reached a sign for the Bellefonte Posse Trail, where I turned left.  (Note: if hiking east on this trail it is very easy to miss a turn and cross an electric line swath.  If you cross the swath, turn around and look for the discreet turn that would have been on the right).

Love the Quehanna forests

This was a great trail as it explored a stunning moss and spruce forest with some old camp ruins.  I then crossed a large meadow as a stream flowed to the right with more white snowgrass.  The scenery was great.  I climbed away from the creek back into the woods until I reached a grassy forest grade.  The grade crossed a stream and then I turned right onto the Kunes Camp Trail.

Beautiful spruce/hardwood forests along David Lewis Trail

This trail was the focus of the hike, to see the odd ruins of a hunting camp between two massive boulders.  The trail, however, would prove to be scenic even without that feature.  I dropped into a valley with large boulders and reached a small stream that would have cascades and rapids with higher flows.  I entered a laurel jungle with pine and hemlock along the stream.  It was a beautiful place.  There were also places to camp along the creek.  I really enjoyed hiking this section.  The trail turned up another stream valley, but kept its distance from the creek.  There were more fern meadows and pine forests, with some nice sized trees.  I came across a plump porcupine as it waddled down the trail and clawed its way up a tree.  I hiked up from the creek and passed a mossy spring.  Up ahead I could see the ruins.  This was a fascinating spot with the stone walls placed between two huge boulders; other boulders were nearby, creating a rock city.  The trail went through the doorways of the ruins.  I took some photos and was soon on my way through more glorious forests to the Quehanna Highway.

Incredible spruce/moss forests along the Bellefonte Posse Trail

I turned left along the highway and followed it to the Twister and then the Ligament Trails; it would be easier to just to follow the highway, but both trails were easy forest hikes with some wildflower meadows.  As I neared the Quehanna Highway, I heard an eerie call.  It echoed through the trees repeatedly.  A coyote?  A loon?   No, it was a bull elk bugling.  I knew where it was, at the elk viewing area near where I parked.  I ran down the trail to see it.  I reached the viewing blind and there it was- a huge bull elk with massive antlers in the middle of the field behind some trees.  It was too far away to get a good photo.  This majestic animal moved with such powerful grace and soon returned to the forest, slipping between the trees in silence.  I was in an excited awe.

The Quehanna Wild Area is one of PA’s best kept hiking and backpacking secrets, featuring miles of beautiful trails with diverse habitats and forests, views, big rocks, cascades, meadows, and jungles of laurel and rhododendron.  It is isolated, a place set apart.  A place you must explore and experience.

Big bull elk


Map of the Quehanna Wild Area, showing the trails of this hike in the center of the map:

Click to access dcnr_009418.pdf


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