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