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.
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 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.
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.
How to hike to Pine Island Vista.
- Park along Claymine Road in the Tioga State Forest. N 41 37.885 W 077 23.728
- Hike obvious, unblazed trail down to a grade above Pine Island Run. N 41 37.614 W 077 24.296
- The side trail is to the right (possible alternate route to the vista, I did not hike it)
- Continue left on grade above Pine Island Run. Trail is less obvious, but can be followed.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pick up an old grade.
- 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
- Vista is located at N 41 36.911 W 077 24.603
- Obvious trail continues above vista along the rim and continues north.
- I left this trail at N 41 37.568 W 077 24.709
- 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.