One hike I’ve always enjoyed was the Allegheny Ridge loop along the Loyalsock Trail. It offers a good view, ridgetop walking, small streams, and beautiful forests. If you begin from PA 87, there is also a killer climb with some big rocks and a view, although I did not hike that section on this trip.
I returned to do a variation of the hike no. 52 in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”. I decided to do a loop, beginning from the forestry buildings along Little Bear Creek Rd., and then returning via the Graff Woolever Trail. I hiked part of the Graff Woolever Trail years ago and always wanted to complete it.
I reached the new and very large trailhead parking area, where I followed the Loyalsock Trail (LT). The morning sun was rising, sending shafts of light through the still forest and across the white snow. The trail steadily climbed up a hollow with a small stream. Large pine and tulip poplar trees towered overhead. The trail steepened and the snow and ice made it slow going. Again, the forests were beautiful with lots of birch, pine, and hemlock. The trail leveled and veered right onto a snowmobile trail. After a short climb, the LT turned left, leaving the wide snowmobile trail, and followed the crest of the ridge. I was soon treated to a superb view looking south from the ridge. Fields adorned rolling foothills as ridges rose in the distance. It was a beautiful view in the bright winter sunshine. I took a break to watch the cars and homes far below. A campsite was nearby. The trail continued along the ridge and then dropped into a valley, only to return to the ridge with some rock outcrops. It was a great walk with some nice views through the trees. The LT veered right and dropped from the ridge, following another snowmobile trail. Hemlocks filled the dark forests as small streams meandered across the trail.
The LT left the snowmobile trail to the left, I continued straight. After a quarter mile or less, I turned left onto the Graff Woolever Trail, marked by a “GW Trail” sign and blue blazes. The trail was in good shape although it may be brushy in summer. It was a glorious woodland trail as it parsed laurel, pine, and hemlocks. I soon heard a stream to my right. The trail bent right at a triple blaze (avoid the footpath to the left) and dropped into a beautiful stream valley with more hemlocks and some large trees. The blue trail continued downstream to a campsite with stone furniture and an elaborate fire ring. What an awesome place to spend the night, I thought.
But the blue blazes came to a sudden end and I was unsure where the trail went. I thought I saw some old footprints in the snow, which followed the creek. I did the same. The creek tumbled off the side of the mountain with many small cascades and the “trail” simply followed the creek. There was no sign of the trail with the snow, and I began to wonder if I was following human, or bear, footprints. The terrain was quite steep. I began to wonder if I missed the trail somehow. Then an obvious old skid trail appeared; it was clearly the trail with cut logs, but still no blazes. While steep, it was a great trail as it closely followed the tumbling stream with many small waterfalls. I could see the distinctive peak of Smiths Knob through the trees. Near the bottom there were two stream crossings as rhododendrons crowded the trail, a nice treat since rhodos aren’t that common in the Loyalsock. I reached the bottom a little ways behind a cabin. The trail was indistinct, but I was close to the cabins and Little Bear Creek Rd. The trail veered right and crossed Little Bear Creek without a bridge, but I used the footbridge for one of the cabins. There was a sign for the Graff Woolever Trail along the road. I then walked a short distance along the road back to my car.
This was an excellent loop, 5-6 miles in length. Scenic campsites at the vista and the Graff Woolever Trail make this a great little overnight loop. The GW Trail is blazed and established well on the plateau, but its fairly steep along the creek, without blazes. Except for a short section, it follows an obvious old skid trail along the creek. Next time you are hiking this area of the Loyalsock State Forest, be sure to include the Graff Woolever Trail.
Map of the state forest which shows the Graff Woolever Trail on the left side of the map:
Keep in mind the Graff Woolever Trail is on the east or south side of the stream, not the west side as on the state forest map.