Sawtooth Trail, Cold Run Waterfalls, Turtle Rock, and Vinegar Run- Worlds End State Park and Loyalsock State Forest

Sawtooth Trail follows top of these ledges

I remember, many years ago, opening the old green state park map of Worlds End for the first time and seeing the waterfalls and vistas and trails.  It was as if I had been given a key to a whole new world, one that I never knew existed.  I had to see these places, I thought.  After hiking all the trails at Worlds End, I moved onto the surrounding Wyoming (now Loyalsock) State Forest.  Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in Worlds End State Park and the Loyalsock State Forest.  For a while, it was really the only place I seemed to hike and both remain among my favorite places I’ve ever visited.  But after a while, I moved on to new destinations.  However, it is always great to find out that Worlds End and the Loyalsock still have secrets I never knew existed.

Sawtooth Trail

I recently learned of an unmarked, unsigned, and unofficial trail called the Sawtooth Trail, which explores the crest of conglomerate boulders from the Rock Garden to the Link Trail.  I drove up to Canyon Vista and parked, walked back to the Rock Garden, bearing right on the trail that goes in between the rocks.  I walked the top of the rocks to the end, and with a little effort, found a trail to the left.  This trail had a tread I could follow, as it meandered through the woods and soon brought me to huge boulders and deep crevices, as large as the Rock Garden.  The trail stayed on the top of the rocks, revealing deep green hemlock forests with moss and ground pine.  The forests were beautiful.  The rocks were even more amazing.  There were dripping springs and ice flows.  Large square boulders broke off creating passages.  The scenery only got better as I followed the edge of a series of triangular ledges, jutting into the forest.  This was the namesake of the trail, as they appear to be the teeth of a saw.  The bedrock was milky white, tinged with moss, perfectly straight and angled.  The trail continued along the cliffs and ledges; sometimes the trail was a little hard to follow, but with a little effort, I found it again.  The forest continued its beauty.  As I headed east, the ledges became smaller and then the trail dropped below them.  I soon reached the Link Trail.

Triangular outcrops, Sawtooth Trail

The Sawtooth Trail is an excellent trail, and you can make a great loop by following the Link Trail back to Canyon Vista, but that was not to be my route on this hike.  I went off trail and continued along the cliffs to the east.  There were some cool outcrops, but nothing that rivaled the Sawtooth Trail.  I soon reached Cold Run Road.  I wasn’t sure where to go.  I came upon Cold Run and decided to see what the creek had to offer.  I followed it down to a series of waterfalls and cascades.  I was impressed by the scenery as the creek tumbled down ledges and boulders.  I was going to turn around, but something told me to explore more.  I went down the steep slope to see more falls.  A stream joined from the left, with more cascades in a deepening gorge.  Wow, I thought.  Below was a 15 foot falls, and further down, was another 15 foot cascade over mossy bedrock ledges, surrounded by springs.  The ice flows must be amazing when it’s cold, I thought.  I hiked back up the steep gorge as my legs burned.  I hiked below a colorful rock outcrop and returned to Cold Run Road.

Sawtooth Trail

I decided to go off trail again to explore another escarpment of ledges that brought me to the Worlds End Trail with all its boulder mazes and outcrops.  I explored the tunnel and then returned to Canyon Vista.

Cold Run

I had another place to visit, another unofficial trail above Vinegar Run, which led to a formation called Turtle Rock.  I found the place to park, but no sign of a trail, so I bushwhacked to the edge of a series of impressive cliffs in a hemlock forest, adorned with rhododendron, a rarity in the Loyalsock.  The terrain was surprisingly rugged and beautiful.  I came upon Turtle Rock; part of the outcrop does resemble the head of a turtle with an eye and pupil.  The ledges continued under hemlocks until I reached private property.  I dropped down to Vinegar Run and hiked up it, passing rapids and a secret campsite.  The highlight was a beautiful falls over fractured, mossy bedrock.  I saw a grade above me and hiked up to it; it was the Link Trail.  I was exhausted, so I was happy to find a real trail.  I hiked it to Cold Run Road and returned to my car.

Tunnel on Worlds End Trail

This was an amazing day exploring new places in the Loyalsock.  Sawtooth Trail was awesome, Cold Run was beautiful, and Turtle Rock was a special place hidden among cliffs and hemlocks.  The Loyalsock still has secrets.

More photos.

Turtle Rock

 

Vinegar Run

 

 

How to find the Sawtooth Trail…

  1. Where it begins at the end of the Rock Garden, above Canyon Vista.  N 41 27.677  W 76 34.426
  2. Where it ends at the Link Trail.  N 41 27.537  W 76 33.910

Location of Cold Run Waterfalls (there are many cascades, here are two):

  1. Falls below where the two forks meet:  N 41 27.621  W 76 33.436  andN41 27.675  W 76 33.307

Cold Run

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The Lost Mine, The Caves, Moss Chasm, and a Crazy Compass-SGL 57

Lost Mine

I recently learned of a second, little-known mine on Dutch Mountain.  With some general directions, I set out to find it.  I parked at the parking lot of the popular mine and followed a series of trails and old logging roads as they passed spruce and hemlock forests, and small streams.  The trail took me into a deep spruce forest and ended right at the “Lost Mine”.  Nestled under a cliff and free of a graffiti, the lost mine almost appeared to be a natural cave.  Moss covered ledges and boulders surrounded the mine.  There were some old, heavy metal remnants of the mining operations, covered in rust.  A small spring dribbled out of the entrance.  The entrance was a little smaller than the popular mine, but it looked like you could walk back into it, although I did not.  I could see ice formations reflecting the daylight from deep within.

Caves, chasms

Finding the lost mine was so easy, I decided to do more exploring.  I followed the escarpment of rocks and ledges to the east, passing a small six foot waterfall and some cool ice flows.  I knew there were some ledges to the east, but I was not expecting much.  Moss covered the forest floor as spruce rose above me.  But there was something strange, my compasses would not work properly at the mine- north pointed east, west, and south.  Mysterious.  Even as I walked away from the mine, my compasses still went haywire. Were there minerals or metals in the rocks that manipulated the compass?

The Caves

I reached some incredible bedrock chasms, mazes, passageways, and caves.  Springs dripped from everywhere over the white, pebbly conglomerate rock.  Moss adorned the rocks as ice draped over them.  I headed north along the escarpment to see more unique rock features, as webs of roots spread over the ledges, looking for a place to hold.

The Caves

This hike was becoming much nicer than I was expecting as I passed another bedrock chasm.  I pushed further, to see a deep opening where a massive boulder separated from the cliff.  Below I couldn’t believe my eyes, deep caves and passageways between the 40 foot high boulders.  These boulders created rock houses and shelters.  It was stunning.  I explored the different passageways and crevices as the monstrous boulders loomed above me.  I wasn’t brave enough to go into the dark cave itself.  I called this primeval place The Caves.  I sat there, amazed by the scenery.  It was like a lost world, isolated, pristine.  Miles from anywhere.  A light snow began to fall.  I pushed further to see more rock outcrops, I then turned around.  I came upon a long, 10 foot deep chasm, carpeted with deep, green moss and sinewy roots.  Blocks of bedrock were slowly separating, creating all these chasms, crevices, and caves.  My compasses still did not work properly, the place still felt mysterious, but not malevolent.  Regardless, I thought it was time to leave.

I left The Caves and bushwhacked south to Red Brook, passing old growth hemlocks towering through the forest.  I dropped down to Red Brook and hiked up along it, with its many rapids and cascades.  I then reached the second falls on Red Brook and its impressive grotto of rock with many glacial blue ice columns.  This is such a beautiful place.  I took a few photos and hiked upstream until I reached my original route and retraced my steps. My compass returned to  normal.

The diversity and scenery of SGL 57 continues to impress me.  I thought I had seen most of what it had to offer, and I guess I was wrong.  This hike was exceptional.  In order to protect the Lost Mine and The Caves from graffiti, I will not publicize the GPS coordinates.  I may share them privately.  Generally speaking, these places are on the plateau between Red Brook and Stony Brook, and no official trails reach them.

More photos.

Red Brook Falls

 

The Caves

First Day Hike- Ricketts Glen State Park

Little Cherry Run Trail

Last year we began a tradition of having a First Day Hike, a concept that has spread across the nation over the last few years.  This year, we decided to keep the tradition alive.  Despite the frigid 9 degree temperatures, the bright sun provided some motivation to hike as five brave souls met me at the parking area in Ricketts Glen State Park.  While surrounding areas were free of snow, over six inches covered the trails in the park, giving the impression that this was in fact winter.

This hike was about 5 or 6 miles long and we began by hiking down to the breached Glen Leigh dam, an old, crumbling concrete structure that is odd for a dam since it is essentially hollow.  We passed above some frozen waterfalls and hiked along the headwaters of Bowmans Creek under deep green boughs of hemlocks.  Maples and birch trees with rolls of peeling bark rose through the forest.  The temperatures warmed a little since we were out of the wind.  The trail was beautiful as it explored peaceful forests and countless animal tracks across the snow.

Little Cherry Run Trail

We turned left onto the new Little Cherry Run Trail, the most scenic section of the hike.  Everyone loved this trail as it climbed up a gorge with a tumbling stream that had several small waterfalls and cascades.  Large rocks and boulders loomed overhead.  The gorge was draped in snow and ice flows.  Two bridges offered easy passage over the frozen stream as the sound of the falling water filled the gorge.  The water was reddish from the swamps upstream.  For those that tire of the crowded Falls Trail, be sure to hike the Little Cherry Run Trail.

Group on the Little Cherry Run Trail

The trail leveled off through a beautiful, deep, green hemlock forest as we crossed small meandering streams.  The frigid sunlight cast shadows across the snow.  We turned left onto the Cherry Run Trail and returned to the dam to complete the loop.  We retraced our steps back to the cars.  Join us for next year’s First Day Hike!

More photos.

The loop we hiked.

 

 

First Day Hike to Umbrella Rock and Devil’s Den-SGL 44

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Umbrella Rock

While staying at Parker Dam State Park, I wanted to hike and find Umbrella Rock in nearby SGL 44, just south of Ridgway.  I had seen photos of the rock a few years ago and made it a goal to find it this year.

 

We were treated to an incredibly sunny, and pretty warm, day.  There was still snow on the ground.  We parked off of US 219 and followed a forest road along the ridge, along a logged area, and then it veered left and descended to North Branch Island Run.  Some of the trees were blazed with fluorescent colored arrows, but they were sporadic.  The trail crossed the run and climbed out of the valley back to the plateau where it leveled off.  We then reached a four way intersection with another grade (we will be returning to this intersection from the right on the hike back) and continued straight.  The trail climbed gradually through an open hardwood forest when we reached a trail to the right with a plastic post that had a drawing for an umbrella, so we turned right.  The trail soon brought us to an incredible rock outcrop rising through the forest.  Perched on the edge was Umbrella Rock.  The rock was impressive, a massive boulder perched on a pedestal. It nearly connected with a larger outcrop.  We took a few photos and looked around at this rock wonderland.  The tan, orange, yellow, and rust colored rocks contrasted with the snow.  Others had been here, with their tracks abandoned in the snow.

We decided to explore the escarpment to the west.  I’m glad we did.  Massive house sized boulders populated the forest with passageways and crevices.  Soon, we discovered a large cave created by the separation of boulders that I hiked through; a geocache was in the cave.  It was as impressive as Umbrella Rock.  Nearby was another cave and large cliff that was entrapped by the squid-like branches of a tree.  Massive rocks were everywhere.  I hiked to another outcrop that had a formation similar to Umbrella Rock, I called it little umbrella rock.  These rocks were incredible.

Massive rocks

We returned to Umbrella Rock and I decided to find another rock formation, called Devil’s Den.  We followed the tracks we previously found as it followed an obvious trail through scenic woodlands and laurel thickets.  Devil’s Den is northwest of Umbrella Rock.  We reached an obvious woods road and turn right, going uphill.  We then took the second wood road on the left, near a gas well clearing.  This soon brought us to the Devil’s Den formation where we saw two other hikers and their dog.  Massive boulders were separated be narrow passages and crevices, with a carpet of moss.  The reddish rock made me think of a mini-Utah.   An obvious trail led to the nearby Devil’s Den where there were deep chasms hidden in snow and shade, surrounded by leaning, massive boulders.  We took the obvious trail to the top as it tunneled through laurel to open areas.  The trail veered left to a series of vistas from the crest of the rock.  It was beautiful.  The view was untouched.

Cave

The sun was beginning to set and we still had a few miles to go.  I hoped to explore more of the impressive Devil’s Den, but time wasn’t on our side.  We retraced our steps to the obvious woods road and turned left on it, which brought us back to the four-way intersection we previously passed.  We then retraced our steps back to the car as the sun sank below the distant ridges, casting the deep valleys in twilight.

After a great year of hiking to new places in 2016, I couldn’t think of a better way to begin 2017.  If you like big rocks and formations, put this hike at the top of your list.  This area of PA is truly beautiful and nearby Ridgway is a gorgeous town.

Exploring the mazes

More photos.

This area is also the setting of the Elk County Boulder Dash, and there is a map on their website showing the locations of both Umbrella Rock and Devil’s Den.  While the trails are obvious, they did not appear to be marked or signed.

Top of Devil's Den

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The hike to these features are pretty easy.  Umbrella Rock is shown on Google Maps.  I’m showing how to get to Umbrella Rock because it is already very well known and is a popular hiking destination, as is Devil’s Den.  I will not show the location of the cave or “little umbrella rock”.

It appears most people hike up from the west, from PA 949 or Arkansas Lane.  This may be easier, but we did not hike in that way.

  1. Park off of US 219 at a very small lot for 2-3 cars.  Google maps show this to be Sylvan Heights Rd.  A larger game commission lot is about 200 yard further south on US 219. N 41 23.879  W 78 41.904
  2. Follow the obvious, gated forest road as it descends.
  3. Pass a logged area with deer fence.  Avoid trail to the right.
  4. Reach the ridge and avoid a trail to the right.  Some fluorescent arrows guide the way.
  5. Veer left and descend.  N 41 23.704 W 78 42.726
  6. Reach bottom of the valley and cross North Branch Island Run.
  7. Climb to the top of the plateau.  Fluorescent arrows disappear.
  8. Reach top of plateau and pass a four way intersection, continue straight.
  9. Obvious trail begins slight increase.
  10. Reach a trail to the right with a small plastic post with a hand drawn picture of an umbrella.  Turn right.  N 41 22.998 W 78 42.864
  11. This trail takes you to the base of the formation and Umbrella Rock, another trail joins from left.
  12. Hike around the outcrop and climb to see Umbrella Rock. N 41 22.975 W 78 43.038
  13. To hike to Devil’s Den, follow the trail that was on your left in No. 11 above.
  14. This trail follows rolling terrain through a hardwood forest and some laurel.
  15. Reach an obvious forest road, turn right, climb uphill.
  16. Turn left onto trail near gas well clearing. N 41 23.115 W 78 43.588
  17. Hike to a formation with deep passageways.  Trail goes around this formation. N 41 23.340 W 78 43.672
  18. Trail reaches Devil’s Den.  Obvious trail goes to the top with good views to the south and west.  N 41 23.402  W 78 43.820
  19. Retraces steps to obvious woods road, turn left.
  20. Reach the four-way intersection.  N 41 23.179  W 78 42.954
  21. Turn left and retrace steps back to the car.

New Years at Parker Dam State Park

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On the Souders Trail, Parker Dam State Park

We wanted to do something different this New Years, something other than watching the ball drop at Times Square, fireworks, and staring at television screens.  So, we got a cabin at Parker Dam State Park in the PA Wilds for some peace and quiet.  I’ve been to this park a few times and have always enjoyed it.

The cabin was made of logs and was somewhat rustic with beds, fireplace, stove, and fridge.  A bathhouse was nearby with water and a shower.  And cell phone service was limited.  Our first hike was in the park itself, on the Beaver Dam and Souders Trails.  We were treated to an incredible winter wonderland.  Snow had recently fallen, coating the hemlocks and pines with gowns of white, bending the branches down.  We hiked along wetlands and beaver dams, as ice encased the water below.  The Beaver Dam Trail began right at the cabin area and first explored a hardwood forest with some very large trees.  We then descended to the beaver meadows, crossing them on a bridge.  The trail then entered the pine and hemlock forests, the most beautiful part of the hike.  The deep forests encompassed the level trail, it was a joy to hike.

The skies were overcast, but the temperatures were fairly warm.  We reached the park road and walked to the park office and turned right onto the Souders Trail, a short loop with more winter wonderland scenery, and views of scenic Laurel Run, as it flowed through forests encased in snow.  We passed a mountain biker, riding the trails on a bike with really fat tires.  Next was a hike along the lake, dam, and the boardwalks before returning to our cabin.

Laurel Run

Parker Dam has miles of easy trails that explore streams, wetlands, and different forest types.  The park has a long logging history and was once a CCC camp, which built its impressive stone dam.  The park is also the western trailhead of the Quehanna Trail, a 72 mile loop.  It feels isolated, despite its proximity to I-80.  I think the Beaver Dam and Souders Trails are the most scenic in the park, but also consider some longer loops in the nearby Moshannon State Forest.   The Trail of the New Giants is a nice loop that climbs a hill with a view of the park. There are both mountain biking and cross country ski trails. You can also do a variety of loops along the Quehanna Trail.

The next day we traveled to SGL 44 south of Ridgway to find Umbrella Rock and explore the fascinating rock outcrops.  That trip will be described in the next post.

Parker Dam Lake

As we drove home, we stopped by the Marion Brooks Natural Area next to the Quehanna Wild Area to see the white birch forest in the snow and mist.  It was beautiful and captivating.

Marion Brooks Natural Area

A great weekend in the PA Wilds and a great way to start the new year.

Map of Beaver Dam Trail and Souders Trail, which we hiked

 

More photos

More info on Parker Dam State Park