In the Tioga State Forest, the stunning Pine Creek Gorge gets all the attention, and crowds. Want to see a place just as beautiful, but off the beaten track? Look to the next creek to the east-sublime Stony Fork.
I first experienced Stony Fork years ago while scouting a route for the Mid State Trail’s northern extension. I was amazed by its beauty. There were rapids, cascades, grottos, and deep pools. Due to its beauty, I insisted the Mid State Trail include Stony Fork. Thankfully, others agreed.
I recently returned to Stony Fork to check out some of its tributaries and hunt for waterfalls. First, I hiked up Black Run with its deep, rugged gorge. Since there was no trail, I was forced to bushwhack. I soon came upon a 20 foot falls next to a beautiful cliff. Upstream the creek became even more beautiful with non-stop cascades and waterfalls over ledges and squeezing between mossy boulders. Slides fed pools of water over reddish bedrock. Already, my hike was worth it.
I hiked down along the rim of the glen through thick laurel, passing a large rectangular boulder sitting on its end.
I then headed down to the Mid State Trail for a short hike. It was nice to see the route I scouted all those years ago now is a trail people use and enjoy. I passed Paint Run and decided at the last minute to hike it. I’m glad I did.
Paint Run is probably the most scenic of Stony Fork’s tributaries. This creek was very impressive, with a variety of falls, slides, pools, and rapids, often flanked by ledges and cliffs. One slide was over 100 feet long. In places it reminded me of the famous Rock Run. The beauty of this creek was non-stop as it tumbled over smooth bedrock and around large ledges. I particularly liked one slide with a series of large mossy boulders. It carved a deep gorge through which echoed the sound of the rushing water. Moss, hobblebush, and violets adorned the creek.
I climbed up the south slope of Paint Run’s gorge and found an old grade which returned me to where I began, behind an old cabin along Stony Fork Road.
I then hiked to the East Branch Stony Fork where there was an impressive grotto and slide in the sandstone bedrock, with deep, smooth pools shaded by hemlocks. A beautiful spot. It had the feel of a rainforest as hemlock logs had fallen over the creek, clothed in moss. Slabs of rock had fallen from the sidewalls into the water. Another smooth ledge was angled just right to create of perfect sheet of sliding water.
I headed south to the next unnamed drainage and began the hike up it. I was immediately greeted with more waterfalls and cascades with moss covered ledges, dripping with water. There were four or five falls, with the tallest being about 30 feet.
I descended the glen and crossed Stony Fork above a rapid before returning to my car. The hidden places are often the best and PA is filled with them.
Exploring Stony Fork isn’t hard. Drive down Stony Fork Road and wherever there is a pull off, there is usually a trail that leads to a pool or cascade. The orange blazed Mid State Trail also explores the west side of Stony Fork; there is no bridge where it crosses Stony Fork.
Some GPS coordinates:
Black Run: I started at N 41 36.517 and hiked up the creek to N 41 36.793 W 77 21.319.
Paint Run: I started at N 41 35.979 W 77 21.253 and hiked up the creek for almost a mile.
East Branch Stony Fork: the grotto is located at N 41 37.257 W 77 22.191.
Unnamed creek south of East Branch Stony Fork: the 30 foot falls is at N 41 36.993 W 77 22.247, there are other falls on this seasonal stream.