Hiking the Gorge Trail-Salt Springs State Park

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Over the last ten years, the popularity of Salt Springs State Park has exploded.  It’s easy to see why-the park features a diverse array of features, such as waterfalls, gorge, boardwalk, old growth forests, meadows, and streams.  And, of course, there is history and the salt spring itself.

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The state park is one of the few managed by a non-profit, the Friends of Salt Springs Park.  They have done an excellent job expanding trails, cabins, and campsites.  Support this great organization.

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We visited the park to explore a few of the new trails.  Our first hike was to the North Creek Trail, and began by hiking the scenic Silver Creek Trail with its gorgeous hemlocks and large trees.  The North Creek Trail, blazed red, was on the right and dropped to Silver Creek, but the creek was a little high so we didn’t cross.  The North Trail appeared to cross meadows, and looked a bit grown over, so we decided to hike it some other time.

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Another new trail is the Gorge Trail, which explores the west side of the gorge and its waterfalls.  This was a beautiful trail as it explored hemlocks at the edge of the gorge, with views of the creek and waterfalls far below.  The trail descended to Fall Brook and followed it for a ways, before climbing to a meadow with wildflowers.  We then reentered the woods and soon reached Buckley Road.  We turned left on the road, and then left on the Fall Brook Trail for more streamside hiking.  The Hemlock Trail soon followed with its awesome old growth forests, boardwalks, views of the gorge, and Penny Rock.

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The towering hemlocks and pines at Salt Springs are truly stunning, and reminds me of a smaller Cook Forest.

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We hiked down to the small salt spring and returned to our car in the busy parking lot.  This loop was about a mile long.

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While this trip featured a short hike, there are almost 16 miles of trails at Salt Springs that offer a lot of solitude away from the gorge and waterfalls.  These trails feature old fields, meadows, forests, ponds, wetlands, ledges, and streams.  It is a beautiful place to hike.

More photos.

Trail map.

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Buttermilk or Bear Creek Falls (near Bear Creek Village)

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Not every outdoors experience has to be a long hike through the woods, to some unknown vista or waterfalls.  Sometimes, places just off the road can be just as rewarding.

South of Bear Creek Village, along SR 2041 (White Haven Road) is a beautiful 35ish foot waterfall that is just off the road.  Park your car, walk a hundred feet, and you’re there.

The falls is commonly known as Buttermilk Falls, but Google maps also calls it Bear Creek Falls, even though the falls is not on Bear Creek.

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The falls tumbles down a wide ledge in a glen framed by hemlocks.  If you choose to climb to the top of the falls, be very careful.

It is surprising how many of these accessible gems are sprinkled throughout Pennsylvania.

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Nearby is the vast Bear Creek Preserve (make sure to hike the grey trail) and Francis Walter Reservoir, a great place for paddling with its clear waters and rock outcrops.

More photos.

Location of the falls.

 

Wyalusing Rocks

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The Wyalusing Rocks is a cliff that rises 500 feet above the Susquehanna River, offering superb views of the river and distant mountains.

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The curving river, with fields, ridges, and mountains make for a beautiful view.  Sunsets are particularly stunning.  The rocks are often above the morning mist.

It is located outside of the town of Wyalusing.  It is also a noted Native American landmark used a place for prayer, and a lookout.

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The parking area for the rocks are located right along US 6.  It is probably the finest view along this road.

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A short trail leads to a series of rock outcrops with more stunning views, particularly looking both upstream and downstream.  Be careful, a fall would be fatal.  It almost appears you could fall right into the river.

More photos.

Location of Wyalusing Rocks.

Sunfish Pond County Park

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Located near Leroy, PA, Sunfish Pond County Park is a best kept secret.  Isolated and located on top of a mountain, the park covers 70 acres, and the pond is about 30 acres in size.  It is a natural pond, fed by springs.    Sunfish Pond County Park is surrounded by the vast wilderness of SGL 12.

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The park is very serene and beautiful.  Night skies bring an astonishing display of stars and constellations.  Park roads surround much of the lake, but it is a very nice walk nonetheless.  Much of the pond’s shores appear undeveloped.  Camping is permitted at the park, but it is most popular with RVs or campers.  There are 12 tent sites, but some of the sites are less than ideal as they are not level, small, or inundated with brush.  If I recall correctly, sites 3 and 10 were the best. A few sites are along the water and are very nice.  There are showers and even a small store.

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Sunfish Pond is a great place for kids with a playground and a beautiful pond to paddle or fish.

The park’s best attribute is that it can be a basecamp to explore this wild, beautiful region of Bradford County.  This area is truly one of PA’s best kept secrets.

You can camp here and hike to Bradford Falls, Falls Creek, and Long Valley Run, whitewater kayak Schrader Creek, hike to the waterfalls of Satterlee Run, hike to Deep Hollow Vista and Falls, see the pools and cascades along Little Schrader Creek, try some bouldering and rock climbing, hike to Rollinson Run’s gorge and waterfalls, or ride bikes on the old S&NY railroad grade between Laquin and Wheerlerville.  Historian buffs will enjoy exploring Barclay’s old cemetery.  Bird watchers and wildlife lovers should check out the Swimming Dam.

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After hiking to Bradford Falls and Falls Creek, I drove to this park and walked around the pond, enjoying the reflections of clouds across the still water.  I was impressed by the silence and serenity of this place.  It does feel set apart.

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I drove down Leroy Mountain Road and pulled off where it crosses Holcomb Run to see its beautiful cascading waterfalls over mossy ledges.

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I drove through Bradford County’s sublime countryside, heading to my next stop-Wyalusing Rocks.

More photos.

Location of Sunfish Pond County Park

More park info.

Hiking to Bradford Falls, Falls Creek, and Long Valley Run (SGL 36)

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SGL 36 features some of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania, particularly when it comes to waterfalls.  I recently returned to check out two streams-Long Valley Run and Falls Creek.  Recent rains made it a perfect time to hunt for waterfalls.  Both streams are described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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My first stop was Long Valley Run.  There is a parking area just west of Long Valley Run along Schrader Creek Road.  No trail follows the creek, so just hike up it.  I spent most of my hiking on the east side of the creek.  Long Valley Run is a beautiful stream with large boulders, deep pools, and cascades and smaller falls over bedrock.  In places the bedrock has been worn smooth with potholes.  The large boulders make this an especially scenic stream, but there are no large waterfalls.  Hemlocks and tulip poplars grow over the creek, and there is even some rhododendron.

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After a half mile or so, you will reach a grassy forest road.  Turn right onto it and hike back to your car.

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My next stop was Falls Creek.  I remember first hiking to Falls Creek years ago.  I opened up my Delorme atlas for Pennsylvania and saw there was a creek called Falls Creek.  There must be waterfalls, I thought.  And there were, a lot of them.  Falls Creek is a place of exceptional beauty and it is a little surprising it isn’t more famous.

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Again, I parked along Schrader Creek near where a narrow concrete bridge crosses Falls Creek.  There is a small parking lot east of Falls Creek, and some space to park along the road.  The best way to hike Falls Creek is to hike down the road a short distance to an old forest road on the right, which is on the west side of the creek.

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I hiked up the grade to a sidestream, crossed it, and followed a narrow path down to Falls Creek.  The waterfalls soon came into view, beautiful cascades and deep pools adorn this stream.  I then hiked up the creek with its boulders and trilliums.  I enjoyed one falls with a symmetrical sheet of water falling into a deep pool.  I entered a gorge with towering rock walls and through the trees saw the biggest falls of them all- 70ish foot Bradford Falls.

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This is such an impressive sight.  Springs drip from the cliffs.  Large, old hemlock logs and cobblestones are strewn about at the base of the falls, making it a little difficult to get close.  The beauty is stunning.  This is surely one of the most scenic falls in the state.

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Hiking around Bradford Falls is tough.  Retrace your steps down the creek and then veer steeply up the slope and scramble up an opening in the ledges.

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Falls Creek only becomes more scenic above Bradford Falls.  Barclay Falls, about 30 feet high, soon comes into view next to a huge, fractured cliff.  Above Barclay Falls is a stunning gorge with more cascades and slides as cliffs narrowly surround the creek.

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A 15 foot falls comes into view, and then above that is Laquin Falls, about the same height as it tumbles over a broad ledge.  It is possible to go behind the falling water.

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Above Laquin Falls is a hemlock forest and some small cascades.  Near the falls is an old mine, the opening hidden by hemlocks and a gravel pile.  This area was one of the first to be mined for coal.

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The old forest grade makes for an easy return hike back to Schrader Creek Road and your car.  If you love waterfalls, check out these two beautiful streams.

More photos.

Location of Long Valley Run.

Location of Falls Creek.

Backpacking the Allegheny Front Trail

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The Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) is a 42 mile loop in the Moshannon State Forest, west of State College.  The trail basically encircles the beautiful Black Moshannon State Park.  The AFT had been on my list for a return hike; it had been many years since I last hiked the trail.

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I finally found a weekend to go.  I parked at the eastern trailhead, where the loop crosses PA 504.  Several other cars were already there.  I then began to hike the trail clockwise.  I noticed how the trail was well established as compared to my prior hike.  Over the course of my trip, I would see many other hikers and backpackers.

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The AFT began by traversing the ridge of its namesake.  At times rocky, but the views made up for it.  I really enjoyed the views due to the variety of terrain it showed-deep valleys, rolling ridges, foothills with fields, and distant ridges extending to the horizon.  It reminded me of views I’ve seen in West Virginia.

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The trail then crossed the top of the plateau, with flat and rolling terrain through thickets of laurel.  It was a pleasure to hike the forgiving tread.  I then reached a tributary of Smays Run where I saw backpackers and some great campsites.  I soon reached Black Moshannon State Park with its extensive boardwalks through forests of pine, hemlock, and rhododendron.  It was a beautiful trail that at times felt as if it were in a rainforest.

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The AFT is known for its diverse forests.  I hiked through open hardwoods, along wetlands, pine plantations, rhododendron jungles, and hemlock groves.  Some areas of the trail were wet.  I hiked through meadows and glades of ferns.  A variety of wildflowers were along the trail, including hundreds of pink lady slippers.  There were also violets, columbine, and pink azaleas.  The mountain laurel was just about to bloom.

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I began to follow more streams as my hike proceeded.  The AFT has so much streamside hiking, a highlight of the trail.  These streams are pristine, tumbling into pools, and often shaded by hemlocks and rhododendron.  Beautiful campsites are often along these streams.

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I descended to Wolf Rocks with its porcupine dens and droppings and crossed a road, followed by Sixmile Run.  I found a place to camp as darkness descended.  After getting a bite to eat and washing off, I was soon asleep thanks to the babbling sound of the creek.

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I woke up early the next morning and was on the trail as a mist threaded through the forest.  I was now at the southwest corner of the loop.  I hiked through a clearcut area, but soon returned to the woods with majestic hardwoods and ferns.

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The following section along Sixmile Run was a highlight of the trail.  The AFT went through a large pine plantation, and then into a stunning forest of spruce and moss.  I hiked down a beautiful glen with some of the most scenic forests I’ve ever hiked.  Sixmile Run soon came into view with its pools and rapids.  The trail followed the creek and entered extensive rhododendron tunnels, going up and down hills, or staying close to the creek.  I passed several sublime campsites.  At times I felt as if I were hiking in a rainforest.

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The next section along Moshannon Creek was also beautiful with similar scenery, although the trail spent less time close to this large stream, colored orange from acid mine drainage.  A climb up a ridge revealed a nice view of the creek and its gorge.  As the AFT continued, it was closer to Moshannon Creek and featured more hemlocks and rhododendron.  There was a nice 5 foot falls on Potter Run, below the trail.

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The biggest climb of the trail followed as it climbed about 500 vertical feet and crossed the top of the plateau along meadows and logged areas on an old forest road.  A steep descent followed down to Black Moshannon Creek with more rhododendrons and hemlocks and beautiful streamside hiking.  A long footbridge crossed the creek at a cabin.

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Benner Creek is another highlight, a pristine stream with rhododendron tunnels and hemlocks.  It felt isolated and the forest was like a jungle.  There was one superb campsite.  The AFT left Benner Run and entered areas of laurel and vast blueberry meadows.  I hiked down into and back out of a small stream and then reached Rock Run with its meadows, campsites, cascades, hemlocks, and rhododendron.  Another scenic spot along the trail.  Open hardwoods and glades of ferns followed with views deep into the woods from low ridges.  I passed some large springs and another small stream.  A meadow with a grove of spruce followed, and then a small climb to a meadow with pickers.  After entering the woods, I soon reached my car.

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It was great to be back on the AFT.

More photos.

Trip reports from Mid Atlantic Hikes, which shows campsites:  East Loop and West Loop.

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The AFT is an enjoyable loop that I recommend.  If you don’t want to hike the whole loop, you can divide it via trails through Black Moshannon State Park; this creates an east and west loop.

Highlights:  Diverse forests and habitats, extensive streamside hiking, great campsites, meadows, views, rhododendron tunnels, laurel, wildflowers, wetlands, boardwalks.  Trail is fairly isolated.

Negatives:  The only not too scenic areas were the southwest and northwest corners of the loop where there are logged areas.  Most of the loop is very scenic.

Water:  Plentiful

Terrain:  Hilly and rolling, rocky in a few areas, particularly along the Allegheny Front and its vistas.  Climbs reach 500 vertical feet along Moshannon Creek.

Campsites:  The trail has some beautiful campsites.  Most streams have at least one campsite.

Blazes:  Trail is blazed yellow.  Trail signs are fairly common.

Difficulty:  Moderate

Trail conditions:  Trail is well blazed and has several signs.  Trail is generally well-established but can be brushy in areas, particularly in summer.  Several wet areas and small stream crossings without bridges.

Ticks:  I only saw one on me, no bites.

Maps:  Moshannon State Forest has free maps.

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