Loyalsock Spruce Forest

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Loyalsock Spruce Forest, Loyalsock State Forest

The Loyalsock Spruce Forest is one of the most beautiful groves of trees in Pennsylvania. It also hides in plain sight, easily accessible and located right along Worlds End Road, between Worlds End State Park and Eagles Mere, in the Loyalsock State Forest.

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I’ve driven past this forest countless times. I previously noticed it, but never thought to explore it. I finally did over New Years Eve weekend. Needless to say, I was impressed. The forest is about 10-20 acres in size and is comprised of towering Norway Spruce, rising over 100 feet. Some of the trees are quite large and the forest has a deep, dark feel. Moss, ferns, and spruce saplings grow on the forest floor. Shafts of light penetrate to the forest floor. We visited after a fresh snowfall and it was breathtaking.

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I’ve never seen a spruce forest like this in the state. Norway spruce is not native to PA, but is commonly planted in the U.S. Historically, it was planted after logging, mining, or quarrying operations. I do not know why this forest was planted. Another spruce forest is across the road, at a higher elevation, along the Loyalsock Trail. While scenic, it is not as beautiful as the one directly along the road.

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There is a parking area along Worlds End Road, at the juncture with Coal Mine Road. No trails explore the forest, so just walk around. Be careful not to step on any saplings. The best time to visit is in the morning since the forest has an eastern exposure. If you come here after a snowfall, it will be an experience you will not forget.

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The Loyalsock State Forest has so many beautiful places and this spruce forest is one of its best-kept secrets.

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Hike to White Brook Falls-SGL 57

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White Brook Falls, SGL 57

White Brook Falls, with its graceful spout, is one of the most scenic waterfalls in SGL 57. It is about 20 feet tall. This is largely an off trail hike that is moderate in difficulty and has two stream crossings.  It is about .75 mile, one way.

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Park at the game commission parking lot along Windy Valley Road (41.496502, -76.132023) and hike across the meadow to the back right hand (northwest) corner (41.497371, -76.134595). Climb a bank with some pickers and then ascend along a mowed area near some cabins or homes (41.497745, -76.135801). Don’t worry, you’re still on the game lands.

White Brook Falls, near Forkston

Follow an obvious path straight up through the pines. The trail does become steep. Leave the pines and veer right to an obvious old forest road. White Brook is now below you on the right.

From here, follow the old forest road for about 100 feet and then leave it to the right. Hike to the top of the steep bank above White Brook. Continue to follow the bank upstream for a short distance until you notice a buttress of land descending gradually to the brook, now descend (41.497591, -76.140524). Cross White Brook and pass a tree with a large burl. Reach an old grade and turn left onto it for a short distance. Cross White Brook again.

White Brook

The falls should now be in view. It is best to hike the south side of the stream to the falls (41.497237, -76.143642).  The falls are beautiful and unique, with a deep pool and a beautiful spout in normal flows. In high flows, the creek also tumbles down a slide next to the falls. There are slides and smaller falls below the main falls.

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Above White Brook Falls there are smaller cascades, slides, and boulders, but also lots of fallen trees from flood damage. It may not be worth the effort to hike above the falls.

Return the way you came.

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Hike to Koerber Falls-SGL 57

 

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Koerber Falls, SGL 57

 

Koerber Falls is one of many waterfalls in SGL 57. Although there is no trail, it is a fairly easy to moderate hike.

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Drive south on Windy Valley Road and cross the bridge. There is space to park on the right (41.490850, -76.132825). Hike across the road and head east, you will soon encounter a steep bank. Scramble up the best you can, I usually go up at a ravine eroded by a seasonal stream.  This is the toughest part of the hike.

Koerber Falls

Now just follow the top of the bank, heading east. You will soon be hiking above the creek itself with a gorge and several slides, cascades, and pools. Reach an old grade and follow it.  Below is a gorge with more slides and cascades, including an 8 foot falls.

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Cross the creek above the 8 foot falls. Leave the grade and simply hike up the creek, heading east. The north side is best.

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Koerber Falls soon comes into view. It is 15 to 20 feet tall in a red rock grotto. There is a pool and many dripping springs. It is a beautiful falls that has great ice flows in winter. In spring, this hike has wildflowers. This falls flows most of the year, but can dry up in summer.  The falls are located at about 41.489664, -76.123440.

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There are no sizeable falls upstream other than some slides and cascades. After enjoying the beauty and isolation of this falls, return the way you came.  This hike is about .6 mile, one way.

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Pacific Northwest Trip

Back in December, we visited Oregon and Washington. It was my first time in Washington. We were lucky with incredible weather considering the time of year. Some of the places we visited:

Columbia River Gorge

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An amazing place with towering waterfalls in mossy glens and views of the gorge. Sadly, many of the roads and access to the falls were closed due to a fire in the Fall. Regardless, it was very much worth the visit.

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Hood River

A scenic town in Oregon along the Columbia River with shops and brewpubs.

 

White River Falls State Park

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Much of Oregon is actually a desert with sage and juniper. We stopped by this small, out of the way park and it was impressive. Large waterfalls tumbled down a canyon. There were also ruins of an old hydroelectric project.

 

Smith Rock State Park

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One of Oregon’s most popular state parks, Smith Rock features huge cliffs and beautiful canyons. It was like a piece of Utah in Oregon. Highly recommended.

 

Peter Skene Ogden State Park

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A small park that provided views of a deep canyon with steel arch bridges and an old railroad bridge.

 

Silver Falls State Park

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One of Oregon’s premier parks, Silver Falls features several beautiful waterfalls, several over 100 feet tall, in gorges with huge trees and mossy rainforests. You can ever walk behind several falls with their huge rock overhangs. A must visit.

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Cape Lookout State Park

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The Oregon coast was stunning with its beaches, sea stacks, and cliffs. Cape Lookout was a nice hike with some impressive forests and views. The point is a popular place to watch whales.

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Oceanside, Oregon

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A quaint town along the shore with views of sea stacks. We ate at Roseanna’s Café, which had very good food.

 

Cape Meares State Park

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This park features a lighthouse, short trails, and great views of the coast. The Octopus Tree is one of the most unique trees you’ll ever see.

 

Munson Creek Falls State Park

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Another quick stop, this small park was worth the drive. A short trail ended at a view of an impressive 300 foot waterfall, the tallest in western Oregon.

 

Oswald West State Park

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This is one of Oregon’s most popular parks on the coast. I wish we had more time to explore, but we did enjoy an incredible sunset.

 

Hug Point

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We stopped by in twilight, and it was stunning. A broad sandy beach bordered by cliffs and sea stacks, with a waterfall. A truly beautiful place.

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Portland

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We explored Portland; it was a very nice city that kind of reminded me of Pittsburgh with all the bridges, bike trails, and hills. We saw Powell’s bookstore and the Japanese gardens. The city has a large homeless population, which was sad to see.

 

Mt. St. Helens

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A highlight of the trip, it was great to finally see the mountain I’ve always heard about. The great weather allowed us to drive fairly close to the mountain. We could see its huge crater and vast wastelands of ash. The devastation of the eruption was incredible.

 

Queets Rainforest

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An incredible rainforest with moss and towering spruce and fir trees.  We also saw the world’s largest Sitka Spruce.

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Olympic National Park

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One of the most beautiful national parks that I’ve seen. Rialto beach featured sea stacks and cliffs. Marymere Falls was a beautiful hike into a stunning forest and a 90 foot falls. We also made the drive up to Hurricane Ridge with jaw dropping views of the Olympic Mountains, which are some of the most beautiful in the U.S. with their snowcapped peaks and deep green forests.

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Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

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A sand spit home to birds and wildlife, it also has great views of the ocean, and the Olympic Mountains. A fine place for a sunset.

 

Seattle

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A beautiful city, we saw the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and trails along the waterfront.

 

Mt. Rainier National Park

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The most impressive mountain I have ever seen, Mt. Rainier is absolutely huge. It dominates the landscape with its massive peak and glaciers. We were able to drive to Paradise and the views were incredible with the vivid white snow and deep blue skies.

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Mt. Hood on the flight home:

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Hoagland Branch, Whale Rock, Warburton Hollow-Loyalsock State Forest

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Waterfalls in Warburton Hollow, Loyalsock State Forest

The Hoagland Branch area of the Loyalsock State Forest contains some of its finest scenery. Here you will find waterfalls, vistas, ponds, cascades, deep pools, bedrock grottos, hemlock forests, and pristine streams. The only drawback is that the trail system through this area of the state forest is rather disjointed.

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That may change with a proposal to connect the Old Loggers Path and the Loyalsock Trail with a new trail- the Hoagland Loop Trail. Last Thanksgiving I went out to Hoagland Branch to scout some routes. I began at the vista and hiked a loop counterclockwise. I found an old grade along the edge of the plateau. The grade was well established and traversed the forest, passing springs and rocks. I hiked above some ledges. Eventually, the grade faded out near where Whale Rock is located. I dropped down to the bottom of the ledge to see a rock outcrop that looks remarkably like a whale. I climbed above the ledge and continued along the edge of the plateau.

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I soon reached a beautiful city of sandstone boulders, orange and rust in color. The boulders leaned in different directions and were a beautiful sight. The most impressive boulder was eroded smooth, and leaned, 20 feet tall, with a mat of ferns growing on the top. I then dropped to Warburton Hollow.

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This hollow is very beautiful with large mossy boulders and non-stop cascades and waterfalls. The water is pristine and even serves as a water source for cabins downstream. An old skid trail on the east side of the creek provided for a convenient, if a little steep, hike. I then turned left onto the old Trout Hole Trail with its red blazes.

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This trail climbed under ledges and then descended to Hoagland Branch Road. Before reaching the road, I saw an old trail to the left with a small cairn. I would return to this point to hike back to my car. I reached the road which was devastated by the floods; much of it was washed away. The bridge had twisted guardrails and trees draped over the concrete. It is hard to imagine the incredible force of the flashfloods from 2016. Regardless, this section of Hoagland Branch is very beautiful with its bedrock rapids and deep, aquamarine swimming holes.

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I returned to the cairn and followed the grade uphill. This grade soon became a narrow skid trail, but the hike was enjoyable under the hemlocks. I hiked above a glen where I could hear a falls far below. I was half tempted to scramble down to see it. The skid trail climbed to another grade, where I turned right. This grade gradually climbed, passing many other old logging grades along the way. The grade I was following faded out below my car, so I bushwhacked up to my car, completing the loop.

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From there I stopped by Bearwallow Pond and then headed home. Another great day exploring the secrets of the Loyalsock State Forest.

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Mill Creek Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Mill Creek Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

Mill Creek Falls, located outside of Hillsgrove, is a well known destination in the Loyalsock State Forest. The falls is about 12 feet high and has a beautiful deep pool surrounded by ledges and cliffs. Downstream is a gorge with moss, hemlocks, slides, and pools. A longer loop version of this hike is described as hike no. 49 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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I parked in a pull-off on the left along Mill Creek Road, which about 1.5 miles from Hillsgrove. An unmarked but obvious trail descended to the creek and gorge; the falls soon came into view. It isn’t hard to descend to the creek and look at the falls from the bottom, the more impressive view, with the cliffs, ledges, and aquamarine pool. In 2016, an epic flash flood struck Mill Creek, causing catastrophic flooding to Hillsgrove. Even on this hike I was able to see where the flood line scoured the sides of the gorge, about 15-20 feet high. Vegetation was stripped from bedrock and large boulders were tossed with ease.

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I decided to hike up the creek to see how much of the old trail remained. I crossed the creek above the falls and followed the remnants of an old grade. I then crossed Mill Creek a second time and walked around a vast floodplain of gravel and cobblestones. On the left side of the creek was a cliff with cascading springs. I crossed the creek a third and final time and entered a grotto of green ledges with moss and lichens; many springs flowed out of the ground. I crested a ridge and then followed another old grade that was damaged by the floods, but I was still able to follow it. Large trees and root balls littered the forest floor. The creek was still scenic but I thought of my hike on this trail years ago with the thick hemlocks and peaceful stream unmarred by floods.

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I hiked past a cabin, turned right onto Big Hollow Road, and found away across Mill Creek again as the bridge was separated from the road. Mill Creek created a new channel that bypassed the bridge. I walked to Mil Creek Road and turned right and walked the road back to my car.

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While the hike up Mill Creek may no longer be as beautiful as it once was, the short hike to Mill Creek Falls is- it is a gorgeous place whether it be a hot summer day or frozen in white by winter.

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Holtzauer and Jackson Trails-Loyalsock State Forest

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Small waterfalls off the Holtzauer Trail.

There is a proposal to create the Hoagland Loop Trail (HLT), which would connect the Loyalsock Trail to the Old Loggers Path. Over Thanksgiving of last year, I spent some time scouting some routes for the HLT by hiking the Holtzauer and Jackson Trails in the Loyalsock State Forest, west of High Knob overlook. I hiked these trails as a loop, although it was not ideal due to all the road walking.

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I began by hiking the yellow blazed Holtzauer Trail from Old Sock Road (a sign along the road has it spelled as “Holtzhauer”). This was a surprisingly nice trail and even seemed to get some use as it had a well defined path. I climbed gradually to a beautiful series of ledges, cliffs, and even a small cave. The orange and yellow hues of the rock reminded me of Utah. The trail climbed above a glen with thick laurel. I went off trail down to the stream where there was series of ten foot waterfalls.

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The trail continued its climb, coming closer to the small stream between the laurel. I then entered a valley surrounded by large boulders and ledges; it was very beautiful. A series of climbs brought me through laurel thickets and into a scenic hemlock forest next to a wetland. The Holtzauer Trail then ended at the High Knob Trail, on which I turned right.

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I always enjoy the High Knob Trail due to its mature hardwoods and isolation. It is a beautiful woodland walk. I reached the back side of a pond in a pine forest and reached a juncture with the Jackson Trail, where I turned right. The Jackson Trail is one of my favorites, I soon reached the outlet of the pond framed by pine trees. This pond is one of my favorite places in the state forest.

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The Jackson Trail went through thick laurel under pine and hemlock, over ledges, and around vernal pools and frog ponds. I followed the trail as it veered right and descended through more laurel and down to a small stream. I crossed the stream and hiked along side it with cascades, although this creek is often dry. The creek disappeared down a rugged gorge. The Jackson Trail became very steep as it dropped straight down; it is probably the steepest trail in the state forest. I looked into the gorge and thought I saw some waterfalls.

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The steep descent eased as the trail veered right and followed a grade down to a private property line, and then made a sharp left onto an old grade, which it followed to PA 87. I then walked PA 87 and Old Sock Road back to my car.

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Both trails are scenic and worth hiking. I hope to return in wet weather to explore the waterfalls in the gorge along the Jackson Trail.

More photos.

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