Exploring the Upper Mehoopany Creek-Waterfall Gorge and Mythical Falls

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Mythical Falls, SGL 57

The Waterfall Gorge and Mythical Falls illustrate just how beautiful SGL 57 is for those willing to explore it.  This area of the gamelands is particularly isolated and beautiful, with several waterfalls, gorges, and unique rock features.

 

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We began by walking down Southbrook Road for about 4 miles.  We left the road before reaching Opossum Brook and crossed the icy cold Mehoopany Creek.  We soon entered the Waterfall Gorge, one of the gems of SGL 57.  This narrow gorge features four waterfalls, and many smaller ones.  The tallest is about 50 feet.  It is remarkably beautiful.  At one point in the gorge, I looked up to see waterfalls leaping down over ledges.  This is a very steep gorge, so it is difficult to get around the falls, but the scenery is worth it.  It is possible to go behind the top two falls.

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We then hiked to the southern rim of the gorge to a large cliff with a partial view.  Here we found a well-used footpath, so we followed it.  This footpath took us to the next stream to the west, which we crossed near a private property line.  The trail continued, and we came upon some large cliffs and overhangs with a “rock house”, or a small room of rock with openings for windows.  Our hike passed some rock outcrops and chasms and then followed a ridge with thick, towering blueberry bushes.  It was a wonderful trail.

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This trail headed north, and we needed to go west, so we dropped down to Mehoopany Creek, where we came across another well used trail.  There appears to be a whole network of trails that I hope to explore someday.  This trail headed north along a stream, so we left it, crossed the Mehoopany Creek, and hiked upstream.

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I love this section of the Mehoopany Creek because it is so isolated and beautiful.  We enjoyed Black Bear Falls and its grotto and soon Mythical Falls came into view with its broad veil of water.

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A side stream cascaded down nearby.  It is such a gorgeous spot.  The trail system we discovered also accessed Mythical Falls, as we saw the trail approach it from the other side of the creek.

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We then explored some impressive boulders and cliffs above Mythical Falls and then hiked back out to our cars.

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This place should be a national park.

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For the map above, the yellow denotes established trails or gated roads.  Red is the off trail route.  It is 4.5 miles, one way, to the Waterfall Gorge.

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Chasm Arch, Bartlett Mountain Balds, and Burgess Hollow Vista-SGL 57

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Chasm Arch, SGL 57

We returned to SGL 57 to explore the Bartlett Mountain Balds, and the escarpment of cliffs and ledges west to Burgess Hollow Vista.  We made the obligatory climb up White Brook, but not before making the icy trek to White Brook Falls, which is well below the trail.  The climb went fine and we followed the trail north to the base of the balds.  A short bushwhack brought us to the base of the cliffs.

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SGL 57 has extensive areas of cliffs and ledges, usually not more than 50 feet high, but they offer excellent scenery.  We explored one huge chasm and soon realized there was a natural arch of fractured rock.  Pennsylvania has few natural arches, so this was a treat.  I called it Chasm Arch.

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We hiked north along the balds with the spruce and hemlock.  This is always a great place to visit and provides scenery that is so different than most places in the state.  Our off trail hike brought us west and we soon dropped down to explore the rock features.  There were incredible caves, chasms, and overhangs created by the separated bedrock.  Ice flows adorned the rock faces.  This is a beautiful, unique area as we followed the tracks of foxes and coyotes.

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We soon reached an old logging road, which we took to the right to see Burgess Hollow Vista and its fine view over the wooded ridges and rolling farmlands.  We could see for about 40 miles.

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The rest of our hike was on established trails, or old logging roads.  We explored scenic hemlock forests and glens of clear streams.  Our hike took us past rock ledges and thick forests.  The trails collected water in many places, but the ice provided easy passage.

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We completed the loop above White Brook and returned to Windy Valley Road.

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For the map above, yellow is the route that follows an existing trail (no blazes or signs).  Red is the off trail route.  Orange are other existing trails.  White Brook Falls is off, and below, the trail.

Gratitude Falls and Gorge-SGL 57

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Gratitude Gorge, SGL 57

This journey is for the intrepid hiker.  It features deep, rugged gorges, waterfalls, and big rocks.  It is virtually all off trail.  I’m sure few will ever attempt it, but at least you will have an idea what is there.

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We began from Windy Valley Road entering the gamelands and hiked east.  We then hiked on the north side of Scouten Brook until reaching a sidestream.  Here, two sidestreams joined before entering Scouten Brook.  We hiked up the west stream and soon entered a rugged gorge with countless cascades and large rocks.  The going was tough as we picked our way up the rocky, steep gorge.  Ahead was a narrow grotto with a 20-30 foot falls, called Gratitude Falls.  It was a beautiful spot due to its sheer isolation.  Hemlocks towered over the rock ledges of the grotto as the water danced down the falls.

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We were able to climb the falls and were treated to an assortment of cascades over ledges and boulders along a cliff of reddish bedrock.  The cascades and falls continued until the top of the plateau.  In higher water, this stream would be incredible.  In summer it is likely dry.  We then hiked the plateau west to the other stream which also had cascades, but none of the falls were as large as Gratitude Falls.

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We then ascended the plateau to hike the east rim and we were treated to incredible habitats and lots of bear activity, including fresh bear tracks.  This rim had many boulders and ledges under hemlocks.  It was beautiful, but tedious due to the deep snow.  I wanted to explore closer to the cliffs to see if there were any views, but the deep snow prevented that from happening.  We explored many large boulders and outcrops which offered partial views of the gorge below.

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A long descent followed, made more complicated by the snow and tiers of ledges over which we had to find a way down.  By the time we reached the bottom, my legs were aching from exhaustion.  We then retraced our steps back to Windy Valley Road.

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Another beautiful spot in SGL 57.

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Emerald Forest/Scouten Brook Loop-SGL 57

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Emerald Forest, SGL 57

This is one of the most scenic loop hikes in Northeast Pennsylvania.  It features Scouten Brook, a tumbling mountain stream with cascades and waterfalls, an off trail hike to Cali Falls, and one of PA’s most scenic forests, the Emerald Forest, with its deep green canopy of hemlock and spruce, with carpets of moss.  Another short off trail hike will take you to a fine vista, great for sunsets, and massive boulders with passageways and overhangs.

This loop is approximately 7-8 miles long.

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The trickiest part of the hike is the very beginning.  The remainder of the hike follows well established old grades and logging roads, although there are no blazes or signs.  Of course, the hike to Cali Falls, Zion Rocks, and the vista are off trail.

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Drive down Windy Valley Road from Forkston, cross the bridge, and about .4 mile further reach Scouten Brook Road, a private road on the left.  Slow down.  Cross over Scouten Brook and pass a white cabin on the left.  The game lands touch the road just past the cabin at 41.483737, -76.133386.  Pull off as best you can, parking is very limited.  You may notice the white blazes on the trees, which are the game lands boundary.

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Enter the woods, there is no trail.  Some mobile homes are off to your right.  Walk back, slightly southeast, for about 1,000 feet, and reach an old forest road; turn left as it curves uphill.  Enter a forest with some pines and continue a climb before the grade descends.  There’s a grade on the left; take it.  The grade straight ahead is your return route.

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Reach views of Scouten Brook, and in winter, an old log cabin off to your left.  Reach another grade, turn right on it and follow it up Scouten Brook.  The grade stays above the creek and offers many views of it in winter.  There are cascades and small falls.  Some parts of the grade are eroded.  A side glen comes down on the north side of the brook; this is where Cali Falls is located.  It is a seasonal falls, so if Scouten Brook is low, Cali Falls will be dry.  The cascades and falls on Scouten become larger with some large boulders and pools.

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Reach where the two forks of Scouten Brook join.  The grade turns left, above Scouten Brook Falls, a wide ledge about 12 feet tall.  Now climb and veer right and hike across the other fork of the brook.  The grade soon levels and reaches another grade, make a sharp left.  This grade is often wet and makes a gradual ascent.  Reach a four way intersection; turn right.  You will soon reach another intersection, turn right.  The grade ascends slightly and soon enters a stunning spruce forest.  The terrain is rolling and the forest becomes more scenic the further you hike, this is the Emerald Forest.  There are wet areas.  This evergreen forest is comprised of hemlock and spruce, with some pine.  Moss covers the ground.  It is like hiking in Maine or Quebec.  This forest is very beautiful.

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Where the grade begins to descend, and before it leaves the Emerald Forest over some boulders and ledges, you can hike off trail to the south to see the vista and Zion Rocks.  The vista is a window opening through the trees to the vast plateaus to the west.  It is notable for its isolation, no sign of development, and the plateaus look particularly impressive here.  It is also a good sunset vista.  Below the vista are a maze of massive boulders.  About 500 feet north of the vista are the incredible Zion Rocks where huge mansion-sized boulders feature overhangs, caves, and crevices.

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Back on the trail, descend and leave the Emerald Forest.  The trail levels and then drops down the benches of the mountain.  Two other grades join from the left but continue straight.  The trail curves right and descends.  Reach another grade and turn left, continuing the descent, which can be steep in places.  Reach the point where you began the loop and retrace your steps.

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Please treat this special place with respect.  The Emerald Forest is unique in PA for its size, composition, and scenery; help make sure it will be there for generations to come.

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New Years at Worlds End State Park

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Sunrise at Canyon Vista, Worlds End State Park

For the second New Year’s in a row, we reserved a cabin at a state park. This year we went to Worlds End with its rustic cabins built by the CCC in the 1930s. The weather was frigid, but the skies were clear and we stayed toasty in the cabin with an ample supply of firewood.

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The cabin was simple and small with an open floor plan and a fireplace. Our cabin had a journal and it’s surprising how popular these cabins are; people wrote about their hiking adventures, their fear of anything that moved, or their remarkable ease at getting lost. People use these cabins throughout the year, often traveling from far away. One family even made it a tradition to come every Thanksgiving. These cabins created its own community. On our visit, people were friendly, hung up Christmas lights, and waved to each other.

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It was great to unplug and relax. We went to Hillsgrove, saw the covered bridges, and hiked around the park. The ice flows at High Rock were amazing in the bright sun and the frozen waterfalls were spectacular. We drove out to High Knob twice, once at night, to see the moonlight illuminate the mountains in a ghostly glow as the stars twinkled overhead. One highlight was to drive to Canyon Vista in the morning to see the sunrise, something I’ve not done before. I’ve always seen this vista during the day. It was amazing at sunrise to see the distance mountaintops glow with the rising sun. It was also cold that morning, -12, but I didn’t mind.

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If you’re tired of the typical New Year’s hoopla and want to try something different, reserve a cabin at a state park. It’s a great way to start the new year, even if you choose Worlds End!

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Hiking Tips: Help Maintain Trails While Hiking

 

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Allegheny Front Trail, Moshannon State Forest

 

The vast majority of hiking trails are maintained by volunteers and they can always use a little help. You’re already on the trail, so why not help maintain it as you hike! Here are some things you can do:

1) Bend and break back branches or brush along a trail.

2) Bring a small hand clipper or saw to cut branches or brush.

3) Pick up litter.

4) Put rocks across wet or muddy areas.

5) Pick up branches that cross the trail.

If every hiker did just one of these things a couple times while hiking, our trails would be in great shape.  Please help do your part.

Want to help out more? Check out the Keystone Trails Association Trail Care program.

Hike to Alpine Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Frozen Alpine Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

Alpine Falls is a beautiful spot in the Loyalsock State Forest, along the Loyalsock Trail. Alpine Falls is about 25 feet tall and is located in a scenic glen. There are campsites downstream from the falls, including another waterfall. Alpine Falls also makes for a great hike from Worlds End State Park and is notable for its beautiful hemlock forests. Thanks to a variety of trails, it is possible to do this hike as a dayhiking loop or as a quick overnight backpack.  The loop is about 8 miles in length.

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We began at Worlds End by hiking the orange blazed Butternut Trail as it climbed behind the cabin area along an old grade. Turn right onto the Butternut Trail loop as it enters a glen of Butternut Run with some waterfalls. Climb along switchbacks over rocky terrain and below a ledge to a nice view looking down the Loyalsock Creek into the park. The Butternut Trail continues and soon meets a yellow blazed trail leading to Loyalsock Road, on the right (if you cross the creek again, you went too far). The yellow trail climbs to the top of the plateau and then levels before reaching Loyalsock Road; turn right onto the road.

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Walk the road for about a mile until you see the Loyalsock Trail (LT); follow it to the right. The LT enters beautiful hemlock forests along a wetland and then crosses a stream. A deep gorge forms below the trail with rapids and a few campsites. The LT stays on a grade. The trail climbs under a scenic hemlock and pine forest and then descends steeply to another grade. Enter another gorge with a campsite; off trail and downstream is another falls near the state forest boundary. A short distance further a side trail is on the right and leads to the base of Alpine Falls.

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The falls drop down a series of ledges into a pool along a large cliff. It is a beautiful, isolated spot and a great place to spend the night. When we were there, the falls were frozen over and the bright sunlight made it tough to take a good picture of it.

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Now, retrace your steps on the LT back to Loyalsock Road. You can either retrace your steps back to the Butternut Trail, or hike a loop by continuing on the LT. The LT traverses hilly terrain with gorgeous hemlock forests and wet areas along an old grade. The beautiful forests have some ledges and extensive areas of ground pine. It’s a wonderful place to hike.

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Cross Loyalsock Road a final time and turn left to descend along High Rock Run. This run has many cascades and waterfalls. Pass a yellow trail to the left (which leads to the Butternut Trail) and a campsite below the LT. The LT stays on a grade above High Rock Run’s deep gorge. The trail enters hemlocks, winds in between ledges, and descends to High Rock Vista with its great view of Worlds End. Continue on the LT as it traverses as rocky area and makes a rugged, rocky descent to High Rock Run. Below is High Rock Falls, although it is hard to get a good view of it. The LT descends into the state park and the hike ends at the cabin road, where your hike on the Butternut Trail began.

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More photos.

Blue dots are waterfalls:

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