Catlin Brook Gorge (SGL 57)- The Most Rugged Gorge in PA

42160590780_de2d978df2_z.jpg

Just a few of the waterfalls in the incredible gorge of Catlin Brook, SGL 57.

WARNING: The hike down into Catlin Brook Gorge (aka Catlin Hollow) is very steep and potentially treacherous. Do not attempt unless you are a fit and experienced hiker accustomed to such difficult terrain. You should be experienced with off trail hiking. Do not attempt a hike in the gorge during high water.  Do not do this hike alone.  Do not access the gorge from the bottom as it is private land.

IMG_20180730_173226_192

Catlin Brook holds a unique position among Pennsylvania’s streams. It is the steepest gorge of a stream of its size in the state. At one point it drops 800 feet in a quarter mile. It is in a gorge of incredible rugged beauty with tiers of ledges, side stream springs that flow from the earth, and a towering rock overhang that has its own 70 foot falls in high water. And there are over ten waterfalls at least ten feet in height. Three of the tallest falls are close together and are over 100 feet tall in total. It is rarely explored. For this reason I call it the “Holy Grail of PA Waterfalls”. No other waterfall gorge in the state is as rugged, or as hard to reach.  The route (with GPS coordinates) is described, to near the top of the gorge, in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

IMG_20180730_121527_847

In reality, the gorge is close to Catlin Hollow Road, near Lovelton. However, private land blocks that access, so a long seven-eight mile hike, one way, is required to reach the gorge. If Catlin Brook is flowing well, the hike is more than worth it with plenty of great scenery along the way.

IMG_20180730_123443_735

How do you know if Catlin Brook is flowing well? Just drive up Catlin Hollow Road to where it crosses the brook. If it is flowing, you are good to go. As a very rough correlation, the USGS gauge for the Loyalsock Creek in Montoursville should read at least 2.5 to 3.0 feet for good flow on Catlin Brook.

20180728_135423

I’ve been to the gorge twice before. I hiked up the bottom part once, and descended the side of it in winter when it was ensconced in incredible ice flows. I had never seen the entire gorge.

20180728_141440

With one of the wettest Summers on record, I knew it would be flowing. I recruited Ryan for this epic hike and we set out from the small parking area along Windy Valley Road at Stony Brook. We took the forest road, passed a cabin, and descended slightly to a stream that washed out the road with cobblestone. We hiked through the beech saplings and continued on the road to a gate. The road was washed out past the gate, so we hiked in the woods, parallel to Stony Brook. The old road returned and we continued hiking up it.

IMG_20180729_120212_977

At an old metal culvert pipe on the left, we turned left and followed an old grade to Stony Brook. This grade has been washed out by the creek so we picked our way along faint trails until we reached where Red Brook and Stony Brook joined. Here we crossed Stony Brook into some hemlock saplings. We promptly turned right and made a challenging crossing of flood torn Red Brook and picked up another old grade. This old grade is wet in many places. It took us into a scenic Spruce Gorge and crossed the creek as the Crystal Cascade, a scenic, serene spot with large white boulders, pools, and cascades. We took a break among the spruce and smooth, white boulders. It felt like I was in New England.

IMG_20180729_135115_150

The grade continued until we reached a creek that joined from the right. Here we turned right. There used to be an awesome mountain bike trail here, but it is largely gone now. Our route stayed above the creek with its cascades as we hiked under hemlocks and maples. We reached a grove of hemlocks and turned left, crossing the creek. We soon met an old grade and turned right. This old grade brought us to another grade and old ATV trail where we turned left.

IMG_20180729_205752_741

This grade took us to Catlin Meadows, a beautiful high elevation bog with wildflowers and sublime scenery. As we took a break, an osprey circled the meadow looking for prey. It would flare its wings, pivot, and swivel to the ground for the kill. What an amazing sight.

IMG_20180730_172839_428

The grade circled the meadow, but became overgrown near its outlet. We crossed the outlet and followed the old grade as it proceeded northeast. After a few hundred feet, we left the grade and went off trail to the left/northwest into a hemlock forest. We descended and went around the east end of another wetland meadow. Here we entered the Spooky Forest- a hemlock forest filled with trees that have bare, bleached branches. We then reached Catlin Brook at the edge of the plateau.

IMG_20180730_162345_196

Now the fun began. We descended over ledges and mossy boulders with cascades. After a level area, the gorge began, and so did the waterfalls. One after the other, hidden in glens of cliffs. We would descend the edge of the gorge, drop below the cliff line, and then enter the gorge to see the falls. Because of this approach, we ended up descending the gorge along the creek itself. (I highly recommend that you do not follow this approach. Descend along the steep west side of the gorge, and then climb along the creek. It is possible to scramble up along the creek until the top part, where you will need to cut west and above the cliffline to see the other waterfalls. Take your time hiking up the creek and slopes of the gorge, the rocks do shift and move).

IMG_20180729_100318_029

We reached a remarkable place with three waterfalls, each 30-40 feet in height, one after the other, in a stunning grotto. Below the third falls was a huge overhanging amphitheater of rock with countless springs, and a 70 foot falls in high water. The beauty was stunning. We were able to scramble down the third falls on the west side. Below were smaller waterfalls and many rocks and boulders, so it was easier to descend, although our legs were aching. This hike required such intense concentration and focus. The waterfalls soon returned, each about 10-12 feet tall. We encountered a 20 foot falls, which we descended on the west slope, and then some smaller falls that lead to a stunning 30-40 foot falls over deep red bedrock. It was breathtaking.

IMG_20180728_211830_119

Below was a slide, grotto, and a 20 foot falls, but we did not hike to them. We had to make sure we had enough daylight for the long hike back. I had seen them before and they are beautiful. All of the falls are on the gamelands. Private land begins below the bottom falls.

20180728_144007

The hike out of then glen was very arduous, but we made good time. We retraced our route, spooking a coyote along the way as it slipped silently and effortlessly through the forest. They are such incredible, elusive animals. It loved hiking through the deep forests in twilight, as dusk filled the gorges and valleys. We reached my car in the evening, exhausted and electrified by what we saw and what few others have seen.

IMG_20180730_172501_388

Catlin Brook exemplifies the hidden beauty of Pennsylvania. In any other state, it would be a hiking and a world class ice climbing destination. Here, it is unknown. Such is the case with SGL 57, which easily has the beauty and diversity to be a national park.

IMG_20180730_122235_797

The sanctuary of Catlin Brook Gorge requires a price to enter. With effort, sweat, and patience this experience can be yours as well. And it will be one that you will never forget. A piece of your memory will always reside in the depths of this incredible gorge.

More photos.

IMG_20180730_182545_335

*******************************

  1. This is an exceptionally beautiful and rugged hike.  About 8 miles, one way, to the gorge.  Plan for an all day hike.
  2. There are no blazed trails, or signs, although most of the hike follows old logging roads or grades.
  3. Do not attempt in high water or freezing conditions.
  4. Do not trespass on private land at the bottom of the gorge.
  5. Catlin Brook can be reduced to a trickle in Summer or dry periods.  The brook flows most of the year.
  6. The gorge is very challenging due to the very steep terrain and loose rocks.
  7. Stinging nettle was not a big issue in the gorge.  There were patches of it, but it did not inundate the gorge.
  8. It is best to descend the west side of the gorge, and then scramble along the creek to see all the falls.
  9. Do not hike the gorge alone.
  10. Enjoy this stunning place and treat it with respect.

IMG_0056.PNG

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Whitewater Kayaking on the Loyalsock Creek- Rock Run Rd. to Worlds End State Park

42251568190_cc0a04514a_z.jpg

At the take out, Worlds End State Park.

My two year hiatus from whitewater kayaking recently came to an end, thanks to this wet summer. Rains brought up the Loyalsock Creek, one of the region’s finest whitewater creeks and I asked my friend Jay if he wanted to go. Jay in turn invited Alan and his brother Jeff. We met at Worlds End State Park, where we would take out. As we got our gear together, the park ranger drove by and asked if we knew what we were doing. The creek was running fast. Jay told the ranger we were fine. We then drove to the put in at Rock Run Road.

IMG_20180812_191735_929

The creek was at 5.1 feet on the gauge, a rather high level. It was the highest I have ever paddled the Loyalsock. The rocks I typically see were covered in a deep, glassy current. The creek soon whisked us downstream as we passed a backpacker on the Loyalsock Trail. The Loyalsock features many rapids, mostly over cobblestone and boulders creating wave trains and some small holes. Peaceful pools separated the rapids, but the current kept us moving. Paddling through the powerful waves was a lot of fun.

The Loyalsock Creek is also known for its beauty, in fact it was once considered to be a national scenic river. The creek is almost completely undeveloped, with no signs of people. It feels like a true wilderness. It flows down a deepening canyon with ledges and side stream waterfalls.

The creek made a turn to the left into a particularly beautiful section. Cliffs towered overhead as we paddled over a deep pool with a beach. Ahead was a narrow gorge and the most difficult rapid of the day, called S Bend Rapid. We paddled to the shore, got out of our boats, and scouted the first part of the rapid which featured a slide into a series of towering waves. We all paddled this part fine and got out of our boats to scout the second part which was a more violent rapid that had a pinning rock on the left. The current blasted into a boulder, creating a huge, surging wave. We decided to portage this part.  The beauty of the gorge at S Bend Rapid always impresses me.

IMG_20180812_191735_932

The creek continued with its non-stop rapids as the trees towered overhead. We had to keep an eye out for holes that could flip us. As we entered Worlds End State Park, we waived to families and kids on the shore. The gradient picked up over smooth ledges and waves under the towering cliff and waterfall at High Rock. We took out in the park, ending our journey on the incredible Loyalsock Creek.

Worlds End and the Loyalsock are among my most favorite places.

The rapids on this section are fairly straightforward, just watch for trees and some small holes.  The creek is generally graded as Class III rapids, although S Bend is Class III+.  For levels above 6 feet, the creek becomes very fast and pushy, and you should be a very experienced kayaker.  At such levels, the creek has Class IV rapids.

The line at S Bend Rapid is center right for the first part and enter an eddy on the right.  The more challenging line is center or center left down a glassy tongue into a series of huge waves.  For the second part, the line is again center right, but left of the large pour-over rock at the bottom.

To portage S Bend, go on river right for the first part, and either river left or right for the second, although river left is easier.

IMG_0055.PNG

Hiking to Hector Falls-Allegheny National Forest

28837973447_1e34feb36a_z

Hector Falls, Allegheny National Forest

Hector Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls you will ever see.  Here, a small stream tumbles over both sides of a rectangular rock outcrop, creating a visual spectacle when it is flowing.   The falls are described in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

IMG_20180725_180548_611

From FR 258, go around the gate and hike the forest road.  The road is surrounded by mature forests, although an area has been logged off to the right.  The forest road descends into a wooded valley.  Avoid an obvious grade or old forest road to the right and descend to the left.  Reach an opening with a small gas well.  Here, the forest road ends.

DSC_0961

Follow the obvious trail into a beautiful hemlock forest.  You will soon reach the top of the falls at a cliff and giant boulders.  The creek is small and often dry in summer.  When the creek is flowing well, the waterfall forms a unique veil off of the ninety degree angled rock outcrop.  The falls are about 22 feet tall and the base is located in a grotto of cliffs and large boulders.  The setting is incredibly scenic.

20180722_140557

Below the falls, the small stream almost takes a subterranean route in the sand and under the boulders.  Take some time to explore to large outcrops below the falls.  Return the way you came.

20180722_135653

The hike is .9 mile one way, and there are no signs or blazes on the trail.  Hopefully, the Allegheny National Forest will put in an official trail to this popular spot, and protect it for future generations.

Directions:  From Ludlow at Route 6, take South Hillside Avenue (or Road).  Turn left onto Water Street.  Turn right onto Scenic Drive.  Cross the railroad tracks and the road becomes gravel.  You are now on FR 133.  Follow for one mile.  Turn right onto FR 258 and follow for 2.1 miles to a pull off and gate on the left.  This is the start of the hike.  The parking area is at approximately 41.695827, -78.980782.

More photos.

IMG_0053.PNG

Rimrock Overlook-Allegheny National Forest

43058778214_17eee5054f_z.jpg

Rimrock Overlook, Allegheny National Forest

Rimrock is the most popular overlook in the Allegheny National Forest.  From the parking area, I hiked the trail down along large boulders to two vistas from the top of the cliffs.  Mist shrouded the Allegheny Reservoir far below.  I could see across the vast, forested expanse of the national forest.

IMG_20180723_183427_747

A unique feature at the overlook is a staircase that goes down through a cave or chasm.  It is very narrow, a slightly slanted, making it a little awkward.  Due to the rain, drops fell from the cliffs and ledges.

20180722_072648

I reached the bottom of the cliffs and explored them.  There were huge overhangs and sheer rock walls.  The massive rocks were separated by narrow cracks.  In hot weather, these cracks blow out cold air.  Moss and lichens adorned the rocks as the mist covered them in a glaze of moisture.

IMG_20180723_170031_184

The Rimrock Trail, a fairly new trail, leaves the base of the cliffs and descends to the Kinzua Beach picnic area, it is a little over a mile long.

IMG_20180723_170031_202

The vista is good for both sunrises and sunsets due to its southern exposure.

Rimrock also features a picnic area and restrooms.  When exploring the Allegheny National Forest, be sure to visit Rimrock.

IMG_20180723_170031_222

More photos.

IMG_0052.PNG

Hiking Dewdrop Run-Allegheny National Forest

42871134315_1061af68be_z.jpg

Dewdrop Run flowing under massive boulders, Allegheny National Forest.

Dewdrop Run is one of the Allegheny National Forest’s best kept secrets, hiding next to one of its most popular campgrounds- Dewdrop Campground. Years ago, the Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail explored Dewdrop Run. For some reason, it was rarely hiked and eventually abandoned despite its superb scenery. I explored Dewdrop Run while writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest and the place has always stuck with me. I decided it was time to return.

IMG_20180724_162245_904

I parked along the road, just downhill from the entrance to the Dewdrop Campground. Faced with an overgrown meadow, I entered the beech woods and descended a slope to a more open forest. I crossed a sidestream and followed the old, intermittent white diamond blazes of the former Campbell Mill trail. I walked upstream and made my way down to Dewdrop Run. There was no real sign of the old trail. I came across a maze of giant, mossy boulders embedded in the water, creating scenic waterfalls and a small, green grotto. Pools glistened in the fading sunlight as insects danced on the surface. In places it felt as if I were in Oregon or Washington with the unbelievable greenery.

20180722_115143

I then reached an amazing spot-where the creek flowed under massive, house sized boulders cloaked in deep green moss. Absolutely beautiful. I tried to follow the old trail, as it explored more mossy boulders. It turned right, passing between the green monoliths, and then began to climb. I, however, went off the former trail and simply hiked upstream to a beautiful series of cascades and deep pools framed by mossy, sculpted boulders.

20180722_121222

I pushed onward, up into the gorge. Steep slopes and giant boulders loomed over Dewdrop Run. It felt like a hidden, primeval world even though I was less than a half mile from the road. The creek bounced over scenic cascades and small waterfall within a deep, lime green forest.

IMG_20180724_161454_355

I turned around and walked back down the creek, enjoying the scenery again. I retraced my steps back to my car. Park off the road at about 41.826653, -78.968353.

20180722_111321

For adventurous hikers, the north slope of Dewdrop Run’s gorge features massive boulders and rock outcrops that are worth exploring. Hopefully, a hiking trail will return to Dewdrop Run, it is such a beautiful place. Until then, don’t let the lack of an official trail deter you, explore this hidden gem.

More photos.

IMG_0050.PNG

Jakes Rocks-Allegheny National Forest

29809873618_8a69fd2d2b_z.jpg

View of the Allegheny Reservoir from Jakes Rocks.

Jakes Rocks is one of my favorite places in the national forest.  It features impressive cliffs, overhangs, crevices, and vistas.  It is also home to a premier mountain bike trail system, called the Trails at Jakes Rocks.

20180722_103352

While Rimrock Overlook is more popular, I actually think Jakes Rocks are more beautiful.  The views are more interesting and the cliffs are larger.

IMG_20180724_122300_876

From the parking area, take the paved trail to the right of the restrooms.  This paved trail continues straight to a vista which provides a view to the backside of the Kinzua Dam.  Right before the vista, look for an obvious, unblazed dirt trail to the right; this is the Indian Cave Trail and descends to the bottom of the cliffs.  This trail does not have a sign.  Be sure to hike this trail when visiting Jakes Rocks.

IMG_20180724_122300_881

The Indian Cave Trail descends over stone steps and explores the base of the massive cliffs, colored with springs and moss.  The cliffs are truly impressive as they rise through the trees.  Reach a massive overhang with a huge boulder.  This overhang is interesting to explore.  The trail continues along the base of the cliffs and reaches a deep crevasse through which I hiked with dripping moss.

IMG_20180724_122300_877

From the crevasse, the path is much narrower.  It winds its way along the base of the cliffs and climbs to the second vista.  It is narrow and steep.  I did not hike this trail; I turned around at the crevasse and retraced my steps to the paved trail.

20180722_100839

The paved trail at the top of the cliffs explored large boulders and some unofficial side trails that went to the edge of the cliffs.  I soon reached the second and more impressive vista as it looked down on the Allegheny Reservoir with all its bays and coves.  The reservoir curved off into the distance.  A remarkable view and probably the finest in the national forest.

20180722_101408

The paved trail looped around and returned me to the parking area.   Jakes Rocks is a beautiful place that is a highlight of the Allegheny National Forest.

20180722_095643

Jakes Rocks is described in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

More photos.

IMG_0051.PNG

 

Exploring the Allegheny Reservoir

42943736674_3f0abe1985_z

Sunset over the Allegheny Reservoir from Willow Bay.

The Allegheny Reservoir is the centerpiece of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) and is one of the most scenic lakes in the country. The reservoir is 24 miles long, covers over 12,000 acres, has almost 100 miles of forested, undeveloped shoreline, numerous bays, and mountains that rise 800 feet over the water. Large boulders dot the shore. The reservoir also has several campgrounds. The water is very clean and clear.

The reservoir was created in 1965 with the completion of the massive Kinzua Dam, one of the largest in the east. Any visit must include the dam.

IMG_20180723_201630_291

After hiking the Marilla Trails, I needed a place to stay for the night and luckily Willow Bay Campground had a few sites open. I was treated to an incredible sunset across the reservoir as the dark mountains rose over the water.

There is so much to see and do in and around the reservoir, whether it be hiking and mountain bike trails, scenic overlooks, camping, waterfalls, kayaking, boating or fishing. This is truly the perfect getaway.

IMG_20180723_191238_098

Hiking

The North Country Trail passes along the eastern shore of the lake offering great camping, streams, and deep woods, not to mention views over the water. The Morrison Trail is an excellent loop with cascades, great camping, streams, and giant boulders. The Tracy Ridge Trail system offers the most views along the shore, passing two campgrounds that can only be reached by hiking or boating. There is also a trail from Kinzua Beach to Rimrock Overlook.

Waterfalls

The Bent Run waterfalls near Kinzua Dam are beautiful as the water tumbles over giant moss covered boulders.

IMG_20180723_195012_844

Overlooks

Do not miss Rimrock and Jakes Rocks overlooks. Both feature giant cliffs, overhangs, picnic tables, and great views over the reservoir.

IMG_20180724_150742_093

Mountain biking

There is a new, world class mountain biking trail system at Jakes Rocks that cannot be missed. It features giant boulders, streams, and has trails that are easy to difficult.  The trail system is being extended and has attracted riders from all over.

Camping

The reservoir features four developed campground with restrooms and showers: Willow Bay, Dewdrop, Kiasutha, and Red Bridge. They tend to be very popular. Willow Bay has the best sunsets, while Dewdrop and Kiasutha are good for sunrises. If you like to hike, Dewdrop and Willow Bay are closest to trails. Dewdrop is closest to the mountain bike trails at Jakes Rocks.

There is one more primitive, and quiet, campground, Tracy Ridge. It has water and pit toilets. The sites are wooded. It is on the mountain away from the reservoir, but it is close to several hiking trails.

Boat-in and hike-in campgrounds

The reservoir is unique in having five primitive campsites that can only be reached by hiking or boating: Hopewell, Handsome Lake, Pine Grove, Hooks Brook, and Morrison. They tend to be small, with anywhere from 13 to 38 sites. Only three can be reached by hiking trails: Hopewell, Handsome Lake, and Morrison. They are known for their beauty. All have water.

Kayaking

The scenery and undeveloped shoreline makes the reservoir an ideal kayaking destination. There are many bays and large boulders to explore. The reservoir is also perfect for an overnight trip, where kayakers can stay at one of the boat-in campgrounds.

More photos.

IMG_0046