Fern Rock Nature Trail-Loyalsock State Forest


Cascades on Ketchum Run.

The Fern Rock Nature Trail is a two mile loop that is a joy to hike.  Along this route there are streams, wetlands, hemlock forests, ledges, and beautiful Ketchum Run with waterfalls and cascades.  This trail is fairly easy, with no big climbs or descents, but the trail is rocky and wet in many places.  This trail is also ideal for kids, who will enjoy the diverse scenery.

The trail has 31 numbered stations that correspond with a trail guide, making this hike an educational experience.  I tend to hike the loop counterclockwise, which follows the numbers in reverse order.


From the parking area, the trail descends and skirts along a wetland with hemlocks.  Cross a bridge and turn right on the loop as it explores more hemlocks, small streams, and some ledges.  The streams have bridges across them.  The forest becomes more open with hardwoods as the trail passes a large boulder, left by the glaciers.  Cross the Ketchum Run Trail and reach Ketchum Run.

This sublime creek is the highlight of the hike with its bedrocks slides, pools, and waterfalls.  None are very tall, but they are beautiful nonetheless.  Kids will love playing in the water and exploring the creek.

The trail loops around and explores a hardwood forest.  The hemlocks return, creating a deep, green, mysterious forest.  Hike along the wetland with some views of it through the trees.  The trail tunnels through hemlocks and soon returns to the first bridge, completing the loop.  Return the way you came.

Fern Rock Nature Trail is the perfect place to introduce kids to nature and the beauty of the Loyalsock State Forest.

Parking is at 41.437715, -76.608181.   This hike is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.


Sand Spring Trail and Devil’s Elbow Natural Area-Loyalsock State Forest


Wetland in Devil’s Elbow Natural Area

The Devil’s Elbow Natural Area protects hemlock forests and a series of wetlands that are home to several rare and unique species, such as sundews, orchids, and pitcher plants. The natural area also encompasses some of the highest elevations in Lycoming County and is part of the headwaters of Rock Run. Through the natural area is a three mile loop, the Sand Spring Trail. The trail is blazed blue and is very easy with rolling terrain. It is a cross-country ski trail, so please do not walk in the ski tracks if hiking here in winter.

This hike is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.


The trail is well blazed and in fairy good shape. The only real concern is that it can be wet and muddy in sections. I like to hike the loop counter-clockwise as it saves the best scenery towards the end of the hike. The trail begins by following a wide old forest grade through hardwoods. As I turned north, there were some large rocks off to my right. The trail then entered deep hemlock forests with some large trees. The forests were very scenic, providing a deep green canopy.

The trail turned left and the deep hemlocks continued. Springs bubbled from the earth and moss and ground pine covered the forest floor. The trail narrowed as it tunneled through the hemlocks. The isolation and all the hemlocks made this hike very enjoyable, giving it a wilderness feel as if I were hiking in New England. I crossed the first stream and left the trail to the right to see a bog. Back on the trail, it descended along a hemlock forest to a larger stream crossing, this being the North Branch of Rock Run. Again, just off the trail, I enjoyed views across the wetland. It looked primeval with the rust red ferns and deep green hemlocks surrounding the edge of the swamp. I crossed the creek and followed a grade gradually back to where I began. If you like hiking among hemlocks, this is the trail for you.

There are a lot of trails here that have escaped the attention of all the hikers that visit Rock Run and the Old Loggers Path. The Hawkeye Trail connects to the Sand Spring Trail, and the scenic Sharp Shinned Trail connects the Old Loggers Path and the Hawkeye Trail.

Parking is at 41.564623, -76.830251.

East Branch and Canyon Vista Loop-Worlds End State Park


Warren’s Window, Worlds End State Park

Worlds End State Park is a hiking wonderland with a vast network of high quality trails that explore vistas, waterfalls, gorges, and large rocks. This system of trails is steadily expanding with the addition of a new trail-the yellow blazed East Branch Trail which explores the slope above the East Branch of Double Run. This trail allows hikers in the state park to access Mineral Spring and Mineral Spring Falls on a loop.

I decided to check out this new trail. I parked at the lot for the Double Run Nature Trail and the Chapel. I followed the nature trail above Double Run, a beautiful creek with its slides and cascades that swirl into bedrock pools. I crossed a footbridge over the East Branch of Double Run. Hikers can continue on the nature trail up to scenic Cottonwood Falls and a variety of other waterfalls. If you take this excursion, you will need to retrace your steps to hike this loop.


I noticed the yellow blazes of the East Branch Trail and followed it. The trail actually went upstream along the West Branch of Double Run for a little ways and then curved left onto an old grade that climbed above the East Branch. I passed a small side stream with a cascade (a falls and grotto is further up). The grade stayed above the creek, but offered good views of it with the leaves off. To my right, I saw imposing boulders and rock outcrops. The trail soon met with the Loyalsock Trail, where I turned left and descended to the East Branch in a hemlock forest. A bridge does not cross this beautiful creek, so rock hop as best you can. The orange Mineral Spring is right there on the trail and has a sulphurous smell. I climbed the trail to the road and enjoyed the view of Mineral Spring Falls as it slid down into a gorge.

The LT climbed along the creek with more cascades and then turned left onto an old grade that explored a stately hardwood forest. Large boulders were off to my right. I reached the park road and crossed it to Canyon Vista with excellent views of the 800 foot deep gorge. I then turned left onto the blue Canyon Vista Trail. This trail descended; keep an eye out for a short side trail that leads to a view of a unique rock column.

The trail kept a steady descent, but leveled off. I continued right on the Canyon Vista Trail as it explored scenic woodlands and took me through a mini-rock maze. Right after that was the second view of the hike, Warren’s Window. This view is further down into the gorge, but is still very beautiful as it shows the steep terrain surrounding the park. The view is named after Warren Renninger who has volunteered countless hours building and maintaining hiking trails in and around Worlds End. His trails are beautifully routed, well built, and provide great scenery. I reached the LT again and turned left as it descended over rocky, rugged terrain under hemlocks. I crossed the road and continued on the trail until it reached Double Run Nature Trail, on which I turned right and retraced my steps. This is a great 3.5 mile loop that offers views, big rocks, and waterfalls.

Parking is at 41.465857, -76.578608.

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Small but beautiful Cottonwood Falls.

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Sun and ice.

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Canyon Vista never gets old.

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Warren's Window.

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Flat Top and Mehoopany Creek Gorge Vistas-SGL 57


Mehoopany Creek Gorge Vista, SGL 57

This hike is a classic in SGL 57 and is probably the most “popular” although that is a relative term for this isolated area.  It is unique as it mostly follows old logging roads and grades with little bushwhacking, making it a more traditional hike than others in SGL 57.  However, no trails have blazes or signs.  I had been to Flat Top Vista, also known as Raven Rock or Buzzards Peak, many times.  It is a beautiful view.  I suspected there might be another view further down the ridge, so we decided to investigate.

From the parking area, there is a field.  Sometimes there is a mowed path, sometimes there is not.  Work your way to the northwest/right hand corner of the field, there may be some pickers, go up a bank, and hike up a mowed area next to a house and cottage.  Don’t worry, you are still on game lands.  The obvious grade continues steeply up through a pine forest.  Out of the pine forest, the hike veers right onto another obvious grade and continues to climb.  Below you to the right is White Brook and a beautiful 20 foot falls, but it is off trail.  Continue to hike up the old, eroded grade.  Reach an area with a lot of vines and a grade to the left, turn left.  This grade is obvious and meanders up the plateau.  Climbs are separated by level sections.  On the final climb, hike up with large rocks off to your right.  Reach a T intersection, turn left.  


The trail is now level, and wet in places.  Reach an area with more laurel on the left and a trail, take it (if you continue on the grade you were on, you will cross a small stream, indicating you went too far).  The trail goes through the laurel and soon reaches Flat Top Vista with its commanding view up the Mehoopany Creek and over a steep gorge with an unnamed stream that has seasonal waterfalls.  We sat and enjoyed the view.

Now it was time for the bushwhack and we followed the edge of the plateau down, passing another view.  We had to go through the laurel, but a bear path along the edge made the hiking a little easier.  Just off the edge was a large round boulder, cracked down the middle; it is called Split Rock.  Soon, massive rocks and boulders covered the slope below us, offering more partial views as we negotiated the tough terrain.  We reached a fine view looking up the Mehoopany Creek Gorge and an even better view next to that one.  The view was stunning as it looked right up the gorge, as tiers of ridges and gorges sloped down to the bottom.  Thirteen miles away was the dome at Red Rock. 

We were impressed by the view, which was even more scenic than Flat Top Vista despite being a little lower in elevation.  So, we named it the Mehoopany Creek Gorge Vista.  The view rises 900 feet above the creek, and the gorge is over 1,100 feet deep.  Another view looks up the steep gorge of Kasson Brook.  I can’t wait to return to this view in the Autumn or on a Summer morning when the view is above the clouds and mist in the gorge.  SGL 57 has so many secrets.  

Parking is located at 41.496548, -76.132059.

This is described as Hike No. 14 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.      



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Canyons of rust and white.

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Split rock, SGL 57.

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Candyland Rocks and Rock Maze of Middle Top-SGL 57


Rock Maze, SGL 57.  

Last winter was the first time we explored Candyland Rocks, a place that thoroughly impressed us with its caves, chasms, boulders, and habitats. The rocks were covered in moss, hemlocks, and spruce. The ice flows coming off the rocks were stunning. I always wanted to return, and in October, we did.  Our hike was not limited to Candyland Rocks, but the entire escarpment of a plateau we call Middle Top. Middle Top was a destination for a hike from several years ago, and the primeval isolation of the place has always stuck with me.

We began at the small parking area near Stony Brook and Mehoopany Creek. We followed a jeep road up along Stony Brook, which offered views of the beautiful creek and valley. The road was in fairly good shape until the first stream crossing where it was obliterated by floods and covered in stones. A faint trail threaded the sapling before returning to the road. The road climbed embankments high above Stony Brook with more views of the rugged creek with its boulders and rapids. The floods created huge landslides. The road disappeared again in another washout, but we soon found it as we followed it up the mountain. Below us were beautiful cascades and small waterfalls with large boulders and deep pools. We then entered a glen framed with cliffs and cascades. A seven foot falls followed and then a fern meadow on the right. The trail to the left goes out to Burgess Hollow Vista; the trail straight ahead goes to the top of White Brook. But we were going somewhere else.



We left the trail and crossed the meadow, heading in a southeast direction. We climbed the forested slope and soon reached Candyland Rocks, which were so beautiful with the moss and ferns. We explored the chasms and caves. As amazed as we were from our prior hike. Our hike continued along the rim of the plateau, passing massive boulders and outcrops. A scrambled up a ledge brought spruce and a remarkable rock maze that was several hundred feet long, and even continued through a cave. Truly amazing. Our hike continued with an arch and countless boulders and ledges. We passed a small cascading stream with hemlocks. Next was the Endless Wall, a long cliff that stretches for a few hundred feet.

Our route took us north along the east rim of Middle Top where the terrain became much more rugged. But the scenery distracted us with several impressive rock shelters and overhangs, not to mention some small rock mazes. Across the valley the cliffs of Spruce Ledge loomed. The terrain eased as we headed north and reached a small bald. Here, we cut southeast, crossing fern meadows and reached a stream. We crossed the stream and picked up the existing ATV trail and descended along cascades. The trail faded out in a hemlock forest but we simply kept close to the creek and soon picked up another grade. We dropped down to a glen with a 12 foot falls and a long slide. So beautiful. The grade descended along a deep and rugged gorge that was filled with the roar of water. This trail returned us to the original jeep road, where we retraced our steps.

This was a strikingly beautiful hike that a fit hiker with good navigation skills can accomplish. The scenery and diversity was stunning.

Parts of this hike are described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

We parked at 41.466863, -76.161761.

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More rock shelters in SGL 57.

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Rocks, moss, and birch.

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Backpacking the Old Loggers Path (the northern section)-November, 2018


Tim and Dan at the Chasms of Rock Run, Loyalsock State Forest

Twice a year I meet up with some friends from college for a backpacking trip. This past Fall, we decided to hike a part of the Old Loggers Path (OLP). I had previously hiked the OLP in July. After years of not stepping foot on the trail, it was odd to be on it twice this year.

The OLP has become one of PA’s most popular backpacking trails due to its scenery, isolation, and moderate terrain. Despite it being a cold November weekend, there were still several cars at the trailhead in Masten, where we parked. Ian, Dan, and Tim came on this hike.

We decided to do the northern half of the trail, which is the most scenic. So, we had to shuttle a car, which we parked where Yellow Dog Road meets Ellenton Road.
From Masten, we hiked counterclockwise, following the old logging grades under hemlocks and across tumbling streams. After a very wet, and at times rocky, hike at Dolly Sods this spring with the group, it was nice to be on the more forgiving terrain on the OLP.

Wind whipped through the bare forests, with only beech providing the last of the Fall color. We made our way down to Rock Run as a thin layer of snow covered the ground pine. We hiked under hemlocks as Rock Run roared below. I then led the group off trail a short distance to see the striking Chasms of Rock Run, where the two branches of Rock Run joined among beautiful gorges, cliffs, cascades, and pools. Everyone was impressed by the beauty. The water roared over rapids and across the smooth bedrock into deep swirling pools. The place felt wild and primeval. Across the creek was an incredible campsite, where we all made a note to come back to in the Summer.

We got back on the OLP and descended to where Yellow Dog Run meets Rock Run, another place of great beauty. Yellow Dog tumbled over a falls into Rock Run’s bedrock chasm. Rock Run is so amazing. Great campsites were nearby, but our goal was the new shelter at Doe Run. So, we had to hike up a gradual grade. As we climbed, below us was a twenty foot falls on Yellow Dog Run.

After crossing Yellow Dog Road, we made our way to Rock Run Vista. Along the way, we passed two volunteers I know from the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) who were maintaining the trail. KTA is a great organization that does so much for trails in PA, please support them.

We enjoyed the view over Rock Run as a cold sun began to set. We were soon back on the trail to Doe Run Shelter. Thankfully, no one was using the shelter, which is set above the tumbling rapids and cascades of beautiful Doe Run. There are several campsites nearby, and one was occupied by another backpacker. We soon settled into the shelter and got a fire going. A panorama of stars spread across the night sky with a few shooting stars. After eating and talking, we went to sleep.

The next morning, the dark forest returned to light and I decided to set out and see Doe Run Falls, which is below the OLP. I followed Doe Run down into a rugged gorge and reached the falls, set in a striking chasm of bedrock with two drops. It was very beautiful. After I hiked back up, the others had their gear together and we continued on the trail. We crossed Buck Run with its large boulders and we made our way to the top of Sullivan Mountain to enjoy its series of vistas over the vast plateaus.

We then turned left onto the Crandalltown Trail to make a loop back to Buck Run. From there we hiked out along the Ellenton grade to the second car parked at Ellenton and Yellow Dog Roads. After a great meal at the Forksville Inn, we went our separate ways until the next trip.

(Note regarding photos: due to changes with Flickr, I will be linking photos from my Instagram account).


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Old Loggers Path

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Chasms of Rock Run

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Mist in the chasms, Rock Run.

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Yellow Dog Run tumbles into Rock Run.

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Upper part of Doe Run Falls.

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Views from Sullivan Mtn.

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