Hiking the Ziegler and Gardner Spencer Preserves-Countryside Conservancy


Over the years, the Countryside Conservancy has protected land and established trails, primarily in the Tunkhannock Creek watershed.  Several of its preserves surround Lackawanna State Park, including the Ziegler and Gardner Spencer Preserves, which adjoin one another.

The small parking area is at the Ziegler Preserve.  The trails at both preserves are for hiking and mountain biking; be sure to give riders the right of way.  The trails are not named, and only the trails in the Ziegler Preserve are marked with occasional blue arrows.  However, all trails are well established.  One concern is that there is a web of interconnecting trails, which can make navigation difficult.  Thankfully, many trail junctures had laminated maps to show the location.

Our hike began along stone walls and small ledges as we gradually climbed.  We kept making right hand turns until we entered the Gardner Spencer Preserve, which featured meadows and some views.  The trails in the Gardner Spencer Preserve were professionally built for mountain bikes with sloped and banked trails.  We passed the foundation of a barn and descended the meadow into a hemlock glen.

The glen was very scenic with a babbling stream and ledges.  Hemlocks covered the canopy with deep green boughs.  A sign said there was a hiking only trail, but it was tough to follow with the snow.  After enjoying the creek, we retraced our steps to the mountain bike trail as it continued under hemlocks and climbed back up through the meadow.

We then followed trails to the left which led us into the highlight of our hike-Tunnel Vision.  Here, a trail was cut into a grove of spruce trees, creating a tunnel effect.  It was beautiful, and a nice change from the meadows and hardwood forests.  We left the spruce grove, crossed another stone wall and made a right.  Here, was the next highlight-a loop that descended into a beautiful hemlock grove above a small stream.  The forest was adorned with sandstone ledges.  A beautiful, serene place that should not be missed.

Our hike continued along some ledges and then descended to a series of interconnecting rock walls.  We continued to descend into the Ziegler Preserve and then climbed to hike along an impressively large rock wall under hemlocks.  We circled around, passing trails that went into the Lackawanna State Park, and descended to where we began.

This was an excellent hike and I will surely return to hike more of the trails in the summer and fall.  The diversity was great, with stately hardwood forests, stone walls, ledges, meadows, views, streams, and Tunnel Vision.  I’m sure there are a lot of wildflowers in summer throughout the meadows and the preserves looked ideal for birdwatching.

Thanks to all the volunteers who made these trails a reality.

Parking is at 41.582394, -75.693586.  Do not block the private driveway entrance.


Shingle Cabin Branch Falls-Ricketts Glen State Park


Red are off trail routes.

Ricketts Glen is a very popular state park, known for its famous Falls Trail. But there is so much more to this large park. There are off trail vistas, secret gorges, and hidden waterfalls. Hopefully, the park will expand its system of hiking trails just as Worlds End has done.

On this hike, we did a loop of approximately five miles that went up the Old Bulldozer Road Trail, off trail to a vista, and then off trail down the rugged gorge of Shingle Cabin Branch. We then crossed chilly Kitchen Creek and hiked out along the Falls Trail.

The Old Bulldozer Road Trail is blazed red and follows an old grade or forest road up the mountain. It was a steady climb, steep in places, and featured primarily open hardwoods with laurel. The trail steepened as we neared the top and hiked along some ledges. At the top, the trail leveled and here we began our bushwhack to the east along the ridgeline. As we neared a private land boundary, there were some nice views to the south from ledges. If some trees were trimmed, the views would be spectacular. The views showed tiers of ridges to the south, and a water gap near Shickshinny. It was an impressive view of about thirty miles.

We returned to the Old Bulldozer Road Trail as it entered thick laurel and crossed the headwaters of Shingle Cabin Branch. Here, we left the trail and descended into the rugged, beautiful gorge with cascades, boulders, and ledges. As we descended, we stayed on the north side of the creek where we encountered more cascades and some large old growth hemlock trees. Other hemlocks succumbed to the woolly adelgid. We soon reached the top of the impressive Shingle Cabin Branch Falls and made a steep descent to the bottom. The falls are in a beautiful grotto with tiers of bedrock and are about 35 feet tall. It is a hidden gem in Ricketts Glen, and only about 500 feet from Kitchen Creek. In winter, the ice flows must be impressive.

We hiked along Shingle Cabin Branch and reached Kitchen Creek below Murray Reynolds Falls. After crossing chilly Kitchen Creek, we hiked out along the sublime Falls Trail in the bright morning light. Kitchen Creek tumbled besides us, adorned with icicles, as we hiked under towering hemlock trees. Other hikers passed us, unaware of all the beauty that lies just off the trail. We returned to our cars and headed home.

We parked at 41.300336, -76.273014.

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Shingle Cabin Branch was beautiful.

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Kitchen Creek.

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Hawkeye Trail, Flagstone Gorge, and Rock Run-Loyalsock State Forest


Red is the on trail route. Yellow is off trail. Orange is on an unblazed grade. Purple is a suggested route.

North of the popular Old Loggers Path is a network of trails that hikers rarely visit. One trail is the Hawkeye Trail, a loop of about 7 miles. The Hawkeye Trail is primarily a cross country ski trail, but is also nice for hiking. My goal was to do a hike that combined the Hawkeye Trail, off trail hiking, old grades, North Branch Rock Run, and a scenic gorge. This loop is about 6-7 miles in length.

I began at the parking area for the Hawkeye Trail along Ellenton Mountain Road and followed this trail counterclockwise, or to the right. The trail was level and rolling as it explored hardwood forests. It followed an old grade or forest road. When I reached the first stream crossing, I left the Hawkeye Trail to begin the off trail section of the hike. I followed the creek downstream as it tumbled over rocks and boulders. I reached an obvious grade, which I crossed. I continued off trail along the creek. Here, a gorge began to develop with more cascades. Further downstream another creek joined from the left into a scenic gorge. Ledges, cliffs, and large hemlocks adorned the gorge where there were several slides and small falls. The gorge was only about 75-100 feet deep, but was quite steep. The tallest cascade was no more than 10-15 feet. Mist hung in the gorge. As I descended the gorge, there were rhododendrons, a rare sight in this area. There were also a lot of flagstone rock outcrops. As a result, I called it Flagstone Gorge.

At the bottom, the gorge opened up and I soon reached the North Branch Rock Run, which I followed downstream. This was a beautiful wilderness stream lined with reddish ledges and cliffs. It looked like a prime trout stream. Old grades accompanied the creek in places, but I still had to cross several times. The creek had rapids and deep pools along ledges. Large boulders dotted the stream bed as large hemlocks grew overhead. I then reached a long ledge against which the creek flowed; this red ledge had many springs flowing out of it. Some old ruins of stone were nearby, likely from the logging era. I really enjoyed my hike along the North Branch; the scenery and isolation made this a special place. There were many superb potential camping spots along the creek.

I soon reached the Chasms of Rock Run, where the North Branch meets Rock Run itself. What a glorious place with bedrock grottos, deep pools, rapids, slides, and large boulders. Hemlock, birch, and maple grew overhead. The roar of the water filled the gorge. At the confluence was an epic campsite where I took a break and got a bite to eat. I promised myself that I would camp there someday.

I then headed uphill, off trail. As I neared the top, I reached an unblazed grade, where I turned right. The grade headed east; I avoided any grade that went downhill. The grade went through hardwood forests. I soon reached the red blazed Hawkeye Trail; where I turned left. The route to the right is more scenic, but a little longer (purple on the map above). Due to time, I took the route to the left. The trail is well blazed and follows old grades through hardwoods, along logging cuts, and a grove of spruce. I crossed small streams and soon reached Ellenton Mountain Road. The trail parallels the road, but I had trouble finding it, so I just walked the road. I soon returned to my car.

If you are looking for a challenge and seeing places few others have visited, I recommend this hike. Flagstone Gorge was more scenic than I was expecting, North Branch Rock Run is sublime, and the Chasms of Rock Run are incredible. I also suggest taking the purple route on the map as it is a more scenic return route, although I did not follow it on this hike.

Parking is located at 41.564652, -76.830230.

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Epic campsite.

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Forests above Rock Run.

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Chasms of Rock Run.

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Misty spruce along the Hawkeye Trail.

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Hike to Colley Falls-SGL 66


Near the tiny village of Colley is a beautiful falls in SGL 66, known as Colley Falls. This is a easy hike, although the trail is not blazed.

From the parking area, follow the edge of the field with some nice views. Enter the woods, there are red pine and spruce trees off to the left. A grade comes into view along the creek. The creek does not have a name. Follow the grade, which becomes more evident as you hike up the creek.  See the remain of an old fieldstone dam off to the right; the stones are covered in moss. The grade crosses the creek below a six foot cascade. The grade climbs a steep slope and levels off before reaching the top of the falls.

The falls are about 20-25 feet tall and tumble over tiers of bedrock. I was surprised by the beauty of the falls. A small side stream joins below the falls. Colley Falls is by far the largest and most scenic of the falls, so most people will choose to stop here. If you’d like to see the other falls and cascades, continue up the grade.

The grade crosses the creek above Colley Falls where there is another scenic 7-8 foot falls. The grade meanders up the slope, passing near a cascade on the side stream. The grade meets another old grade at the side stream. Here, turn right as the grade crosses the creek among cascades. Another grade turns left and goes up along the stream where it fades out. Above is a 15 foot falls, ledges, and a glen with rocks and boulders. While the 15 foot falls is nice, it is not really worth the off trail hike to reach it.

This is small stream that will often be dry in summer. It is best to see the falls when the Loyalsock Creek USGS gauge is at least 3.0 feet, as a general correlation.

The game commission parking lot is at 41.524003, -76.290486.

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Beautiful setting at Colley Falls.

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Colley Falls.

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Cascading side stream.

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Fairground Falls-Loyalsock State Forest


The Loyalsock State Forest has many hidden waterfalls, and one happens to be behind the Sullivan County Fairgrounds. This unnamed creek attracted my attention with its steep gorge. Knowing that many surrounding streams had waterfalls, I suspected this creek might have one as well. I drove up Loyalsock Road and parked at a very sharp right hand turn where there was space at a pull off.

The small stream was very close by and announced itself with cascades. There were some nice cascades at the top, including one about 6 feet tall. I began to descend the creek into the gorge. I saw remnants of an old grade, but I did not take it. It may make for an easier descent. This is a small stream and you can expect it to dry up in summer. This falls should be flowing well when the Loyalsock Creek USGS gauge is 3.0 feet or higher.

The gorge was quite rocky and steep, but then the terrain eased up. I saw some more cascades over bedrock and boulders. I then passed a used jeep road or ATV trail above a striking 30-40 foot falls in a grotto of cliffs. A long, sinuous spring cascaded down the slope next to the falls. I was surprised by this falls and that it was unknown. There were two drops; the first was about ten feet and the second 25-30 feet tall. The terrain around the falls is very steep and I had to take care descending. Without a name, I simply called it Fairground Falls.

The ATV/jeep trail descended to the parking area of the fairgrounds. If the public is allowed to access the fairgrounds, this is by far the easiest way to the falls.

With my car at the top, I made the trek back up the gorge. There is so much beauty in all these hidden gorges and glens.

Parking is at 41.487172, -76.588080.

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Fairground Falls.

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Waterfalls of Trout Run along PA 42


Last year I learned that much of Trout Run along PA 42 in Sullivan County is owned by the fish and boat commission. I always suspected there might be waterfalls in this watershed, so I decided to check it out.

I parked in a large pull off along PA 42 and began by going down Trout Run. It is best to go through some brush and hike down the east side of the creek. I saw some old grades, but they did not last very long. There were also some old stone structures that looked like they once carried pipes. In fact, water was brought down from Hunters Lake to Muncy Valley for electrical power decades ago. The power building still remains in the valley and there are plans to restore it. To my left a side creek joined, with its own 15-20 foot falls (the first falls). This falls marked my return.

I hiked down Trout Run with its numerous cascades, slides, boulders, and pools. There were no significant falls, but the scenery was excellent. I kept to the east bank as best as I could; it did get steep in places. As I descended, the valley opened up and a second side creek joined with a 10 foot falls. I considered turning around here, but then I saw some large boulders downstream, so I decided to check them out.

Large angled boulders adorned Trout Run with a cascade and a pool just below. The scenery was excellent. A third side creek joined with a 10-15 foot falls. I decided to walk up this side creek. I’m glad I did. I then saw a second 15 foot falls that I was able to walk behind. Further up was Sleigh Ride Rock, a unique boulder looking like a sleigh, or boot, and it actually was leaving a shallow trench as it slid down the slope. Above was a third falls with another overhanging ledge. I hiked up crossed an obvious grade, and saw a fourth falls in a hemlock grotto. This was a remarkable little waterfall glen.

I hiked the obvious grade to the northwest. It crossed a less obvious grade, on which I turned right. The grade was a little overgrown, but entered a small creek with some cascades. The grade continued along the contour of the slope until I reached the first side creek I encountered. A grade dropped to my left, crossed the creek above the first falls and then descended along it back to the grade I first hiked in along. My car was just ahead. I then decided to hike upstream along Trout Run. So I crossed PA 42 and hiked up the west side of the creek where there were several slides and cascades. Again, the scenery was superb. I retraced my steps.

Trout Run is a gem with some superb scenery hiding in plain sight. It combines natural beauty with fascinating history. It would be ideal if both could be highlighted with a trail system and displays of the historical water works.

Pull off parking is at 41.366343, -76.602863.  Total length of hike was about 2 miles.

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More waterfalls. Trib of Trout Run.

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Slide on Trout Run.

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Waterfalls of Dutchmans and Abbot Runs-McIntyre Wild Area


Description below is clockwise on the loop depicted on the map.  Map created by Ben Van Riper.

The McIntyre Wild Are has long attracted the attention of outdoor enthusiasts. It features several gorges with waterfalls, vistas, diverse forests, small ponds, a cemetery and other historical remnants from the mining area. I really wanted to return to Dutchmans and Abbot Run; I had seen these streams years ago and was amazed by the rugged gorges and stunning array of waterfalls. The other month, I finally returned.  We explored the wild area over two hikes.

I met Ben at a small parking area along McIntyre Road. Because this area was once mined, it is filled with a web of old grades. We followed some grades down Dutchmans Run to see the first of its waterfalls where the gorge began to cut into the plateau. We came upon a twenty foot falls shrouded in hemlocks as a small side stream joined with its own cascade. There was also an impressive stone retaining wall and a culvert with thick wooden timbers. We continued down, following a grade on the north side of the creek. Above us was a culm pile, we climbed to it to see a fine view across the gorge of Dutchmans Run.

We continued down the grade until it crossed the creek. Only metal poles remained of the bridge. We crossed and entered thick hemlock. We wanted to see the creek and hiked to it. There was a stunning chasm and cascade. Below was a massive stone wall that was part of some kind of tram that would bring coal down off the mountain. The scenery was incredible as the water roared against the cliff walls. We returned to the grade and descended, only to be greeted with another falls from a side stream.

The grade dropped along the deep gorge, but it began to curve away from the creek, so we left it and descended. We made the rugged off trail hike up Dutchmans Run to see another thirty foot falls. A variety of ten foot falls were downstream. We headed downstream to see the final falls, and the most beautiful. A forty foot straight drop falls creating a veil of water.

We now wanted to head north to Abbot Run. We climbed above the final/bottom falls on Dutchmans Run and found an old grade that headed north. It was a little eroded in places, but we were able to follow it. It vanished for good and we descended to Abbot Run. Abbot Run was amazing, there was a thirty foot falls at the bottom with a pool. Towering cliffs loomed over the falls. We made the difficult scramble up into the chasm (not recommended) which was incredibly scenic. The creek was incased with cliffs as water tumbled over falls. A side stream joined with a falls and the chasm ended at a twenty five foot falls. We scrambled up the north side of Abbot Run to a grade.

To see Ben’s Vista, we walked down the grade to the side stream and then hiked north up along the side stream on a faint skid trail or grade. This faded out, so we followed the small side stream uphill to a series of ledges with cascades. In winter, a very impressive ice cave forms. From there, we hiked above the ledges to the west to Ben’s Vista, which is from an outcrop. It offers a great view looking down the narrow, twisting Lycoming Creek Valley. This is a dramatic cliff rim north of Ben’s Vista, where a bear trail provides some access, although the laurel is still thick in spots. The cliffs are exposed and offer great views, but the views are limited to looking across the valley, or south. As you head north, the cliffs offer views north into the rugged hills of southern Tioga County. These cliffs are on private land, but it was not posted. While the cliffs are very dramatic, the view from Ben’s Vista is just as good, if not better.

Back on Abbot Run, we headed up the grade and reached a place where the two forks of the creek met. What an amazing place. We could see waterfalls on both forks, creating a stunning view. One was about ten feet tall, the other about thirty. We hiked up the north fork, off trail, and entered a rugged, foreboding gorge as cliffs rose around us. We turned the corner to see another thirty foot falls featuring a drop and broad slide. We returned to where the two forks met and hiked up the south fork (Abbott Run on the map). We then headed south back to the car along old grades, an off trail hike, and through spruce forests.

One final unique spot is the source of Dutchmans Run, which is just off of McIntyre Road. We hiked up the creek to enter a trench of excavated area. There, a large pristine spring gushes from the earth. It was as if the spring was revealed while the land was being excavated.

This is a rugged, challenging hike perfect for the experienced hiker who is comfortable with off trail navigation. It follows a combination of grades and off trail hiking. No trails are marked or have signs. It is about nine to ten miles in length. The beauty and diversity of this hike is truly exceptional and the history makes it that much more fascinating.  PA is so beautiful.  Explore it.

Parking is at 41.530888, -76.932878.  It is pull off parking, not a formal parking area.

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Abbott Run, Loyalsock State Forest.

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In the gorge of Dutchman Run.

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Confluence of Abbott Run.

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