Hiking Bloody Run-SGL 13

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Purple is the unblazed trail (Bloody Run Trail).  Yellow is the yellow marked trail.  Orange is a wide, obvious grade. P=parking.

SGL 13 is known for its waterfalls and gorges. Dozens of waterfalls are found throughout these game lands. One such falls is on a relatively unknown stream called Bloody Run. I had been to these falls a few years ago. My initial plan was to hike up Bloody Run, see the falls, and find out if there were any more falls further upstream. However, my hike would end up being something very different.

I parked at a game commission parking lot along Mountain Road (41.306036, -76.428336). I followed a faint, unblazed trail that crossed Bloody Run, and I then followed a more established grade. This went to a very well established, wide grade, which I crossed. A grade continued up, but I decided to follow Bloody Run itself. I hiked up the creek, seeing some large 5-6 foot falls and cascades. As I continued upstream, there was extensive flood damage with landslides and fallen trees. Bloody Run Falls soon came into view, a nice 10 foot drop into a pool. Above was a grotto with another 6-7 foot falls. I pushed upstream, but I did not see anymore waterfalls. A little frustrated with my hike and the terrain, I turned around.

I then noticed out of the corner of my eye a couple walking, seeming to sail across the terrain. They were hiking a trail up the gorge. I had to check it out. I climbed and soon reached a well established grade with a trail. This trail climbed steadily up the gorge, keeping above the creek. I could see all the cascades below. The trail, which was unblazed but well established, climbed more steeply and entered a hemlock forest. At the top of the climb was an old thermometer stuck to the tree, an odd sight. The trail leveled in a beautiful hemlock forest with some old growth trees. The trail was very enjoyable to hike with the big hemlocks and great sense of isolation. I had no idea where this trail went, and the mystery deepened when I saw a trail, marked with yellow lids, on the left. I hiked this yellow trail out a ways, but turned around (I later learned it ends at a game commission road). I continued on the unblazed trail as it explored the top of the plateau with hardwoods and small meadows. The couple I was following soon disappeared into the forest; they sure seemed to know where they were going. I decided to turn around.

I followed the trail all the way back down. At the bottom, where it turned left, I followed a rocky grade to the right that brought me to the start of my hike up Bloody Run. If hiking Bloody Run, it is worth going off trail to see the falls, which are not very large. Be sure to follow the unblazed trail up the gorge and into the hemlock forest. It is a unique spot with great isolation and the sounds of the tumbling cascades of Bloody Run below. Someday I hope to return to explore more of these trails.

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Ten foot falls on Bloody Run.

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Upper part of falls on Bloody Run.

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Exploring Flat Top-SGL 57

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Corner Room, Flat Top, SGL 57

Flat Top is a prong of the plateau in SGL 57.  It is notable for its scenic and ecological diversity.  There are vistas, gorges, caves, chasms, overhangs, waterfalls and bedrock balds.  Flat Top is home to hardwood, spruce, hemlock, and pine forests, not to mention wetlands, streams, and bogs.

I’ve been to Flat Top many times, but on this hike we decided to explore the base of the extensive cliffs.

If you want to hike to Flat Top, you should be an experienced hiker with a GPS or other navigational aid.  There are some old forest roads and grades to help with navigation, but there are no marked or signed trails.  Begin at the game commission parking area at White Brook (41.496555, -76.132024), cross the field (no mowed trail) to the northwest corner, climb a bank with some pickers, hike up along two homes, and follow the steep grade into a pine forest.  Leave the pine forest and follow an obvious grade just to the right and hike up it.  White Brook, and its falls, are far below on the right.

We reached an obvious grade to the left and followed it to near the top of the plateau.  We reached a T intersection, turned right, and then left off the trail to begin the bushwhack part of the hike.  We hiked west to the rim of the plateau and reached Conglomerate Cave, a massive overhang with a distinct layer of conglomerate rock.  From here, we followed the rim around.

We were treated to incredible overhangs, mazes, chasms, and caves.  We crossed some small streams and the rocks returned with Skylight Chasm.  We squeezed through the slot at the back of Skylight Chasm to enter the Rock Room, a fascinating overhang and cave feature with ice flows.  Amazing.

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P=Parking. B=Bald. Black dots are rock features.  Red is off trail.  Yellow are old grades or forest roads, or other unblazed trails.

The rocks continued along the edge of the rim.  We went up through a rock maze, crossed a bald and reached a cliff.  As we made our way toward Spruce Ledge, there was very rugged terrain and giant jumbled boulders.  We reached the base of Spruce Ledge and marveled at the giant, orangish cliffs.  A quick climb up to Spruce Ledge provided fine views and forests shimmering in a coat of ice.

We returned to the base, to see more caves, overhangs, and giant boulders.  Heading north, we hiked below Preachers Rock and explored more chasms.  Soon we were at the base of a bald where Ryan saw a weasel, which ran under a log, and something rolling down in the snow.  It was a mouse it had just caught, but released after seeing us.  We quickly moved on so the weasel could get its meal.

Giant boulders and passageways loomed in the forest.  We reached the next highlight, the Corner Room, and incredible overhang and cave.  A narrow roof of rock stretched over a giant house sized boulder.  We climbed to the bald, and followed a faint trail to an even larger bald.  Our off trail hike continued as we hiked to two balds, that we had not seen before.  We went off trail through hemlock forests, saw a small rock maze, and dropped down to an existing trail, which we took back down White Brook to complete our hike.

SGL 57 is such a special place and is PA’s best kept secret.  Sometimes I think it should be a national park.  Experienced hikers will want to spend some time here.

Part of this hike is described as Hike No. 14 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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Bedrock mazes, SGL 57.

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Views from Spruce Ledge, SGL 57.

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Spruce Ledge, SGL 57.

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Cave hunting. SGL 57.

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Free Camping in Pennsylvania

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Loyalsock Creek near the Onion Hole camping area, Loyalsock State Forest.

Pennsylvania features hundreds of free campsites for those looking for an inexpensive, isolated getaway, or refuge from the noise, crowds, and smoke of developed campgrounds.

Most of these free sites are on state forest lands. Most do not have any amenities, while a few may have picnic tables or a fire ring. Do not expect toilets, showers, or running water. These are primitive sites. Campsites are often along gravel forest roads which are usually in good shape, but can be muddy in spring, and impassable in winter. All sites are vehicle accessible, with your vehicle being at, or very close, to the campsite.

These sites are usually intended for tent camping. If you have a camper van or small trailer, contact the office to see if they are allowed or can be accommodated.

While free, all sites require registration and permit so be sure to call first.

Eastern Pennsylvania

Delaware State Forest: 29 sites with fire ring, picnic table, sign board. For anglers and paddlers, these sites are close to the state forests numerous lakes and ponds. For hikers, sites are close to the Thunder Swamp Trail system. Call 570-895-4000 for a permit.

Pinchot State Forest: 3 sites at the Manny Gordon Recreation Area, pit toilets are nearby. Sites are nestled among pine, hemlocks, and rhododendrons. The Pinchot Trail is nearby.
Moon Lake Recreation Area has 12 sites, most have a fire ring and picnic table. This is a best kept secret with a natural lake for fishing and paddling. Miles of mountain bike trails surround the camping area making this superb for bike riders. Also, Ricketts Glen is a short drive away, making Moon Lake an ideal alternative to that state park’s busy campground. Call 570-945-7133 for a permit.

Loyalsock State Forest: Some of the best free campsites are found in this state forest. Sites are often in scenic areas and hemlock groves. The perfect option for hikers, as sites are close to the state forest’s extensive system of trails to vistas, waterfalls, gorges, ponds, and rock formations. Beautiful Worlds End State Park is nearby.

There are 69 sites spread throughout the state forest. Loyalsock is unique for having four camping areas: Sand Spring, Masten, Onion Hole, and Bridle Trail. These camping areas have several sites making them ideal for larger groups.

Call 570-946-4049 for a permit.

Brochure and map.

Weiser State Forest: Has about 18 individual and group sites on its various tracts. The sites in the Haldeman Tract are recommended due to the existence of a hiking and mountain bike trail system, and an excellent view from the hang glider launch, which offers superb sunsets. Call 570-875-6450 for a permit.

Michaux State Forest: Has many designated sites throughout the forest. The Appalachian Trail is close by, as are many other hiking trails, and two state parks, Caledonia and Pine Grove Furnace. Call 717-352-2211 for a free permit.

Central Pennsylvania

Tioga State Forest: There are several sites available, which are close to excellent hiking along the Pine Creek Gorge and Asaph area. There are also mountain bike trails, rock climbing, and paddling. Call 570-724-2868 for a free permit. Tioga State Forest has two primitive campgrounds at County Bridge and Asaph, but a fee is required.

Susquehannock State Forest: The only designated sites for motorized camping are at the 2 Mile and Dyer equestrian camping areas, which are intended for horseback riders. Call 814-274-3600 for a permit.

Elk State Forest: Several sites are available in the forest, including an equestrian camping area and a primitive campground. Many trails are in the state forest. Do not miss exploring the beautiful Quehanna Wild Area. Wild elk herds are in the forest, and sites are close to the elk viewing areas. Sizerville State Park is a scenic, quaint park that is worth visiting. Do not miss a scenic drive on Ridge Road with its many excellent vistas. Call 814-486-3353 for a permit.

Tiadaghton State Forest: With an extensive hiking trail system that offers some of the best scenery in the state, Tiadaghton is camping paradise. The Pine Creek Trail, Mid State Trail, Golden Eagle Trail, and Black Forest Trails are all close. There are mountain bike trails and opportunities for paddling. Call 570-753-5409 for a permit.

Sproul State Forest: The largest of the state forests, Sproul covers over 305,000 acres. Enjoy the Chuck Keiper and Dount Hole Trails. Paddy Falls is a beautiful spot. There are many vistas, including famous Hyner View. Intrepid hikers should explore beautiful Clendenin Branch. Call 570-923-6011 for a permit.

Moshannon State Forest: Many designated sites are available throughout the forest. Enjoy the Quehanna and Allegheny Front Trails, Black Moshannon State Park, and the serene trails of the Quehanna Wild Area. There are ponds, elk viewing areas, and large rocks. This is an isolated and beautiful state forest. Call 814-765-0821 for a permit.

Bald Eagle State Forest: There are 45 designated sites with fire rings and picnic tables. The forest has many trails and natural areas. Enjoy the Mid State Trail, vistas, and many natural areas, including old growth forests. The Poe Paddy area is scenic with rugged ridges, canyons, and ridges. Call 570-922-3344 for a permit.

Map and brochure.

Rothrock State Forest: There are 8 designated sites with a picnic table and fire ring. Great hiking and mountain biking can be found here. Hike the Mid State and Standing Stone Trails with awesome vistas. Do not miss Rocky Ridge, Little Juniata Water Gap, or Alan Seeger Natural Areas. Penn Roosevelt State Park is a hidden gem. Call 814-643-2340 for a permit.

Tuscarora State Forest: Camp sites are available. See the remains of a train tunnel, views, and an old growth forest. Call 717-536-3191 for a permit.

Western Pennsylvania

Cornplanter State Forest: One site is available. It is close to the southwest corner of the Allegheny National Forest. Call 814-723-0262 for a permit.

Allegheny National Forest: There are many sites available with the most popular being along the gorgeous Clarion River and Millstone Creek. There are 17 sites along the Clarion and 9 along the Millstone. They tend to be popular.

Brochure and map.

Other sites can be found throughout the national forest where there are many trails, vistas, old growth forests, and cliffs. The Allegheny Reservoir is beautiful and ideal for kayaking its coves and bays. A world class mountain bike trail system is at Jakes Rocks. Hike the North Country Trail, Minister Creek, Morrison, and Tracy Ridge Trails.

Camping guidelines.

For camping in the northern half of the national forest, call the Bradford Ranger Station – 814-362-4613, and in the southern half, call the Marienville Ranger Station – 814-927-6628.

Clear Creek State Forest: There are four sites. Enjoy trails to large rocks and along streams with rhododendron jungles that bloom in early July. Call 814-226-1901 for a permit.

Forbes State Forest: There are 6 sites throughout the forest, all near trails and other points of interest. Forbes State Forest has extensive recreational opportunities with many trails, natural areas, waterfalls, and Mt. Davis, the highest point in the state. Sublime Ohiopyle State Park is a fairly close drive. Call 724-238-1200 for a permit.

Brochure.

PA is a great state, and it doesn’t require a lot of money to explore it.

My books.

Exploring a Hidden Waterfall Glen-SGL 134

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Yellow is a gated forest road.  Red is off trail.  Green is the easiest route, but may cross private property.

SGL 134 is a hidden gem, lying in the shadow of the Loyalsock State Forest. Here you will find beautiful vistas from cliffs over the narrow, rugged Loyalsock Creek valley. There is also Huckle Run, a small stream of stunning beauty with pristine water and a gorge with several waterfalls. The forests feature extensive hemlocks and large tulip poplar trees.

A few months ago I returned to SGL 134 to explore the gorge of an unnamed stream located north of Dry Run, near the village of Barbours. I suspected there would be waterfalls. Without a trail, I would have to bushwhack into the gorge. I parked along Proctor Road and hiked up a gate game commission road. I then began my off trail hike by climbing up the plateau to a ridge with many ledges and outcrops, including a unique stone pillar or pedestal. There were some partial views through the trees. I descended along the ridge and entered the gorge. Below me was a 15 foot falls in a scenic grotto.

Unfortunately, this is a small stream that does not hold water well. While it was running on my hike, it was low. I suggest the best time to see the falls is when the Loyalsock Creek is running at 6 feet or higher, as a rough approximation. I climbed up the gorge to see a 20 foot falls that tumbled over tiers of ledges. I couldn’t climb above this falls, so I backtracked down the creek and found an old grade on the west side. I climbed up the grade and saw a couple more scenic falls, about ten feet tall, often in grottos of sandstone. I continued my climb up the creek passing small cascades and slides under large hemlocks. Giant tulip poplars towered in the forest. I reached a deer fence and an old forest road with briars; I stayed in the woods. I followed a more open forest road and hiked around the deer fence. I descended to the game commission road and returned to my car.

My route wasn’t very ideal. It would be best to follow the green route on the map into the gorge, but it was not clear on my hike if that would cross private land. The ridge with the ledges was scenic, as was the gorge. Getting around the deer fence and logged area was a pain.

If you are looking for a new waterfall destination when all the creeks are high, I recommend this unnamed gorge. I also hope to explore nearby Dry Run sometime this year.

I parked at 41.411242, -76.804107.

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Rock columns.

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Huge tulip poplar and some beech.

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Hemlock woods.

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Exploring Sullivan Mountain and Buck Run-Loyalsock State Forest

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Red is off trail.  Yellow follows old grades or forest roads.

Back in December I went on a hike to see an off trail falls near Sullivan Mountain in the Loyalsock State Forest, and to explore Buck Run. I wasn’t going to post the hike because my route involved a lot of backtracking. However, this isolated area has some unique beauty that I realized was worthy of sharing.

I parked at a small lot near where Yellow Dog and Ellenton Ridge Roads meet. I followed the forest road to the west, which was often wet. The road passed through a logged area, but then entered more scenic forests, spruce groves, and a mossy wetland with blood red pitcher plants. I soon reached the Old Loggers Path at Buck Run; I would return to this spot later in my hike. I followed the OLP for a short distance, but then turned left onto the Crandalltown Trail, an unblazed grade. This obvious grade took me across the OLP and I continued to the right onto another unmarked, obvious grade. This grade took me along some giant boulders. One was adorned with moss and had trees growing out of it.

The grade was a very nice hike as it traversed the southern edge of the plateau, passing small fern meadows. Through the trees I could see over Pleasant Stream’s valley. I loved the isolation of this route. I soon reached a small, unnamed stream. My bushwhack began.

I suspected there was a waterfall down this creek. The terrain was very steep and I soon came upon a rugged grotto and a scenic 40 foot falls. The top part of the falls was framed by cliffs of fractured rock. I continued down the steep gorge where there were more boulders and cascades, but no more falls. If hiking to the falls, I would not suggest going further downstream below the falls due to the rugged terrain. I made the arduous climb out of the gorge and retraced my steps back to Buck Run.

The next part of my hike was an off trail exploration of Buck Run. It is a very scenic stream. The gorge has many large boulders and cascades. As I descended, the creek became a gauntlet of boulders and rapids. There were countless cascades. Large cliffs then rose on the north side of the creek, creating an impressive gorge. Scars of landslides from recent floods appeared in places. While Buck Run doesn’t have the sizeable waterfalls, it is still a very scenic place. I hiked out of Buck Run by climbing to the top of the cliff; there were some partial views. I made my way up Buck Run, returned to the OLP, and retraced my steps to the car in twilight.

I hope to return to this area to explore the giant rocks and cliffs that cover the top of Sullivan Mountain’s plateau.

I parked at 41.523299, -76.869160.