The Morrison Trail is one of the finest hikes in the Allegheny National Forest. It is a loop with a cross-connector, creating two loops. The longer of these loops is the Rimrock Loop. In recent years, the trail has been extensively rerouted in places, avoiding Campbell Run and some wet areas. Also a new side trail, the Black Bear Trail, has been added. Our hike followed the Rimrock Loop and Black Bear Trail, and was about fourteen miles long; longer than the maps would suggest. Further trail modifications may occur in the future.
The trails are well established, have signs at intersections, and are blazed with white or silver diamond placards. These trails are ideal as either a long dayhike, or short overnight backpack.
From the parking area, we followed a connector trail and turned left at the loop. The forests were mostly hardwoods with vast glades of ferns. We could see deep in the forest. As we descended, hemlocks became more common and we reached a small stream, and the cross connector trail. This was the start of the Rimrock Loop and we went right. Luckily, this was the peak blooms for mountain laurel and the pinkish white blossoms adorned the forest. It was beautiful. The trail was level and rolling through the laurel. We then reached the juncture with the new Black Bear Trail and turned left. The trail descended, passing groves of hemlocks and small streams. We then hiked among some large mossy boulders in open hardwood forests with ferns. The trail curved around the mountain, passing more boulders and then gradually climbing back to the Rimrock Loop. While Black Bear is nice, it is not a must-see, but is a great way to make a longer hike.
The new section of the Rimrock Loop soon began as we climbed through open hardwoods and then dropped over a rocky section. The trail continued a descent and entered a very scenic cove with large hemlocks and gigantic boulders with ferns, moss and lichens. Some giant boulders had entire forests growing on top. This was my favorite spot and I’d like to explore more of it. It felt primeval.
The trail returned to the open hardwoods and gradually descended to a side trail that leads to the Morrison Campground. The trails in this area are brushy, but still easy to follow. The only way to see the reservoir is at the campground, which is a nice place to take a break. There is a fee to camp here.
After the campground, the trail made its way up Morrison Run, another gorgeous section with great campsites, hemlocks, cascades and pools. The streamside hiking was a joy as trout darted in the pools.
At the next intersection, we turned left to begin the cross connector up a side stream of Morrison Run. This is another great trail with cascades, hemlocks, and more giant boulders. At one place, just off trail, the creek flows underground, beneath the mossy boulders with awesome rock formations, a cave, and cascades. One thing I love about the Allegheny National Forest are all the giant sandstone boulders.
We completed the loop and returned back to the car. Hopefully the national forest will continue to expand its hiking trails.
After your hike, be sure to check out the beautiful Rimrock Overlook, which is nearby. At the base of the cliffs, cold air blows out of the cracks in the rock in the summer.
Parking is at 41.861656, -78.896839. For the map above, black dots are boulders.
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