Best Hikes in the Loyalsock State Forest

The Loyalsock State Forest is one of Pennsylvania’s beloved places due to its rugged scenery and outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.  It is home to waterfalls, gorges, ponds, chasms, giant rocks, hemlock forests, meadows and wetlands.  There are whitewater rivers and numerous trails.  Over the last ten or so years, it has evolved into a recreation destination due to its scenery and relative proximity to Philadelphia and New York.  It is now host to some of the finest trail run competitions in the eastern U.S.   The Loyalsock is a different place, serene and pristine, across its 115,000 acres.  For the hiker, where should you go?  The Loyalsock offers many hiking opportunities. Some of the parking below is pull off parking  The following list is not in any particular order.

  1. Haystacks and Dutchman Falls.  A popular and fairly easy-moderate trail that is good for kids.  Enjoy waterfalls, Loyalsock Creek, hemlock forests and the impressive Haystack Rapids, formed by Burgoon Sandstone, an ideal place for camping and swimming.  No fires are allowed at the Haystacks.  About five miles total.  Park at 41.448291, -76.453318.
  2. Rough Hill Trail.  A short, rugged and rocky trail to two excellent views.  Do not miss the upper view, from which you can see the distinctive peak of Smiths Knob.  About 2.5 miles long, moderate to difficult.  Park at 41.397434, -76.759352.
  3. Angel Falls and Kettle Creek Gorge.  This is the scenic heart of the Loyalsock with the area’s tallest falls, views, great camping, and cascades.  Do not miss the falls below Angel Falls, including Gipson Falls.  Kettle Creek is isolated and beautiful.  You can make a nine mile loop with gated McCarty Road or the Ridge Trail.  Moderate to difficult and best for more experienced hikers.  Park at 41.385226, -76.668243.
  4. Dry Run Gorge and High Knob Loop.  A rugged, challenging ten mile loop around Dry Run Gorge.  Follow the High Knob, Loyalsock, and the bridle or Stony Run Trails.  Enjoy waterfalls along Dutters Run, Mary’s View, High Knob Overlook, and a small backcountry pond.  Begin at the Hillsgrove Ranger Station.  Better for experienced hikers.  Parking is at 41.420715, -76.704107.
  5. Ketchum Run Gorge. The gem of the Loyalsock, featuring an incredible gorge with waterfalls, chasm, cascades and pools, plus two vistas- Upper and Lower Alpine.  Moderate to difficult.  Use the Loyalsock, Fern Rock, and cross country ski trails to make a nine mile loop.  Parking is at 41.437704, -76.608134.
  6. Fern Rock Nature Trail.  An easier trail that is great for kids, and has some excellent scenery.  There are hemlock forests, boulders, wetlands, meadows, and cascades and small falls on Ketchum Run.  About three miles.  Parking is at 41.437704, -76.608134.
  7. Sharp Top.  Hike the Old Loggers Path from Pleasant Stream Road up to this stunning vista. Pleasant Stream is sizeable and has no bridge.  Return the way you came. 
  8. Dutters Run/Old Bark Loop.  A 4.5 mile hike with gorges, view, and waterfalls using the Loyalsock, Old Bark and Dutters Trails.  Moderate to difficult.  Park at Dry Run Falls.  Parking is at 41.430374, -76.670462.
  9. Smiths Knob and Painter Run.  An excellent 6 mile loop with excellent views, including from the top of Smiths Knob.  Finish the loop along scenic Painter Run and Little Bear Creek Road.  Challenging.  Parking at 41.356244, -76.859745.
  10. Jacoby Falls.  Hike to a beautiful 35 foot falls, can be dry in summer.  Great ice flows in winter.  1.5 miles one way, east to moderate.  Parking is at 41.376781, -76.920105.
  11. Allegheny Ridge.  Hike the Loyalsock Trail from PA 87 or Little Bear Creek Road to an excellent view from the Allegheny Ridge.  Hike is easier from Little Bear Creek Road.  Can make a great loop with the rugged, faint Graf Woolever Trail, which has cascades.  About 5-6 miles in length.  Parking is at 41.356244, -76.859745 or 41.361348, -76.877051.
  12. Matt Mertes Trail.  A short loop with a nice view, pine forests, and a small stream with cascades.  About two miles.  Trail is at 41.354471, -76.912665.
  13. Rider Park.  A separate park adjacent to the Loyalsock State Forest, this park has many trails with meadows and great views.  Don’t miss the Katy Jane and Francis X. Kennedy Trails.  Various lengths possible.  Parking is at 41.34714203490246, -76.93652528242814.
  14. Rusty Falls and Shanerburg Run.  Follow the bridle trail up along scenic Shanerburg Run with small cascades and meadows.  An unmarked side trail leads to beautiful Rusty Falls.  Complete the loop along Shanerburg Road.  About four miles.  Moderate in difficulty.  Parking is at about 41.438860, -76.531650.
  15. Rock Run.  One of PA’s most scenic streams with incredible bedrock pools, chasms, grottos, cascades and slides.  Most people just walk along the creek, there is no trail system.  Parking is along Rock Run Road.
  16. Miners Run.  Hike up along the creek to stunning waterfalls and giant boulders.  There is a trail on the east side of the creek, but it is high above the creek. Moderate to challenging, about a mile long.  Pull off parking is at 41.515958, -76.916716.
  17. Devil’s Elbow Natural Area.  Hike the Sand Spring Trail through hemlock forests, along creeks, and wetlands with diverse plant and animal life.  Easy hike, about three miles.  Parking is at 41.564650, -76.830177.
  18. Rattlesnake Point.  Starting from Camp Susque, hike a narrow, rocky trail up past a seasonal falls and up a glen.  It leads to an awesome view of the Lycoming Creek valley.  About 2.5 miles, challenging.  Parking is at about 41.419782, -77.033593, hike begins across PA 14. 
  19. Bar Bottom Hollow. A more challenging hike with no official trails, follow old forest roads into a gorge with several beautiful waterfalls and cascades.  Parking is at 41.377218, -76.891417.

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