Waterfalls of Sullivan Branch-SGL 13

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One of many waterfalls on Sullivan Branch, SGL 13.

Sullivan Branch in SGL 13 is a stream known for its incredible beauty, carving a deep gorge with waterfalls, cascades, and deep pools.  This area is commonly known as the Waterfall Wonderland.  I returned to scout a route for the proposed Endless Mountains Trail; I wanted a route that would offer views of the waterfalls, but avoid the creek itself since such a route would infeasible due to the terrain and floods.

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I parked at Sullivan Falls and enjoyed the view of this impressive falls as it tumbles into a large amphitheater of the rock and a deep pool.  I then followed the current trail on an old grade up Sullivan Branch.  While this is a nice trail, it avoids the waterfalls on Sullivan Branch.  I stopped at Pigeon Run and enjoyed its many waterfalls.  I continued up the old grade, passing an unnamed creek with its own grotto and waterfalls.  I soon reached Ore Run (there’s another falls up that creek as well) and took a break as Sullivan Branch tumbled over boulders and ledges.

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I then hiked along the east bank above Sullivan Branch as the waterfalls soon appeared, as well as a long mini-gorge and slide.  I re-crossed the previous unnamed stream and found a great route for a trail on reasonable terrain.  The waterfalls continued, including one nearly 50 feet tall.  The scenery was impressive as I looked down the gorge to the crashing water below.  Such a beautiful place.

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I’d seen these falls before and it was great to see them from a different perspective.  I reached Pigeon Run and its own glen of waterfalls.  I then returned to the pervious grade I had hiked in on and returned to my car.

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As I walked to my car, I noticed a ridge on my left (east) that had some impressive rock outcrops.  Naturally, I had to check it out.  It was a tough climb under dying hemlocks, but I reached the top and explored unique ledges and giant angled, slanted boulders.  A very cool place.

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I made the steep descent, being careful not to break my ankles, and returned to my car.

More photos.

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Pennsylvania’s Best Backpacking Trails

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View from the West Rim Trail

Pennsylvania has the most extensive system of backpacking trails in the east, in fact, it’s trail system exceeds many western states.  These are the best of Pennsylvania’s many overnight trails.

Eastern Pennsylvania

Yellow and orange

Old Loggers Path.  This 28 mile loop has become very popular in the last few years, and for good reason.  It’s isolated, has two shelters, vistas, waterfalls, swimming holes, big rocks, and great camping.  Rock Run is a stream of exceptional beauty and Sharp Top has a beautiful view.  The OLP generally has moderate, gradual terrain.

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Loyalsock Trail.  This 60 mile route was first established in the 1950s, making it one of the older backpacking trails in the nation.  The LT is famous for its diverse and beautiful terrain with gorges, waterfalls, vistas, big rocks, isolation, pond, whitewater rapids, and swimming holes.  There are many scenic streams and campsites, not to mention hemlock forests along its eastern half.

Loyalsock-Link Loop.  A great 14 mile loop for an overnight, beginning at Worlds End State Park, or from US 220 and include the Haystack Rapids.

Pinchot Trail.  A great easier trail for beginner or younger backpackers.  The south loop has been re-routed to include Choke Creek, Choke Creek Falls, meadows, wetlands, spruce forests, and cascades-dramatically increasing the scenic beauty of that section.

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Appalachian Trail (Michaux State Forest).  Widely considered the best section of the AT in PA, enjoy historical remnants, great views, several shelters, rock outcrops, ponds, two state parks, and not to mention the Appalachian Trail Museum.

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Appalachian Trail- Port Clinton to Wind Gap.  Yes, this section is known for its rocks.  But with rocks, comes views and this section of the AT has some excellent ones, such as the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock.  The scrambling climb up the Lehigh Gap is a highlight as are the deep water gaps, shelters, and rock formations.  The section of the AT through the famed Lehigh Gap will be rerouted to offer more views and open ridgetop hiking.

 

Central Pennsylvania

Black Forest Trail.  One of PA’s premier trails, the famous 42 mile BFT is rugged and beautiful with stunning views of the Pine Creek Gorge, waterfalls, streams, meadows, and beautiful campsites.  This trail has some of the best views in the state.

West Rim Trail.  A popular 32 mile route on the west rim of the Pine Creek Gorge with several great views, scenic forests, small streams, and great camping.  There are also several off trail waterfalls.

Susquehannock Trail.  At 85 miles, the longest single-trail loop in the eastern US.  The STS offers deep woods immersion with isolation, streams, meadows, some views, and great camping.  There are now two shelters and one hut.  The highlight is the Hammersley Wild Area and its famous swimming hole.

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Hammersley Wild Area.  PA’s largest and most isolated roadless area, the Hammersley is a gem.  A great loop is via the Susquehannock and Twin Sisters Trail with stunning views from the Hammersley meadows. (Hint: to return to the STS, hike off trail down the ridge from the north side of the meadows, it is an exposed ridge with several great views of the canyon).  More trails are planned in the wild area.  Hammersley Fork is a stream of great beauty.

Quehanna Wild Area.  PA’s largest wild area, the Quehanna is a hiking gem with many trails that feature open meadows, spruce and pine forests, gorges, vistas, huge rocks, pond, streams, and great camping.  Jungles of rhododendron and laurel fill the gorges.  One of my favorite areas.  What trails should you hike?  Check out the Quehanna, Bridge, Bellefonte Posse, Kunes Camp, Lincoln, Crawford Vista, David Lewis, Teaberry, East Cross Connector, Sevinsky, Meeker, and Big Spring Trails.

Mosquito Creek

Allegheny Front Trail.  A 42 mile loop west of State College offers superb streamside hiking, boardwalks, views, diverse forests, and rhododendron jungles.  There are some excellent campsites.  Trails offer a cross-connector and the eastern side of the loop is generally considered the more scenic.

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Standing Stone Trail.  Nearly abandoned in the 1990s, the SST has evolved into one of PA’s finest trails.  Over 80 miles long and connecting the Mid State to the Tuscarora Trails.  It is a part of the Great Eastern Trail.  At times rocky and rugged, this trail has awesome views, old growth forests, rock formations, sinkholes, wildflowers, 1000 Steps, historical remnants, and one shelter.

Sausser's Stonepile vista

Mid State Trail-Little Juniata Water Gap to PA 45
The heart of the MST in the Seven Mountains, PA’s longest trail, features rugged ridgelines with excellent views, old growth forests, natural areas, several state parks, a tunnel, gorges, good isolation and campsites.

Mid State Trail-Woolrich to SR 2016 near Arnot
An excellent, rugged hike through the Pine Creek Gorge region that features superb vistas, waterfalls, gorges, rock formations, isolation, historical ruins, big rocks, and incredible swimming holes.

Western Pennsylvania

North Country Trail-PA 346 to Red Bridge Campground.  This trail explores the vast, beautiful Allegheny Reservoir with views over the water and great campsites.  Enjoy hemlock shaded glens, scenic streams, giant boulders, and wetlands.

North Country Trail – Guitonville Road to Highland Drive.  This section explore the stunning Cook Forest State Park and the Clarion River.  The towering old growth trees are beautiful, as is the serene Clarion River with its pristine water in a forested gorge with jungles of rhododendron.  Hikers love Maple Creek north of Cook Forest, and the waterfall on Henrys Run just south of the state park.

Morrison Trail.  An 11 mile loop with a cross connector.  Enjoy house sized boulders, streams, cascades, and views of the Allegheny Reservoir.  Be sure to include the cross connector, the most scenic part of the trail.

Minister Creek Trail.  A popular 7 mile loop is great for an overnight.  There are huge boulders, chasms, a views, streams, and great camping.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.  The most popular trail in western PA, the LHHT is well known for its numerous shelters, big rocks, views, scenic forests, and streams.  Hike south to enjoy Ohiopyle at the end.

Quebec Run Wild Area.  A best kept secret, Quebec Run has a network of trails along streams filled with hemlock and rhododendron, making it feel like a jungle.  This is a diverse place, with off trail caves, and huge rocks and cliffs north of Tebolt Run, also off trail.

Oil Creek State Park  (Gerard Hiking Trail).  A 36 mile loop with cross connectors that meanders around Oil Creek State Park.  There are shelters, views, glens with waterfalls, and remnants of the oil industry, which began there.

Backpacking Pennsylvania for more trail info.

Bob Webber and Pine Cliff Trails

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View from the Bob Webber Trail, Tiadaghton State Forest

The Bob Webber Trail is one of many great trails in the Pine Creek Gorge region.  This area is a hiking wonderland with hundreds of miles of trails that lead to vistas, waterfalls, gorges, streams, and rock formations.

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This trail is named after a man who was a local hiking icon, who built and blazed many trails in the area, who cleared trails with an axe (if you see logs along a trail with the cut marks of an axe, it was probably done by Bob Webber), and who deeply loved the Pine Creek area while living in a cabin, off grid, on the edge of the canyon.  Mr. Webber passed away from cancer a few years ago.  Thankfully, this trail was named in his honor while he was still alive.

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This is a linear trail, 1.7 miles one way and involves a 1,200 foot climb.  From the parking area at Ross Run along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, cross PA 414 and begin the climb through pine forests and a meadow with a view.  The trail levels and passes a side trail with some cairns; this is the Pine Cliff Trail, which I hiked on my return.  The trail then passed a view to the left with a view of Ravenshorn.

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I hiked up to a level area before the real climb began with a series of switchbacks, passing a small spring along the way and some rock outcrops.  The climb continued and then leveled off where we reached Wolf Bald Vista, the end of the trail.  There was a log bench at the views, which offered a stunning panorama of the Pine Creek Gorge and the deep gorge of Wolf Run.  Ravenshorn could be seen far below. The view was serene, with no noises, and no signs of development.

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I descended back to the Pine Cliff Trail, which I highly recommend.  The trail drops down into some pines, be sure to take the trail to the left which leads to the vista and some unique rock outcrops.  While low in the canyon, the vista is still impressive as it is surrounded by the mountains and canyon walls.  I retraced my steps and descended on the trail, turning left.  This trail follows sidehill along the deep gorge of Wolf Run; the famous Golden Eagle Trail is across the gorge.  Reach Wolf Run and hike down it with cascades and waterslides.  At an old culvert or bridge, a side trail appears to climb up to the Golden Eagle Trail.

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I turned left on the Pine Creek Rail Trail and walked back to the car.

More info on the trail.

More photos.

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Best Hikes in the Allegheny National Forest

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Bent Run Waterfalls, Allegheny National Forest

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is a big place, it covers 514,000 acres.  It has several beautiful areas and the forest is known for its giant boulders, cliffs, old growth forests, scenic streams, and the Allegheny Reservoir.  Where should you hike?  Here’s a list.

Allegheny National Forest hiking website, with maps and guides for some trails.

Hiking the Allegheny National Forest  guidebook (now available only for download).

1. Minister Creek
This is the most popular and arguably the most scenic hike in the ANF. A 7.3 mile loop that features massive rocks, cliffs, boulders, chasms, and rock formations. There is one view and several beautiful streams and campsites. The North Country Trail connects to the northern part of the loop.

2. Morrison Trail
An 11 mile loop with a cross-connector, this trail is probably my favorite in the ANF because it offers a taste of everything this region has to offer. The trail provides views of the reservoir, cascading streams, great camping, and huge boulders. Do not miss hiking the cross-connector trail, which is the most scenic part of the Morrison Trail.

3. Clarion River Rapids/Lily Pond Trail
The gem of the southern ANF, this 2.5 mile linear trail follows the stunning Clarion River along its rapids, known as X, Y, and Z rapids. There are huge boulders, deep pools, a small beach, and excellent camping. Start at Irwin Run. The trail ends where it is washed out at Crow Run. I’ve known this trail as the Clarion River Rapids, but a recent ANF recreation map calls it the Lily Pond Trail.

4. Hearts Content
A stunning old growth forest with towering trees, Hearts Content is a must-see. Some of the tallest trees in Pennsylvania are along this trail. The trails are easy with rolling terrain and are a little more than a mile long.

5. Rimrock Overlook
The finest view in the ANF from huge cliffs. You can see the reservoir far below. The view is great for sunsets, or in the morning to see the mist over the reservoir. You can both drive or hike to the overlook. A new 1.3 mile trail climbs up from the Kinzua Beach area. Be sure to hike to the base of the cliffs to see crevasses, huge boulders, and cracks in the rock that blow out cold air in summer.

6. Hector Falls
The ANF doesn’t have many waterfalls, but it makes up for it with Hector Falls. While only 22 feet tall, it is surely one of the most unique waterfalls you will ever see. The creek flows over the 90 degree sides of a square boulder, creating an impressive visual effect. Huge boulders and cliffs are below the falls. It’s about a one mile hike in from FR 258 near Ludlow; the falls are isolated.

7. Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail
These trails are famous for its streams, campsites, and great views of the undeveloped Allegheny Reservoir as rolling green mountains rise over the blue water. The trail system is extensive, maybe a little too extensive, as some trails are rarely hiked and maintenance is an issue. The most popular trails is a loop along Tracy Run, Johnnycake Run, and the reservoir. The trail along the shore to Polly’s Run is also very scenic. Nelse Run area is also beautiful.

8. Tanbark Trail
A 9 mile linear trail, this trail offers scenic forests, huge boulders, a crevasse, and cascades along Boardinghouse Run.

9. Hickory Creek Wilderness
A 12 mile loop through a wilderness of streams, meadows, campsites, and forests. This trail is known for its isolation and is most popular with backpackers. The large boulders common in the ANF are largely absent from this trail. Experienced hikers like to go off trail and explore the Middle and East branches of Hickory Creek, creating a larger loop.

10. Jakes Rocks
Another short hike, with trails less than a mile, Jakes Rocks are impressive with its views of the reservoir, huge cliffs, overhangs, and boulders. Be sure to take the trail to the base of the cliffs. A new mountain biking trail system now surrounds Jakes Rocks.

11. Bent Run Waterfalls
Located near the impressive Kinzua Dam, a trail leads up along Bent Run with its many cascades and waterfalls over mossy boulders. A short hike, but very beautiful.

12. Marilla Trails
Located on watershed property next to the ANF, these trails feature big rocks, streams, and old growth pine trees. The trail along the scenic Marilla Reservoir is a must-do. The White Pine, Marilla Rocks, and Hidden Valley Passage Trails are also worth hiking.

13. Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail/Dewdrop Run
I don’t know if the trail itself exists anymore, it was in tough shape when I hiked it last. Regardless, Dewdrop Run is a beautiful glen with huge boulders and cascades. Located across the road from Dewdrop Campground.

14. Beaver Meadows
I don’t know why Beaver Meadows isn’t more popular, the 6 miles of trails feature a serene lake, floating boardwalk, savannas, spruce and pine forests. It is perfect for birdwatching or seeing wildlife and offers forest types not common in the ANF. The trails remind me of Black Moshannon State Park in central Pennsylvania.

15. Logan Falls
An isolated ten foot falls in a glen with large boulders, Logan Falls is serene and beautiful. It’s a half mile trail from FR 180.

16. Pigeon Run Falls
Another isolated falls in the Spring Creek valley with a nice campsite, reached by a mile long trail from FR 130, east of Marienville. The falls are about 15 feet tall.

17. Anders Run Natural Area
Not in the ANF, but located right next to it, this is a state forest natural area known for its old growth forests and tall trees, located west of Warren.

18. Hedgehog Run
This is an off trail excursion for intrepid hikers, located north of the Tanbark Trail. Hedgehog Run is known as a beautiful stream and its upper reaches feature massive boulders, cliffs, rock mazes, and boulder cities. Clark and Slater Runs, located to the south, have similar scenery.

19. North Country Trail (Willow Bay to PA 321)
The North Country Trail (NCT) is the longest in the ANF at about 100 miles; this trail goes from North Dakota to New York. This section is one of the most scenic with streams, great camping, and views of the reservoir. Nelse Run is particularly beautiful. This section is about 9 miles long. As a linear trail, a shuttle is required.

20. North Country Trail (PA 59 to PA 321)
Another beautiful segment of the NCT, it is best to hike this north to south. Enjoy beautiful scenery along Hemlock Run, and the bridges, wetlands, and meadows at Chappel Fork. This section is about 7 miles long. As a linear trail, a shuttle is required.

Best Pennsylvania State Parks for Hiking

 

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Tank Hollow Vista, Lehigh Gorge State Park

 

I love living in Pennsylvania.  It has millions of acres of public land to explore, thousands of miles of trails (including the most expansive system of backpacking trails in the east), and over 120 state parks.  For those of you who like to hike, these are the best Pennsylvania state parks.

1. Worlds End State Park

While other parks have taller waterfalls, deeper gorges, and wider vistas, no other state park can rival the sheer number of high quality hiking trails that Worlds End has to offer.  Trails here feature waterfalls, creeks, gorges, vistas, whitewater, huge boulders, and rock mazes.  The diversity is amazing.  Quality trails expand across the park, creating countless loop options, from a few hundred yards, to many miles.  New trails are being added, increasing the variety of hiking.

Be sure to hike Double Run and the Canyon Vista Trails.  The new Cold Run Trail, a loop that connects to the east end of the Canyon Vista Trail, is a joy to hike.  A new yellow trail connects the Butternut Trail to the Loyalsock Trail at High Rock Run.  The famed Loyalsock Trail, a 60 mile route, meanders through the park.

Worlds End is simply a beautiful place that should be on any hikers list.  The deep gorge, roar of the Loyalsock Creek, and hemlock shaded glens give this park a special feel.

Worlds End is also perfect as a basecamp to explore the large Loyalsock State Forest.  Many of the park’s trails also connect to trails in the state forest, creating countless hiking options.  Be sure to see the Haystacks, Ketchum Run Gorge, Scar Run Gorge, High Knob Overlook, Dutters Run, Kettle Creek Gorge, Angel Falls, Rock Run, McIntyre Wild Area, Smith’s Knob, Jacoby Falls, and the Rough Hill Trail.

Worlds End and the Loyalsock State Forest is a hiking wonderland.

2. Ohiopyle State Park

One of PA’s crown jewels, Ohiopyle is second due to its incredible natural features, from the deep Youghiogheny River Gorge, Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle Falls, Ferncliff Peninsula, Meadow Run waterslides, several other waterfalls, and its famous whitewater rapids.  The hiking trail system could be more expansive considering the size of the park.  Ohiopyle surrounds a scenic village of the same name, and is also the southern trailhead of the famous Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

Ohiopyle is also a good basecamp to hike the trails at Bear Run Preserve, Quebec Wild Area, or the Forbes State Forest.

3.  Ricketts Glen State Park

This famous park is home to the incredible, and very popular, Falls Trail with its numerous waterfalls.  Also be sure to hike the Little Cherry Run Trail as it explores a gorge with rapids and smaller falls, a place of true beauty.  Like Ohiopyle, Ricketts Glen is a large park that should have more hiking options.  The east side of the park has gorges and stunning views from cliffs, but no trails lead to them.  The northern part of the park is a wilderness with wetlands and deep forests of hemlocks, but again, there are few trails.  The western side of the park had cliffs, escarpments, and vistas.  Experienced hikers can explore the surrounding game lands with unofficial trails that lead to vistas, lakes, gorges, and waterfalls.  West of the park is the stunning Waterfall Wonderland in SGL 13, a watershed filled with waterfalls.

4.  Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks

These parks are near each other and feature incredible old growth forests with some of the tallest trees in the east.  Be sure to hike the Forest Cathedral and any trail along the gorgeous Clarion River.  The North Country Trail goes through Cook Forest.  Clear Creek has beautiful creeks shaded with rhododendrons and trails that lead to nearby massive boulders and a view.  Both parks are also ideal basecamps to explore the southern Allegheny National Forest.

5.  Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks

These parks face each other across the Pine Creek Gorge.  Trails lead to impressive vistas of the canyon and waterfalls.  Colton Point has more hiking options.  You can hike the West Rim Trail, and do not miss the Barbour Rock Trail.  Intrepid hikers should go off trail up Fourmile Run to see a stunning gorge with four waterfalls.  Waterfalls also exist on Bear Run.  Numerous other hikes are available in the surrounding Tioga State Forest.

6.  Hickory Run and Lehigh Gorge State Parks

This large park features mild terrain and many miles of trails.  Be sure to see Hawk Falls, the impressive Boulder Fields, and the Shades of Death Trail.  Many other parks and preserves are nearby, including the Darling Preserve, Bear Run Preserve, and Austin Blakeslee Preserve.

Lehigh Gorge is impressive, but hiking is limited.  Glen Onoko is stunning with its steep, rugged gorge and many waterfalls, but its very popular.  Do not miss the view of the gorge from Tank Hollow, it is an easy hike.

7. McConnells Mill and Moraine State Parks

These beautiful parks feature a wide variety of trails.  McConnells Mills protects a rugged gorge carved by glacial meltwater.  It features a historic mill, waterfalls, cliffs, rapids, and a view.  Slippery Rock Creek is truly beautiful and the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail is the most rugged, longest, and premier trail in the park.  Hells Hollow Trail is a must and Alpha Falls is very scenic.  Also explore Cleland Rock for a view of the gorge, and Breakneck Bridge, where there is a rugged gorge of cliffs, boulders, and cascades.

Moraine has a huge lake and the premier trail is the North Country Trail; this trail also goes through McConnells Mill.  It has hilly terrain with streams, bridges, and shelter.  The nearby Jennings Environmental Education Center has a prairie with rare wildflowers.

8.  Laurel Ridge State Park/Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT)

The park and trail are often considered to be the same.  The LHHT is 70 miles long and is southwest PA’s premier long distance hiking trail with its shelters, forests, boulders, views, and streams.  The LHHT passes near several beautiful places such as Beam Rocks, Spruce Flat, Painter Rocks, Cole Run Falls, Blue Hole, and Wolf Rocks.  The views at the southern end of the LHHT in Ohiopyle State Park are famous.

9.  Trough Creek State Park

Hidden in a gorge next to Raystown Lake, this is a great park for hiking.  This park has cliffs, waterfalls, and geologic features like Balanced Rock, Copperas Rock, and the ice mine.  Be sure to hike the Ledges Trail with its fine views.  The park also has historical features like old stone furnaces.

10.  Greenwood Furnace State Park

This little known park has a lot of great trails and many historical features.  Hike the Standing Stone Trail to great views from Stone Mountain.  Hike along a small lake, past an old church, and iron making stone furnaces.  Trails also lead to the Greenwood Mountain fire tower.  Nearby are the Rocky Ridge, Alan Seeger, Bear Meadows, and Detweiler Run Natural Areas- all of them should be experienced.

11.  Little Pine State Park

This is a great hiking park with views of the mountains from the lake and trails along ridges with unique rock outcrops.  Hike the Panther Run Trail.  This park is a great basecamp to explore the vast trails in the Tiadaghton State Forest.  If you want a long, challenging, and beautiful loop, hike the Mid State and Tiadaghton Trails.

12. Pine Grove Furnace State Park

The world famous Appalachian Trail goes through this park, where its museum is also located.  The park has several historical features.  Enjoy the lakes and the views from Pole Steeple and Sunset Rocks.  The surrounding Michaux State Forest has a wide array of trails to rock outcrops, vistas, and streams.

13. Blue Knob State Park

Home to PA’s second highest mountain, this park features beautiful mountain scenery that reminds me of Shenandoah National Park.  My favorite trails are the Chappells Field, Lookout Loop, and Mountain View Trails.  The park is also the eastern trailhead of the Lost Turkey Trail.  The John P. Saylor Trail is nearby and offers more great hiking.

14. Salt Springs State Park

Enjoy the ancient hemlock forests, gorge, and waterfalls in this beautiful park.  Fall Brook, Gorge, Hemlock, and Woodland Trails are the most scenic.  Other trails explore streams, forests, and meadows.  There is a surprisingly wide network of trails and the park has camping as well.  If you like beer, Endless Brewing is within walking distance of the park.

15. Hyner Run State Park

This beautiful, serene park is best as a basecamp to explore the vast Sproul State Forest, the largest of PA’s state forests at over 300,000 acres in size.  Hyner View is a must, but also check out the views on the Donut Hole Trail, Chuck Keiper Trail, Clendenin Branch, Round Island Run, and Paddys Falls.

16. Oil Creek State Park

Oil Creek offers great opportunities for hiking along trails that explore a shallow gorge with glens and waterfalls.  There are 52 miles of trails and the premier trail is the Gerard Hiking Trail, a 36 mile loop with shelters.  Cross connectors for this loop create shorter loop options.  Being the first place where oil was commercially discovered, the park also has several historical points of interest.

17. Raccoon Creek State Park

A popular place to hike in western PA, Raccoon Creek has over 40 miles of trails, including a backpacking loop with shelters.  The trails explore hilly terrain with scenic forests, streams, and beautiful Raccoon Lake.  Be sure to see the Frankfort Mineral Springs and the incredibly diverse Wildflower Reserve.

18. Presque Isle State Park

PA’s most popular state park is home to habitats, scenery, and wildlife found nowhere else in the state. The recurving sand spit is home to wetlands, ponds, and stunning beaches.  Hike the Ridge, Marsh, Fox, Dead Pond, and Sidewalk Trails.  Do not miss hiking the Gulf Point Trail.

19.  Black Moshannon State Park

The diverse trails here explore wetlands, diverse forests, and beautiful streams.  Trails also connect to the Allegheny Front Trail, a 42 mile loop that encircles the park, and offer several nice views.

20.  Promised Land State Park

The trails here lead to lakes, streams, and gorge with rapids and pools.  Hike the Little Falls Trail.  An extensive trail system goes into the surrounding Delaware State Forest; do not miss Egypt Meadow and Bruce Lakes.  Bruce Lake is particularly beautiful.

 

 

Kettle Creek Gorge Exploration-Loyalsock State Forest

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Falls and deep pool in the upper Kettle Creek Gorge, off of Ryan’s Trail

A few months ago I returned to the Kettle Creek Gorge in the Loyalsock State Forest to try to find an off-trail falls.  On this hike, I used the Loyalsock Trail from Dry Run Road and hiked south to the gorge.

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I hiked down the trail and soon reached Mary’s Window,  a nice view of Dry Run Gorge that was inundated with mist.  The trail dropped to Dutters Run and I began to follow it upstream with many stream crossings in a scenic gorge.  Dutters Run has several waterfalls, making the hiking very enjoyable.

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The trail climbed out of the gorge and soon intersected the abandoned McCarty Road, which I followed south to Kettle Creek.   This old road was a great hike down a glen with towering hardwoods.  I then reached the Loyalsock Trail again, this time at Kettle Creek.

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Kettle Creek Gorge is one of my favorite places.  I hiked up the creek with its rapids and pools.  The Loyalsock Trail climbed away to the left, but I continued straight to where a trail crossed Kettle Creek.  I did not cross the creek, but instead turned left and followed an old red blazed trail, the Ryan’s Trail.  It had been many years since I last hiked it.

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This was a beautiful trail as it crossed a rocky slope above a red rock grotto with deep pools and rapids.  The trail passed a meadow as it headed upstream along Kettle Creek.

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The trail moved away from the creek and before it made a steep climb, I veered right off trail back to the creek where I soon reached a five foot falls over a broad ledge into a deep pool.  This was the falls I was looking for; while not tall, it was very scenic.  In high water, the falls would be about 20-30 feet wide.

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I retraced my steps and turned right onto the Loyalsock Trail as it climbed steeply out of the gorge.  I then entered an impressive forest of towering tulip poplar trees, the tallest hardwoods in the eastern forests.  Decades from now this will be a forest of huge trees.

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I returned to McCarty Road, on which I turned right and hiked out to Dry Run Road and my car.

I then was off to see Dry Run Falls and Andrea Falls.  I love the Loyalsock.

More photos.

Flat Top, Spruce Ledge, Bartlett Mtn Balds-SGL 57

 

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Preacher’s Rock, Spruce Ledge, SGL 57

 

In October I led a grand hike to some of SGL 57’s most scenic places, including Flat Top, Spruce Ledge, and the Bartlett Mountain Balds.  Since I’ve described these places before, this description will be abbreviated.  The total hike was about 12-13 miles, and three quarters of it was on a trail of some kind.  The remainder was off trail hiking.

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We began by parking along Windy Valley Road at White Brook, crossed the meadow, and hiked up on an old grade.  We turned left onto another well established grade which meandered up to Flat Top.  A side trail through laurel brought us to the fine vista looking up the Mehoopany Creek to Red Rock.  Beautiful fall colors were already covering the higher elevations.

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Our off trail hike began to the west to reach Spruce Ledge.  Along the way we passed large boulders, caves, rock shelters, and chasms.  The forest became thick as we neared the ledge with spruce.  After fighting through, we reached the ledges with great views over the wilderness of SGL 57.  The fall colors were excellent.  The high elevations of this hike always seem to have superb fall colors.  We took a long break at the ledge in the warm sunshine.

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We continued along the ledges, enjoying views along the way.  Upon reaching a fern meadow, we followed an old ATV trail that passed near more ledges, offering even better views as we looked down the gorges.  The old trail was a little hard to follow in places, but it was a beautiful walk.  The hike took us across bedrock balds, deep hemlock forests, and down to the headwaters of White Brook.

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Next, our hike continued north on a jeep trail to the Bartlett Mountain Balds.  At a wet area, the hike turned left on an old ATV trail which took us near the base of the balds.  An off trail hike through thick brush brought us to the balds, which still had great color and nice views.  It’s always a pleasure to hike to the balds.

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We retraced our steps back to White Brook, and then made the steep descent back to the cars, tired after our long, beautiful journey through SGL 57.

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More photos.

Approximate route:

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