Rimrock Overlook-Allegheny National Forest

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Rimrock Overlook, Allegheny National Forest

Rimrock is the most popular overlook in the Allegheny National Forest.  From the parking area, I hiked the trail down along large boulders to two vistas from the top of the cliffs.  Mist shrouded the Allegheny Reservoir far below.  I could see across the vast, forested expanse of the national forest.

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A unique feature at the overlook is a staircase that goes down through a cave or chasm.  It is very narrow, a slightly slanted, making it a little awkward.  Due to the rain, drops fell from the cliffs and ledges.

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I reached the bottom of the cliffs and explored them.  There were huge overhangs and sheer rock walls.  The massive rocks were separated by narrow cracks.  In hot weather, these cracks blow out cold air.  Moss and lichens adorned the rocks as the mist covered them in a glaze of moisture.

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The Rimrock Trail, a fairly new trail, leaves the base of the cliffs and descends to the Kinzua Beach picnic area, it is a little over a mile long.

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The vista is good for both sunrises and sunsets due to its southern exposure.

Rimrock also features a picnic area and restrooms.  When exploring the Allegheny National Forest, be sure to visit Rimrock.

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Hiking Dewdrop Run-Allegheny National Forest

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Dewdrop Run flowing under massive boulders, Allegheny National Forest.

Dewdrop Run is one of the Allegheny National Forest’s best kept secrets, hiding next to one of its most popular campgrounds- Dewdrop Campground. Years ago, the Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail explored Dewdrop Run. For some reason, it was rarely hiked and eventually abandoned despite its superb scenery. I explored Dewdrop Run while writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest and the place has always stuck with me. I decided it was time to return.

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I parked along the road, just downhill from the entrance to the Dewdrop Campground. Faced with an overgrown meadow, I entered the beech woods and descended a slope to a more open forest. I crossed a sidestream and followed the old, intermittent white diamond blazes of the former Campbell Mill trail. I walked upstream and made my way down to Dewdrop Run. There was no real sign of the old trail. I came across a maze of giant, mossy boulders embedded in the water, creating scenic waterfalls and a small, green grotto. Pools glistened in the fading sunlight as insects danced on the surface. In places it felt as if I were in Oregon or Washington with the unbelievable greenery.

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I then reached an amazing spot-where the creek flowed under massive, house sized boulders cloaked in deep green moss. Absolutely beautiful. I tried to follow the old trail, as it explored more mossy boulders. It turned right, passing between the green monoliths, and then began to climb. I, however, went off the former trail and simply hiked upstream to a beautiful series of cascades and deep pools framed by mossy, sculpted boulders.

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I pushed onward, up into the gorge. Steep slopes and giant boulders loomed over Dewdrop Run. It felt like a hidden, primeval world even though I was less than a half mile from the road. The creek bounced over scenic cascades and small waterfall within a deep, lime green forest.

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I turned around and walked back down the creek, enjoying the scenery again. I retraced my steps back to my car. Park off the road at about 41.826653, -78.968353.

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For adventurous hikers, the north slope of Dewdrop Run’s gorge features massive boulders and rock outcrops that are worth exploring. Hopefully, a hiking trail will return to Dewdrop Run, it is such a beautiful place. Until then, don’t let the lack of an official trail deter you, explore this hidden gem.

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Jakes Rocks-Allegheny National Forest

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View of the Allegheny Reservoir from Jakes Rocks.

Jakes Rocks is one of my favorite places in the national forest.  It features impressive cliffs, overhangs, crevices, and vistas.  It is also home to a premier mountain bike trail system, called the Trails at Jakes Rocks.

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While Rimrock Overlook is more popular, I actually think Jakes Rocks are more beautiful.  The views are more interesting and the cliffs are larger.

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From the parking area, take the paved trail to the right of the restrooms.  This paved trail continues straight to a vista which provides a view to the backside of the Kinzua Dam.  Right before the vista, look for an obvious, unblazed dirt trail to the right; this is the Indian Cave Trail and descends to the bottom of the cliffs.  This trail does not have a sign.  Be sure to hike this trail when visiting Jakes Rocks.

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The Indian Cave Trail descends over stone steps and explores the base of the massive cliffs, colored with springs and moss.  The cliffs are truly impressive as they rise through the trees.  Reach a massive overhang with a huge boulder.  This overhang is interesting to explore.  The trail continues along the base of the cliffs and reaches a deep crevasse through which I hiked with dripping moss.

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From the crevasse, the path is much narrower.  It winds its way along the base of the cliffs and climbs to the second vista.  It is narrow and steep.  I did not hike this trail; I turned around at the crevasse and retraced my steps to the paved trail.

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The paved trail at the top of the cliffs explored large boulders and some unofficial side trails that went to the edge of the cliffs.  I soon reached the second and more impressive vista as it looked down on the Allegheny Reservoir with all its bays and coves.  The reservoir curved off into the distance.  A remarkable view and probably the finest in the national forest.

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The paved trail looped around and returned me to the parking area.   Jakes Rocks is a beautiful place that is a highlight of the Allegheny National Forest.

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Jakes Rocks is described in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

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Exploring the Allegheny Reservoir

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Sunset over the Allegheny Reservoir from Willow Bay.

The Allegheny Reservoir is the centerpiece of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) and is one of the most scenic lakes in the country. The reservoir is 24 miles long, covers over 12,000 acres, has almost 100 miles of forested, undeveloped shoreline, numerous bays, and mountains that rise 800 feet over the water. Large boulders dot the shore. The reservoir also has several campgrounds. The water is very clean and clear.

The reservoir was created in 1965 with the completion of the massive Kinzua Dam, one of the largest in the east. Any visit must include the dam.

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After hiking the Marilla Trails, I needed a place to stay for the night and luckily Willow Bay Campground had a few sites open. I was treated to an incredible sunset across the reservoir as the dark mountains rose over the water.

There is so much to see and do in and around the reservoir, whether it be hiking and mountain bike trails, scenic overlooks, camping, waterfalls, kayaking, boating or fishing. This is truly the perfect getaway.

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Hiking

The North Country Trail passes along the eastern shore of the lake offering great camping, streams, and deep woods, not to mention views over the water. The Morrison Trail is an excellent loop with cascades, great camping, streams, and giant boulders. The Tracy Ridge Trail system offers the most views along the shore, passing two campgrounds that can only be reached by hiking or boating. There is also a trail from Kinzua Beach to Rimrock Overlook.

Waterfalls

The Bent Run waterfalls near Kinzua Dam are beautiful as the water tumbles over giant moss covered boulders.

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Overlooks

Do not miss Rimrock and Jakes Rocks overlooks. Both feature giant cliffs, overhangs, picnic tables, and great views over the reservoir.

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Mountain biking

There is a new, world class mountain biking trail system at Jakes Rocks that cannot be missed. It features giant boulders, streams, and has trails that are easy to difficult.  The trail system is being extended and has attracted riders from all over.

Camping

The reservoir features four developed campground with restrooms and showers: Willow Bay, Dewdrop, Kiasutha, and Red Bridge. They tend to be very popular. Willow Bay has the best sunsets, while Dewdrop and Kiasutha are good for sunrises. If you like to hike, Dewdrop and Willow Bay are closest to trails. Dewdrop is closest to the mountain bike trails at Jakes Rocks.

There is one more primitive, and quiet, campground, Tracy Ridge. It has water and pit toilets. The sites are wooded. It is on the mountain away from the reservoir, but it is close to several hiking trails.

Boat-in and hike-in campgrounds

The reservoir is unique in having five primitive campsites that can only be reached by hiking or boating: Hopewell, Handsome Lake, Pine Grove, Hooks Brook, and Morrison. They tend to be small, with anywhere from 13 to 38 sites. Only three can be reached by hiking trails: Hopewell, Handsome Lake, and Morrison. They are known for their beauty. All have water.

Kayaking

The scenery and undeveloped shoreline makes the reservoir an ideal kayaking destination. There are many bays and large boulders to explore. The reservoir is also perfect for an overnight trip, where kayakers can stay at one of the boat-in campgrounds.

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Hiking the Marilla Trails

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Marilla Reservoir

I recently went on a roadtrip to the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in northwest PA. It had been several years since I took the time to explore the region. I love this area of PA, with its scenery, countless trails, and historic towns. Once the epicenter of resource extraction, whether it be oil or timber, these communities have also begun to embrace the outdoors by building extensive networks of trails.

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One such community is Bradford. With the help of the Tuna Valley Trail Association, trails connect the town, watershed lands, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (beautiful campus, the modern glass chapel is amazing) and even the ANF. The highlight is the Marilla Reservoir. I had been to the reservoir when I was writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest. Back then, there was only a trail around the reservoir itself. I’ve wanted to return to hike the new trail system.

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Marilla is a gem. A 20 acre lake surrounded by spruce trees with a stone dam. Bridges adorn the shore line where the trail crosses creeks or the outlet. Marilla is a Celtic word for “shining sea”.

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What trails should you hike? Do not miss the Marilla Bridges or White Pine Trails. The Hidden Valley Passage Trail is also excellent. The Marilla Rock Trail goes into a huge rock city covered with moss and ferns, but the trail is a bit overgrown. A great loop is to connect all of those trails with the Marilla Overlook Trail and Marilla Ridge Road.

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I parked along PA 346 at a large pull off and walked down to the Marilla Reservoir. The wide trail around the reservoir is obvious, and you can go either way. The whole trail is beautiful. If you go left and cross the dam, the views are better. If you go right, you will enjoy the deep spruce forests and cross two long, wooden bridges.

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Continue on the Marilla Springs Trail. This trail explores creeks and springs under a stunning forest of hemlock, maple, pine, and birch. Some of the trees are massive. It is hard to believe this old growth forest isn’t more famous. The sound of the creeks fill the deep, wooded valley. Incredible serenity. I then turned right onto the White Pine Trail and crossed some footbridges over small creeks and drainages. The stunning forest continued. The trail threaded through this sylvan wonder and then passed a grove of gigantic white pines that towered through the canopy. I could’ve been in Cook Forest. I climbed to an open meadow area where the trail was more overgrown. This area had been logged, but many large hemlock trees were spared. The trail followed the edge of this meadow and then returned to the woods to meet the Marilla Overlook Trail. If you turn right and continued on the White Pine Trail, it would return you to the Marilla Reservoir.

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The Marilla Overlook Trail followed a logging road through the open logged area. Many trees were spared, so it wasn’t an eyesore. It looked like a meadow with trees. Expect sun exposure on this section and there were some views of the surrounding hills, but I could not see the reservoir. Blazes are few. I then turned right onto the Marilla Ridge Road, another forest road but it was more wooded. Pay careful attention to the Marilla Rocks Trail on the left, it is easy to miss and there wasn’t a sign. The brushy trail descended to impressive rock and boulder outcrops with overhangs and narrow passageways. The Marilla Rock Trail returned to Marilla Ridge Road, where there was a sign. Follow the road to PA 348 among some pine plantations.

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I crossed PA 348 and hiked the Hidden Valley Passage Trail, another great trail. It threads its way across streams, drainages, and climbs to an old railroad grade under hemlocks. A number of footbridges were along the trail. It was a pleasure to hike and ended at a gravel road very close to PA 348. If hiking counterclockwise, this trail can be a little hard to find. Hike up the gravel road a short distance to some stone steps on the left; this is where the trail begins.

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I crossed PA 348 to my car, ending a great hike. If you’re looking for a new place to hike in northwest Pennsylvania, check out the Marilla Trails.

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Hike information:

Length: Approx. 5 mile loop

Terrain: Moderate and hilly. Several wet areas.

Blazes: Infrequent in places but most trails are well established. Blue is the most common blaze color.

Signs: Most trail junctures have signs. The southern juncture for the Marilla Rocks Trail does not have a sign and is easy to miss.

Highlights: Impressive old growth forests, streams, many footbridges, massive rocks, some views, Marilla Reservoir, spruce forests.

Issues: Roadwalk on Marilla Overlook Trail and Marilla Ridge Road. The latter is wooded.

Kinzua Bridge State Park- Rise from Ruin

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Kinzua Bridge State Park.  The skywalk and collapsed bridge.

Kinzua Bridge State Park is an example of what a ruin can become.

First built in 1882, and completely rebuilt in 1900, the bridge once was the tallest and longest railroad bridge in the world with a height of 301 feet, and a length of 2,053 feet. Commercial use of the bridge ended in 1959 and it was sold for scrap. The new owner didn’t want to tear the iconic bridge down for scrap, so it was sold to the state in 1963 to become a park. Sightseeing tours by train continued until 2002, when they were stopped due to the condition of the bridge. Restoration work began soon thereafter.

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In 2003, the bridge was hit with a tornado, which collapsed several of the bridge’s towers. The reason for the collapse were the iron anchor bolts, which held the bridge to concrete foundations, failed. These were the original bolts from the 1882 bridge. The tornado shifted and even lifted the bridge off its foundations, causing into to collapse into the valley below. Only two portions of the bridge survived- 600 feet of it on the southern end, and a smaller section on the northern end.

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It was too expensive to rebuild the entire bridge, so it was decided to turn the remnant into a skywalk. If the bridge had to collapse, it left the perfect piece standing on the southern end near the parking area.

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The new skywalk has become a premier tourist destination, making the park as popular as ever and attracting people from around the world. I returned to see the impressive new visitor center and walk the bridge. I had been there before the visitor center was completed. The views were excellent as I looked up and down the forested Kinzua Creek gorge from the towering skywalk. The sheer scale of the bridge’s destruction, with massive steel towers crumpled in the valley, was almost beyond belief. The visitor center had excellent historical displays and a movie about the bridge.

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For the first time I also hiked the Kinzua Creek Trail down to the bottom. I highly recommend doing this. The trail begins steep with big stone steps, but it offers incredible views of the bridge from different perspectives. The trail crosses the Kinzua Creek at the bottom and reaches the twisted, massive remains of the fallen bridge. It is a surreal, and impressive, sight. A new rail-trail will soon connect the park to Mt. Jewett.

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With imagination and determination, a ruin can become something incredible. Because of that, a visit to Kinzua Bridge is well worth your time.

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Mt. Pisgah State and County Parks

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Stephen Foster Lake at Mt. Pisgah State Park

It is easy to overlook Mt. Pisgah State Park.  After all, so many more famous parks are located nearby, whether it be Ricketts Glen, Worlds End or the PA Grand Canyon.  Yet this park has a lot to offer and is a worthwhile destination.

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The state park is day use only; there is no campground.  It features several miles of trails, a pool, and Stephen Foster Lake, which is named after the famous songwriter who once lived nearby.

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We decided to hike around the lake on the Oh! Susanna Trail, about a three mile loop.  We parked at the Nature Center, walked over to the amphitheater, and walked the trail down through a beautiful old growth maple forest down to the Oh! Susanna Trail, where we turned left.

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The trail crossed several meadows with wildflowers and butterflies.  We also enjoyed views of the lake and mountains.  The trail crossed below the dam and entered a scenic forest of hemlock and pine.  The trails at the state park tend to be wide, and have signs at intersections.  We hiked along the road for a little ways, and saw monarch caterpillars eating milkweed on the shore.  We crossed another field and continued on the Oh! Susanna Trail as it entered the cool forest.  We completed the loop and made the climb back to the car.

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Another trail at the park popular with hikers is the Ridge Trail, which gradually climbs a forested ridge to the summit of Mt. Pisgah to see the views.  The summit is in the adjacent Mt. Pisgah County Park.

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You can also drive to the summit, which is what we did.  The county park has three vistas, two are narrow, but the third and western vista is more expansive.  There are picnic pavilions and primitive camping.  The county park is unique in that there is camping at the top of a mountain.  The views look over rolling farmland into New York.  The western view is great for sunsets and also features a statue of Chief Wetonah.  There are plans to expand the trails at the county park and some may already be in place.  If visiting the state park, be sure to include the county park as well.

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If looking for a different destination, check out Mt. Pisgah State and County Parks.

Info on Mt. Pisgah County Park.

This park is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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