Sunfish Pond County Park

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Located near Leroy, PA, Sunfish Pond County Park is a best kept secret.  Isolated and located on top of a mountain, the park covers 70 acres, and the pond is about 30 acres in size.  It is a natural pond, fed by springs.    Sunfish Pond County Park is surrounded by the vast wilderness of SGL 12.

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The park is very serene and beautiful.  Night skies bring an astonishing display of stars and constellations.  Park roads surround much of the lake, but it is a very nice walk nonetheless.  Much of the pond’s shores appear undeveloped.  Camping is permitted at the park, but it is most popular with RVs or campers.  There are 12 tent sites, but some of the sites are less than ideal as they are not level, small, or inundated with brush.  If I recall correctly, sites 3 and 10 were the best. A few sites are along the water and are very nice.  There are showers and even a small store.

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Sunfish Pond is a great place for kids with a playground and a beautiful pond to paddle or fish.

The park’s best attribute is that it can be a basecamp to explore this wild, beautiful region of Bradford County.  This area is truly one of PA’s best kept secrets.

You can camp here and hike to Bradford Falls, Falls Creek, and Long Valley Run, whitewater kayak Schrader Creek, hike to the waterfalls of Satterlee Run, hike to Deep Hollow Vista and Falls, see the pools and cascades along Little Schrader Creek, try some bouldering and rock climbing, hike to Rollinson Run’s gorge and waterfalls, or ride bikes on the old S&NY railroad grade between Laquin and Wheerlerville.  Historian buffs will enjoy exploring Barclay’s old cemetery.  Bird watchers and wildlife lovers should check out the Swimming Dam.

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After hiking to Bradford Falls and Falls Creek, I drove to this park and walked around the pond, enjoying the reflections of clouds across the still water.  I was impressed by the silence and serenity of this place.  It does feel set apart.

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I drove down Leroy Mountain Road and pulled off where it crosses Holcomb Run to see its beautiful cascading waterfalls over mossy ledges.

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I drove through Bradford County’s sublime countryside, heading to my next stop-Wyalusing Rocks.

More photos.

Location of Sunfish Pond County Park

More park info.

Hiking to Bradford Falls, Falls Creek, and Long Valley Run (SGL 36)

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SGL 36 features some of the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania, particularly when it comes to waterfalls.  I recently returned to check out two streams-Long Valley Run and Falls Creek.  Recent rains made it a perfect time to hunt for waterfalls.  Both streams are described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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My first stop was Long Valley Run.  There is a parking area just west of Long Valley Run along Schrader Creek Road.  No trail follows the creek, so just hike up it.  I spent most of my hiking on the east side of the creek.  Long Valley Run is a beautiful stream with large boulders, deep pools, and cascades and smaller falls over bedrock.  In places the bedrock has been worn smooth with potholes.  The large boulders make this an especially scenic stream, but there are no large waterfalls.  Hemlocks and tulip poplars grow over the creek, and there is even some rhododendron.

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After a half mile or so, you will reach a grassy forest road.  Turn right onto it and hike back to your car.

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My next stop was Falls Creek.  I remember first hiking to Falls Creek years ago.  I opened up my Delorme atlas for Pennsylvania and saw there was a creek called Falls Creek.  There must be waterfalls, I thought.  And there were, a lot of them.  Falls Creek is a place of exceptional beauty and it is a little surprising it isn’t more famous.

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Again, I parked along Schrader Creek near where a narrow concrete bridge crosses Falls Creek.  There is a small parking lot east of Falls Creek, and some space to park along the road.  The best way to hike Falls Creek is to hike down the road a short distance to an old forest road on the right, which is on the west side of the creek.

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I hiked up the grade to a sidestream, crossed it, and followed a narrow path down to Falls Creek.  The waterfalls soon came into view, beautiful cascades and deep pools adorn this stream.  I then hiked up the creek with its boulders and trilliums.  I enjoyed one falls with a symmetrical sheet of water falling into a deep pool.  I entered a gorge with towering rock walls and through the trees saw the biggest falls of them all- 70ish foot Bradford Falls.

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This is such an impressive sight.  Springs drip from the cliffs.  Large, old hemlock logs and cobblestones are strewn about at the base of the falls, making it a little difficult to get close.  The beauty is stunning.  This is surely one of the most scenic falls in the state.

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Hiking around Bradford Falls is tough.  Retrace your steps down the creek and then veer steeply up the slope and scramble up an opening in the ledges.

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Falls Creek only becomes more scenic above Bradford Falls.  Barclay Falls, about 30 feet high, soon comes into view next to a huge, fractured cliff.  Above Barclay Falls is a stunning gorge with more cascades and slides as cliffs narrowly surround the creek.

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A 15 foot falls comes into view, and then above that is Laquin Falls, about the same height as it tumbles over a broad ledge.  It is possible to go behind the falling water.

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Above Laquin Falls is a hemlock forest and some small cascades.  Near the falls is an old mine, the opening hidden by hemlocks and a gravel pile.  This area was one of the first to be mined for coal.

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The old forest grade makes for an easy return hike back to Schrader Creek Road and your car.  If you love waterfalls, check out these two beautiful streams.

More photos.

Location of Long Valley Run.

Location of Falls Creek.

Backpacking the Allegheny Front Trail

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The Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) is a 42 mile loop in the Moshannon State Forest, west of State College.  The trail basically encircles the beautiful Black Moshannon State Park.  The AFT had been on my list for a return hike; it had been many years since I last hiked the trail.

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I finally found a weekend to go.  I parked at the eastern trailhead, where the loop crosses PA 504.  Several other cars were already there.  I then began to hike the trail clockwise.  I noticed how the trail was well established as compared to my prior hike.  Over the course of my trip, I would see many other hikers and backpackers.

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The AFT began by traversing the ridge of its namesake.  At times rocky, but the views made up for it.  I really enjoyed the views due to the variety of terrain it showed-deep valleys, rolling ridges, foothills with fields, and distant ridges extending to the horizon.  It reminded me of views I’ve seen in West Virginia.

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The trail then crossed the top of the plateau, with flat and rolling terrain through thickets of laurel.  It was a pleasure to hike the forgiving tread.  I then reached a tributary of Smays Run where I saw backpackers and some great campsites.  I soon reached Black Moshannon State Park with its extensive boardwalks through forests of pine, hemlock, and rhododendron.  It was a beautiful trail that at times felt as if it were in a rainforest.

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The AFT is known for its diverse forests.  I hiked through open hardwoods, along wetlands, pine plantations, rhododendron jungles, and hemlock groves.  Some areas of the trail were wet.  I hiked through meadows and glades of ferns.  A variety of wildflowers were along the trail, including hundreds of pink lady slippers.  There were also violets, columbine, and pink azaleas.  The mountain laurel was just about to bloom.

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I began to follow more streams as my hike proceeded.  The AFT has so much streamside hiking, a highlight of the trail.  These streams are pristine, tumbling into pools, and often shaded by hemlocks and rhododendron.  Beautiful campsites are often along these streams.

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I descended to Wolf Rocks with its porcupine dens and droppings and crossed a road, followed by Sixmile Run.  I found a place to camp as darkness descended.  After getting a bite to eat and washing off, I was soon asleep thanks to the babbling sound of the creek.

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I woke up early the next morning and was on the trail as a mist threaded through the forest.  I was now at the southwest corner of the loop.  I hiked through a clearcut area, but soon returned to the woods with majestic hardwoods and ferns.

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The following section along Sixmile Run was a highlight of the trail.  The AFT went through a large pine plantation, and then into a stunning forest of spruce and moss.  I hiked down a beautiful glen with some of the most scenic forests I’ve ever hiked.  Sixmile Run soon came into view with its pools and rapids.  The trail followed the creek and entered extensive rhododendron tunnels, going up and down hills, or staying close to the creek.  I passed several sublime campsites.  At times I felt as if I were hiking in a rainforest.

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The next section along Moshannon Creek was also beautiful with similar scenery, although the trail spent less time close to this large stream, colored orange from acid mine drainage.  A climb up a ridge revealed a nice view of the creek and its gorge.  As the AFT continued, it was closer to Moshannon Creek and featured more hemlocks and rhododendron.  There was a nice 5 foot falls on Potter Run, below the trail.

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The biggest climb of the trail followed as it climbed about 500 vertical feet and crossed the top of the plateau along meadows and logged areas on an old forest road.  A steep descent followed down to Black Moshannon Creek with more rhododendrons and hemlocks and beautiful streamside hiking.  A long footbridge crossed the creek at a cabin.

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Benner Creek is another highlight, a pristine stream with rhododendron tunnels and hemlocks.  It felt isolated and the forest was like a jungle.  There was one superb campsite.  The AFT left Benner Run and entered areas of laurel and vast blueberry meadows.  I hiked down into and back out of a small stream and then reached Rock Run with its meadows, campsites, cascades, hemlocks, and rhododendron.  Another scenic spot along the trail.  Open hardwoods and glades of ferns followed with views deep into the woods from low ridges.  I passed some large springs and another small stream.  A meadow with a grove of spruce followed, and then a small climb to a meadow with pickers.  After entering the woods, I soon reached my car.

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It was great to be back on the AFT.

More photos.

Trip reports from Mid Atlantic Hikes, which shows campsites:  East Loop and West Loop.

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The AFT is an enjoyable loop that I recommend.  If you don’t want to hike the whole loop, you can divide it via trails through Black Moshannon State Park; this creates an east and west loop.

Highlights:  Diverse forests and habitats, extensive streamside hiking, great campsites, meadows, views, rhododendron tunnels, laurel, wildflowers, wetlands, boardwalks.  Trail is fairly isolated.

Negatives:  The only not too scenic areas were the southwest and northwest corners of the loop where there are logged areas.  Most of the loop is very scenic.

Water:  Plentiful

Terrain:  Hilly and rolling, rocky in a few areas, particularly along the Allegheny Front and its vistas.  Climbs reach 500 vertical feet along Moshannon Creek.

Campsites:  The trail has some beautiful campsites.  Most streams have at least one campsite.

Blazes:  Trail is blazed yellow.  Trail signs are fairly common.

Difficulty:  Moderate

Trail conditions:  Trail is well blazed and has several signs.  Trail is generally well-established but can be brushy in areas, particularly in summer.  Several wet areas and small stream crossings without bridges.

Ticks:  I only saw one on me, no bites.

Maps:  Moshannon State Forest has free maps.

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Falling Springs Falls

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Located along Coxton Road, north of Pittston, is one of the areas most scenic falls.  Known as Falling Springs, or Falling Springs Falls, it features a creek that tumbles over a large cliff, about 40-50 feet tall.  The falls are a short distance from the road, but parking is very limited.

I’ve never seen the falls posted as private property.  A short trail from the road leads to the base of the falls.  There is some graffiti.  The falls are unique in that they plummet in a straight column, as compared to fanning out over a cascade.  The setting is impressive.

A trail to the left, if looking at the falls, leads to the top.  A short scramble in between a ledge is required.  The top features a broad cliff with views of the river and surrounding mountains.  Be careful along the cliff as a fall would be deadly.  No trespassing signs begin above the falls.

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Falling Springs is nice spot for a quick reprieve to enjoy some natural beauty.  The falls are below the famous Campbells Ledge.

Location of the falls.

More photos.

Hiking at the Howland Preserve

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The Howland Preserve is the amazing gift of Ernest Howland, who donated his family’s 669 acre farm on the Vosburg Neck to the North Branch Land Trust to be conserved forever.  This is probably the largest donation of private land for public use in the history of Wyoming County, which had few sizeable parks or trails.

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The Vosburg Neck is one of the Susquehanna River’s highlights.  Here, the river flows around the neck, creating an oxbow loop, as mountains tower over 1,000 feet above the river.  Bald eagles have nested along the Vosburg Neck and herons, ducks, and many other birds are a common sight.  Giant silver maple and sycamore trees rise on the shore.

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I’ve been to the Howland Preserve many times.  Volunteers have been working on expanding the trail system, which is open to both hikers and mountain bikers.  There are about 8 miles of trails, and more are planned.   The trails explore the river, old canal, ravines, woodlands, and diverse forest types.

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We returned for a quick hike.  Our hope was to see Howland’s impressive dogwood blooms.  Due to recent rains, the trails were wet, but that did not deter us.  We began on the Vista Trail as it switchbacked up the slope under beautiful dogwoods in full bloom, and then through a pine and spruce forest.  The woodlands were gorgeous with large trees and hundreds of dogwoods in bloom throughout the forest.  It was truly beautiful.  I don’t think I’ve ever hiked a forest with so many dogwoods.  The forests were open in places with meadows of ferns.  We reached the vista, which is nice but just a small view through the trees, looking across the river to the farmlands on the other side.

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Next we hiked my favorite trail at the preserve, Howlin’ Down as it meandered between and along impressive rock walls and more dogwoods.  Springs bubbled from the ground and several sections of the trail were wet, resulting in mud-caked shoes.  The coolest section is where the trail is on the edge of a deep ravine shaded with a few hemlocks.  We were even treated to a small waterfall.  The trail dropped down, crossed a small stream, passed above an old spring house, and then we returned across meadows on the Old Farm Road.  The sweet smell of honeysuckle filled the air.

Whether you like to hike, ride, or paddle, be sure to visit the Howland Preserve, a best kept secret in Northeast Pennsylvania.

More photos.

Friends of Howland Preserve.

Trail map.

Map and location.

Nearby is the Endless Mountain Nature Center.

Stony Fork Waterfall Hunting-Tioga State Forest

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In the Tioga State Forest, the stunning Pine Creek Gorge gets all the attention, and crowds.  Want to see a place just as beautiful, but off the beaten track?  Look to the next creek to the east-sublime Stony Fork.

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I first experienced Stony Fork years ago while scouting a route for the Mid State Trail’s northern extension.  I was amazed by its beauty.  There were rapids, cascades, grottos, and deep pools.  Due to its beauty, I insisted the Mid State Trail include Stony Fork.  Thankfully, others agreed.

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I recently returned to Stony Fork to check out some of its tributaries and hunt for waterfalls.  First, I hiked up Black Run with its deep, rugged gorge.  Since there was no trail, I was forced to bushwhack.  I soon came upon a 20 foot falls next to a beautiful cliff.  Upstream the creek became even more beautiful with non-stop cascades and waterfalls over ledges and squeezing between mossy boulders.  Slides fed pools of water over reddish bedrock.  Already, my hike was worth it.

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I hiked down along the rim of the glen through thick laurel, passing a large rectangular boulder sitting on its end.

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I then headed down to the Mid State Trail for a short hike.  It was nice to see the route I scouted all those years ago now is a trail people use and enjoy.  I passed Paint Run and decided at the last minute to hike it.  I’m glad I did.

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Paint Run is probably the most scenic of Stony Fork’s tributaries.  This creek was very impressive, with a variety of falls, slides, pools, and rapids, often flanked by ledges and cliffs.  One slide was over 100 feet long.  In places it reminded me of the famous Rock Run.  The beauty of this creek was non-stop as it tumbled over smooth bedrock and around large ledges.  I particularly liked one slide with a series of large mossy boulders.  It carved a deep gorge through which echoed the sound of the rushing water.  Moss, hobblebush, and violets adorned the creek.

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I climbed up the south slope of Paint Run’s gorge and found an old grade which returned me to where I began, behind an old cabin along Stony Fork Road.

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I then hiked to the East Branch Stony Fork where there was an impressive grotto and slide in the sandstone bedrock, with deep, smooth pools shaded by hemlocks.  A beautiful spot.  It had the feel of a rainforest as hemlock logs had fallen over the creek, clothed in moss.  Slabs of rock had fallen from the sidewalls into the water.  Another smooth ledge was angled just right to create of perfect sheet of sliding water.

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I headed south to the next unnamed drainage and began the hike up it.  I was immediately greeted with more waterfalls and cascades with moss covered ledges, dripping with water.  There were four or five falls, with the tallest being about 30 feet.

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I descended the glen and crossed Stony Fork above a rapid before returning to my car. The hidden places are often the best and PA is filled with them Continue reading

Hiking to Tamarack Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

Tamarack Falls

One of the Loyalsock State Forest’s best kept secrets is Tamarack Falls.  In my opinion, it is one of the most scenic falls in the state forest due to its beautiful hemlock shaded grotto with fractured cliffs and cascades.  It really feels like a place set apart.

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I parked along Loyalsock Road where it crosses Tamarack Run.  From there it was an off trail hike south (or downstream) along the creek.  The terrain is rocky, but the scenery is simply breathtaking with bogs, hemlocks, and deep green carpets of moss.

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I crossed a gated forest road and continued along the creek, as it tumbled among moss covered rocks between boggy areas.  I then entered the top of the gorge and I soon reached the top of Tamarack Falls.  It is best to see and approach the falls from the east side, or left if descending along the creek.  There is a stunning hemlock grotto with rapids and cascades below the falls.  Be careful descending to the creek and be sure to hike around the cliff rim.  The cliff is fractured and features a small cave.  Be careful of the loose rock along the creek.  The scenery is simply stunning.

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The falls is about 20-25 feet tall and widens as the water drops.  Ledges and boulders large crown the glen.  Cascades continue below the falls and out of the glen.  There is also an old grade at the bottom of the glen.

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Afterwards I stopped by Sones Pond and continued north to PA 87.  Along Rock Run Road I saw some beautiful seasonal falls on the left.  I suspect some other streams in this gorge may also have waterfalls, but that will be an exploration for another day.

Want more waterfalls?  Nearby is Coal Run, the outlet of Sones Pond, which has three or four off trail falls.

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Enjoy this special place.

More photos.

Location of Tamarack Run.

Falls off of Rock Run Rd.

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Hiking to Tamarack Falls is easy, but off trail.

For the longer and more scenic route:

  1. Park along Loyalsock Rd. where it crosses over Tamarack Run.  N 41 28.584  W 76 31.891
  2. Hike south along Tamarack Run for about .75 of a mile.
  3. Reach the top of Tamarack Falls, go on the left or east side.  Descend carefully, hiking around the ledges at the top.
  4. Tamarack Falls are at N 41 28.094  W 76 31.880.
  5. Retrace your steps.
For the shorter route.
  1. Park here along Loyalsock Rd.  N 41 28.296  W 76 31.695
  2. Walk to the right, counterclockwise, around deer fence.
  3. Leave deer fence when you hear the sound of a falls, descend to the creek.
  4. Hike to the above coordinates for Tamarack Falls.