Quehanna Wild Area is a special place, and is starting to attract the attention of hikers and backpackers with its extensive trail network and diverse scenery. Quehanna has vast meadows, pristine streams, views, cascades, giant boulders, great camping, forests of spruce and pine, and wild elk herds. I’ve been to Quehanna many times, and on this hike we did something different. I parked at the Beaver Dam parking area and took the Lincoln Loop to the East Cross Connector (ECC) with forests of spruce, pine, and meadows, Streams were running full from the snowmelt. Creeks in Quehanna are beautiful; the tend to be deep, with sandy bottoms.
I met my friends who were camping along the ECC, and we headed north to the Quehanna Trail. Along the way, the sun lit the forest of laurel, pine and spruce. We also passed a large spring gushing from the ground. We reached the Quehanna Trail and stashed our packs. We then hiked off trail, heading east, across the plateau. The forest was mostly open, but we did encounter some laurel and big rocks. We then reached a view over Red Run, which we could hear roaring far below. The view of the canyon was beautiful. We returned to the Quehanna Trail and our packs.
Here, I left the group, who wanted to hike a different route. I wanted to hike the Quehanna Meadow Route, something that has long been on my list. I hiked south on the ECC and then hiked the Teaberry Trail, which still had deep snow in places. The two views were mostly overgrown and I ran into a group of five hikers. I then hiked a trail I had not been on, Teaberry Trail Connector, it was a great trail with a series of meadows. I then continued on the Marion Brooks loop, which went through hardwoods, tunneled through laurel and then went through more beautiful meadows with white birch trees and spruce. A great trail. I turned left on Losey Road and checked out the white birch forest in the Marion Brooks Natural Area.
I continued on the yellow Marion Brooks loop, passing another hiker. The pine forests were awesome. I reached the meadows, which were wet. Here, my off trail hike on the Quehanna Meadow Route began. I crossed meadow after meadow, lined with pine and spruce trees. It was incredible. I reached Pebble Run and passed through some woods. I then reached more incredible meadows as the creek shone silver in the bright sun. I went through another forest and pushed through a hemlock thicket to reach the largest meadows. Amazing. Vast meadows continued for miles as Pebble Run, then joined by Mosquito Creek, flowed in the valley to my right with rapids and white boulders. It really felt like Dolly Sods. I could not imagine the stars here.
As I hiked, the valley grew deeper with large rocks. Before Beaver Run, I reached some giant boulders with caves and deep chasm that I hope to explore. This chasm might run for over a hundred feet. I crossed Beaver Run, flowing fast and deep, and got wet feet. I hiked up the meadow with fine views to the south over the oxbow bend of Mosquito Creek, an awesome spot. Giant boulders and cliffs loomed across the creek. The sun began to set, and I was tired. I pushed on to the Bridge Trail, which I hiked down to Mosquito Creek and our campsite. We enjoyed a fire and conversation, even though it was hard to hear with the roar of Mosquito Creek. Since we were assured clear skies, I just slept on the ground without a tent. The stars were incredible, as they appeared one by one. The Orion constellation was vivid. I could see the Milky Way as satellites zoomed overhead. The sound of the creek quickly put me to sleep.
The next morning, we got up, hiked up to beautiful Crawford Vista and then headed north on the ECC. Meeker Run was filled with cascades, and had some great campsites. We saw meadows and postholed through the snow. It was a windy day as cumulus clouds sailed overhead. We crossed more meadows and a bridge over Beaver Run; colors seemed to be everywhere, from the stones in the creek, the dried ferns, green evergreens, blue skies, white clouds. Even in winter, Quehanna is colorful. As we hiked out, we passed a couple backpacking in, starting a three-night trip. They were from Texas, moved to Detroit, and were excited to explore the Quehanna. We gave them some tips and trails not to miss.
We reached the parking area and were soon heading home. But Quehanna keeps bringing people back.
For the map above, red is off trail. The vista over Red Run is at 41.295158, -78.252096. Parking is at 41.261274, -78.258002.
The vast Quehanna Wild Area is a hiking destination with a wide network of trails creating countless loop options. The Quehanna is known for its diverse habitats and scenery, and is home to wild elk herds. This loop is about 20 miles and is ideal as an overnight backpack or a long dayhike. I backpacked it. Parts of this hike are wet and there are stream crossings without bridges. Much of the route is level or rolling, but the eastern part of the loop is more rugged. This route was easy to navigate, the trails are in decent shape and many have signs.
From the parking area at Hoover Farm, take the yellow David Lewis Trail as it explores meadows, wetlands and spruce forests. It is a scenic trail. Parts of this trail are similar to Dolly Sods in West Virginia. Reach Reactor Road and turn left onto the yellow Panther Run Trail. This is a highlight of the loop as I hiked through a stunning spruce and moss forest; thick carpets of moss covered the forest floor. The scenery was incredible. The trail then crossed a vast meadow with beaver dams and rock outcrops in the distance. Hike along a creek with small meadows and then climb into the forest. Turn right onto an old forest road, descend to a creek and cross on a bridge and then turn right onto Kunes Camp Trail.
This is another great trail as it passes boulders and descends for a beautiful streamside hike with possible camping. Enjoy the cascades and pools with hemlocks and laurel. Turn right onto Erie Camp Trail, an old forest road, descend, cross a creek, and climb to the plateau with white birch trees. Explore open woodlands and then turn right onto Cole Run Trail, a short connector to the orange Quehanna Trail (QT). Turn left on the QT as it explores more open hardwoods with laurel and descend to Cole Run. It was here when I heard a snap of a branch, looked up, and saw a herd of elk and a giant bull. These animals were so massive, yet moved through the forest with grace and ease. An amazing, and little intimidating, experience. I reached Cole Run and met my friends at camp. We enjoyed the night sky and its incredible display of stars.
The next morning was overcast and I got on the trail early, following the QT up a creek with laurel, hemlock and pine. I hiked near a meadow, passed through a spruce forest and crossed the Quehanna Highway. The trail continued into an open forest, passing springs, small meadows, and laurel thickets before reaching Rider Draft Vista, a modest view to the south. Open hardwoods and laurel continued until the steep descent to Upper Three Runs with a long footbridge, and a small reservoir downstream. A sign also indicated the availability of camping. A climb followed as the trees creaked from the winds of a coming storm. At the top, there were two views. One looked south and wasn’t much of a view. But the second view to the west was very nice as it looked into a wooded gorge.
The trail then explored open hardwoods and then entered a hemlock forest and wet area with a short boardwalk. I reached Three Runs Tower Road and followed the QT. At the site of the former firetower is a juncture with the No. 14 Trail, an ideal shortcut with meadows and spruce. Otherwise, continue on the QT as it passes Three Runs Vista, steeply descend to Lower Three Runs and climbs to a juncture with the No. 15 Trail. Go straight onto this trail to Three Runs Road. Go left on this road and then turn right on Big Spring Draft. Pass a walled spring and descend on this gorgeous trail with rhododendron, pine, and hemlocks along a creek. There are two nice campsites. Cross the creek and climb into open hardwoods and wetlands. Turn left onto Wykoff Trail, left on Ligament Trail and then a quick right onto a red trail back to the Hoover Farm parking area.
Parking is at 41.229061, -78.191713. For the map above, “C” are campsites or potential campsites.
The south loop of the Pinchot Trail (PT) is a beautiful, and fairly easy, hike. While the terrain is rolling and hilly, there is still a lot of great scenery and diversity. The south loop is about 13 mile long, and the trail is blazed orange. This loop is ideal as an overnight backpack, or a long dayhike. Two years ago, several trail relocations were completed which greatly enhanced the scenery of this loop. All road walks were eliminated (other than the one to complete the loop at the north end) and the new trails explored diverse forests, wetlands, and streams. The new route also encompassed great creek walking along Choke Creek, and now includes Choke Creek Falls. The reroutes have been popular with hikers. The Keystone Trails Association helped build these new trails.
I decided to tackle the south loop as a dayhike, and I went counterclockwise, a direction I don’t usually take. I parked at the trailhead where Tannery Road meets Bear Lake Rd. (SR 2016). There were spaces for about seven cars. I walked the road to the west side of the loop and headed south. The trail became wet and tunneled through thick laurel and rhododendron. Spruce and hemlock grew overhead. I crossed the headwaters of Choke Creek and passed a campsite. I soon reached a nice view over a wetland.
The PT continued to meander through scenic forests of spruce, pine and hemlock. The forests opened up with hardwoods and blueberry bushes. I crossed a gated gravel road and entered one of my favorite places, a primeval forest of spruce, pine, moss, and hemlock near a swamp. The PT is unique in having more native red spruce trees than most backpacking trails in PA. The trail meandered through these beautiful forests, defined by a tread of bare earth. I enjoyed hiking through the tunnels of rhododendron, which bloom in early July.
One section of trail was inundated with laurel, but I soon broke free and descended to Choke Creek with its beaver dams, ponds, and beautiful campsites. I really enjoy this section of trail due to its scenery and isolation. The creek had been heavily impacted by beaver dams, but floods breached several dams and the trail was not as flooded as it had been in the past. I took a break at one of the trail’s finest campsites, which sits on a ledge over the creek. I then passed the yellow Choke Creek Nature Trail to the left; this trail makes an ideal dayhike loop.
I continued along scenic Choke Creek with views of the creek, meandering wetlands, and giant pine trees. The PT moved away from Choke Creek to avoid wetlands and thick brush, but soon returned with fine views across a large wetland. I soon reached stunning Choke Creek Falls, which is about 20 feet tall and tumbles into a deep pool lined with ledges. A boy scout troop was swimming in the pool. The trail continued up along Butler Run in a deep hemlock forest with great camping. The next few miles featured rolling terrain with hardwood forests, small streams, and a pine plantation. The trail became rocky after crossing Phelps Road and then I followed wide forest paths up to a hill with a fine dry campsite. I dropped down to a vast meadow along Balsam Swamp with views of the spruce and fir trees. The trail then returned to tunnels of rhododendron, scenic spruce and pine forests, before returning me to my car.
Over the last twenty years, it is remarkable to see how popular the PT has become. I enjoy the south loop because it is such a diverse and scenic route. The trail threads through hemlock, hardwoods, spruce, pine, rhododendrons, and laurel. There is always something different to see with the creeks, wetlands, and waterfall. And the fine camping makes this hike that much better.
I parked at 41.215358, -75.642310. The only real issues on the trail are some wet areas, possible beaver flooding, and some brushy areas. Enjoy the trail!
The Loyalsock State Forest has established itself as the premier backpacking destination in eastern Pennsylvania. The forest is home to miles of trails that explore gorges, waterfalls, vistas, and rock formations. A few months ago, I went on an overnight backpacking trip on a variety of trails through the state forest featuring some of its fine scenery. Bryan, Dan, and Matt joined me on this trip. This hike was about 17 miles.
We met at the Worlds End State Park office (located at 41.471808, -76.581784) and shuttled a car to a pull off along Coal Mine Road (located at 41.456752, -76.628380). We hiked down the road a short distance and turned left onto the Loyalsock Trail (LT); much of our hike would be on this trail. The LT brought us to impressive Alpine Vista as it looked down the Loyalsock Creek valley. The trail descended steeply to Lower Alpine Vista and its equally scenic view. There we saw two men hunting for snakes. The trail continued to drop down to beautiful Ketchum Run. We hiked up along the stream with its rapids and cascades. We took a break a Rode Falls and climbed up its ladder. We climbed up the gorge, under giant hemlocks as the water roared below. Ketchum Run is such a beautiful place and is one of the gems in the state forest. Next was Lee’s Falls and an impressive chasm upstream.
The hike up Ketchum was a pleasure as we passed campsites under hemlocks. The LT turned right and crossed the run, but we followed an unblazed trail upstream where we enjoyed two more falls and bedrock cascades. We reached a blue blazed trail and followed the Ketchum Run Trail. Our next turn was right onto the yellow Ketchum Run Nature Trail; this turn was discreet. The trail returned us to Ketchum Run with its bedrock cascades, falls, and pools. This was another great trail as it meandered along streams, ground pine, and hemlock forests. We soon reached the parking area and took a break at a shelter.
Our hike continued by turning left onto Worlds End Road and a quick left onto a red/blue ski trail under more hemlocks with carpets of moss. After turning left onto the red trail, it took us back to Coal Mine Road for a short road walk, we turned left off the road, on the red trail as it followed a narrow grade to the LT where we turned right. We would follow the LT all the way to Canyon Vista.
The LT was a beautiful hike as we passed streams, hemlocks, meadows, and nice campsites. The trail climbed to a ridge and then descended, passing some large rock outcrops. We descended to the east branch of Double Run and saw the orange sulphur spring and enjoyed Mineral Spring Falls. We found a nice campsite along the LT and settled in for the night with a campfire and conversation. It was neat to see the foliage in the trees turn to yellow and orange in the setting sun. A small stream babbled through the night.
We were up early the next morning and the trail was beautiful, a thread through open forests and meadows of ferns. We soon reached Canyon Vista and enjoyed the trail, as well as the mazes of the Rock Garden behind it. Next was the blue Canyon Vista Trail which featured some giant rocks and passageways that everyone enjoyed. I then took them on the new yellow Cold Run Trail, a highlight with its gorges, waterfalls, views, rock outcrops, and boulder arch. We passed two women hiking who proclaimed this was their favorite hike and that they hike it every week. We returned to the blue Canyon Vista Trail and dropped down to the Loyalsock Creek which we walked along enjoying the rapids and scenery. A climb took us to Warren’s Window and then we descended to Double Run with its waterfalls and cascades. We hiked back to the park office along the Link Trail.
Everyone enjoyed the diverse scenery of the Loyalsock, although they weren’t thrilled with the final climb to Warren’s Window. This is such a beautiful area and I’m sure it will not be our last hike in the ‘Sock.
Tim and Dan at the Chasms of Rock Run, Loyalsock State Forest
Twice a year I meet up with some friends from college for a backpacking trip. This past Fall, we decided to hike a part of the Old Loggers Path (OLP). I had previously hiked the OLP in July. After years of not stepping foot on the trail, it was odd to be on it twice this year.
The OLP has become one of PA’s most popular backpacking trails due to its scenery, isolation, and moderate terrain. Despite it being a cold November weekend, there were still several cars at the trailhead in Masten, where we parked. Ian, Dan, and Tim came on this hike.
We decided to do the northern half of the trail, which is the most scenic. So, we had to shuttle a car, which we parked where Yellow Dog Road meets Ellenton Road.
From Masten, we hiked counterclockwise, following the old logging grades under hemlocks and across tumbling streams. After a very wet, and at times rocky, hike at Dolly Sods this spring with the group, it was nice to be on the more forgiving terrain on the OLP.
Wind whipped through the bare forests, with only beech providing the last of the Fall color. We made our way down to Rock Run as a thin layer of snow covered the ground pine. We hiked under hemlocks as Rock Run roared below. I then led the group off trail a short distance to see the striking Chasms of Rock Run, where the two branches of Rock Run joined among beautiful gorges, cliffs, cascades, and pools. Everyone was impressed by the beauty. The water roared over rapids and across the smooth bedrock into deep swirling pools. The place felt wild and primeval. Across the creek was an incredible campsite, where we all made a note to come back to in the Summer.
We got back on the OLP and descended to where Yellow Dog Run meets Rock Run, another place of great beauty. Yellow Dog tumbled over a falls into Rock Run’s bedrock chasm. Rock Run is so amazing. Great campsites were nearby, but our goal was the new shelter at Doe Run. So, we had to hike up a gradual grade. As we climbed, below us was a twenty foot falls on Yellow Dog Run.
After crossing Yellow Dog Road, we made our way to Rock Run Vista. Along the way, we passed two volunteers I know from the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) who were maintaining the trail. KTA is a great organization that does so much for trails in PA, please support them.
We enjoyed the view over Rock Run as a cold sun began to set. We were soon back on the trail to Doe Run Shelter. Thankfully, no one was using the shelter, which is set above the tumbling rapids and cascades of beautiful Doe Run. There are several campsites nearby, and one was occupied by another backpacker. We soon settled into the shelter and got a fire going. A panorama of stars spread across the night sky with a few shooting stars. After eating and talking, we went to sleep.
The next morning, the dark forest returned to light and I decided to set out and see Doe Run Falls, which is below the OLP. I followed Doe Run down into a rugged gorge and reached the falls, set in a striking chasm of bedrock with two drops. It was very beautiful. After I hiked back up, the others had their gear together and we continued on the trail. We crossed Buck Run with its large boulders and we made our way to the top of Sullivan Mountain to enjoy its series of vistas over the vast plateaus.
We then turned left onto the Crandalltown Trail to make a loop back to Buck Run. From there we hiked out along the Ellenton grade to the second car parked at Ellenton and Yellow Dog Roads. After a great meal at the Forksville Inn, we went our separate ways until the next trip.
(Note regarding photos: due to changes with Flickr, I will be linking photos from my Instagram account).
Many beautiful views are along the PA Wilds Trail. This one is over Slate Run on the Black Forest Trail.
The PA Wilds are a best kept secret in the eastern U.S. While crowds descend on the White Mountains, Adirondacks, Shenandoahs, and Great Smoky Mountains, you can have the isolated natural beauty of the PA Wilds all to yourself.
Here, in an area as large as Vermont, are 29 state parks, over 2 million acres of public land, hundreds of miles of trails, and thousands of miles of rivers and streams. This area has some of the largest forests and darkest skies between New York and Chicago. The PA Wilds covers a vast area of elevated, forested plateaus with countless canyons and gorges. There are waterfalls, vistas, giant rocks, old growth forests, wilderness, dark skies, meadows, and wild elk. Mountain laurel covers the higher elevations, as jungles of rhododendron grow along the streams.
The PA Wilds offer incredible hiking opportunities, with the largest network of long distance backpacking trails of any place in the east. Amazingly, most of these trails link together, creating a continuous hiking route from Parker Dam State Park to the Pine Creek Gorge. This remarkable hiking resource is unparalleled in the east.
I’d like to propose the PA Wilds Trail (PAWT), a 200-215 mile route that crosses the PA Wilds along various trails. It is easily one of the most scenic and diverse hiking routes in the east. From southwest to northeast, it begins at Parker Dam State Park on the Quehanna Trail and ends at the northern terminus of the West Rim Trail, near Colton Point State Park. The PAWT is not a trail in its own right, but rather a route that follows other existing trails, connecting them along a common thread. The route also follows roads and one short off trail section.
I have hiked most of the trails along the PAWT, but I have not thru-hiked it. From my experience, this is the most scenic and feasible route within the vast system of trails in the PA Wilds.
A trip report from the Fall of 2019 by someone who hiked most of the PAWT (the first attempted thru-hike), complete with descriptions and photos.
Distance: A linear route of approximately 200-215 miles from Parker Dam State Park to the northern terminus of the West Rim Trail near Ansonia and Colton Point State Park. All distances are approximate.
Blazes: State forest hiking trails (Quehanna, Donut Hole, Susquehannock, Black Forest, West Rim, and Mid State Trails) are blazed orange. Connecting and side trails along the PAWT are usually blazed yellow, but blue or red are also used. There is one off trail section and some roadwalking. For the attached maps, only orange is used as that is the most common blaze color.
Presently, the PAWT does not have its own blaze, trail insignia or symbol.
Trail conditions: Variable. Some trails are well-established, others less so. The route is generally “followable” although there is one off trail section. Expect many stream crossings without bridges.
Terrain: Moderate to very difficult. From Parker Dam, the route is moderate but builds in difficulty to the challenging Black Forest Trail section. Heading north from Blackwell, the terrain gradually becomes more moderate. Sections of the trail are steep and require ascents or descents exceeding 1,000 feet. Overall, the PAWT is considered challenging.
Parking: Main trailheads and parking area are designated as “P1”, etc , on the maps. The trail crosses many roads with pull off parking.
Highlights: Isolation, scenic streams, vistas, waterfalls, gorges, glens, canyons, meadows, wild elk, swimming holes, superb camping, and quaint villages. The PAWT has 40-50 vistas and about ten streams with waterfalls or larger cascades. Fall foliage is excellent and peaks in early to mid October. Mountain laurel is common along the trail and blooms in mid June. Rhododendron is common along some streams and blooms in early July.
Issues: Parts of this route are rarely hiked and isolated. Some sections of the route will be brushy and less established; blazes may also be infrequent, particularly on the Donut Hole Trail section. There is a period of roadwalking near Kettle Creek State Park and between the Golden Eagle and Mid State Trails. There is one short, off trail section.
Amenities: Parker Dam State Park has seasonal camping, showers, and snack bar. Kettle Creek State Park has seasonal camping and showers located off the trail. There are two post offices near the route, in Sinnemahoning and Cross Fork. There are also restaurant/bars in Sinnemahoning, Slate Run, and Cross Fork. The route also goes through or near the villages of Cross Fork, Slate Run and Blackwell where there are small stores or restaurants.
Why hike this when I can hike more famous trails? No crowds, plentiful and available primitive camping, and remarkable diversity of scenery. This route provides very beautiful scenery. The route is isolated, while introducing hikers to four rural communities. If you are looking for something different, this is the hike for you.
Choose your own adventure! The PAWT is envisioned as a primary route through the PA Wilds that connects many other trails along which hikers and backpackers can choose alternate routes. The PAWT enables alternate adventures along the Susquehannock, Donut Hole, Quehanna, Mid State Trails, and the Bucktail Path. It is even possible to connect to the Chuck Keiper Trail via the Garby Trail. These possibilities are unparalleled in the east, if not the entire nation.
History of the PAWT. The trail was first proposed by Jeff Mitchell in 2018. Initially, the idea was to have the North Country Trail routed through the PA Wilds. However, the North Country Trail Association was not interested at the time. As a result, the PAWT was born. The original route used the Donut Hole Trail, T Squared Trail, Black Forest Trail, Long Branch Trail, and Mid State Trail, ending near Arnot. In 2020, the route was changed as presently described because it was felt to be more scenic, and it was important to include the Hammersley Wild Area and Pine Creek Gorge/PA Grand Canyon. The first thru-hike attempt was in 2019 by Jason English. In 2020, at least four others successfully thru-hiked the trail, they were: Dave Gantz, Eriks Perkons, Kristin Joivell, and Kevin Busko.
The future. Hopefully the PAWT will become an established hiking route- a conduit to introduce hikers to the PA Wilds, its beauty, and vast trail network. Instead of hikers focusing on individual trail systems, the PAWT redefines what is possible and will spread hikers across the entire system of trails. The PAWT route will also be modified to ensure the most scenic and rewarding hike.
Possible future changes may be taking the trail off the road near Kettle Creek State Park, establishing a connector between the Golden Eagle and Mid State Trails, or creating a trail to eliminate the off trail section in the Hammersley Wild Area.
Other long hikes in the PA Wilds. The PA Wilds feature the finest opportunities for long-distance backpacking of any place in the eastern US. What are some other long distance hikes?
PA Wilder Trail: a concept born out of the PAWT that encompasses the Bucktail Path, Donut Hole Trail, Garby Trail, and Chuck Keiper Trail.
Susquehannock-Black Forest Trail Loop: a 120-130 mile loop along the Susquehannock Trail, North Link Trail, South Link Trail, and Black Forest Trail.
Eastern States 100 Loop (ES 100): hike the route of the premier trail run endurance race around the Pine Creek Gorge region with its views, cascades, deep gorges, rock outcrops, scenic streams and hemlock forests.
Mid State Trail: the northern half of this trail crosses the PA Wilds and features vistas, history, gorges, waterfalls, state parks, scenic villages, swimming holes, and beautiful streams.
Thru-hiking. Thru-hikers can follow the recommended route, any or all alternate routes, or any route of their choosing (as long as roadwalking does not exceed fifteen miles) between the southwestern and northeastern terminus of the PAWT (Parker Dam State Park and Ansonia). A thru-hike can also be achieved by using an alternate eastern terminus, such as Arnot Road on the Mid State Trail in the Tioga State Forest. This flexibility is in keeping with the PAWT’s “choose your own adventure” character.
Legend. For the maps below, the letters have the following meanings:
R: restaurant, bar, cafe.
S: Store, market.
PO: Post office.
P1, P2, etc: Primary parking areas.
Section 1: Parker Dam State Park to Caledonia Pike
Parking: P1 on map (Southwestern Trailhead at Parker Dam State Park) 41.194414, -78.506488
Amenities: Seasonal camping, showers, and snack bar at Parker Dam State Park
Highlights: cascades, meadows, some views, isolation, beaver dams.
Description: This section follows the orange blazed Quehanna Trail. It follows the southern section of this classic loop as it is more scenic than the corresponding northern section. The beginning of the PAWT is in the beautiful Moshannon State Forest. Hike old grades along scenic Laurel Run with rapids and pools. Hemlocks adorn the creek and there are some potential campsites. Cross some dirt forest roads and descend along Alex Branch with cascades, hemlocks, and camping. Expect wet areas.
There are some nice views from meadows and drop to Trout Run with more cascades, boulders, and hemlocks. Hike up a beautiful stream valley dotted with boulders and cross the top of the plateau. Descend along another stream with beaver meadows and climb gradually to Caledonia Pike. This section ends at Caledonia Pike.
Section 2: Caledonia Pike to Sinnemahoning
Maps 2 and 3
Parking: P2 on map (Beaver Run Shallow Water Impoundment) 41.261333, -78.258122. P3 on map 41.278731, -78.140134
Highlights: vast meadows, views, cascades and small waterfalls, ponds, spruce and pine forests, rugged gorges, rhododendron jungles, scenic streams, isolation, chance to see wild elk.
Description: This section follows the orange blazed Quehanna Trail, then follows a variety of yellow blazed side trails, to return to the northern section of the Quehanna Trail. With diverse scenery and great isolation, this section is a highlight of the PAWT. Portions of this section are in the diverse Elk State Forest.
From Caledonia Pike, descend to beautiful Gifford Run at an old log splash dam. Cross the run and follow downstream with rapids and boulders. Climb up a side stream to some rock outcrops and ledges with views that are largely grown over. Cross Merrill Road and the top of the plateau with hardwood forests. Reach the yellow blazed East Cross Connector (ECC) at Lost Run Road, on which you will turn left, leaving the Quehanna Trail. Follow the road a short distance and then turn right, descending along a small stream and then above Mosquito Creek.
Return to Lost Run Road and cross Mosquito Creek on the road bridge. Hike up the road and follow the ECC to the left. Descend to Meeker Run with cascades. Good camping can be found further up the ECC. Turn left onto the Crawford Vista Extension, which leads to a beautiful vista over the Mosquito Creek Gorge. This is a great view for sunsets. Continue on the Crawford Vista Trail. Cross some meadows and a wet area. Descend along boulders to Mosquito Creek and a footbridge. There is camping here. Turn right onto the beautiful Bridge Trail.
The Bridge Trail follows Mosquito Creek with its rapids and boulders, and then crosses vast fern meadows that are reminiscent of Dolly Sods. Look across the stream valley with large white boulders. Return to the ECC and turn left on it. Crossing more meadows along Beaver Run. Reach a large, beautiful pond, known as the Beaver Run Shallow Water Impoundment. Hike the ECC around it and then turn right onto the Marion Brooks Loop, also watch for signs for the Lincoln Trail. This section features beautiful pine and spruce forests. Follow the Lincoln Trail to P2.
Follow a grade to the east, this may be known as the Lincoln or Teaberry Trails. Cross the Quehanna Highway and another small meadow. Reach a nice vista from a cliff looking over Paige and Red Runs. Descend to Paige Run, a gorgeous place with giant moss covered boulders, cascades, and hemlocks. Ascend to more ledges with nice views. Return to the ECC at Roaring Run, on which you turn right. Follow the ECC to the Quehanna Trail and turn right.
Descend Porcupine Draft with cascades and then follow Red Run Road. Leave the road, cross Red Run on a bridge and reach a beautiful section of boulders, cascades, pools, and thick rhododendrons. Hike along beautiful Sanders Draft and climb to the plateau with more meadows and hardwoods. Reach Arch Spring and a narrow view of Little Fork Drafts deep gorge. Reach Hoover Road, where this section ends.
Continue to follow the orange Quehanna Trail and cross some pipeline swaths, ideal places to see wild elk herds. Cross some small meadows and reach the top of Laurel Draft where there is a campsite. Descend scenic Laurel Draft. The trail stays well above the creek, but you can see the boulders and cascades in this beautiful gorge.
Cross Wykoff Run Road and reach P3. Cross Wykoff Run over a bridge and begin a climb up scenic Upper Pine Draft with small cascades. At the top, pass some meadows and reach the yellow Old Sinnemahoning Trail (OST). Leave the Quehanna Trail and turn left. Follow the OST, which is an old road, across the top of the plateau. Expect the trail to be not very well established and to see blowdowns. Hardwoods predominate along the trail. Descend to Jerry Run Road. Turn left and walk to Wykoff Run Road and continue into Sinnemahoning, where this section ends. Enjoy the views over the Sinnemahoning Creek from the bridge.
This section also has an alternate route, called Alt. 1, for those that want to explore more of the Quehanna Wild Area. Upper Jerry Run and Foley Draft are both very scenic with cascades, pools, boulders, moss, laurel and hemlocks. Alt. 1 also has meadows.
Section 3: Sinnemahoning to Trout Run Road
Maps 4 and 5
Parking: P4 on map. 41.376331, -77.929178. Check with Kettle Creek State Park if overnight parking is permitted here.
Amenities: Post office and bar in Sinnemahoning, about a mile off the PAWT. Willows Restaurant is on the PAWT, where Wykoff Run Road meets PA 120. Seasonal campground and showers (off trail) at Kettle Creek State Park. Water and restrooms at the state park.
Highlights: scenic streams, Kettle Creek Vista, Kettle Creek State Park.
Description: Cross the large Sinnemahoning Creek. Willows Restaurant is just ahead and features good food at fair prices. Enjoy the surroundings, Sinnemahoning is beautiful with the giant creeks, towering plateaus, and railroad bridges. Appalachia at its best. Follow PA 120 East, pass PA 872 and cross a bridge over the First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek. Reach the non-existent village of Jericho and make a left on a road; notice the orange blazes. This is the start of the Donut Hole Trail (DHT), which the PAWT will follow to Kettle Creek State Park. This section is the vast Sproul State Forest, the largest state forest in Pennsylvania.
The DHT is a lonely trail and is one of the least hiked sections of the PAWT. Hopefully, the PAWT will bring more footsteps to it. The DHT is not well established and can be overgrown in places.
Follow the road and then hike up Ellicott Run, a steady climb of 1,000 vertical feet. Cross the top of the plateau, reach a pipeline swath and then Montour Road; follow the road for about a mile. Descend into a stream valley with a small creek and climb gradually back to the rolling plateau. Descend along another small stream to scenic Cooks Run. Hike up Cooks Run with some possible camping and climb to Crowley Road with a view. The DHT then reaches a highlight, Kettle Creek Vista, a stunning view over Kettle Creek Reservoir and the foothills to the north. Truly beautiful.
Here, you have a choice. The PAWT continues north to the Hammersley Wild Area into beautiful, remote and rugged country, with a bushwhack. The PAWT was routed through the Hammersley because it is one of the most scenic and isolated places in the PA Wilds, and it would include Cross Fork, a strategic place for hikers to resupply and enjoy a little civilization. If you prefer to avoid that, continue east on the DHT to the Susquehannock Trail.
The PAWT descends on the Butler Trail into a gorge. Reach the Nature Trail loop in a beautiful wooded cove. Turn right on the loop and reach a camping area at Kettle Creek State Park. Hike the campground road down to Kettle Creek Road and turn left. This is the longest roadwalk on the PAWT, at about 6 miles, but it isn’t bad. The road is usually not very busy and you can enjoy views of the lake and mountains. Turn left onto Trout Run Road.
Section 4: Hammersley Wild Area (Trout Run Road to Cross Fork)
Parking: P5 on map, located at 41.482063, -77.818385.
Amenities: bar, store, and post office in Cross Fork.
Description: The Hammersley is one of the gems of the PA Wilds, the premier wilderness in the region and a place of great beauty and isolation. As a result, it was important to find a way to include this landscape along the PAWT. It is located in the vast Susquehannock State Forest. Keep in mind the yellow blazed trails in the wild area are not heavily used, can be brushy, and may require some route-finding. There is also a short bushwhack along Hammersley Fork between Cow Run and the Susquehannock Trail (STS).
Hike up Trout Run Road and turn right onto the yellow Summerson Trail, cross a creek and enter a primitive camping area used by car or RV campers. Veer right and cross the creek on the yellow Lock Branch Trail. Alt. 2 is a scenic route with cascades, gorge, historic grades, hardwood forests on the plateau with laurel and hemlock.
The Lock Branch Trail makes a steady, almost enjoyable, climb up the plateau on an old grade. A gorge is below. Enjoy the scenic forests. At the top are extensive hemlock and pine forests with good camping potential. Enter the Dutlinger Natural Area and enjoy the impressive old growth forests. Turn right onto the Beech Bottom Trail and enter the heart of the old growth hemlocks, a truly magical place. Hike the trail down the glen with glades of ferns. At the bottom is a cascade and campsite. Turn left on the yellow trail and hike up the Hammersley Fork, enjoying views of the pristine stream. At an intersection with other yellow trails, turn right and cross the fork without a bridge. Continue up the beautiful, wooded valley to some campsites. The trail climb up the bank and into a hemlock forest. Cross a side stream and descend to the Hammersley Fork again, and cross it. Pass some large boulders, climb up the slope and follow sidehill with beech to Cow Run.
Now the bushwhack begins, simply hike up Hammersley Fork. The forests are fairly open with ferns. When the west side becomes too steep, cross the fork to the east side and intersect the STS. Upstream on the STS, about a mile away and off the PAWT, is the Hammersley Pool. A great place to swim and camp. Alt. 3 is ideal for those who want to explore more of the wild area with the pool, creeks, and superb views from the Hammersley Meadows.
Now, follow the orange STS to Cross Fork. Hike up a gorge, cross the level plateau, and make a winding descent to PA 144. Walk to the scenic village of Cross Fork, surrounded by mountains. There is parking, a store, post office, and a restaurant/bar. Cross Fork is a beautiful respite along the PAWT, and the approximate half-way point.
Section 5: Cross Fork to Black Forest Trail
Maps 7 and 8
Amenities: Primitive campground at Dyer CCC Camping Area. Shelter at Scoval Branch.
Highlights: Scenic streams, isolation, spruce and pine forests, CCC history, historic railroad grades.
Description: The STS leaves Cross Fork and climbs to the plateau. Cross some pipeline swaths and descend to stream valleys with hiking along creeks. Hike along Porter Branch and the Donut Hole Trail (DHT) joins from the right; the DHT is a fine alternate route for the PAWT from Kettle Creek State Park. For the next nine miles, the STS and DHT follow the same route. There is a shelter at Scoval Branch. Hike along a pipeline swath and continue to hike in and out of valleys with creeks separated by wooded plateaus and ridges. Cross Twelvemile Road and begin a steep climb back up the plateau. The DHT leaves to the right as the STS heads north across the level plateau.
At Big Springs Road, the PAWT leaves the STS and follows the North Link Trail, comprised of individually named trails such as Railgrade, Big Springs Ridge, and Spruce. The route follows old railroad grades with streams and deep spruce and pine forests. Reach the Dyer CCC Camping Area, which is primarily intended for horse riders, but open to hikers too. Turn right onto Dyer Road, and turn left onto a road before crossing the creek. Follow the scenic Dyer Farm Trail on an old grade across a meadow and into spruce and pine forests. Hardwoods then prevail in the scenic gorge with cascades and potential camping. Reach County Line Branch and cross the creek without a bridge; this can be difficult in high water. Reach the iconic orange blazed Black Forest Trail (BFT) and turn right onto it.
Section 6: Black Forest and Golden Eagle Trails
Maps 9 and 10
Parking: P6 on map: 41.471421, -77.502262. P7 on map: 41.438924, -77.510689.
Amenities: Hotel Manor, a restaurant, and a small store at Slate Run. Tomb Flats and Black Walnut Bottom campgrounds. Camping is not permitted along the Golden Eagle Trail.
Highlights: Stunning views, waterfalls, cascades, rock formations, gorges, Pine Creek, rail trail.
Description: This is possibly the most rugged and scenic section of the PAWT. Expect rugged, steep climbs and descents, often exceeding 1,000 vertical feet, numerous vistas, and even some falls and cascades. This is in the Tiadaghton State Forest. You will also see more hiking traffic on the Black Forest (BFT) and Golden Eagle Trails (GET). From the Dyer Farm Trail, the BFT climbs the plateau with meadows and views. Descend into a valley and pass an intersection with the T Squared Trail.
From the T Squared Trail, follow the BFT and climb to PA 44 and a parking area. Rolling terrain follows to a view. Follow Trout Run Road and stay on the road where the BFT leaves to the right. Stay on the road and veer left onto Big Trail Scenic Road. Follow to the yellow Cut off Trail on the left. Follow this trail down to the BFT. Follow the ridge to Hemlock Mountain with three excellent views. An extremely steep descent follows the Naval Run with camping. Follow a grade above the scenic stream and cross the creek above a falls.
Another steep ascent follows to a ridge with more excellent views. There is a steep descent to Little Slate Run with more great campsites. Climb to the plateau, drop into Foster Hollow, and leave the BFT, following the yellow Old Supply Trail down into a gorge with cascades. Alt. 4 is an option to cut miles; it features two vistas, one of them being spectacular. Cross Slate Run Road and follow a yellow trail down Manor Fork with several stream crossings. Reach a cabin and follow the yellow trail to the left as it crosses the steep sides of the gorge with sidehill, a unique experience. Reach Francis Road and the BFT. Follow the BFT to the right. Descend to Slate Run and reach the scenic falls on Morris Run. Hike up a Red Run, a scenic stream valley with camping. The climb steepens with cascades and falls over rocky terrain. Reach the plateau with fine views.
Cross the plateau with more views and then descend to Slate Run, passing old quarries and more excellent vistas. Cross Slate Run over a bridge behind the Hotel Manor. Cross the bridge over Pine Creek and turn right on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Follow the rail trail for 3-4 miles, passing two campgrounds along the way, and Alt. 5, Quarry Mountain Trail. Alt. 5 is more direct, has a fine view and forested ridge, but avoids the excellent scenery along the Golden Eagle Trail.
Reach P7, cross PA 414, and begin the GET, hiking the loop to the right. Climb to the stunning Ravens Horn and hike up Wolf Run with many slides and cascades. As you near the top of the plateau, there are beautiful pine forests and Beulahland Vista is breathtaking. Leave the GET and follow the unblazed Beulahland Road to the right, a gated forest road. Do not miss the stunning Twin Mountain Trail, a short hike off the PAWT route.
Section 7: Golden Eagle Trail to Blackwell
Parking: P8 is located in Blackwell at 41.556172, -77.381766. Fills up on weekends.
Amenities: Small store in Blackwell.
Highlights: Isolation, scenic streams, waterfall in Hoyt Hollow, Mid State Trail, Gillespie Point and views.
Description: Follow Beulahland Road from the Golden Eagle Trail; this road is unblazed and is a forest road. Do not miss a side hike to see impressive Twin Mountain Vista. Reach Barrens Road and turn right; walk this country road for about three miles. Reach the Mid State Trail (MST) and turn left. The MST is blazed orange, the longest trail in the state, and it is well maintained. Follow the MST all the way to Blackwell.
The MST dips in and out of forest gorges and valleys with fine scenery. Cross Trout Run and hike up Hoyt Hollow with a nice waterfall. The next highlight is the climb up to Gillespie Point with its superb views of the Pine Creek Gorge region. A fairly steep descent follows down to a road and hike into the scenic village of Blackwell where there is a small store for re-supply or ice cream. The MST continues north on the rail-trail, but the PAWT leaves the MST to follow the Bohen Trail, and onto the West Rim Trail. An alternate hike for the PAWT is to follow the MST to Arnot Road.
Section 8: Blackwell to Ansonia (West Rim Trail)
Maps 12 and 13
Parking: P8 is in Blackwell and located at 41.556172, -77.381766. P9 is the Northeastern Terminus at Ansonia, located at 41.739185, -77.433067.
Amenities: Restroom and water at Bradley Wales Picnic Area. Bar and restaurant just north of the terminus.
Highlights: Waterfalls, Pine Creek, great camping, superb views, Pine Creek Gorge/Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, Barbour Rock.
Description: The final section of the PAWT ends with a bang as it explores the beautiful Pine Creek Gorge along the popular West Rim Trail. This is in the Tioga State Forest. From Blackwell, cross the bridge and turn right onto the yellow Bohen Trail, a beautiful trail with pine trees. Enjoy Jerry Run Falls, which the trail crosses on top, and views looking down on Bohen Run Falls. If flowing well, it is well worth your time to hike off trail to the bottom of this falls.
Reach the orange West Rim Trail (WRT) and turn right. The reminder of the PAWT is on this classic trail. Enjoy beautiful woodlands and the coves of small streams with cascades. As you hike north, views of the gorge become more common. There are many fine campsites along the side streams. Reach Bradley Wales Picnic Area with more great views. North of here, the views really pick up, making it a highlight of the entire PAWT. At Burdic Run a side trail goes to the top of Burdic Run Falls, the tallest near the PAWT at 70 feet in height. It is difficult to reach the bottom of the falls.
The WRT meanders around Colton Point State Park, but returns to the gorge in dramatic fashion with a hike along the rim of the canyon. Reach famous Barbour Rock, the emotional end point of the PAWT, and its stunning views. The WRT makes a gradual descent to the parking area to its northern terminus, and the northeastern terminus of the PAWT along Colton Road.
Enjoy your accomplishment of hiking one of the most rugged and scenic routes in the East. While in the area, visit Wellsboro, a beautiful town. We hope you have enjoyed your journey across the PA Wilds.
View from Sullivan Mountain, Old Loggers Path, Loyalsock State Forest
The Old Loggers Path (OLP) is a classic backpacking loop that has grown in popularity over the years. I was surprised to realize that I last backpacked the entire trail in 2012, over six years ago. So I decided it was time to return and experience this trail once again. I was also looking forward to seeing the two new shelters that were built on the trail last year.
As a change, I decided to hike the trail clockwise, something I had not done before. I also decided to start at the new trailhead off of Krimm Road, instead of Masten, the traditional trailhead.
I arrived late morning, quickly got my gear together, and began hiking down the trail. It felt good to stretch the legs and hike on an actual trail, instead of bushwhacking, my more common pursuit. The trail followed old logging grades and crossed a small meadow. I hiked past a large campsite along a stream with damage from a flood in 2016. I soon reached Masten and continued on the trail as it made an easy, gradual climb through a forest of beech trees. I crossed a dirt road and entered a scenic hemlock forest where I took a break. The OLP doesn’t have a lot of forest diversity; most of the trail features hardwood forests, so it was nice to sit under the cool hemlocks.
I encountered patches of stinging nettle along the OLP, but it wasn’t too thick and I was able to pass through, with shorts on, without too much discomfort. I soon reached the side trail to Sprout Point vista and shelter. The shelter was near the vista which provided nice views over the valleys and ridges. It would be a great place to stay for the night, but there is not any water nearby.
The OLP then descended through scenic, open forests of hardwoods. I crossed another road and traversed a series of stream valleys with rolling terrain. Each stream had a little water, and a campsite. The OLP also passed along a logging cut. A steep climb followed up to the trail’s finest vista, Sharp Top. Up until this point I had only seen two other hikers, but there were about ten backpackers at the vista, enjoying the wide panorama of wooded lowlands and distant mountains. It is an impressive view so I was happy to take a rest for a few minutes.
The trail followed the edge of the plateau with a series of ledges and then entered brushy areas with plenty of blackberries. I then hiked into a mature forest above a stream with the sound of cascades that filled the air. As I neared the bottom, I passed the yellow blazed S&NY Trail, which is a cross connector trail to the OLP. I soon reached a campsite at Pleasant Stream.
Pleasant Stream suffered from a lot of flood damage with embedded trees and gravel, sand, and cobblestones everywhere. I crossed the stream easily, passed another campsite, and continued on the trail. This next section was re-routed due to the flood damage; the trail made a steep climb up to the road, followed it for a little ways, and then followed a grade to Long Run. I crossed Long Run and passed more hikers. A climb then ensued up Sullivan Mountain as I tried to move fast to see the sunset. I reached the first series of vistas with beautiful view of the mountains basking in the golden glow of the setting sun. It was breathtaking. I set up my tent at a small site near one of the vistas. I sat at the vista and watched the stars come out. Owls hooted in the distance, coyotes howled through the forest, and fireflies lit up the sky.
I was up early the next morning and enjoyed watching the rising sun through the misty trees. The trail passed large boulders and followed level grades over springs and small streams. I reached Doe Run and saw the new shelter, which was set close to the creek in a beautiful location. I made note to camp there on a future hike. I reached a view over Rock Run Gorge, where a couple were just getting up and I then hiked down to gorgeous Rock Run, passing above an unnamed falls on Yellow Dog Run. This is such a beautiful stream with its bedrock pools, chasms, and waterfalls. I sat there for a while to eat and enjoy the scenery. While there I spoke to another backpacker.
I was surprised by the number of hikers on this trail. I saw almost 40 hikers, but the OLP did not feel particularly crowded.
I like the northern section of the trail because of the scenery and the hemlock forests. The rapids of Rock Run filled the air as I hiked up the trail, passing several other hikers. I crossed a few more streams and then returned to my car on Krimm Road.
It was great to be back on the OLP. Hopefully my return will not be in another six years.
Location: Loyalsock State Forest at Masten. Located between Shunk and Ralston.
Length: 28 mile loop
Difficulty: Moderate. The trail often follows old grades with gradual changes in elevation, but there are steep areas near Sharp Top and Long Run.
Highlights: Rock Run, a stream of exceptional beauty, Sharp Top, Sprout Point, views from Sullivan Mountain, big rocks near Buck Run, two shelters at Sprout Point and Doe Run.
Vegetation: Mostly hardwoods with some laurel. There is some hemlock along Rock Run. Stinging nettle is an occasional issue in the summer.
Camping: Most streams have a campsite. There are two shelters. If you want to camp at a view, there are small sites at Sprout Point, Sullivan Mountain, and the view over Rock Run.
Water: Generally not an issue. In very dry years the only creeks that will have water are Pleasant Stream and Rock Run.
Concerns: There is no bridge across Pleasant Stream. In high water this is a dangerous crossing.
Go clockwise or counterclockwise? From Masten or Krimm Road, the trail is easier counterclockwise. Going clockwise saves the best scenery towards the end of the hike.
Where to start? Most people start at Masten, but Krimm Road is another ideal starting point, particularly if hiking the trail clockwise. Krimm Road is located just off of Ellenton Road.
Trail worth hiking? Yes. The OLP is an ideal weekend loop that is usually well graded. There aren’t a lot of rocky areas. The terrain isn’t too easy, or hard and there are beautiful forests and scenic features.
New York has the most diverse scenery of any state east of the Rocky Mountains. The Empire State boasts vast lakes, canyons, alpine peaks, huge waterfalls, large rivers, pastoral countryside, beaches, and significant wilderness. It also has an extensive backpacking trail system. Which ones should you hike?
Most of the hikes below follow routes that include multiple named trails. For more information, see Backpacking New York.
Allegany State Park
22 mile linear hike
Hike the North Country and Finger Lakes Trails across New York’s largest state park. Enjoy scenic forests, streams, and three shelters. While this hike doesn’t have standout natural features like waterfalls or vistas, the beautiful forests and good isolation make this an ideal backpack. Perfect for autumn colors.
23 mile linear trail
This trail stretches across stunning Letchworth State Park, exploring the more isolated eastern rim of the famous gorge. There are views of two of the giant waterfalls and great views at the southern and northern ends of the trail. The trail passes many steep ravines carved by sidestreams with seasonal cascades. There are two shelters.
Morgan Hill State Forest
14 mile loop
This loop follows sections of the North Country Trail and a rural road. It features two ponds, scenic forests, streams, an incredible vista, and impressive Tinker Falls. You will also enjoy a gorge with cascades. There’s a lot of scenery along this small loop, which is strategically located in the central part of the state, south of Syracuse. There is one shelter.
23 mile linear trail
A classic trail, enjoy stunning views, ledges, rock outcrops, a lake, boreal peaks, diverse forests, Blackhead Mountain, Windham High Peak, and famous Kaaterskill Falls, which is just off trail. The trail is known for being dry. There are two shelters.
Windham High Peak and Blackhead Range Loop
18 mile loop
Summit four Catskill peaks with spruce forests and excellent views. There are beautiful spruce forests and two shelters. Water can be limited. There is a four mile roadwalk to complete the loop.
25 mile linear trail
One of New York’s most famous, and brutal, trails. The punishing terrain reveals incredible views, rock shelters, and outcrops. Trail is very rocky and steep in places. Enjoy the spruce forests. The eastern half is drier, has more views, and is more difficult. The western half is easier, has more water, and a waterfall. There are four shelters.
16 miles (including Giant Ledge)
The classic Catskills backpack that summits three peaks, including the highest in the Catskills, Slide Mountain. The views are stunning from spruce covered summits. Be sure to include Giant Ledge with its own series of excellent views.
Southern New York, Hudson Valley and Taconic Mountains
South Taconic Trail
16 mile linear trail (trail has been extended further south)
The best trail that you never knew existed, put this one on your list. It features excellent vistas from grassy balds on mountain summits, cascading waterfalls, and just off trail, the stunning Bash Bish Falls. The trail straddles the New York/Massachusetts border. Alander and Brace Mtns. cannot be missed. It’s hard to believe this trail isn’t more popular.
Harriman State Park-West
22 mile loop
Harriman is a very popular and surprisingly beautiful park that has a vast web of trails. I like this loop because of its diversity and relative isolation. It encompasses Island Pond, Lake Tiorati, and the Appalachian Trail. There are many vistas, ponds, cascades, rock outcrops, streams, gorges, and the famous Lemon Squeezer. There are three shelters.
Shawangunk Ridge Trail
28 miles (entire trail is 70 miles long)
This is the best section of the little-known Shawangunk Ridge Trail; it goes from NY 55 south to NY 171. As you’d expect for the Gunks, there are non-stop views from white cliffs. Highlights include Sam’s Point, Ice Caves, and towering Verkeerderkill Falls. The trail is very circuitous through Minnewaska State Park. Camping is a problem on this route and is prohibited along its northern half. South Gully is a scenic gorge. The southern half of this route is quite nice with many vistas, isolation, and camping potential. Watch for sun exposure on the northern half and water can be a problem in dry weather.
Lake George Wild Forest
21 mile loop
An excellent loop with beautiful ponds, cascades, and great camping. Enjoy views of pristine Lake George. The views from Sleeping Beauty, and Black Mountain in particular, are stunning. There are five shelters.
Pharaoh Lake Wilderness
24 mile loop
A popular and beautiful destination, this loop offers gorgeous ponds, streams, a waterfall, incredible camping, and superb views. There are also mining remnants. Views from Pharaoh Mountain are excellent. There are eleven shelters, often in beautiful locations.
West Canada Lakes Wilderness Loop
23 mile loop
A great backpack to get away from it all in an isolated wilderness. There are beautiful lakes, wetlands, and streams. Boardwalks offer views over the water. There are eight shelters, often along scenic lakes and ponds. A side hike to the top of Pillsbury Mountain from the trailhead offers excellent views.
Cranberry Lake 50
50 mile loop
New York’s premier backpacking loop, this trail has become increasingly popular. Enjoy views of beautiful lakes and ponds, traverse the top of beaver dams in wet areas, and revel in the isolation of woodlands and grassy meadows. Do not miss High Falls or the excellent views from Cat Mtn. There are also a few waterfalls and cascades. There are four shelters and many great campsites. The trail goes through the village of Wanakena and there are almost eight miles of roadwalking to complete the loop. For shorter loops, do the High Falls or Dog Pond Loops.
135 mile linear trail
New York’s premier backpacking trail, this iconic trail stretches across much of the famous Adirondack Park. This is a lower elevation trail and mountain top vistas are rare, but there are numerous ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, and some cascades. The trail crosses grassy meadows and isolated woodlands. Enjoy the stunning scenery, rapids, and pools of the Cold River. There are many shelters and campsites, often in stunning locations. The West Canada Lakes Wilderness and Cold River sections are generally considered the most scenic, but there is no bad section of the trail. Do not miss Wanika Falls. Piseco has a post office for a food drop and showers are available at Lake Durant Campground. Hiking this trail will be an experience you will never forget.
Cold River-Seward Range Loop
30 mile loop
An isolated loop with great wilderness, this hike offers the stunning scenery of Cold River, scenic woodlands, streams, and great camping. Latham Pond is gorgeous with its views of the Seward Range. The Cold River has incredible rapids, cascades, and giant swimming holes. There are ten shelters. Side trails lead to the summits of the Seward Range.
Adirondack High Peaks
The stunning scenery of the High Peaks attract hikers from around the world. It also presents a challenge to traditional backpacking due to the punishing terrain and competition for campsites and shelters. If backpacking during the busy season, it is recommended you go mid-week. These routes follow a series of individually named trails.
Algonquin Peak-Indian Pass Loop
22 mile loop
See gorgeous lakes surrounded by towering mountains. A side trail leads to impressive Hanging Spear Falls. The arduous climb up to Algonquin reveals cascades and stunning views from an alpine peak. Hike by Heart Lake and up Indian Pass Brook to scenic Rocky Falls. Indian Pass is insanely rugged, and beautiful. There are seven shelters near or along the trail.
Mt. Marcy-Avalanche Pass Loop
21 mile loop
The “easiest” of the High Peak backpacks, this route has it all. There are lakes hemmed in by cliffs, scrambling, and alpine peaks. The Opalescent River is stunning with its chasms and rapids. Be sure to hike Skylight Mountain to its alpine summit. Hiking up the backside/southside of Mt. Marcy can be a little intimidating, but its is exhilarating. The top of New York’s highest mountain is stunning. Hike above Indian Falls and enjoy beautiful forests of birch and spruce. There are many shelters.
High Peaks Loop
36 mile loop
The most difficult backpack in New York, this is an incredible and challenging loop with incredible views, waterfalls, ponds, lakes, chasms, and gorges. Take a rest at Johns Brook Lodge and tackle the Great Range with its incredible views. The views from Pyramid Peak may be the best in the High Peaks. Rainbow Falls is amazing and the classic view from Indian Head will take your breath away. The section along Nippletop and Dial Mtn. is more isolated, but still gorgeous. The section along Deer and Flume Brooks is surprisingly scenic with waterfalls and camping potential. If you finish this hike, pat yourself on the back. It is tough but so rewarding.
Alpine Falls is a beautiful spot in the Loyalsock State Forest, along the Loyalsock Trail. Alpine Falls is about 25 feet tall and is located in a scenic glen. There are campsites downstream from the falls, including another waterfall. Alpine Falls also makes for a great hike from Worlds End State Park and is notable for its beautiful hemlock forests. Thanks to a variety of trails, it is possible to do this hike as a dayhiking loop or as a quick overnight backpack. The loop is about 8 miles in length.
We began at Worlds End by hiking the orange blazed Butternut Trail as it climbed behind the cabin area along an old grade. Turn right onto the Butternut Trail loop as it enters a glen of Butternut Run with some waterfalls. Climb along switchbacks over rocky terrain and below a ledge to a nice view looking down the Loyalsock Creek into the park. The Butternut Trail continues and soon meets a yellow blazed trail leading to Loyalsock Road, on the right (if you cross the creek again, you went too far). The yellow trail climbs to the top of the plateau and then levels before reaching Loyalsock Road; turn right onto the road.
Walk the road for about a mile until you see the Loyalsock Trail (LT); follow it to the right. The LT enters beautiful hemlock forests along a wetland and then crosses a stream. A deep gorge forms below the trail with rapids and a few campsites. The LT stays on a grade. The trail climbs under a scenic hemlock and pine forest and then descends steeply to another grade. Enter another gorge with a campsite; off trail and downstream is another falls near the state forest boundary. A short distance further a side trail is on the right and leads to the base of Alpine Falls.
The falls drop down a series of ledges into a pool along a large cliff. It is a beautiful, isolated spot and a great place to spend the night. When we were there, the falls were frozen over and the bright sunlight made it tough to take a good picture of it.
Now, retrace your steps on the LT back to Loyalsock Road. You can either retrace your steps back to the Butternut Trail, or hike a loop by continuing on the LT. The LT traverses hilly terrain with gorgeous hemlock forests and wet areas along an old grade. The beautiful forests have some ledges and extensive areas of ground pine. It’s a wonderful place to hike.
Cross Loyalsock Road a final time and turn left to descend along High Rock Run. This run has many cascades and waterfalls. Pass a yellow trail to the left (which leads to the Butternut Trail) and a campsite below the LT. The LT stays on a grade above High Rock Run’s deep gorge. The trail enters hemlocks, winds in between ledges, and descends to High Rock Vista with its great view of Worlds End. Continue on the LT as it traverses as rocky area and makes a rugged, rocky descent to High Rock Run. Below is High Rock Falls, although it is hard to get a good view of it. The LT descends into the state park and the hike ends at the cabin road, where your hike on the Butternut Trail began.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.