Hike the Quehanna Meadow Route and East Cross Connector-Quehanna Wild Area

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.

Backpacking the Panther Run and Three Runs Loop-Quehanna Wild Area

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. 

Hike to Nanny Run Vista-Elk State Forest

The PA Wilds are home to dozens of off trail vistas that overlook deep canyons and vast plateaus. These vistas have begun to attract the attention of hikers and adventurers.  This one is located in the Elk State Forest near the village of Driftwood.  Driftwood is set in a beautiful location, in a deep canyon along the Sinnemahoning Creek surrounded by vast tracts of public land.  This village could be an outdoors destination with all the beauty that surrounds it.  

This hike is short, but very steep and completely off trail.  There are no blazes or signs.  I suggest you park at a pull off (41.327135, -78.141426) and walk up Hoover Road .  Hoover Road is in moderate shape, but a vehicle with clearance is recommended.  If you have such a vehicle, there is a small pull off here as well- 41.320464, -78.144746.  

Walk up Hoover Road and enter the state forest.  You will need to climb the steep bank to your left and tunnel through some pine trees.  The woods then become open with hardwoods for the remainder of the hike.  It is best to hike up the spine of the ridge, passing rock ledges along the way.  Your legs will burn from the steep terrain.  

I reached the vista, which looks west.  I could not see the Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek, but could look up part way into the gorge of Nanny Run.  The massive plateaus and the deep gorges made it a fine view, ideal for sunsets. Despite the sweat and heat from the climb, I quickly became chilled at the vista as the sun sank below the horizon.  I could see the glow along the horizon through the bare trees on the ridge.  While this isn’t one of the most expansive views in the PA Wilds, it was still worth the effort to get to it.  The vista is located at 41.320899, -78.140433.

As the skies darkened, it was time to get off the mountain.  A steep descent followed, made even more tricky by the waxy oak leaves that liked to slide under my feet.  Some loose rock also didn’t help.  I returned to Hoover Road unscathed and hiked back to my car in the dark.   

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Nanny Run Vista. Elk State Forest.

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Vistas of the Square Timber Wild Area- Elk State Forest

The Square Timber Wild Area is a rugged place with deep, forested gorges and narrow ridges.  It is ideal for the experienced hiker looking for somewhere new to explore.  The trails are blazed yellow, with the exception of the orange blazed Bucktail Path.  You can expect the yellow trails to be in variable condition; they can be brushy and unestablished in places.  However, compared to my prior visits, the trails seemed to be more established.  Also expect several stream crossings.

Highlights include isolation, pine and hemlock forests, deep gorges, and beautiful streamside hiking when the creeks are flowing.  There are also some off trail vistas that you should check out, particularly the North Square Timber Vista and its vast panorama.  I suggest the lollipop loop as shown in the map above; I did not hike this entire loop for this post, but have done so in the past and enjoyed it.  Here is a link to a prior trip.

From the parking area, located at 41.381404, -78.158443, hike the trail up Big Run into a gorge.  Enjoy the hike along the creek and soon hemlocks and pine rise over the water.  The manmade sounds soon fade away as you hike deeper into the gorge.  Reach the juncture with a yellow trail to the right, which goes up the Right Fork of Big Run. Follow it as the trail climbs another gorge with a small, cascading stream.  Expect this trail to be in tougher shape.  At the top, turn left onto the Bucktail Path.  Climb to a meadow with some nice views, as well as a view from what appears to be an old quarry.  Hike along a meadow, return to the woods, and descend to a juncture with the yellow Square Timber Trail.  Turn left onto this trail.

Hike along the rolling ridge as the trail climbs and descends the knobs along the ridgeline.  In places the ridge is narrow and you can see off both sides when there are no leaves on the trees.  The trail does go through laurel, making this a nice section when it blooms in late June.  To see Middle Square Timber Vista, you must go off trail, but it is not worth the effort.  Reach a juncture with the yellow Big Run Trail.  Here, go off trail and head north for a half mile or so.  The hiking is easy and the woods are open.  Reach the edge of the ridge to see North Square Timber Vista, a stunning panorama of about 180 degrees.  This is a great view for sunsets and is located at 41.430166, -78.141529.  Return the way you came.

Descend the Big Run Trail, which is pretty steep.  The trail moderates into a beautiful, narrow wooded gorge along a babbling creek with riffles and pools.  The serenity and isolation are a rare treat in our modern world.  Complete the loop and retrace your steps down Big Run back to the car.

To see South Square Timber Vista, it is best to drive up Grove Hill Road to a pull off at 41.392208, -78.135036.  This is an off trail hike.  Go up a drainage, reach the ridge, turn left and then descend to the view at  41.394490, -78.140143.  It is a fine view of the gorges, ridges, and small peaks in the wild area.

For the map above, red is off trail.  

Quehanna Cliffs and Boulder City-Quehanna Wild Area

As many of you know, I love the Quehanna Wild Area.  One place I had always wanted to explore were the cliffs and boulder city above Red Run.  A few months ago, Michael joined me to check it out.  

The best access is the pull off parking along Red Run Road, where the Quehanna Trail joins it.  Hike up, or east, on the trail along scenic Red Run and Sanders Draft.  There are beautiful cascades, pools, rhododendron, and hemlock.

It is an off trail hike up to see the rocks.  Some flagging marked where we left the Quehanna Trail.  The climb was steep, but the giant rocks we saw along the way provided some respite to our screaming thighs.  As we reached the top, we saw an impressive collection of giant sandstone boulders looming in the forest, often draped with moss and lichens, or surrounded by rhododendrons.  Up ahead was a prominent cliff, 50-60 feet tall.  Giant boulders were below the cliff.  There were some overhangs, and anchors for rock climbing.  
We scrambled to the top of the cliffs where there were some views, but the most interesting feature were some caves, chasms, and mazes near the north end of the cliffs.  It was a fascinating place to explore.

From there, we made our way down the steep slopes back to the Quehanna Trail.  There is a lot of great hiking nearby, including the beautiful Red Run Gorge Vista.

For the map above, the Quehanna Trail is blazed orange and red is the off trail route.

Pull off parking is at about  41.279226, -78.245685.  The cliffs are at 41.279734, -78.237746.

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Quehanna Trail over Red Run.

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Sinnemahoning Canyon Vista-Elk State Forest

This hike leads to a dramatic view over the canyon of the Sinnemahoning Creek.  Here, the canyon is about 1,200 feet deep, making it among the deepest in Pennsylvania if not the eastern U.S.  The view is spectacular as it overlooks the plateaus, ridges, gorges, and glens along the canyon.  The terrain is diverse.  This view is good for both sunrises and sunsets.  Almost this entire hike follows an unblazed trail, which is actually an old forest road.  However, the last small section is off trail, and steep, as it leads to the vista.  This hike is in the Elk State Forest and Bucktail State Park Natural Area.  

Park off of Montour Road, and follow a gated road as it climbs.  Reach the pipeline swath and hike along it.  The trail turns left off the swath, but it is easy to miss.  The turn is hidden in pine and spruce trees, but is noticeable if you keep an eye out for it.  Follow the trail across the plateau through laurel and hardwoods.  Descend gradually to a meadow.  Here, the trail ends and the short off trail hike to the view begins.  Head south and follow a steep ridge down off the plateau.  Reach a rock outcrop with superb views.  I particularly like the narrow, sloping ridge to the southwest.  The view looks into the side gorges of Lower and Upper Jerry Runs.  You can also see upstream for several miles.

The grandeur of this vista showcases the wild, rugged scenery of the Sinnemahoning and the PA Wilds.  The view is almost completely free from development.  The hike is about 2.5 miles, one way.

I hope to return to check out some other potential vistas, and a possible knife edge ridge to the east.  

For the map above, red is off trail and yellow is the unblazed trail or old forest road.

Parking is at 41.325393, -78.042696.  Montour Road is in decent shape and can be driven by a car.  The vista is located at41.300091, -78.048657. 

White Oak Draft-Quehanna Wild Area

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White Oak Draft, Quehanna Wild Area, Elk State Forest

Quehanna has many beautiful streams and drainages, often featuring cascades, giant boulders, moss, hemlocks, and thick rhododendrons. One such stream is White Oak Draft, conveniently located along Wykoff Run Road.

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There is pull off parking along the road and a sign identifies the draft. I then followed an unmarked path up along the creek, passing an old site of a cabin with only a part of the chimney remaining. The path was faint, but I was able to follow it.

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I reached a small, open area surrounded by large trees. I was tempted to cross the creek here, but the trail continued on the right side of the creek as it crossed a steeper slope. As I climbed up the creek, I became impressed with the scenery. A rain shower came and I sought refuge under a tree. After it passed, the creek became enveloped with mist, giving the appearance of a rainforest. The moss and ferns were beautifully green.

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I soon reached an area with large, mossy boulders along the creek. The scenery improved as giant boulders loomed over the creek and cascades. It felt like a primeval world. Some of Ahead was a grove of giant hemlocks and a campsite. The campsite was surrounded with large cascades and slides, and more large boulders. The trail became more faint as I climbed.

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I then reached a place where the trail, or what was left of it, had to cross the creek. I entered a glen of thicker hemlock and more cascades over an assortment of large sandstone boulders. Misty haze threaded through the forest as the sound of the rapids filled the gorge. I then retraced my steps. I hope to explore more of White Oak Draft in the future.

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If you’re looking for a different hike with beautiful scenery, check out White Oak Draft.

This hike is about .75 mile, one way.

Pull off parking is located at 41.282399, -78.135530.

More photos.

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Orange is the route.  It is on a faint, unblazed trail.

Red Run Gorge Vista-Quehanna Wild Area

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Red Run Gorge Vista, Quehanna Wild Area

Quehanna Wild Area has some spectacular off trail vistas from cliffs, ledges, and meadows. While some of these vistas are difficult to reach, the view over Red Run Gorge is fairly easy.

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I began at the parking area for the Beaver Run Shallow Water Impoundment and followed the yellow Lincoln Loop counterclockwise, or to the right. It followed an old grade, passed a meadow, and slightly descended to and crossed the Quehanna Highway. The trail re-entered the woods, crossed a small meadow, and reached a fine view over Paige Run from a cliff.

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Here I left the Lincoln Loop or Trail and hiked off trail to the right or east, following the top edge of the plateau. The woods were mostly open, but became a little brushy from striped maple. I crossed a small stream and climbed across some small meadows. Some ledges were below, but there were no views. Rhododendrons clung to the side of the mountain.

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I continued my climb and soon reached the view, it was impressive. One part of the view looked up Paige Run, the other part looked straight down the gorge of Red Run. There were no signs of development. Fall colors were just beginning, but the forests were otherwise green. I sat at the view for a while, surprised that it is virtually unknown. Quehanna has so many secrets.

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South of the vista is a beautiful open forests with giant hardwoods, tulip poplars, and carpets of deep green ground pine. I retraced my steps back to my car.

More photos.

The hike is about .75 mile, one way.

Parking are is located at: 41.261314, -78.258114

Vista is located at: 41.268897, -78.244951

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Table Falls-Quehanna Wild Area

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Table Falls, Quehanna Wild Area

Table Falls is a unique feature in the Quehanna Wild Area. Located just off of Red Run Road, Paige Run falls over a level boulder, creating the impression of water flowing off of a table. When there is enough water, there is a perfect veil of water cascading off the sides of the boulder, creating a unique visual spectacle. The fall isn’t tall, no more than seven feet, but that does not detract from its beauty. No, a Chair Falls is not nearby!

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There are cascades above the falls and large boulders. Rhododendrons adorn the creek.  There is now a parking area for the falls, and a short yellow blazed trail that leads to the base of it.

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If you’d like to see more cascades, hike off trail up Paige Run. There are a variety of mossy cascades, massive boulders, large hemlocks, and rhododendron jungles. It is a beautiful stream.

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Table Falls is another of the Quehanna Wild Area’s scenic places. The wild area has incredible diversity and beauty, and is one of Pennsylvania’s best kept secrets.

The parking area is located at about 41.270683, -78.247523.

More photos.

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Exploring Little Fork Draft-Quehanna Wild Area

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View over Little Fork Draft and Mix Run, Quehanna Wild Area, Elk State Forest

The Quehanna Wild Area is one of my favorite places, with its diverse scenery and habitats, isolation, wild elk, and numerous hiking trails. I recently spent a weekend camping in the wild area with Michael, Rick, Jodi, and her family. We base-camped along the Red Run Trail in a beautiful pine grove next to a cool spring. The wild area is not known for its vistas or waterfalls, but I suspected they were there, waiting to be discovered. So, we decided to find out. Our first hike was to explore the gorge of Little Fork Draft. This hike was completely off trail and is located in the Elk State Forest.

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This gorge is located in the northern end of the wild area. We parked along Red Run Road where it crosses Little Fork Draft. While it may be tempting to hike up an old grade or forest road on the east side of the creek, it is best to head west on the road a little ways until you reach a grade blocked by rocks on the left. This grade climbs gradually and then enters an old meadow with apple trees, indicating it was once a homestead. Here, the grade faded away. We could see the tops of the mountains from the meadow.

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From here, we hiked up along Little Fork Draft. We passed a small tributary on the left, which marked our return route. The draft was very beautiful with cascades and deep pools framed by mossy boulders. Tall trees rose above us, including many sizeable tulip poplar trees. We then crossed the creek below some large cascades over more giant boulders. The scenery was superb. Here, we took a break.

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We made our way up the gorge, wading through nettle which was mostly withered from the end of summer. At the head of the gorge, where the two forks of Little Fork Draft meet, we took the left or east fork.

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Here, the terrain became steeper. The creek bounced down large boulders. We soon entered a stunning glen of giant boulders creating an assortment of cascades and waterfalls. The tallest was about twenty feet. We even saw Cave Falls, a 12 foot falls the tumbles into a cave formed by boulders. Incredible.

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We climbed our way up the glen, each of us impressed by the beauty. Cascading water surrounded us as the creek took a variety of routes between the giant boulders. House sized boulders loomed deep in the woods, often clothed in moss and ferns.

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Above the glen of waterfalls was a grove of old growth trees with large maples, birches, and hemlocks. Our climb up the creek continued. The gradient eased and smaller cascades adorned the creek. We reached more large boulders and cascades and climbed out of the gorge to the top of the plateau. We headed north along the rim of the plateau. There was a marked difference between the wet hemlock and moss forest along the creek and the drier laurel and oak forest on the plateau.

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We made our way through the mountain laurel, which was moderately thick. We tried to follow game and deer paths. As we proceeded north, the laurel became less thick. Our descent was marked by a nearby pipeline swath. We descended the ridge, passing large boulders including three that were stacked on each other. We descended the ridge, reaching a superb view up Little Fork Draft and its 1,000 foot deep gorge. Tiers of ridges descended into the gorge.

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The descent continued and was a bit steep. We reached a second view, and the most impressive. It was a 180 degree view looking up Mix Run and a vast panorama of plateaus, gorges, and glens. Each of us were impressed. Quehanna is such a beautiful place.

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Our off trail descent continued, and at times it was very steep. We switchbacked down to the tributary mentioned earlier, crossed Little Fork Draft, reached the meadow, and retraced our steps.

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Little Fork Draft is a place of stunning, wild beauty. It illustrates the hidden wonders that lie within the vast Quehanna Wild Area. This is one the best hikes I’ve done, and will surely return.

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More photos.

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Length: 6 mile loop

Difficulty: Very difficult. There are stream crossings and very steep terrain. Stinging nettle will be an issue in summer. This is an off trail hike with no blazes or signs.

Highlights: Excellent vistas, old growth trees, large boulders, cascades, waterfalls, isolation.

Parking: pull off parking at about 41.313528, -78.213757.

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