Hike to Kelsey Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Yellow is a gated forest road.  Red is a bushwhack.  Blue is an old skid trail.

The Loyalsock State Forest is home to dozens of waterfalls. Some are well-known, others are virtually unknown. I recently went on a hike into a rugged gorge northwest of Worlds End State Park to see if such a falls existed. I parked at a pull off along Loyalsock Road and followed a forest road that was gated. The forest road crossed an area that had been logged. Where the road began to curve around to the right, I left the road to begin a bushwhack into a hemlock forest and down along some ledges.

I dropped down to a small stream that had carved a mini-glen with small cascades. I followed this creek down and entered a scenic area with several large car and truck sized boulders. The small creek flowed around some of them. I angled to the northwest and continued a moderate descent, crossed a seasonal run-off streambed, and came across a skid trail, marked by what looked like a shallow ditch that went straight down the mountain. These trails were used in the lumber era to skid or slide logs down to the valley.

The skid trail was fairly easy to follow as it descended into a beautiful hemlock forest. Off to my left was the deep, rugged gorge where I hoped to find a waterfall. The skid trail moved closer to the edge of the gorge as it continued its steep descent. Near the bottom, the skid trail crossed into private land, so I dropped down to my left. I soon reached the unnamed creek and a beautiful 20-25 foot falls set in a grotto. The falls featured some bedrock cascades, then a free fall, followed by a steep slide. It was a very photogenic falls and it was possible to walk behind the falls. The falls was in the state forest, although a private property line crossed downstream from it. It appeared no one really visited the falls as there were no signs of a path. I called it Kelsey Falls. The bright sun was less than ideal for photography, but this falls would be stunning with some long exposure shots.

There appeared to be no more waterfalls downstream. I retraced my steps back to my car. This hike is about 1.5 miles one way, and requires a 700 foot vertical descent down and back up the gorge. It is a scenic hike, but only experienced hikers should attempt it.  No trails are marked or blazed. Maybe someday a trail will be built from Forksville to the falls. It would make a nice tourist attraction for Forksville, and a much easier hike.

The falls are likely dry in summer. It is best to see it when the USGS Loyalsock Creek gauge is 3.5 feet or higher.

I parked at 41.487216, -76.588058 to begin the hike.  The falls are located at about 41.494702, -76.591438.

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Kelsey Falls, Loyalsock State Forest.

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Kelsey Falls, Loyalsock State Forest.

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Red Brook Gorge Loop-SGL 57


Click map for a detailed geo-referenced PDF.  Map courtesy of Ben Van Riper.

Red Brook is a gem in SGL 57. It features a rugged gorge with two waterfalls, cascades, slides, large boulders, and cliffs. The forests in the gorge are diverse and beautiful with spruce, hemlock, birch and maple. The rare Canadian yew clings to the tops of cliffs and boulders. Moss and ferns cover the giant boulders. The gorge conveys the feeling of being in a place much further north.

This diversity should not be a complete surprise, as Red Brook originates from Coalbed Swamp, a spruce boreal wetland that is one of the most diverse places in the Endless Mountains. The swamp is home to many rare plants and animals.

This hike is spectacular, and unique in that the vast majority of it follows old grades or trails; there is little true bushwhacking. No trails are marked or signed. The first half of the hike is far more scenic than the last half, but this route does make for a very nice loop offering great diversity. Ben joined me on this hike.

We parked at a small parking area near Stony Brook and walked up Windy Valley Road (SR 3001) (labeled Bellasylvia Road on map) for about 300 feet and turned right onto an obvious grade. This grade offered views of Stony Brook below. The grade turned left with a massive boulder below on the right in a grove of hemlocks. Here, we followed a much narrower grade just further upslope. This narrow grade was tricky to navigate with the snow and ice as it crossed a steep slope, but it was enjoyable with all the ledges. The narrow grade descended and joined a wider grade, on which we turned left.

This grade gradually climbed. Stony Brook was below to the right; the grade kept its distance but the creek could be both seen and heard. We crossed a variety of seep springs and small runoff streams. The hardwood forest was scenic with many large trees. The grade climbed and reached a juncture, where we turned left. After a short distance we turned right onto another wide grade as it continued through a beautiful hardwood forest. We then spied another grade to the right; it was narrower and had trees growing in it, but it was obvious to see. We followed it. This grade descended into the gorge of Red Brook with spruce trees. It was a scenic hike. This grade ended at Red Brook.

Now our short bushwhack began and it was easy, we just followed Red Brook upstream. This creek has flood damage and there were many large boulders and cascades. We soon reached the bottom of the first falls- Lower Red Brook Falls. This falls is about 20-25 feet tall, has two drops with deep pools, and is very beautiful. We climbed above the falls into a scenic hemlock forest. Small falls and slides adorned Red Brook. We climbed to the same wide grade we had previously been on before turning right down to Red Brook.

This grade was a true pleasure to hike. There was spruce, moss, giant boulders, hemlocks, and views of beautiful Red Brook. Soon ledges loomed to our left with ice flows and seasonal falls. We passed the site of an old cabin. We continued up the obvious grade until it crossed Red Brook, which we also crossed. Continuing upstream we soon reached Upper Red Brook Falls, another gem. This is a 20 foot falls surrounded by an impressive semi-circular grotto and superb ice flows. Red Brook is awesome.

We turned around, headed down Red Brook for the second half of the hike. While it is not as scenic as Red Brook, it does make for a nice loop. If you do not want to hike the loop, just return the way you came along Stony and Red Brooks.

We followed the grade as it gradually ascended the plateau. These forests may be logged in the future. The grade joined into a wider forest road that curved to the right. We then turned left onto a newer logging road which descended the ridge in a hardwood forest. (We did go off trail to explore the cliffs to the west, but there were no notable views). We explored some ledges and outcrops to the south of this road. The road then stopped and became a trail. Again, many trees were painted with red marks, indicating this area may be logged. The trail descended the ridge between Stony Brook and Mehoopany Creek, passing ledges and rock outcrops. The trail crossed a newer logging road, marked with a cairn, and continued downslope until it veered into an meadow area and ended right where we began the hike along Windy Valley Road.

We really enjoyed the hike with its diverse forests and scenery. The loop was perfect and Red Brook is such a beautiful place.  If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a new place to explore, be sure to take some time to hike Red Brook.

We parked at about 41.466841, -76.161737.  This loop is about 5.5 miles long.

Hiking Windfall Run-SGL 57

I’ve spent years exploring SGL 57, but have spent little time exploring the southern areas of the gamelands near Noxen. This year, I decided to change that. One hike I’ve wanted to do was a loop along Windfall Run. A few weeks ago, I headed out to see what was there. Ben joined me on this hike.

I parked along Wilson Ayers Road, as named on Google Maps. We then followed a logging road to the right as it gradually climbed through a logged area. The road left the logged area and entered the woods. We were able to follow it with some effort. Below us to the right was Windfall Run. The grade stayed above the run, which did not appear to have any waterfalls. The grade gradually climbed up the glen of Windfall Run and we crossed some side streams and springs. Closer to the top, ledges and rocks appeared on the higher slopes, with some spruce. The grade veered to the left and then crossed a small stream; it became a little harder to follow. The grade climbed to the top of the plateau where we turned left, leaving the grade.

We hiked along the edge of the plateau, battling blueberry bushes and some laurel. We soon reached a cliff rim and some partial views. We continued along the top of the cliffs, as a talus field spread below us. We then reached an outcrop with a great view looking down the glen of Windfall Run and out to Montage Mountain, over thirty miles away. Rolling foothills made this a beautiful vista. Below us were more ledges and a possible cave. We headed south, off trail, to a rock bald. We continued south along ledges and cliffs and veered slightly to the southwest. There we came upon a beautiful mini rock maze that was fascinating to walk through. Within the maze was a porcupine den, so we called in the Porcupine Maze, a highlight of the hike.

Our route continued west along the cliffs and then down an old skid trail to Cider Run Road; this route is not recommended as it is too far out the way and required a road walk. A better route is the one shown on the map. Head east along the ridgeline and then descend along the tiers of ledges and cliffs. Pick up a grade or skid trail and descend to the parking area. No trails are marked or blazed.  The route on the map above is about 5.2 miles.

This was a surprisingly rewarding hike with a great view, streams, cliffs, rock bald, ledges, and rock maze. There is a lot of great hiking to be found near Noxen.

Park at about 41.396906, -76.123028.

Click map for a detailed geo-referenced PDF.  Map courtesy of Ben Van Riper.

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Porcupine rock maze, SGL 57.

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Big ledges above Windfall Run, SGL 57.

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Windfall Vista, SGL 57.

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Exploring Flat Top-SGL 57

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Corner Room, Flat Top, SGL 57

Flat Top is a prong of the plateau in SGL 57.  It is notable for its scenic and ecological diversity.  There are vistas, gorges, caves, chasms, overhangs, waterfalls and bedrock balds.  Flat Top is home to hardwood, spruce, hemlock, and pine forests, not to mention wetlands, streams, and bogs.

I’ve been to Flat Top many times, but on this hike we decided to explore the base of the extensive cliffs.

If you want to hike to Flat Top, you should be an experienced hiker with a GPS or other navigational aid.  There are some old forest roads and grades to help with navigation, but there are no marked or signed trails.  Begin at the game commission parking area at White Brook (41.496555, -76.132024), cross the field (no mowed trail) to the northwest corner, climb a bank with some pickers, hike up along two homes, and follow the steep grade into a pine forest.  Leave the pine forest and follow an obvious grade just to the right and hike up it.  White Brook, and its falls, are far below on the right.

We reached an obvious grade to the left and followed it to near the top of the plateau.  We reached a T intersection, turned right, and then left off the trail to begin the bushwhack part of the hike.  We hiked west to the rim of the plateau and reached Conglomerate Cave, a massive overhang with a distinct layer of conglomerate rock.  From here, we followed the rim around.

We were treated to incredible overhangs, mazes, chasms, and caves.  We crossed some small streams and the rocks returned with Skylight Chasm.  We squeezed through the slot at the back of Skylight Chasm to enter the Rock Room, a fascinating overhang and cave feature with ice flows.  Amazing.

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P=Parking. B=Bald. Black dots are rock features.  Red is off trail.  Yellow are old grades or forest roads, or other unblazed trails.

The rocks continued along the edge of the rim.  We went up through a rock maze, crossed a bald and reached a cliff.  As we made our way toward Spruce Ledge, there was very rugged terrain and giant jumbled boulders.  We reached the base of Spruce Ledge and marveled at the giant, orangish cliffs.  A quick climb up to Spruce Ledge provided fine views and forests shimmering in a coat of ice.

We returned to the base, to see more caves, overhangs, and giant boulders.  Heading north, we hiked below Preachers Rock and explored more chasms.  Soon we were at the base of a bald where Ryan saw a weasel, which ran under a log, and something rolling down in the snow.  It was a mouse it had just caught, but released after seeing us.  We quickly moved on so the weasel could get its meal.

Giant boulders and passageways loomed in the forest.  We reached the next highlight, the Corner Room, and incredible overhang and cave.  A narrow roof of rock stretched over a giant house sized boulder.  We climbed to the bald, and followed a faint trail to an even larger bald.  Our off trail hike continued as we hiked to two balds, that we had not seen before.  We went off trail through hemlock forests, saw a small rock maze, and dropped down to an existing trail, which we took back down White Brook to complete our hike.

SGL 57 is such a special place and is PA’s best kept secret.  Sometimes I think it should be a national park.  Experienced hikers will want to spend some time here.

Part of this hike is described as Hike No. 14 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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Bedrock mazes, SGL 57.

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Views from Spruce Ledge, SGL 57.

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Spruce Ledge, SGL 57.

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Cave hunting. SGL 57.

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Flat Top and Mehoopany Creek Gorge Vistas-SGL 57


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Mehoopany Creek Gorge Vista, SGL 57

This hike is a classic in SGL 57 and is probably the most “popular” although that is a relative term for this isolated area.  It is unique as it mostly follows old logging roads and grades with little bushwhacking, making it a more traditional hike than others in SGL 57.  However, no trails have blazes or signs.  I had been to Flat Top Vista, also known as Raven Rock or Buzzards Peak, many times.  It is a beautiful view.  I suspected there might be another view further down the ridge, so we decided to investigate.

From the parking area, there is a field.  Sometimes there is a mowed path, sometimes there is not.  Work your way to the northwest/right hand corner of the field, there may be some pickers, go up a bank, and hike up a mowed area next to a house and cottage.  Don’t worry, you are still on game lands.  The obvious grade continues steeply up through a pine forest.  Out of the pine forest, the hike veers right onto another obvious grade and continues to climb.  Below you to the right is White Brook and a beautiful 20 foot falls, but it is off trail.  Continue to hike up the old, eroded grade.  Reach an area with a lot of vines and a grade to the left, turn left.  This grade is obvious and meanders up the plateau.  Climbs are separated by level sections.  On the final climb, hike up with large rocks off to your right.  Reach a T intersection, turn left.  

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The trail is now level, and wet in places.  Reach an area with more laurel on the left and a trail, take it (if you continue on the grade you were on, you will cross a small stream, indicating you went too far).  The trail goes through the laurel and soon reaches Flat Top Vista with its commanding view up the Mehoopany Creek and over a steep gorge with an unnamed stream that has seasonal waterfalls.  We sat and enjoyed the view.

Now it was time for the bushwhack and we followed the edge of the plateau down, passing another view.  We had to go through the laurel, but a bear path along the edge made the hiking a little easier.  Just off the edge was a large round boulder, cracked down the middle; it is called Split Rock.  Soon, massive rocks and boulders covered the slope below us, offering more partial views as we negotiated the tough terrain.  We reached a fine view looking up the Mehoopany Creek Gorge and an even better view next to that one.  The view was stunning as it looked right up the gorge, as tiers of ridges and gorges sloped down to the bottom.  Thirteen miles away was the dome at Red Rock. 

We were impressed by the view, which was even more scenic than Flat Top Vista despite being a little lower in elevation.  So, we named it the Mehoopany Creek Gorge Vista.  The view rises 900 feet above the creek, and the gorge is over 1,100 feet deep.  Another view looks up the steep gorge of Kasson Brook.  I can’t wait to return to this view in the Autumn or on a Summer morning when the view is above the clouds and mist in the gorge.  SGL 57 has so many secrets.  

Parking is located at 41.496548, -76.132059.

This is described as Hike No. 14 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.      

 

 

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Canyons of rust and white.

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Split rock, SGL 57.

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Candyland Rocks and Rock Maze of Middle Top-SGL 57

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Rock Maze, SGL 57.  

Last winter was the first time we explored Candyland Rocks, a place that thoroughly impressed us with its caves, chasms, boulders, and habitats. The rocks were covered in moss, hemlocks, and spruce. The ice flows coming off the rocks were stunning. I always wanted to return, and in October, we did.  Our hike was not limited to Candyland Rocks, but the entire escarpment of a plateau we call Middle Top. Middle Top was a destination for a hike from several years ago, and the primeval isolation of the place has always stuck with me.

We began at the small parking area near Stony Brook and Mehoopany Creek. We followed a jeep road up along Stony Brook, which offered views of the beautiful creek and valley. The road was in fairly good shape until the first stream crossing where it was obliterated by floods and covered in stones. A faint trail threaded the sapling before returning to the road. The road climbed embankments high above Stony Brook with more views of the rugged creek with its boulders and rapids. The floods created huge landslides. The road disappeared again in another washout, but we soon found it as we followed it up the mountain. Below us were beautiful cascades and small waterfalls with large boulders and deep pools. We then entered a glen framed with cliffs and cascades. A seven foot falls followed and then a fern meadow on the right. The trail to the left goes out to Burgess Hollow Vista; the trail straight ahead goes to the top of White Brook. But we were going somewhere else.

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We left the trail and crossed the meadow, heading in a southeast direction. We climbed the forested slope and soon reached Candyland Rocks, which were so beautiful with the moss and ferns. We explored the chasms and caves. As amazed as we were from our prior hike. Our hike continued along the rim of the plateau, passing massive boulders and outcrops. A scrambled up a ledge brought spruce and a remarkable rock maze that was several hundred feet long, and even continued through a cave. Truly amazing. Our hike continued with an arch and countless boulders and ledges. We passed a small cascading stream with hemlocks. Next was the Endless Wall, a long cliff that stretches for a few hundred feet.

Our route took us north along the east rim of Middle Top where the terrain became much more rugged. But the scenery distracted us with several impressive rock shelters and overhangs, not to mention some small rock mazes. Across the valley the cliffs of Spruce Ledge loomed. The terrain eased as we headed north and reached a small bald. Here, we cut southeast, crossing fern meadows and reached a stream. We crossed the stream and picked up the existing ATV trail and descended along cascades. The trail faded out in a hemlock forest but we simply kept close to the creek and soon picked up another grade. We dropped down to a glen with a 12 foot falls and a long slide. So beautiful. The grade descended along a deep and rugged gorge that was filled with the roar of water. This trail returned us to the original jeep road, where we retraced our steps.

This was a strikingly beautiful hike that a fit hiker with good navigation skills can accomplish. The scenery and diversity was stunning.

Parts of this hike are described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

We parked at 41.466863, -76.161761.

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More rock shelters in SGL 57.

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Rocks, moss, and birch.

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Hiking Quinn Run-SGL 13

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One of many falls on Quinn Run.

The proposed Endless Mountains Trail (EMT) is routed to follow beautiful Quinn Run in SGL 13, so I decided to explore it. I met up with Ben at the parking area next to Lewis Falls. Keep in mind the road to this parking area is only open during hunting season, generally from September to January. I had explored Quinn Run years prior, so I was excited to return.  This is in an area known as the Waterfall Wonderland.

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We first checked out impressive Lewis Falls as it roared into the gorge below. The creeks were high, so it took some time to cross. We were soon on an obvious, but unmarked and unblazed trail as it climbed from Heberly Run. Quinn Run was below us, filled with an assortment of cascades and falls. After a half mile, we left that trail, bearing left onto another old grade that was obvious, but had a fainter trail.

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This grade took us to where Quinn and Shanty Runs meet, a stunning place featuring bedrock gorges and waterfalls as the two streams join. We scrambled above to the flagged route of the EMT. We then proceeded to hike up Quinn Run, at times following the flagged route, and at times just following the creek. Quinn Run is a stream of incredible beauty with its assortment of waterfalls, cascades, deep pools, and grottos. It will surely be a highlight of the EMT.

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We entered a gorge to see the tallest of the falls, featuring three drops that totaled about 30 feet. Above were a series of bedrock slides and a final 7 or 8 foot falls over a wide ledge. We were amazed by the beauty of this creek. The water was crystal clear as moss clung to the ledges and springs seemed to drip from everywhere.

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For our return, we decided to avoid walking down the creek and instead try to find a grade above, on the west side of the stream. We scrambled up and soon found the grade. This grade was a blessing, and still in great shape, as it seemed to whisk us back to our cars. It was far above Quinn Run and the waterfalls were out of sight. Eventually, the grade came within view of some of the falls, offering impressive panoramas of the gorge. The grade continued its descent, passing outcrops and large trees. We soon reached Heberly Run, just below an impressive bedrock gorge and falls. The pool in the gorge looked incredibly deep. The grade ended at Heberly Run; finding this grade was a blessing and made our hike much easier.

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We crossed Heberly Run and reached our cars. This was a more mild, and shorter, bushwhack than I am used to, but it was beautiful and worthwhile nonetheless. There is so much beauty in these Pennsylvania highlands.

We parked at 41.337203, -76.363707.

More photos.

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