Loyalsock Backpacking Trail Medley

Purple is an unblazed path. Red dots are campsites. Yellow is Cold Run Trail. Blue is Canyon Vista 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.

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Dan at Rode Falls, Loyalsock Trail.

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Loyalsock Trail.

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A Hike at the Woodbourne Forest & Wildlife Preserve

Established in 1956, Woodbourne Forest is one of the first preserves owned by The Nature Conservancy.  It covers 648 acres and features wetlands, meadows, streams, impressive rock walls, beaver dam, and an old growth hemlock forest.  Woodbourne is home to a remarkable diversity of plants and animals; it is an ideal place for birdwatching with its various habitats. Woodbourne is also a great place to bring kids for a hike.

There is a network of seven miles of trails at the preserve.  On this hike, we followed a three mile loop along the Swamp and Woodruff Hill Trails.  From the parking area (please note the parking area is located at the top of a hill and it can be difficult to see oncoming traffic) we followed the Swamp Trail down through fields and meadows with wildflowers.  We entered the forest as the trail meandered down to a large swamp with a viewing platform.  There were countless birds, lilies blooming in the water, and a chorus of frogs.  A muskrat swam in the water below us.  This place teems with life and is the perfect place to look for animals.  

The Swamp Trail meandered along the shore under hemlocks and then veered left over a boardwalk; this would be our return route.  We kept right onto the Woodruff Hill Trail as it crossed a meadow and entered the woods with some giant oak trees.  The trail was a bit wet as it explored the forest, but it was a pleasure to hike.  The trail turned left and followed a small stream to where it joined a larger one.  I enjoyed hiking along the creeks under large trees and across carpets of ferns.  The trail crossed the larger creek and meandered through impressive stone walls and beneath more large trees.  We soon reached the outlet of the swamp we were at earlier where there was a beaver dam.  We crossed the creek and rejoined the Swamp Trail through the beautiful old growth hemlock forest along the shore of the swamp. The sun reflected off the water and illuminated the hemlock forest from below.  This is a great section to hike.  We crossed the boardwalk and retraced our steps back to the car.

If you like hiking through forests, meadows, and along streams and rock walls, Woodbourne is the place for you.  The forests are scenic and isolated.  The swamp is a highlight with its wildlife.  The streams are relaxing and the stone walls will impress with their size and craftsmanship.  

We parked at 41.761158, -75.897911.  

Hiking Coalbed Swamp-SGL 57


As the numerous articles in this blog illustrate, SGL 57 is a place of incredible beauty and diversity. Just when I think I’ve seen all it has to offer, I discover someplace new. That happened to me this past Spring. I’ve long known of Coalbed Swamp, it is one of the most biodiverse places in the region and a favored destination for birdwatchers searching for rarer species.  I’ve explored the northern part of the swamp. But, I didn’t think much else was there. I was completely wrong.

Ben suggested a visit to Coalbed Swamp and we explored it over two hikes. This place blew me away. The rock formations, chasms, caves, and spruce forests with carpets of moss made this an incredibly beautiful destination. The isolation only added to its splendor. This place does not feel like Pennsylvania, but instead northern Maine.

Want to hike Coalbed? You should be an experienced and adventurous hiker. Keep in mind a few things. First, this is mostly an off trail hike. The hike roughly goes around the perimeter of the swamp. Second, the mountain laurel is very thick on the southern part of the hike along the boulders and ledges. Third, it is best to go when the game commission gate on the access road is open during hunting season, typically the in Fall, late September to early January, and mid-April to the end of May. When the gate is closed, hiking up Red Brook from the parking area near Stony Brook Lane makes for an incredibly satisfying round trip. Park at the coal mine, located at 41.472084, -76.205270. Fourth, expect wet areas and wet feet.

From the coal mine, the entrance is now gated, we scrambled to the top of it and walked to an eroded old forest road or ATV trail. We took this to the right and soon turned left onto a more obscure old ATV trail which entered a hemlock forest an a bog. We crossed the bog and continued on the old trail. (It is possible to hike to the left of the bog to bypass it.) It descended at the location of a second mine entrance, which was flooded. Do not enter this mine.

An off trail hike followed to the west as we followed a line of cliffs and ledges. In places the laurel and blueberry bushes were very thick. We dropped down to some large rocks which revealed an amazing rock maze and chasm a few hundred feet long and maybe 30 feet deep. The passages were awesome to explore. We hiked along a cliff wall and some overhangs. Soon, the laurel became very thick and we did our best to hike through it, staying close to the cliffs. It may be easier to hike the top of the cliffs to bypass the thick laurel below, as there is a somewhat overgrown bear path.

The laurel receded and we entered a spruce forest of amazing beauty with mist and carpets of moss. Truly amazing. We also saw some black spruce, rare for this area as it is usually found further north. We could not believe the sublime beauty of this forest. The rocks also amazed us with giant boulders and stacks that loomed through the trees. We came upon Arrowhead Rock, an impressive pedestal with a giant triangular rock on top, perched as if it were about to fall off. Behind Arrowhead Rock was a chasm and one of the larger caves in SGL 57. A couple hundred feet north is Underworld Chasm, a deep, sheer chasm into the bedrock, 30-40 feet deep, only a few feet wide, and was frigid cold despite it being a warm day on our hike. Springs dripped down the sides of the chasm, and part of Underworld Chasm was underground, capped with rock and trees.

On our first hike we continued along the southeast perimeter of the swamp which revealed more spruce, impressive rocks, and amazing habitats. We then reached the old forest road above the mine and returned to our cars.  On the map above, the route from Underworld Chasm to the coal mine is not shown.

On the second hike, we hiked around the west side of Coalbed Swamp, revealing more spruce, moss, and rock balds. The forests were incredibly scenic. It was difficult to get open views of the swamp. We reached the old forest road north of the swamp, took that south to Red Brook with more giant rocks, and back to our cars. You can easily hike 5-7 miles exploring the Coalbed Swamp area.

If you want to explore the swamp when the game commission road is gated, one idea is to hike up Red Brook from Stony Brook and Windy Valley Road.  Red Brook has a beautiful gorge and two waterfalls.  See the Red Brook Gorge Loop hike.

Be careful, bring a friend, treat it with respect and enjoy this special place.

Photos and video:

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SGL 57 rocks, in the boulder mazes.

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SGL 57 has endless rock features.

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Forests of SGL 57.

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Thomas Run Falls and Little Schrader Creek-SGL 12


Black follows gravel or logging roads.  Red is off trail.  Yellow is an established trail up along Little Schrader Creek; it is not blazed or signed.

Southern Bradford County is home to SGL 12 and 36, vast public lands that feature remarkable natural beauty. Near the former logging town of Laquin, now a shadow of its former self with only a few homes and cabins, is an isolated hike to beautiful streams and waterfalls. Laquin was once home to 2,000 people, now, you will likely have this hike all to yourself.

From the game commission parking area, hike around the gate and simply follow the gravel road, which was once a railroad. After a half mile, cross Little Schrader Creek on a bridge and see a distinct path to your right crossing a small meadow. Remember this spot for your return from Thomas Run Falls, for it is the trail to the falls and cascades on Little Schrader Creek.

Continue hiking the road. Overall, it is a nice hike. One highlight are some large meadows which offer views, not to mention opportunities to see wildlife and birds. Reach a new logging road to your right (located at about 41.604664, -76.675140). Turn right and follow for a thousand feet until the road makes a sharp right turn. Here, go off trail to the left; there may be an old grade. You will soon reach Thomas Run. Hike off trail up the run. You will enter a gorge with cascades and boulders. Cliffs loom overhead. Thomas Run Falls soon comes into view and it is a beautiful setting. Counting the cascades just downstream, the height of the falls is 20-25 feet. What is unique is that you are gorged in, there is no safe way to hike above the falls as it is surrounded by cliffs. It is a truly beautiful, out of the way spot. The falls are located at about 41.606006, -76.681902. Return the way you came.

Back at Little Schrader Creek, take the path across the meadow, now on your left. The path has no blazes or signs, but it is well established. The path follows impressive old grades with huge stone retaining walls, some of which are collapsing. Enter an impressive gorge with rapids, cliffs, and cascades. The first falls is a narrow chute with overhanging ledges and a deep pool. The path continues across another meadow and into a second gorge with another falls and pool. It is hard to get good photos of both falls due to their position. Little Schrader Creek is very scenic and is well worth the hike. It is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains. Return the way you came.

Park at 41.624435, -76.659780. The hike is about two miles, one way, to Thomas Run Falls. No trails have signs or blazes.

Photos and video:

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Thomas Run Falls, SGL 12.

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Waterfalls of Satterlee Run-SGL 36


Yellow is the unblazed forest road down to Satterlee Run.  Short off trail hike is required to reach the falls.  Orange is an unblazed but established trail up to Split Rock Vista; the maze is nearby and just further to the west.

Satterlee Run carves a gorge down through Kellogg Mountain and where the two branches of the run meet, there are an impressive series of waterfalls.  In fact, you can look up both glens to see waterfalls.  This is a place of stunning beauty and a must visit for any waterfall enthusiast.

I first visited Satterlee Run a couple years ago, where I had an exciting bear encounter (click the link for other photos).  For that hike, I followed Satterlee Hollow Road from Kellogg Road, and then up an old woods road to the waterfalls.  While it was not posted on that hike, that route does appear to cross private land so it is not recommended.  This route is all on state game lands.

From Deep Hollow or Hatch Hill Road, follow the game commission access road to the first gate.  If the gate is closed, your hike will have to begin here.  If the gate is open, usually during hunting season in the Fall and Spring, drive to the next gate and parking area.  The road was in good shape during my visit and can be driven by a car.  From the second gate it is less than two miles, one way, down to the waterfalls.

Follow the road north where it can be grassy, and wet.  Where a road leaves to the left, take it.  It is a gravel road in good shape.  The road traverses the top of the plateau and then begins to wind down towards Satterlee Run.  As it descends, the road becomes more eroded.  Cross small streams along the way.

Once at the bottom, leave the road and hike off trail down to where the branches of Satterlee Run meet (the road does not directly pass or go near the falls).  This is place of great beauty.  Cross the creek as best you can and hike up the south branch first.  Be careful along the steep terrain.  The waterfalls are beautiful and there are four of them.  Even a small sidestream joins with waterfalls.

Return to where the two branches meet and hike up the main branch of Satterlee Run.  Generally, you will hike on the north side of the creek as the south side is steeper and higher.  There are four falls on this section, ranging from 15 to 30 feet tall.  Be careful along the steep terrain.  The third falls up has a unique stone retaining wall at the top, although part of it has been damaged from floods.  The glen is very scenic with moss, cascades, and smooth bedrock.  Above the third falls, the creek is mellow but as you go upstream a gorge forms again and there is a fourth falls, a steep and beautiful slide in an impressive grotto.  Return the way you came, back up the road and to your car.

SGL 36 is a beautiful place and I hope to explore more of it.  To the north are the impressive Kellogg Mountain vistas from cliffs of white rock.  I believe another vista may exist east of Satterlee Run.  Deep Hollow Falls and Split Rock are nearby and feature a view, rock maze, and a series of waterfalls.

I parked at 41.638086, -76.499098 (only accessible when gate is open).  If the gate is not open, this is as far as you can drive: 41.621888, -76.500854.

41.645424, -76.471889: where the two branches meet and where you will want to begin your exploration of the waterfalls.

Photos and video:

Hike to Kelsey Falls-Loyalsock State Forest


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.