Emerald Forest/Scouten Brook Loop-SGL 57

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Emerald Forest, SGL 57

This is one of the most scenic loop hikes in Northeast Pennsylvania.  It features Scouten Brook, a tumbling mountain stream with cascades and waterfalls, an off trail hike to Cali Falls, and one of PA’s most scenic forests, the Emerald Forest, with its deep green canopy of hemlock and spruce, with carpets of moss.  Another short off trail hike will take you to a fine vista, great for sunsets, and massive boulders with passageways and overhangs.

This loop is approximately 7-8 miles long.

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The trickiest part of the hike is the very beginning.  The remainder of the hike follows well established old grades and logging roads, although there are no blazes or signs.  Of course, the hike to Cali Falls, Zion Rocks, and the vista are off trail.

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Drive down Windy Valley Road from Forkston, cross the bridge, and about .4 mile further reach Scouten Brook Road, a private road on the left.  Slow down.  Cross over Scouten Brook and pass a white cabin on the left.  The game lands touch the road just past the cabin at 41.483737, -76.133386.  Pull off as best you can, parking is very limited.  You may notice the white blazes on the trees, which are the game lands boundary.

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Enter the woods, there is no trail.  Some mobile homes are off to your right.  Walk back, slightly southeast, for about 1,000 feet, and reach an old forest road; turn left as it curves uphill.  Enter a forest with some pines and continue a climb before the grade descends.  There’s a grade on the left; take it.  The grade straight ahead is your return route.

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Reach views of Scouten Brook, and in winter, an old log cabin off to your left.  Reach another grade, turn right on it and follow it up Scouten Brook.  The grade stays above the creek and offers many views of it in winter.  There are cascades and small falls.  Some parts of the grade are eroded.  A side glen comes down on the north side of the brook; this is where Cali Falls is located.  It is a seasonal falls, so if Scouten Brook is low, Cali Falls will be dry.  The cascades and falls on Scouten become larger with some large boulders and pools.

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Reach where the two forks of Scouten Brook join.  The grade turns left, above Scouten Brook Falls, a wide ledge about 12 feet tall.  Now climb and veer right and hike across the other fork of the brook.  The grade soon levels and reaches another grade, make a sharp left.  This grade is often wet and makes a gradual ascent.  Reach a four way intersection; turn right.  You will soon reach another intersection, turn right.  The grade ascends slightly and soon enters a stunning spruce forest.  The terrain is rolling and the forest becomes more scenic the further you hike, this is the Emerald Forest.  There are wet areas.  This evergreen forest is comprised of hemlock and spruce, with some pine.  Moss covers the ground.  It is like hiking in Maine or Quebec.  This forest is very beautiful.

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Where the grade begins to descend, and before it leaves the Emerald Forest over some boulders and ledges, you can hike off trail to the south to see the vista and Zion Rocks.  The vista is a window opening through the trees to the vast plateaus to the west.  It is notable for its isolation, no sign of development, and the plateaus look particularly impressive here.  It is also a good sunset vista.  Below the vista are a maze of massive boulders.  About 500 feet north of the vista are the incredible Zion Rocks where huge mansion-sized boulders feature overhangs, caves, and crevices.

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Back on the trail, descend and leave the Emerald Forest.  The trail levels and then drops down the benches of the mountain.  Two other grades join from the left but continue straight.  The trail curves right and descends.  Reach another grade and turn left, continuing the descent, which can be steep in places.  Reach the point where you began the loop and retrace your steps.

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Please treat this special place with respect.  The Emerald Forest is unique in PA for its size, composition, and scenery; help make sure it will be there for generations to come.

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New Years at Worlds End State Park

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Sunrise at Canyon Vista, Worlds End State Park

For the second New Year’s in a row, we reserved a cabin at a state park. This year we went to Worlds End with its rustic cabins built by the CCC in the 1930s. The weather was frigid, but the skies were clear and we stayed toasty in the cabin with an ample supply of firewood.

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The cabin was simple and small with an open floor plan and a fireplace. Our cabin had a journal and it’s surprising how popular these cabins are; people wrote about their hiking adventures, their fear of anything that moved, or their remarkable ease at getting lost. People use these cabins throughout the year, often traveling from far away. One family even made it a tradition to come every Thanksgiving. These cabins created its own community. On our visit, people were friendly, hung up Christmas lights, and waved to each other.

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It was great to unplug and relax. We went to Hillsgrove, saw the covered bridges, and hiked around the park. The ice flows at High Rock were amazing in the bright sun and the frozen waterfalls were spectacular. We drove out to High Knob twice, once at night, to see the moonlight illuminate the mountains in a ghostly glow as the stars twinkled overhead. One highlight was to drive to Canyon Vista in the morning to see the sunrise, something I’ve not done before. I’ve always seen this vista during the day. It was amazing at sunrise to see the distance mountaintops glow with the rising sun. It was also cold that morning, -12, but I didn’t mind.

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If you’re tired of the typical New Year’s hoopla and want to try something different, reserve a cabin at a state park. It’s a great way to start the new year, even if you choose Worlds End!

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Hiking Tips: Help Maintain Trails While Hiking

 

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Allegheny Front Trail, Moshannon State Forest

 

The vast majority of hiking trails are maintained by volunteers and they can always use a little help. You’re already on the trail, so why not help maintain it as you hike! Here are some things you can do:

1) Bend and break back branches or brush along a trail.

2) Bring a small hand clipper or saw to cut branches or brush.

3) Pick up litter.

4) Put rocks across wet or muddy areas.

5) Pick up branches that cross the trail.

If every hiker did just one of these things a couple times while hiking, our trails would be in great shape.  Please help do your part.

Want to help out more? Check out the Keystone Trails Association Trail Care program.

Hike to Alpine Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Frozen Alpine Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blue dots are waterfalls:

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Loyalsock Spruce Forest

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Loyalsock Spruce Forest, Loyalsock State Forest

The Loyalsock Spruce Forest is one of the most beautiful groves of trees in Pennsylvania. It also hides in plain sight, easily accessible and located right along Worlds End Road, between Worlds End State Park and Eagles Mere, in the Loyalsock State Forest.

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I’ve driven past this forest countless times. I previously noticed it, but never thought to explore it. I finally did over New Years Eve weekend. Needless to say, I was impressed. The forest is about 10-20 acres in size and is comprised of towering Norway Spruce, rising over 100 feet. Some of the trees are quite large and the forest has a deep, dark feel. Moss, ferns, and spruce saplings grow on the forest floor. Shafts of light penetrate to the forest floor. We visited after a fresh snowfall and it was breathtaking.

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I’ve never seen a spruce forest like this in the state. Norway spruce is not native to PA, but is commonly planted in the U.S. Historically, it was planted after logging, mining, or quarrying operations. I do not know why this forest was planted. Another spruce forest is across the road, at a higher elevation, along the Loyalsock Trail. While scenic, it is not as beautiful as the one directly along the road.

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There is a parking area along Worlds End Road, at the juncture with Coal Mine Road. No trails explore the forest, so just walk around. Be careful not to step on any saplings. The best time to visit is in the morning since the forest has an eastern exposure. If you come here after a snowfall, it will be an experience you will not forget.

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The Loyalsock State Forest has so many beautiful places and this spruce forest is one of its best-kept secrets.

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Hike to White Brook Falls-SGL 57

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White Brook Falls, SGL 57

White Brook Falls, with its graceful spout, is one of the most scenic waterfalls in SGL 57. It is about 20 feet tall. This is largely an off trail hike that is moderate in difficulty and has two stream crossings.  It is about .75 mile, one way.

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Park at the game commission parking lot along Windy Valley Road (41.496502, -76.132023) and hike across the meadow to the back right hand (northwest) corner (41.497371, -76.134595). Climb a bank with some pickers and then ascend along a mowed area near some cabins or homes (41.497745, -76.135801). Don’t worry, you’re still on the game lands.

White Brook Falls, near Forkston

Follow an obvious path straight up through the pines. The trail does become steep. Leave the pines and veer right to an obvious old forest road. White Brook is now below you on the right.

From here, follow the old forest road for about 100 feet and then leave it to the right. Hike to the top of the steep bank above White Brook. Continue to follow the bank upstream for a short distance until you notice a buttress of land descending gradually to the brook, now descend (41.497591, -76.140524). Cross White Brook and pass a tree with a large burl. Reach an old grade and turn left onto it for a short distance. Cross White Brook again.

White Brook

The falls should now be in view. It is best to hike the south side of the stream to the falls (41.497237, -76.143642).  The falls are beautiful and unique, with a deep pool and a beautiful spout in normal flows. In high flows, the creek also tumbles down a slide next to the falls. There are slides and smaller falls below the main falls.

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Above White Brook Falls there are smaller cascades, slides, and boulders, but also lots of fallen trees from flood damage. It may not be worth the effort to hike above the falls.

Return the way you came.

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Hike to Koerber Falls-SGL 57

 

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Koerber Falls, SGL 57

 

Koerber Falls is one of many waterfalls in SGL 57. Although there is no trail, it is a fairly easy to moderate hike.

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Drive south on Windy Valley Road and cross the bridge. There is space to park on the right (41.490850, -76.132825). Hike across the road and head east, you will soon encounter a steep bank. Scramble up the best you can, I usually go up at a ravine eroded by a seasonal stream.  This is the toughest part of the hike.

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Now just follow the top of the bank, heading east. You will soon be hiking above the creek itself with a gorge and several slides, cascades, and pools. Reach an old grade and follow it.  Below is a gorge with more slides and cascades, including an 8 foot falls.

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Cross the creek above the 8 foot falls. Leave the grade and simply hike up the creek, heading east. The north side is best.

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Koerber Falls soon comes into view. It is 15 to 20 feet tall in a red rock grotto. There is a pool and many dripping springs. It is a beautiful falls that has great ice flows in winter. In spring, this hike has wildflowers. This falls flows most of the year, but can dry up in summer.  The falls are located at about 41.489664, -76.123440.

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There are no sizeable falls upstream other than some slides and cascades. After enjoying the beauty and isolation of this falls, return the way you came.  This hike is about .6 mile, one way.

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