Hiking Dewdrop Run-Allegheny National Forest

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Dewdrop Run flowing under massive boulders, Allegheny National Forest.

Dewdrop Run is one of the Allegheny National Forest’s best kept secrets, hiding next to one of its most popular campgrounds- Dewdrop Campground. Years ago, the Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail explored Dewdrop Run. For some reason, it was rarely hiked and eventually abandoned despite its superb scenery. I explored Dewdrop Run while writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest and the place has always stuck with me. I decided it was time to return.

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I parked along the road, just downhill from the entrance to the Dewdrop Campground. Faced with an overgrown meadow, I entered the beech woods and descended a slope to a more open forest. I crossed a sidestream and followed the old, intermittent white diamond blazes of the former Campbell Mill trail. I walked upstream and made my way down to Dewdrop Run. There was no real sign of the old trail. I came across a maze of giant, mossy boulders embedded in the water, creating scenic waterfalls and a small, green grotto. Pools glistened in the fading sunlight as insects danced on the surface. In places it felt as if I were in Oregon or Washington with the unbelievable greenery.

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I then reached an amazing spot-where the creek flowed under massive, house sized boulders cloaked in deep green moss. Absolutely beautiful. I tried to follow the old trail, as it explored more mossy boulders. It turned right, passing between the green monoliths, and then began to climb. I, however, went off the former trail and simply hiked upstream to a beautiful series of cascades and deep pools framed by mossy, sculpted boulders.

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I pushed onward, up into the gorge. Steep slopes and giant boulders loomed over Dewdrop Run. It felt like a hidden, primeval world even though I was less than a half mile from the road. The creek bounced over scenic cascades and small waterfall within a deep, lime green forest.

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I turned around and walked back down the creek, enjoying the scenery again. I retraced my steps back to my car. Park off the road at about 41.826653, -78.968353.

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For adventurous hikers, the north slope of Dewdrop Run’s gorge features massive boulders and rock outcrops that are worth exploring. Hopefully, a hiking trail will return to Dewdrop Run, it is such a beautiful place. Until then, don’t let the lack of an official trail deter you, explore this hidden gem.

More photos.

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Hiking the Marilla Trails

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Marilla Reservoir

I recently went on a roadtrip to the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in northwest PA. It had been several years since I took the time to explore the region. I love this area of PA, with its scenery, countless trails, and historic towns. Once the epicenter of resource extraction, whether it be oil or timber, these communities have also begun to embrace the outdoors by building extensive networks of trails.

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One such community is Bradford. With the help of the Tuna Valley Trail Association, trails connect the town, watershed lands, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (beautiful campus, the modern glass chapel is amazing) and even the ANF. The highlight is the Marilla Reservoir. I had been to the reservoir when I was writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest. Back then, there was only a trail around the reservoir itself. I’ve wanted to return to hike the new trail system.

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Marilla is a gem. A 20 acre lake surrounded by spruce trees with a stone dam. Bridges adorn the shore line where the trail crosses creeks or the outlet. Marilla is a Celtic word for “shining sea”.

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What trails should you hike? Do not miss the Marilla Bridges or White Pine Trails. The Hidden Valley Passage Trail is also excellent. The Marilla Rock Trail goes into a huge rock city covered with moss and ferns, but the trail is a bit overgrown. A great loop is to connect all of those trails with the Marilla Overlook Trail and Marilla Ridge Road.

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I parked along PA 346 at a large pull off and walked down to the Marilla Reservoir. The wide trail around the reservoir is obvious, and you can go either way. The whole trail is beautiful. If you go left and cross the dam, the views are better. If you go right, you will enjoy the deep spruce forests and cross two long, wooden bridges.

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Continue on the Marilla Springs Trail. This trail explores creeks and springs under a stunning forest of hemlock, maple, pine, and birch. Some of the trees are massive. It is hard to believe this old growth forest isn’t more famous. The sound of the creeks fill the deep, wooded valley. Incredible serenity. I then turned right onto the White Pine Trail and crossed some footbridges over small creeks and drainages. The stunning forest continued. The trail threaded through this sylvan wonder and then passed a grove of gigantic white pines that towered through the canopy. I could’ve been in Cook Forest. I climbed to an open meadow area where the trail was more overgrown. This area had been logged, but many large hemlock trees were spared. The trail followed the edge of this meadow and then returned to the woods to meet the Marilla Overlook Trail. If you turn right and continued on the White Pine Trail, it would return you to the Marilla Reservoir.

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The Marilla Overlook Trail followed a logging road through the open logged area. Many trees were spared, so it wasn’t an eyesore. It looked like a meadow with trees. Expect sun exposure on this section and there were some views of the surrounding hills, but I could not see the reservoir. Blazes are few. I then turned right onto the Marilla Ridge Road, another forest road but it was more wooded. Pay careful attention to the Marilla Rocks Trail on the left, it is easy to miss and there wasn’t a sign. The brushy trail descended to impressive rock and boulder outcrops with overhangs and narrow passageways. The Marilla Rock Trail returned to Marilla Ridge Road, where there was a sign. Follow the road to PA 348 among some pine plantations.

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I crossed PA 348 and hiked the Hidden Valley Passage Trail, another great trail. It threads its way across streams, drainages, and climbs to an old railroad grade under hemlocks. A number of footbridges were along the trail. It was a pleasure to hike and ended at a gravel road very close to PA 348. If hiking counterclockwise, this trail can be a little hard to find. Hike up the gravel road a short distance to some stone steps on the left; this is where the trail begins.

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I crossed PA 348 to my car, ending a great hike. If you’re looking for a new place to hike in northwest Pennsylvania, check out the Marilla Trails.

More photos.

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Hike information:

Length: Approx. 5 mile loop

Terrain: Moderate and hilly. Several wet areas.

Blazes: Infrequent in places but most trails are well established. Blue is the most common blaze color.

Signs: Most trail junctures have signs. The southern juncture for the Marilla Rocks Trail does not have a sign and is easy to miss.

Highlights: Impressive old growth forests, streams, many footbridges, massive rocks, some views, Marilla Reservoir, spruce forests.

Issues: Roadwalk on Marilla Overlook Trail and Marilla Ridge Road. The latter is wooded.

Mt. Pisgah State and County Parks

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Stephen Foster Lake at Mt. Pisgah State Park

It is easy to overlook Mt. Pisgah State Park.  After all, so many more famous parks are located nearby, whether it be Ricketts Glen, Worlds End or the PA Grand Canyon.  Yet this park has a lot to offer and is a worthwhile destination.

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The state park is day use only; there is no campground.  It features several miles of trails, a pool, and Stephen Foster Lake, which is named after the famous songwriter who once lived nearby.

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We decided to hike around the lake on the Oh! Susanna Trail, about a three mile loop.  We parked at the Nature Center, walked over to the amphitheater, and walked the trail down through a beautiful old growth maple forest down to the Oh! Susanna Trail, where we turned left.

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The trail crossed several meadows with wildflowers and butterflies.  We also enjoyed views of the lake and mountains.  The trail crossed below the dam and entered a scenic forest of hemlock and pine.  The trails at the state park tend to be wide, and have signs at intersections.  We hiked along the road for a little ways, and saw monarch caterpillars eating milkweed on the shore.  We crossed another field and continued on the Oh! Susanna Trail as it entered the cool forest.  We completed the loop and made the climb back to the car.

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Another trail at the park popular with hikers is the Ridge Trail, which gradually climbs a forested ridge to the summit of Mt. Pisgah to see the views.  The summit is in the adjacent Mt. Pisgah County Park.

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You can also drive to the summit, which is what we did.  The county park has three vistas, two are narrow, but the third and western vista is more expansive.  There are picnic pavilions and primitive camping.  The county park is unique in that there is camping at the top of a mountain.  The views look over rolling farmland into New York.  The western view is great for sunsets and also features a statue of Chief Wetonah.  There are plans to expand the trails at the county park and some may already be in place.  If visiting the state park, be sure to include the county park as well.

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If looking for a different destination, check out Mt. Pisgah State and County Parks.

Info on Mt. Pisgah County Park.

This park is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

More photos.

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Backpacking the Old Loggers Path- July, 2018

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View from Sullivan Mountain, Old Loggers Path, Loyalsock State Forest

The Old Loggers Path (OLP) is a classic backpacking loop that has grown in popularity over the years. I was surprised to realize that I last backpacked the entire trail in 2012, over six years ago. So I decided it was time to return and experience this trail once again. I was also looking forward to seeing the two new shelters that were built on the trail last year.

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As a change, I decided to hike the trail clockwise, something I had not done before. I also decided to start at the new trailhead off of Krimm Road, instead of Masten, the traditional trailhead.

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I arrived late morning, quickly got my gear together, and began hiking down the trail. It felt good to stretch the legs and hike on an actual trail, instead of bushwhacking, my more common pursuit. The trail followed old logging grades and crossed a small meadow. I hiked past a large campsite along a stream with damage from a flood in 2016. I soon reached Masten and continued on the trail as it made an easy, gradual climb through a forest of beech trees. I crossed a dirt road and entered a scenic hemlock forest where I took a break. The OLP doesn’t have a lot of forest diversity; most of the trail features hardwood forests, so it was nice to sit under the cool hemlocks.

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I encountered patches of stinging nettle along the OLP, but it wasn’t too thick and I was able to pass through, with shorts on, without too much discomfort. I soon reached the side trail to Sprout Point vista and shelter. The shelter was near the vista which provided nice views over the valleys and ridges. It would be a great place to stay for the night, but there is not any water nearby.

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The OLP then descended through scenic, open forests of hardwoods. I crossed another road and traversed a series of stream valleys with rolling terrain. Each stream had a little water, and a campsite. The OLP also passed along a logging cut. A steep climb followed up to the trail’s finest vista, Sharp Top. Up until this point I had only seen two other hikers, but there were about ten backpackers at the vista, enjoying the wide panorama of wooded lowlands and distant mountains. It is an impressive view so I was happy to take a rest for a few minutes.

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The trail followed the edge of the plateau with a series of ledges and then entered brushy areas with plenty of blackberries. I then hiked into a mature forest above a stream with the sound of cascades that filled the air. As I neared the bottom, I passed the yellow blazed S&NY Trail, which is a cross connector trail to the OLP. I soon reached a campsite at Pleasant Stream.

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Pleasant Stream suffered from a lot of flood damage with embedded trees and gravel, sand, and cobblestones everywhere. I crossed the stream easily, passed another campsite, and continued on the trail. This next section was re-routed due to the flood damage; the trail made a steep climb up to the road, followed it for a little ways, and then followed a grade to Long Run. I crossed Long Run and passed more hikers. A climb then ensued up Sullivan Mountain as I tried to move fast to see the sunset. I reached the first series of vistas with beautiful view of the mountains basking in the golden glow of the setting sun. It was breathtaking. I set up my tent at a small site near one of the vistas. I sat at the vista and watched the stars come out. Owls hooted in the distance, coyotes howled through the forest, and fireflies lit up the sky.

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I was up early the next morning and enjoyed watching the rising sun through the misty trees. The trail passed large boulders and followed level grades over springs and small streams. I reached Doe Run and saw the new shelter, which was set close to the creek in a beautiful location. I made note to camp there on a future hike. I reached a view over Rock Run Gorge, where a couple were just getting up and I then hiked down to gorgeous Rock Run, passing above an unnamed falls on Yellow Dog Run. This is such a beautiful stream with its bedrock pools, chasms, and waterfalls. I sat there for a while to eat and enjoy the scenery.  While there I spoke to another backpacker.

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I was surprised by the number of hikers on this trail. I saw almost 40 hikers, but the OLP did not feel particularly crowded.

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I like the northern section of the trail because of the scenery and the hemlock forests. The rapids of Rock Run filled the air as I hiked up the trail, passing several other hikers. I crossed a few more streams and then returned to my car on Krimm Road.

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It was great to be back on the OLP. Hopefully my return will not be in another six years.

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More photos.

This trail is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains and Backpacking Pennsylvania.

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Old Loggers Path

Location: Loyalsock State Forest at Masten.  Located between Shunk and Ralston.

Length: 28 mile loop

Blazes: Orange

Difficulty: Moderate. The trail often follows old grades with gradual changes in elevation, but there are steep areas near Sharp Top and Long Run.

Highlights: Rock Run, a stream of exceptional beauty, Sharp Top, Sprout Point, views from Sullivan Mountain, big rocks near Buck Run, two shelters at Sprout Point and Doe Run.

Vegetation: Mostly hardwoods with some laurel. There is some hemlock along Rock Run. Stinging nettle is an occasional issue in the summer.

Camping: Most streams have a campsite. There are two shelters. If you want to camp at a view, there are small sites at Sprout Point, Sullivan Mountain, and the view over Rock Run.

Water: Generally not an issue. In very dry years the only creeks that will have water are Pleasant Stream and Rock Run.

Concerns: There is no bridge across Pleasant Stream. In high water this is a dangerous crossing.

Go clockwise or counterclockwise? From Masten or Krimm Road, the trail is easier counterclockwise. Going clockwise saves the best scenery towards the end of the hike.

Where to start? Most people start at Masten, but Krimm Road is another ideal starting point, particularly if hiking the trail clockwise.  Krimm Road is located just off of Ellenton Road.

Trail worth hiking? Yes. The OLP is an ideal weekend loop that is usually well graded. There aren’t a lot of rocky areas. The terrain isn’t too easy, or hard and there are beautiful forests and scenic features.

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Legend for the map above:

C: larger campsite, 3 or more tents

c: smaller campsite: 1 or 2 tents

V: vista

S: Shelter or lean-to

F: Waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Work Hike to White Brook and Koerber Falls-SGL 57

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White Brook Falls-SGL 57

It had been a fairly wet spring and I knew some waterfalls would be running into the summer. I don’t hike much in SGL 57 during the summer, so most of my photos are in the autumn or winter.  SGL 57 has about thirty waterfalls and I knew they’d be beautiful surrounded by green foliage and moss instead of bare trees, ice, and snow.

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Since this was an after work hike, I decided to visit White Brook and Koerber Falls; each is less than a mile from the road.

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We began the hike up to White Brook Falls. The glen was beautiful with its towering trees and deep, clear pools. There was some stinging nettle, but we were able to pass through relatively unscathed. As we approached the falls, the scenery grew more beautiful with red bedrock slides, rounded boulders capped with moss, and more deep pools. I could see the white ribbon of the falls up ahead.

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We reached the falls and it was a beautiful sight. There was still plenty of water. White Brook Falls is known for its graceful spout and overhanging ledge. It is a very scenic and unique falls. The cool breeze at the base of the falls made it very comfortable, cutting the heat of the day and keeping the bugs away. I could have sat there for an hour, but there was another falls we wanted to see on the other side of the valley, so we walked back to Windy Valley Road.

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Our next destination was Koerber Falls, a smaller stream than White Brook, we hoped there would still be some water. We hiked up the gorge, exploring a mossy mini-chasm with a slide and deep pool and an eight foot falls. Up ahead was Koerber Falls. It still had some water; being under it was like a natural shower. The water descended in delicate threads from the moss above. The acoustics at the falls were incredible, as our voices bounced off the ledges creating a surround sound effect. We walked back to the Mehoopany Creek, waded across it in twilight, as storm clouds gathered overhead.

More photos.

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Central Appalachian Road Trip

 

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We recently took a trip through the central Appalachians of West Virginia and Virginia to see some under-the-radar parks. It was a great trip, one that I would recommend, especially for those looking for something different.

Coopers Rock State Forest

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A great place to hike with views of the Cheat River Canyon. Do not miss the Underlook Trail to see huge cliffs and boulders. A highlight is the impressive Rock City Trail, where the bedrock separated, creating a straight chasm. There is also an old iron furnace.

Highly recommended.

Valley Falls State Park

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A small, day use park with a series of wide waterfalls, about ten feet tall, on the Tygart Valley River. Worth the stop.

Recommended.

Audra State Park

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Another small park that features a huge rock shelter, known as Alum Cave, with a long boardwalk above the rapids of Middle Fork River.

Recommended.

Holly River State Park

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One of my favorites, this isolated park is located deep in the Appalachian foothills, reached by curvy roads. A true hidden gem. Enjoy miles of trails through beautiful forests, views, and several waterfalls. There is a great restaurant at the park, and good camping. The forest had a kind of rainforest feel with all the rhododendrons and towering trees; the park gets a lot of rainfall. There are also historical points of interest, such as a one room school house.

Highly recommended.

Babcock State Park

This park has a classic West Virginia view of a gristmill (often seen in photographs), a small natural arch, and some views. Worth the stop.

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Recommended.

New River Gorge National River

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A must-visit, this place has one of the most impressive canyons in the east. Trails lead to cliffs and commanding views of the canyon. The Grandview Trails are among my favorite. Don’t have much time? Hike the classic Endless Wall Trail to impressive Diamond Point. Sandstone Falls in the southern end of the park is worth seeing. The park doesn’t have many waterfalls, but Glade Creek had some beautiful smaller falls and cascades. Enjoy views of the famous New River Gorge Bridge and its iconic arch at the visitor’s center. The gorge is famous with rock climbers.

Highly recommended

Twin Falls State Park

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Located in southern West Virginia, this park has a restaurant and resort. There are also miles of trails to two falls in glens cloaked with rhododendron. Trails also lead to views, and there is also a pioneer era working farm.

Recommended.

Breaks Interstate Park

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A majestic, rugged canyon carved by the Russell Fork on the border of Virginia and Kentucky. Enjoy stunning views and impressive rock outcrops on the Geological, Overlook, and Laurel Branch Trails. The Notches were an impressive spot. Grassy Overlook is one of the less popular vistas, but it is worth it, particularly for sunsets. This area offers tons of hiking and world class whitewater. The gorge is called the “Grand Canyon of the South”. You can easily spend several days here and the restaurant in the park was convenient. This park is a true hidden gem that should be on anyone’s list.

Highly recommended.

Pinnacle State Park

A small park in West Virginia with a towering rock outcrop with average views. The rock had some graffiti. Not worth the stop.

Not recommended.

Shenandoah National Park

We drove the Skyline Drive on our way home. This iconic drive is worth the time with its countless vistas of the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains. Watch for all the deer; bear are often seen.

Highly recommended.

On your next trip, consider out-of-the-way parks.  They are just as beautiful as the more popular places, have far fewer crowds,  are less expensive, and the local communities can use the tourism dollars.

More photos.

Waterfalls of Maple Spring Run- Ricketts Glen State Park

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Porcupine Falls, Maple Spring Run, Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen is one of PA’s most popular, and beautiful, state parks. The famed Falls Trail takes hikers under old growth forests and along many waterfalls. However, this large park has many secrets besides the popular Falls Trail. I decided to explore Maple Spring Run to see what hid in its deep, isolated gorge.

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I parked off of PA 118 and walked up the Falls Trail, passing several other hikers. This trail was not crowded, yet. After the third bridge, I went off the Falls Trail and began to bushwhack up Maple Spring Run. I soon encountered a maintenance trail to allow workers to access the Falls Trail for repairs. I continued up Maple Spring Run and was impressed by the towering trees and pristine stream that tumbled over mossy boulders. The stinging nettle made the hiking tedious, so I stayed close to the creek. A side stream joined from the left and I continued right. The gorge became steeper and I soon encountered the first falls, partially concealed by a fallen log. It was about 20 feet tall.

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I scrambled above to see a series of beautiful cascades that led to huge boulders, ledges and a 15 foot falls. This gorge was once home to some truly huge hemlock trees. Sadly, most are now dead. Regardless, the isolation and scenery made Maple Spring Run feel primeval.

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I climbed above this second falls and pushed upstream over the difficult terrain. I soon reached the finest falls on Maple Spring Run- Porcupine Falls. A truly beautiful sight with a column of water dropping straight off a cliff. There were additional 8 foot drops above and below. In total, this falls is about 40 feet tall; the two uppermost drops make the falls about 25 feet tall.

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Nearby were cliffs and ledges with rock overhangs. I scrambled to the top to see some partial views from the cliffs into the misty gorge below.

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I continued up the creek to see more cascades under hemlocks. I came to a final falls, about 20 feet tall in a glen. Another climb brought me to the Old Beaver Dam Road Trail, where I turned right. It seemed so easy to hike on a level, established trail as I sailed through beautiful forests of pine, hemlock, and laurel. I could hear the waterfalls of Kitchen Creek roaring far below.

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Another trail soon returned me to the Falls Trail in Ganoga Glen. After hiking alone in the rugged wilderness of Maple Spring Run, I had culture shock from being surrounded by so many people. The Falls Trail was impressive with the high water flow and tremendous, powerful falls. Each was impressive, particularly Ganoga Falls, but I tried to avoid the crowds. I began to miss the isolation of Maple Spring Run.

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I retraced my steps and returned to my car. I know there are more secrets in this famous park.

More photos.

When hiking Maple Spring Run, keep in mind it is rugged and stinging nettle is prevalent in summer.  This is a small stream that can disappear when it is dry out.  This is far more difficult than the Falls Trail and only experienced hikers should attempt it.

For the map below, the route along Maple Spring Run is off trail and not blazed.

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