Waterfalls of Sullivan Branch-SGL 13

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One of many waterfalls on Sullivan Branch, SGL 13.

Sullivan Branch in SGL 13 is a stream known for its incredible beauty, carving a deep gorge with waterfalls, cascades, and deep pools.  This area is commonly known as the Waterfall Wonderland.  I returned to scout a route for the proposed Endless Mountains Trail; I wanted a route that would offer views of the waterfalls, but avoid the creek itself since such a route would infeasible due to the terrain and floods.

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I parked at Sullivan Falls and enjoyed the view of this impressive falls as it tumbles into a large amphitheater of the rock and a deep pool.  I then followed the current trail on an old grade up Sullivan Branch.  While this is a nice trail, it avoids the waterfalls on Sullivan Branch.  I stopped at Pigeon Run and enjoyed its many waterfalls.  I continued up the old grade, passing an unnamed creek with its own grotto and waterfalls.  I soon reached Ore Run (there’s another falls up that creek as well) and took a break as Sullivan Branch tumbled over boulders and ledges.

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I then hiked along the east bank above Sullivan Branch as the waterfalls soon appeared, as well as a long mini-gorge and slide.  I re-crossed the previous unnamed stream and found a great route for a trail on reasonable terrain.  The waterfalls continued, including one nearly 50 feet tall.  The scenery was impressive as I looked down the gorge to the crashing water below.  Such a beautiful place.

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I’d seen these falls before and it was great to see them from a different perspective.  I reached Pigeon Run and its own glen of waterfalls.  I then returned to the pervious grade I had hiked in on and returned to my car.

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As I walked to my car, I noticed a ridge on my left (east) that had some impressive rock outcrops.  Naturally, I had to check it out.  It was a tough climb under dying hemlocks, but I reached the top and explored unique ledges and giant angled, slanted boulders.  A very cool place.

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I made the steep descent, being careful not to break my ankles, and returned to my car.

More photos.

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Pennsylvania’s Best Backpacking Trails

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View from the West Rim Trail

Pennsylvania has the most extensive system of backpacking trails in the east, in fact, it’s trail system exceeds many western states.  These are the best of Pennsylvania’s many overnight trails.

Eastern Pennsylvania

Yellow and orange

Old Loggers Path.  This 28 mile loop has become very popular in the last few years, and for good reason.  It’s isolated, has two shelters, vistas, waterfalls, swimming holes, big rocks, and great camping.  Rock Run is a stream of exceptional beauty and Sharp Top has a beautiful view.  The OLP generally has moderate, gradual terrain.

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Loyalsock Trail.  This 60 mile route was first established in the 1950s, making it one of the older backpacking trails in the nation.  The LT is famous for its diverse and beautiful terrain with gorges, waterfalls, vistas, big rocks, isolation, pond, whitewater rapids, and swimming holes.  There are many scenic streams and campsites, not to mention hemlock forests along its eastern half.

Loyalsock-Link Loop.  A great 14 mile loop for an overnight, beginning at Worlds End State Park, or from US 220 and include the Haystack Rapids.

Pinchot Trail.  A great easier trail for beginner or younger backpackers.  The south loop has been re-routed to include Choke Creek, Choke Creek Falls, meadows, wetlands, spruce forests, and cascades-dramatically increasing the scenic beauty of that section.

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Appalachian Trail (Michaux State Forest).  Widely considered the best section of the AT in PA, enjoy historical remnants, great views, several shelters, rock outcrops, ponds, two state parks, and not to mention the Appalachian Trail Museum.

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Appalachian Trail- Port Clinton to Wind Gap.  Yes, this section is known for its rocks.  But with rocks, comes views and this section of the AT has some excellent ones, such as the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock.  The scrambling climb up the Lehigh Gap is a highlight as are the deep water gaps, shelters, and rock formations.  The section of the AT through the famed Lehigh Gap will be rerouted to offer more views and open ridgetop hiking.

 

Central Pennsylvania

Black Forest Trail.  One of PA’s premier trails, the famous 42 mile BFT is rugged and beautiful with stunning views of the Pine Creek Gorge, waterfalls, streams, meadows, and beautiful campsites.  This trail has some of the best views in the state.

West Rim Trail.  A popular 32 mile route on the west rim of the Pine Creek Gorge with several great views, scenic forests, small streams, and great camping.  There are also several off trail waterfalls.

Susquehannock Trail.  At 85 miles, the longest single-trail loop in the eastern US.  The STS offers deep woods immersion with isolation, streams, meadows, some views, and great camping.  There are now two shelters and one hut.  The highlight is the Hammersley Wild Area and its famous swimming hole.

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Hammersley Wild Area.  PA’s largest and most isolated roadless area, the Hammersley is a gem.  A great loop is via the Susquehannock and Twin Sisters Trail with stunning views from the Hammersley meadows. (Hint: to return to the STS, hike off trail down the ridge from the north side of the meadows, it is an exposed ridge with several great views of the canyon).  More trails are planned in the wild area.  Hammersley Fork is a stream of great beauty.

Quehanna Wild Area.  PA’s largest wild area, the Quehanna is a hiking gem with many trails that feature open meadows, spruce and pine forests, gorges, vistas, huge rocks, pond, streams, and great camping.  Jungles of rhododendron and laurel fill the gorges.  One of my favorite areas.  What trails should you hike?  Check out the Quehanna, Bridge, Bellefonte Posse, Kunes Camp, Lincoln, Crawford Vista, David Lewis, Teaberry, East Cross Connector, Sevinsky, Meeker, and Big Spring Trails.

Mosquito Creek

Allegheny Front Trail.  A 42 mile loop west of State College offers superb streamside hiking, boardwalks, views, diverse forests, and rhododendron jungles.  There are some excellent campsites.  Trails offer a cross-connector and the eastern side of the loop is generally considered the more scenic.

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Standing Stone Trail.  Nearly abandoned in the 1990s, the SST has evolved into one of PA’s finest trails.  Over 80 miles long and connecting the Mid State to the Tuscarora Trails.  It is a part of the Great Eastern Trail.  At times rocky and rugged, this trail has awesome views, old growth forests, rock formations, sinkholes, wildflowers, 1000 Steps, historical remnants, and one shelter.

Sausser's Stonepile vista

Mid State Trail-Little Juniata Water Gap to PA 45
The heart of the MST in the Seven Mountains, PA’s longest trail, features rugged ridgelines with excellent views, old growth forests, natural areas, several state parks, a tunnel, gorges, good isolation and campsites.

Mid State Trail-Woolrich to SR 2016 near Arnot
An excellent, rugged hike through the Pine Creek Gorge region that features superb vistas, waterfalls, gorges, rock formations, isolation, historical ruins, big rocks, and incredible swimming holes.

Western Pennsylvania

North Country Trail-PA 346 to Red Bridge Campground.  This trail explores the vast, beautiful Allegheny Reservoir with views over the water and great campsites.  Enjoy hemlock shaded glens, scenic streams, giant boulders, and wetlands.

North Country Trail – Guitonville Road to Highland Drive.  This section explore the stunning Cook Forest State Park and the Clarion River.  The towering old growth trees are beautiful, as is the serene Clarion River with its pristine water in a forested gorge with jungles of rhododendron.  Hikers love Maple Creek north of Cook Forest, and the waterfall on Henrys Run just south of the state park.

Morrison Trail.  An 11 mile loop with a cross connector.  Enjoy house sized boulders, streams, cascades, and views of the Allegheny Reservoir.  Be sure to include the cross connector, the most scenic part of the trail.

Minister Creek Trail.  A popular 7 mile loop is great for an overnight.  There are huge boulders, chasms, a views, streams, and great camping.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.  The most popular trail in western PA, the LHHT is well known for its numerous shelters, big rocks, views, scenic forests, and streams.  Hike south to enjoy Ohiopyle at the end.

Quebec Run Wild Area.  A best kept secret, Quebec Run has a network of trails along streams filled with hemlock and rhododendron, making it feel like a jungle.  This is a diverse place, with off trail caves, and huge rocks and cliffs north of Tebolt Run, also off trail.

Oil Creek State Park  (Gerard Hiking Trail).  A 36 mile loop with cross connectors that meanders around Oil Creek State Park.  There are shelters, views, glens with waterfalls, and remnants of the oil industry, which began there.

Backpacking Pennsylvania for more trail info.

Bob Webber and Pine Cliff Trails

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View from the Bob Webber Trail, Tiadaghton State Forest

The Bob Webber Trail is one of many great trails in the Pine Creek Gorge region.  This area is a hiking wonderland with hundreds of miles of trails that lead to vistas, waterfalls, gorges, streams, and rock formations.

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This trail is named after a man who was a local hiking icon, who built and blazed many trails in the area, who cleared trails with an axe (if you see logs along a trail with the cut marks of an axe, it was probably done by Bob Webber), and who deeply loved the Pine Creek area while living in a cabin, off grid, on the edge of the canyon.  Mr. Webber passed away from cancer a few years ago.  Thankfully, this trail was named in his honor while he was still alive.

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This is a linear trail, 1.7 miles one way and involves a 1,200 foot climb.  From the parking area at Ross Run along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, cross PA 414 and begin the climb through pine forests and a meadow with a view.  The trail levels and passes a side trail with some cairns; this is the Pine Cliff Trail, which I hiked on my return.  The trail then passed a view to the left with a view of Ravenshorn.

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I hiked up to a level area before the real climb began with a series of switchbacks, passing a small spring along the way and some rock outcrops.  The climb continued and then leveled off where we reached Wolf Bald Vista, the end of the trail.  There was a log bench at the views, which offered a stunning panorama of the Pine Creek Gorge and the deep gorge of Wolf Run.  Ravenshorn could be seen far below. The view was serene, with no noises, and no signs of development.

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I descended back to the Pine Cliff Trail, which I highly recommend.  The trail drops down into some pines, be sure to take the trail to the left which leads to the vista and some unique rock outcrops.  While low in the canyon, the vista is still impressive as it is surrounded by the mountains and canyon walls.  I retraced my steps and descended on the trail, turning left.  This trail follows sidehill along the deep gorge of Wolf Run; the famous Golden Eagle Trail is across the gorge.  Reach Wolf Run and hike down it with cascades and waterslides.  At an old culvert or bridge, a side trail appears to climb up to the Golden Eagle Trail.

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I turned left on the Pine Creek Rail Trail and walked back to the car.

More info on the trail.

More photos.

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Best Hikes in the Allegheny National Forest

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Bent Run Waterfalls, Allegheny National Forest

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is a big place, it covers 514,000 acres.  It has several beautiful areas and the forest is known for its giant boulders, cliffs, old growth forests, scenic streams, and the Allegheny Reservoir.  Where should you hike?  Here’s a list.

Allegheny National Forest hiking website, with maps and guides for some trails.

Hiking the Allegheny National Forest  guidebook (now available only for download).

1. Minister Creek
This is the most popular and arguably the most scenic hike in the ANF. A 7.3 mile loop that features massive rocks, cliffs, boulders, chasms, and rock formations. There is one view and several beautiful streams and campsites. The North Country Trail connects to the northern part of the loop.

2. Morrison Trail
An 11 mile loop with a cross-connector, this trail is probably my favorite in the ANF because it offers a taste of everything this region has to offer. The trail provides views of the reservoir, cascading streams, great camping, and huge boulders. Do not miss hiking the cross-connector trail, which is the most scenic part of the Morrison Trail.

3. Clarion River Rapids/Lily Pond Trail
The gem of the southern ANF, this 2.5 mile linear trail follows the stunning Clarion River along its rapids, known as X, Y, and Z rapids. There are huge boulders, deep pools, a small beach, and excellent camping. Start at Irwin Run. The trail ends where it is washed out at Crow Run. I’ve known this trail as the Clarion River Rapids, but a recent ANF recreation map calls it the Lily Pond Trail.

4. Hearts Content
A stunning old growth forest with towering trees, Hearts Content is a must-see. Some of the tallest trees in Pennsylvania are along this trail. The trails are easy with rolling terrain and are a little more than a mile long.

5. Rimrock Overlook
The finest view in the ANF from huge cliffs. You can see the reservoir far below. The view is great for sunsets, or in the morning to see the mist over the reservoir. You can both drive or hike to the overlook. A new 1.3 mile trail climbs up from the Kinzua Beach area. Be sure to hike to the base of the cliffs to see crevasses, huge boulders, and cracks in the rock that blow out cold air in summer.

6. Hector Falls
The ANF doesn’t have many waterfalls, but it makes up for it with Hector Falls. While only 22 feet tall, it is surely one of the most unique waterfalls you will ever see. The creek flows over the 90 degree sides of a square boulder, creating an impressive visual effect. Huge boulders and cliffs are below the falls. It’s about a one mile hike in from FR 258 near Ludlow; the falls are isolated.

7. Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail
These trails are famous for its streams, campsites, and great views of the undeveloped Allegheny Reservoir as rolling green mountains rise over the blue water. The trail system is extensive, maybe a little too extensive, as some trails are rarely hiked and maintenance is an issue. The most popular trails is a loop along Tracy Run, Johnnycake Run, and the reservoir. The trail along the shore to Polly’s Run is also very scenic. Nelse Run area is also beautiful.

8. Tanbark Trail
A 9 mile linear trail, this trail offers scenic forests, huge boulders, a crevasse, and cascades along Boardinghouse Run.

9. Hickory Creek Wilderness
A 12 mile loop through a wilderness of streams, meadows, campsites, and forests. This trail is known for its isolation and is most popular with backpackers. The large boulders common in the ANF are largely absent from this trail. Experienced hikers like to go off trail and explore the Middle and East branches of Hickory Creek, creating a larger loop.

10. Jakes Rocks
Another short hike, with trails less than a mile, Jakes Rocks are impressive with its views of the reservoir, huge cliffs, overhangs, and boulders. Be sure to take the trail to the base of the cliffs. A new mountain biking trail system now surrounds Jakes Rocks.

11. Bent Run Waterfalls
Located near the impressive Kinzua Dam, a trail leads up along Bent Run with its many cascades and waterfalls over mossy boulders. A short hike, but very beautiful.

12. Marilla Trails
Located on watershed property next to the ANF, these trails feature big rocks, streams, and old growth pine trees. The trail along the scenic Marilla Reservoir is a must-do. The White Pine, Marilla Rocks, and Hidden Valley Passage Trails are also worth hiking.

13. Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail/Dewdrop Run
I don’t know if the trail itself exists anymore, it was in tough shape when I hiked it last. Regardless, Dewdrop Run is a beautiful glen with huge boulders and cascades. Located across the road from Dewdrop Campground.

14. Beaver Meadows
I don’t know why Beaver Meadows isn’t more popular, the 6 miles of trails feature a serene lake, floating boardwalk, savannas, spruce and pine forests. It is perfect for birdwatching or seeing wildlife and offers forest types not common in the ANF. The trails remind me of Black Moshannon State Park in central Pennsylvania.

15. Logan Falls
An isolated ten foot falls in a glen with large boulders, Logan Falls is serene and beautiful. It’s a half mile trail from FR 180.

16. Pigeon Run Falls
Another isolated falls in the Spring Creek valley with a nice campsite, reached by a mile long trail from FR 130, east of Marienville. The falls are about 15 feet tall.

17. Anders Run Natural Area
Not in the ANF, but located right next to it, this is a state forest natural area known for its old growth forests and tall trees, located west of Warren.

18. Hedgehog Run
This is an off trail excursion for intrepid hikers, located north of the Tanbark Trail. Hedgehog Run is known as a beautiful stream and its upper reaches feature massive boulders, cliffs, rock mazes, and boulder cities. Clark and Slater Runs, located to the south, have similar scenery.

19. North Country Trail (Willow Bay to PA 321)
The North Country Trail (NCT) is the longest in the ANF at about 100 miles; this trail goes from North Dakota to New York. This section is one of the most scenic with streams, great camping, and views of the reservoir. Nelse Run is particularly beautiful. This section is about 9 miles long. As a linear trail, a shuttle is required.

20. North Country Trail (PA 59 to PA 321)
Another beautiful segment of the NCT, it is best to hike this north to south. Enjoy beautiful scenery along Hemlock Run, and the bridges, wetlands, and meadows at Chappel Fork. This section is about 7 miles long. As a linear trail, a shuttle is required.

Waterfalls of Somer Brook Gorge-SGL 57

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Somer Brook is located deep in SGL 57.  It has carved a deep gorge in the plateau featuring big rocks, rapids, pools, slides, and several waterfalls.  It is a place of rugged, dramatic beauty.  A few weeks ago, I decided to check out this gorge.  With recent rains, and the game lands road to the top of the mountain opened for turkey hunting season, it was an ideal time to do some exploring.

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I parked at the last parking area before the gate and followed the gated roads, which were flowing with water through the spruce forests.  The woods were incredibly aromatic.  I turned right on the next road and crossed Somer Brook, rushing with water.  I continued on the road as it went around the top of the plateau until I reached a discreet side stream.  My bushwhack began as I descended this stream.

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This small stream proved to be gorgeous with a slide and then a 15 foot falls over a cliff.  Below was a gauntlet of large boulders and nonstop cascades and pools.

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The scenery became even better.  Three stream joined at the same place among a slope of large boulders.  There were waterfalls and cascades everywhere as the water tumbled over the boulders.  It was breathtaking.

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These three streams converged into a larger one that continued with cascades until it disappeared over the edge of a grotto.  I descended into the grotto to see a place of great beauty.  A 20 foot falls with huge car sized boulders at its base, followed by more waterfalls.  Ferns covered some of the boulders.  I named this place Atkinson Falls.

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As I negotiated the tough terrain, there were many loose rocks that shifted under my feet.  I stepped on one rock, and the other end shot up, slamming into my shin.  It was very painful as blood oozed from my leg.  I had no choice but to keep walking.

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Below was an 8 foot falls with a long slide over red bedrock.  I could see Atkinson Falls above through the trees.  This unnamed creek continued with rapids and boulders until it joined a rain swollen Somer Brook.

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Somer Brook worried me- it was a raging whitewater river as it surged between boulders and swirled through pools.  I needed to find a safe place to cross.  I made my way up the creek and found a calm, shallow pool above some rapids.  With my poles, I made it across safely but the current was surprisingly strong.  I looked upstream to see Somer Brook choked with boulders and whitewater.  This place was wild, untamed.

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I found another unnamed sidestream and began the arduous hike up.  My legs shook with pain and exhaustion.  This sidestream was filled with cascades over boulders, but no distinct falls.  I then reached Southbrook Road.

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I followed the road a short distance and then saw an old, discreet grade to my left.  I knew this led to the base of Somer Brook Falls, the tallest of them all.  I reached the base of the falls, crossing the powerful creek again above a 15 foot falls.  The base of the falls was filled with natural foam from the reddish swamp water.   I reached the point where the two branches of Somer Brook joined- it was awesome.  The forest and gorge were filled with the roar of water.  Trees dripped with moisture.

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I made my way up to Somer Brook Falls and it was a stunning sight as a torrent plummeted 80 or so feet through a chasm.  This is an amazing falls.  I made my way up the top of the chasm through a forest of hemlock and spruce.  Above is a beautiful spruce forest with a 3 foot falls over pebbly conglomerate.   I made my way through the deep green spruce forest over the blood-colored water from the tannins in the spruce and hemlocks.  I returned to the road and made my way back to the car.

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This is an amazing place, a gem in not only SGL 57, but all of Pennsylvania.  I’m glad I was able to experience it.

Location of Somer Brook Gorge.

More photos and videos.

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GPS coordinates of the scenic places in Somer Brook Gorge:

Boulder Cascades (above Atkinson Falls):  N 41 26.376  W 76 09.646

Atkinson Falls:  N 41 26.383  W 76 09.678

Somer Brook Falls: N 41 25.834  W 76 10.123

Parking area:  N 41 25.087  W 76 09.817  (Road to parking area is only open during the fall and spring hunting seasons)

My route:

My route

Scar Run Waterfalls and Gorge-Loyalsock State Forest

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Located north of the more well-known Ketchum Run Gorge, Scar Run Gorge is one of the Loyalsock State Forest’s hidden jewels.  My goal was actually to see a pine forest north of the gorge, but I ended up hiking Scar Run as well.

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I parked off of Coal Mine Road where it meets the gated Randall Road.  I followed the gated road and its yellow and blue blazes.  At a Y, I followed the road to the left, leaving the blazed trail to the right.  This road went through a series of four deer fences and ended at the edge of the pine forest.  From here, it was off trail hiking.

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The pine forest was quite beautiful, comprised mostly of red pine with some spruce, white pine, and random apple trees.  It had a dark, haunting quality to it, and would be a beautiful place to visit after a snowfall.  A small, marshy pond was embedded in the forest.  The ground was carpeted with thick layers of needles.  The southern part of the pine forest was at a lower elevation and featured thick white pine.  Pine forests of this size are rare in the area; this one covers roughly 80-100 acres.

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I hiked to the edge of the plateau to see meadow areas with thousands of mayapples growing.  I was going to retrace my steps, but then thought, why not return along Scar Run?  So I bushwhacked down to Scar Run, following some old grades.

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Scar Run is a stream of great beauty, featuring many waterfalls, pools, and green moss grottos.  It is described in Hike No. 42 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.  An old grade started on the south side of the creek, but then crossed to the north.  A variety of wildflowers were growing.  The grade is close to many of the falls, offering fine views of the scenic creek.  In some places, the grade is washed out.  I was particularly happy to see trout in Scar Run.  Ledges glistened with springs as large trees towered above ferns.  Moss seemed to cover everything near the creek, creating a ribbon of emerald.

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The old grade crossed the creek with more waterfalls to the left.  I simply followed the grade back to Randall Road and my car along Coal Mine Road.

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Afterwards I drove down Coal Mine Road to the Loyalsock Trail and hiked out to Alpine Vista.  The view was beautiful as shafts of sunlight penetrated the brooding clouds to the fresh leaves of the fluorescent forest below.

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If you love waterfalls, check out Scar Run.

More photos.

Location of Scar Run.

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Hiking Scar Run is fairly easy.  All GPS coordinates from Google Earth.

  1.  Park along Coal Mine Rd.  41°27’50.03″N  76°36’36.04″W
  2. Walk the gated road, bear left at 41°27’53.77″N   76°36’37.19″W
  3. Follow this obvious road, which becomes more brushy through a series of 4 deer fences.
  4. Pine forest is located at 41°28’36.90″N 76°37’22.50″W
  5. Want to just see Scar Run and its waterfalls?  Go to the old grade at 41°27’50.76″N  76°36’39.28″W.  Hike the grade down to Scar Run.
  6. Scar Run has lots of stinging nettle in summer.  Do not attempt in high water.

Hiking Hunts and Pigeon Runs-Waterfall Wonderland (SGL 13)

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As many of you know, the Waterfall Wonderland in SGL 13 is a place of amazing natural beauty.  I love it for not only its waterfalls, but also its isolation, deep gorges, and large trees.  I returned a few weeks ago to explore two tributaries of Sullivan Branch-Hunts Run and Pigeon Run.  I explored each tributary on separate hikes.

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Hunts Run

First I hiked to Hunts Run.  Thanks to recent rains, Sullivan Branch and Sullivan Falls were flowing high.  I made my way up Sullivan Branch, enjoying the gorge, rapids, and cascades.  I saw Pigeon Run Falls with its plummeting sheet of water and continued up the creek, enjoying all the falls and deep pools.

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I crossed Sullivan Branch and hiked up the slope, reaching an old grade that brought me to Hunts Run.  The hike up Hunts Run was scenic, but there were no waterfalls, just non-stop cascades over mossy boulders.  This glen was scenic and isolated.  At the top I explored some large cliffs and overhangs.  What was most impressive was a forest of old growth hemlocks, with many large trees.

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I then made my way back down to Sullivan Branch, and returned to my car.

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Pigeon Run

My second hike took me up Pigeon Run, a stream well known for all its waterfalls.  This hike did not disappoint.  This creek had five or six waterfalls in beautiful grottos and overhanging ledges.  The last falls was a slide that spread out like a fan, just below a private property line.

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Pigeon Run became a gauntlet of steep boulders and more cascades in a very rugged glen.  Many trilliums grew on the boulders.  I followed the game lands boundary to a stunning place at the top of the gorge.

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Massive, ancient hemlocks surrounded this place, as cliffs and ledges rose over me.  At the top was a beautiful 40ish foot falls that tumbled down three or four drops.  I called it the Falls of the Hemlocks, located at N41 20.815 W 076 19.825.

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This felt like a wild, primeval place.  I followed the cliff rim west, back to Sullivan Branch.  This was a beautiful place with large cliffs crowned with more large hemlocks.  There were views of the gorge below through the trees.

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I made my way down the slope, passing boulders and rock outcrops back to the unblazed trail above Sullivan Branch, which I took back to my car at Sullivan Falls.

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More photos.

Location of this place.