Cold Run and Canyon Vista Loop-Worlds End State Park

One of the finest dayhikes is along the Cold Run and Canyon Vista Trails at Worlds End State Park.  This loop is about 5.5 miles long and features superb scenery and diversity.  Along this sublime route you will find waterfalls, vistas, chasms, a boulder arch, giant rocks, and streamside hiking along the pristine Loyalsock Creek.  This is simply a loop you need to hike.

You can thank Warren Renninger for this amazing hike.  He planned and built the Cold Run Trail, and he extensively rebuilt and re-routed the Canyon Vista Trail to avoid wet areas and improve the scenery.  He volunteered countless hours to make these trails a reality, and they are an absolute pleasure to hike.  These trails are beautifully benched as they explore ledges, cascades, and waterfalls.  Volunteers make trails happen in PA.  It is imperative that every hiker volunteer at least a few hours every year maintaining and building trails.

From the Canyon Vista Trail parking area along PA 154, follow the blue trail to a sign and the start of the loop.  Turn left, you will be completing this hike to the right.  The trail crosses PA 154 and begins a steady climb up the mountain along an old, narrow grade with ferns and hardwoods.  You will soon reach a juncture on the yellow Cold Run Trail, turn left onto this trail, which is a 1.5 mile trail that will reconnect to the blue Canyon Vista Trail further up the mountain.

The Cold Run Trail is a gorgeous trail.  Climb gradually to a nice view from a meadow looking up the Loyalsock Creek.  Drop down to Cold Run and enjoy its various waterfalls and cascades.  If there is plenty of water, Cold Run is impressive.  Cross the creek along some cascades and reach the other branch of Cold Run.  Climb to the top of the plateau with hemlocks and streams, including views of the top of another falls.  The trail continues to Cold Run with some streamside hiking and small cascades.  Follow an old forest road and then climb up to an impressive section of giant boulders, cliffs, chasms and a boulder arch.  Reach the top of the plateau and then drop down to more giant boulders, draped with moss.  Reach the blue Canyon Vista Trail, on which you will turn left.

Enjoy more giant rocks and chasms.  The rocks recede and hike through a hardwood forest.  Reach a drainage where Warren has rebuilt the trail to showcase some seasonal cascades.  Cross the Loyalsock Trail and climb to a meadow area.  Cross a gravel road and continue on the blue Canyon Vista Trail.  Hike along some more ledges and boulders.  The trail crosses the gravel road again and reaches famous Canyon Vista.  Enjoy the beautiful view.  

The Canyon Vista Trail descends gradually along sidehill and levels off, where it turns right.  This section used to be notoriously wet and boggy.  Warren, however, rebuilt the trail closer to the edge of the plateau, featuring a small view, ledges, a small cascade, and drier footpath.  It was a beautiful walk.  Reach a small rock maze and then Warren’s Window, a fine view of the state park.  The trail is level for a bit, but then descends to the campground area.  Pass through the entrance of the campground and cross PA 154.  

I love this last section, which features streamside hiking along the beautiful Loyalsock Creek with its rapids, cliffs, and scenery.  In low water during the summer, this is an ideal place for a swim.  In high water, enjoy the rapids and you may even see whitewater kayakers paddle by.  While PA 154 is close, the hemlocks and streamside hiking make this a very enjoyable hike.  Reach the end of the loop and return to your car.  I love Worlds End State Park.

One of the highlights of this hike are its many waterfalls and cascades, but they are located along small streams.  For the best waterfall display, the Loyalsock Creek gauge should be 2.5 feet or higher, as a rough correlation.  

We parked at about  41.469020, -76.563345.  

Vistas of the Rough Hill Trail-Loyalsock State Forest

The Rough Hill Trail is a relatively new two mile lollipop loop in the Loyalsock State Forest.  This superb trail explores hemlock forests, ledges, cliffs, laurel, and features two fine vistas.  The upper vista is particularly impressive.  The trail was designed and constructed by Matt Crosbie, a recreational forester with DCNR.  It is moderately challenging. Click here for a map and guide.

From the parking area at the Sandy Bottom Recreation Area, follow the yellow blazes down an old forest road.  Watch for a discreet right turn off of the old forest road and into the woods.  Hike through the woods with vernal pools, small fern meadows, and under some large tulip poplar trees.  Begin to climb PA 87 and cross the road.  Watch for traffic.  The trail explores a pine forest and begins a larger climb up a slope with loose rock.  The terrain eases with ledges and hemlocks.  Take a short side trail to the lower vista, offering a fine view across the valley and the towering forested ridges.

Return to the trail and continue uphill under scenic forests.  Reach the start of the loop.  I usually go left, or straight, but this time we went right.  The terrain was rocky followed by a steep climb to some ledges and cliffs.  The trail turned left at the top and followed the escarpment of cliffs with laurel and pine. The pine was aromatic in the warm sun. We then reached the view.

The upper vista is stunning as it looks over the winding Loyalsock Creek valley with forested ridges and plateaus.  The distinctive peak of Smiths Knob rises in the distance.  The view is largely undeveloped and is one of the finest in the area.  It is ideal for sunsets.  We sat at the view for a while, and saw seven bald eagles soaring over the Loyalsock Creek.  We continued on the loop, descended on an old skid trail, and then retraced our steps.

While at Sandy Bottom, hike out on the old forest road for views of the creek and the mountains that rise over one thousand feet above it, creating a canyon-like setting.  This is a truly beautiful area.  Want to hike to another nearby view?  Check out Sandy Bottom Vista in the gamelands to the north, it is an easier hike, although it is off trail.  There is a unique pedestal rock at that vista.

We parked at 41.397418, -76.759289.

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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Hounds and Hawk Runs-McIntyre Wild Area

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Red is off trail.  Yellow is an old skid trail.

The McIntyre Wild Area has acquired a reputation for its scenery and historical significance. The wild area features old mines, ruins, cemetery, vistas, and beautiful gorges with waterfalls. A few weeks ago, I decided to head out and explore the isolated eastern section of the wild area, along Hounds and Hawk Runs. Most of this hike was off trail, but there were many old grades.

I parked along Yellow Dog Road, right before it crosses Rock Run. I then hiked down the road until I reached Hounds Run. I hiked up the run. There were some old grades, but they didn’t last long and I simply followed the creek, crossing where I needed. I entered a deeper gorge with a unique rock outcrop on the right and some cascades. Ahead, the gorge opened up to reveal a broad seven foot falls over a ledge. I hiked upstream to see impressive Hounds Run Falls. I had not been to this falls in about ten years and I forgot just how beautiful it was. It is over thirty feet tall and set in a scenic gorge with boulders and smooth bedrock. I climbed up to the left of the falls.

I continued upstream and soon reached a scenic glen with slides and smaller falls. A beautiful spot. I continued up along the east side of Hounds Run, staying above the creek. At the two forks, there were some cascades on the west fork, but I continued on the east fork, again following grades where I could. After hiking through some hemlocks, the forest opened into hardwoods. I crossed more grades and saw a small, unique stone culvert. I followed the creek to the east and stopped at a wetland, with rocks to the east, or my right. I then headed right, reaching a small rock bald, and below, an impressive boulder maze coated with wet moss. Truck and cottage sized boulders adorned the forest floor. On one boulder, trees were growing out of the draperies of moss. I angled slightly southeast and reached an old skid trail, which provided a convenient descent to Hawk Run.

I then hiked down Hawk Run, crossing wherever I needed. I soon reached a stunning gorge, about 100 feet deep with cascades and slides. Large boulders rose over the water. It was incredibly beautiful and rivaled any spot on Rock Run. Downstream was a glen, smaller in size, but with a ten foot falls and a deep pool. An old stone retaining wall was across the creek, but part of it had collapsed. The glen, like the gorge upstream, was very beautiful. I continued downstream, passing slides and pools. I reached a cabin with a wooden footbridge. I then hiked the road out, back to my car, surrounded by the roar of Rock Run in the deep gorge below me.

This was an excellent hike for the experienced hiker who has GPS or other navigation app. There are many stream crossings, so do not attempt in high water. The isolation, waterfalls, slides, cascades, and boulder maze make it a very unique and beautiful hike. Overall, the terrain is moderate, but the skid trail descent is a little steep.

Entire loop is about 4.5 miles.

Some GPS coordinates:

Parking: 41.535103, -76.891830

Hounds Run Falls: 41.537340, -76.898199

Boulder maze: 41.554078, -76.885617

Gorge on Hawk Run: 41.549866, -76.879359

Glen on Hawk Run: 41.547986, -76.879141

Photos:

Hike to Kelsey Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kelsey Falls, Loyalsock State Forest.

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Kelsey Falls, Loyalsock State Forest.

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Ketchum Run Gorge Loop-Loyalsock State Forest

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Orange is the off trail route. 

Ketchum Run Gorge is one of the Loyalsock State Forest’s most beautiful places. Here, pristine Ketchum Run has carved a gorge into the plateau with four waterfalls, chasms, pools, and cascades. Old growth forests line the gorge and there are two beautiful views looking over it. Ketchum Run Gorge needs to be high on the list for any hiker.

Thanks to a network of trails, a hiker can make an excellent 7 mile loop that reveals the beauty of the gorge. I began at the Fern Rock Nature Trail parking area and hiked to my right, to the road and then followed the red and blue cross country ski trail into the woods. At a powerline swath, I followed the red trail to the right as it explored a beautiful hemlock and beech forest. I returned to the swath and reached Coal Mine Road, where I turned right. I hiked down the road a short distance and then turned left onto a blue and red trail that followed a narrow grade above Worlds End Road. I then reached the Loyalsock Trail (LT), where I turned left.

The LT climbed along a spruce forest. I recommend you explore this forest as it is a beautiful grove of spruce trees with some red pine. The LT crossed over the top of the plateau with rolling terrain and hardwoods. Soon, hemlocks became more common, creating beautiful forests. The LT passed near the bottom of some ledges and then climbed into more hemlocks. I then descended back to Coal Mine Road and crossed it. I soon reached the spectacular view at Alpine Vista. The narrow, winding Loyalsock valley was below, framed by ridges and mountains. The rugged Ketchum Run Gorge was below to my left. The LT descended steeply before leveling off where I reached the equally beautiful Lower Alpine Vista along some cliffs. A large ice flow was nearby.

I followed the LT as it reached a side trail to bypass the ladder at Rode Falls. I continued on the LT as it dropped steeply into the gorge and reached Ketchum Run, locked in snow and ice flows. It was so beautiful. I strapped on my microspikes and enjoyed the incredible ice flows in the grotto of Rode Falls. I climbed up the ladder and continued on the LT enjoying the beauty of the gorge. The LT climbed to avoid a landslide and met the other end of the bypass trail. Next were beautiful old growth hemlock trees along the edge of the gorge.  I passed a trail marked with blue discs, I presume it went out to Coal Mine Road.  The LT descended to Lee’s Falls, which was locked in ice. I continued up into the impressive chasms upstream from Lee’s Falls, happy to have the microspikes. The LT continued up the creek under hemlocks as the sound of the babbling water filled the forest. I then reached where the LT turned right to cross Ketchum Run.

Here I followed a short, easy bushwhack that has become more of a trail. I simply followed the run upstream, passing grottos and two more falls. It is such a beautiful hike and should not be missed. I then reached the red/blue trail where I turned left and then an immediate right. Next was a left turn into the Fern Rock Nature Trail marked with yellow blazes, and blue “FR” letters (It may be easy to miss). This is another beautiful trail with rolling terrain, streams, ledges, hemlocks and a wetland. It soon returned me back to my car, ending another amazing hike in the Loyalsock State Forest.

Where I parked: 41.437902, -76.607993.

This hike is described as Hike No. 43 in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.

Exploring a Hidden Waterfall Glen-SGL 134

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Yellow is a gated forest road.  Red is off trail.  Green is the easiest route, but may cross private property.

SGL 134 is a hidden gem, lying in the shadow of the Loyalsock State Forest. Here you will find beautiful vistas from cliffs over the narrow, rugged Loyalsock Creek valley. There is also Huckle Run, a small stream of stunning beauty with pristine water and a gorge with several waterfalls. The forests feature extensive hemlocks and large tulip poplar trees.

A few months ago I returned to SGL 134 to explore the gorge of an unnamed stream located north of Dry Run, near the village of Barbours. I suspected there would be waterfalls. Without a trail, I would have to bushwhack into the gorge. I parked along Proctor Road and hiked up a gate game commission road. I then began my off trail hike by climbing up the plateau to a ridge with many ledges and outcrops, including a unique stone pillar or pedestal. There were some partial views through the trees. I descended along the ridge and entered the gorge. Below me was a 15 foot falls in a scenic grotto.

Unfortunately, this is a small stream that does not hold water well. While it was running on my hike, it was low. I suggest the best time to see the falls is when the Loyalsock Creek is running at 6 feet or higher, as a rough approximation. I climbed up the gorge to see a 20 foot falls that tumbled over tiers of ledges. I couldn’t climb above this falls, so I backtracked down the creek and found an old grade on the west side. I climbed up the grade and saw a couple more scenic falls, about ten feet tall, often in grottos of sandstone. I continued my climb up the creek passing small cascades and slides under large hemlocks. Giant tulip poplars towered in the forest. I reached a deer fence and an old forest road with briars; I stayed in the woods. I followed a more open forest road and hiked around the deer fence. I descended to the game commission road and returned to my car.

My route wasn’t very ideal. It would be best to follow the green route on the map into the gorge, but it was not clear on my hike if that would cross private land. The ridge with the ledges was scenic, as was the gorge. Getting around the deer fence and logged area was a pain.

If you are looking for a new waterfall destination when all the creeks are high, I recommend this unnamed gorge. I also hope to explore nearby Dry Run sometime this year.

I parked at 41.411242, -76.804107.

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Rock columns.

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Huge tulip poplar and some beech.

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Hemlock woods.

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