Hike to Alpine Falls-Loyalsock State Forest


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


More photos.

Blue dots are waterfalls:



Loyalsock Spruce Forest


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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Hoagland Branch, Whale Rock, Warburton Hollow-Loyalsock State Forest

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Waterfalls in Warburton Hollow, Loyalsock State Forest

The Hoagland Branch area of the Loyalsock State Forest contains some of its finest scenery. Here you will find waterfalls, vistas, ponds, cascades, deep pools, bedrock grottos, hemlock forests, and pristine streams. The only drawback is that the trail system through this area of the state forest is rather disjointed.


That may change with a proposal to connect the Old Loggers Path and the Loyalsock Trail with a new trail- the Hoagland Loop Trail. Last Thanksgiving I went out to Hoagland Branch to scout some routes. I began at the vista and hiked a loop counterclockwise. I found an old grade along the edge of the plateau. The grade was well established and traversed the forest, passing springs and rocks. I hiked above some ledges. Eventually, the grade faded out near where Whale Rock is located. I dropped down to the bottom of the ledge to see a rock outcrop that looks remarkably like a whale. I climbed above the ledge and continued along the edge of the plateau.


I soon reached a beautiful city of sandstone boulders, orange and rust in color. The boulders leaned in different directions and were a beautiful sight. The most impressive boulder was eroded smooth, and leaned, 20 feet tall, with a mat of ferns growing on the top. I then dropped to Warburton Hollow.


This hollow is very beautiful with large mossy boulders and non-stop cascades and waterfalls. The water is pristine and even serves as a water source for cabins downstream. An old skid trail on the east side of the creek provided for a convenient, if a little steep, hike. I then turned left onto the old Trout Hole Trail with its red blazes.


This trail climbed under ledges and then descended to Hoagland Branch Road. Before reaching the road, I saw an old trail to the left with a small cairn. I would return to this point to hike back to my car. I reached the road which was devastated by the floods; much of it was washed away. The bridge had twisted guardrails and trees draped over the concrete. It is hard to imagine the incredible force of the flashfloods from 2016. Regardless, this section of Hoagland Branch is very beautiful with its bedrock rapids and deep, aquamarine swimming holes.


I returned to the cairn and followed the grade uphill. This grade soon became a narrow skid trail, but the hike was enjoyable under the hemlocks. I hiked above a glen where I could hear a falls far below. I was half tempted to scramble down to see it. The skid trail climbed to another grade, where I turned right. This grade gradually climbed, passing many other old logging grades along the way. The grade I was following faded out below my car, so I bushwhacked up to my car, completing the loop.


From there I stopped by Bearwallow Pond and then headed home. Another great day exploring the secrets of the Loyalsock State Forest.


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Mill Creek Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Mill Creek Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

Mill Creek Falls, located outside of Hillsgrove, is a well known destination in the Loyalsock State Forest. The falls is about 12 feet high and has a beautiful deep pool surrounded by ledges and cliffs. Downstream is a gorge with moss, hemlocks, slides, and pools. A longer loop version of this hike is described as hike no. 49 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.


I parked in a pull-off on the left along Mill Creek Road, which about 1.5 miles from Hillsgrove. An unmarked but obvious trail descended to the creek and gorge; the falls soon came into view. It isn’t hard to descend to the creek and look at the falls from the bottom, the more impressive view, with the cliffs, ledges, and aquamarine pool. In 2016, an epic flash flood struck Mill Creek, causing catastrophic flooding to Hillsgrove. Even on this hike I was able to see where the flood line scoured the sides of the gorge, about 15-20 feet high. Vegetation was stripped from bedrock and large boulders were tossed with ease.


I decided to hike up the creek to see how much of the old trail remained. I crossed the creek above the falls and followed the remnants of an old grade. I then crossed Mill Creek a second time and walked around a vast floodplain of gravel and cobblestones. On the left side of the creek was a cliff with cascading springs. I crossed the creek a third and final time and entered a grotto of green ledges with moss and lichens; many springs flowed out of the ground. I crested a ridge and then followed another old grade that was damaged by the floods, but I was still able to follow it. Large trees and root balls littered the forest floor. The creek was still scenic but I thought of my hike on this trail years ago with the thick hemlocks and peaceful stream unmarred by floods.


I hiked past a cabin, turned right onto Big Hollow Road, and found away across Mill Creek again as the bridge was separated from the road. Mill Creek created a new channel that bypassed the bridge. I walked to Mil Creek Road and turned right and walked the road back to my car.


While the hike up Mill Creek may no longer be as beautiful as it once was, the short hike to Mill Creek Falls is- it is a gorgeous place whether it be a hot summer day or frozen in white by winter.

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Holtzauer and Jackson Trails-Loyalsock State Forest

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Small waterfalls off the Holtzauer Trail.

There is a proposal to create the Hoagland Loop Trail (HLT), which would connect the Loyalsock Trail to the Old Loggers Path. Over Thanksgiving of last year, I spent some time scouting some routes for the HLT by hiking the Holtzauer and Jackson Trails in the Loyalsock State Forest, west of High Knob overlook. I hiked these trails as a loop, although it was not ideal due to all the road walking.


I began by hiking the yellow blazed Holtzauer Trail from Old Sock Road (a sign along the road has it spelled as “Holtzhauer”). This was a surprisingly nice trail and even seemed to get some use as it had a well defined path. I climbed gradually to a beautiful series of ledges, cliffs, and even a small cave. The orange and yellow hues of the rock reminded me of Utah. The trail climbed above a glen with thick laurel. I went off trail down to the stream where there was series of ten foot waterfalls.


The trail continued its climb, coming closer to the small stream between the laurel. I then entered a valley surrounded by large boulders and ledges; it was very beautiful. A series of climbs brought me through laurel thickets and into a scenic hemlock forest next to a wetland. The Holtzauer Trail then ended at the High Knob Trail, on which I turned right.


I always enjoy the High Knob Trail due to its mature hardwoods and isolation. It is a beautiful woodland walk. I reached the back side of a pond in a pine forest and reached a juncture with the Jackson Trail, where I turned right. The Jackson Trail is one of my favorites, I soon reached the outlet of the pond framed by pine trees. This pond is one of my favorite places in the state forest.


The Jackson Trail went through thick laurel under pine and hemlock, over ledges, and around vernal pools and frog ponds. I followed the trail as it veered right and descended through more laurel and down to a small stream. I crossed the stream and hiked along side it with cascades, although this creek is often dry. The creek disappeared down a rugged gorge. The Jackson Trail became very steep as it dropped straight down; it is probably the steepest trail in the state forest. I looked into the gorge and thought I saw some waterfalls.


The steep descent eased as the trail veered right and followed a grade down to a private property line, and then made a sharp left onto an old grade, which it followed to PA 87. I then walked PA 87 and Old Sock Road back to my car.


Both trails are scenic and worth hiking. I hope to return in wet weather to explore the waterfalls in the gorge along the Jackson Trail.

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Cold Run Trail-Worlds End State Park


Boulder Arch on the Cold Run Trail, Worlds End State Park

The Cold Run Trail is a new 1.5 mile long trail in Worlds End State Park and the Loyalsock State Forest. The trail is blazed yellow and is a half loop that connects to the east end of the blue blazed Worlds End Trail. It is best to hike the Cold Run Trail clockwise.


This is an exceptional trail that is well built, designed, and features superb scenery. It has it all- a vista, waterfalls, hemlocks, streams, gorges, cascades, cliffs, big rocks, chasms, and a boulder arch. This is a trail you need to hike. It was built and designed by Warren Renninger, a volunteer who has rebuilt and maintained many of the trails at Worlds End.


The best way to reach the Cold Run Trail is to hike the Canyon Vista Trail clockwise from PA 154 and the campground. Hike along the beautiful Loyalsock Creek with its pools and rapids. Cross PA 154 and begin to climb along a narrow grade along a steep slope above PA 154. Continue to climb. Look for the yellow Cold Run Trail with a small sign on the left, follow it.


The Cold Run Trail continues to climb, but gradually moderates. Level off and reach a fine view looking up the Loyalsock Creek. Descend below some ledges and drop down to Cold Run with waterfalls and cascades in view of the trail. In winter there are impressive ice flows. Continue upstream, although the trail keeps above it. Enjoy views of a 15 foot falls and enter the heart of the gorge where the two branches of Cold Run meet as cliffs and boulders loom overhead. Cross one branch of Cold Run with cascades and then descend to the other with more cascades and a large boulder. Climb again above the small stream. The trail levels off in a hemlock forest and then crosses a small stream. Hike above another falls and then descend to another stream with small cascades. Cross it and reach an old grade.


Leave the grade to the left and ascend into a beautiful rock maze, chasms, and cliffs with the highlight being a boulder arch. Climb to the top of the cliffs and cross the level plateau. The trail then descends into large boulders, exploring more chasms until it discreetly ends at the blue Canyon Vista Trail. If hiking counterclockwise on the Canyon Vista Trail, this juncture with the Cold Run Trail is easy to miss.


From here, you can return to the campground by turning right onto the Canyon Vista Trail. Or turn left on the same trail for a longer hike to see more chasms, boulders, and the famous Canyon Vista, its namesake.


The Cold Run Trail is an awesome hike and an excellent addition to all the great hiking that Worlds End already has to offer.

More photos.

A map of the new Cold Run Trail is below:


Dry Run Gorge-Loyalsock State Forest

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Dry Run Gorge. Blue dots are waterfalls and cascades.  Red dot is the picnic area.

Dry Run Gorge is in the heart of the beautiful Loyalsock State Forest and is a wonderful place to explore. The gorge features a wealth of waterfalls and cascades, a gorgeous picnic area under pines along a babbling mountain stream, and many trails.  Dry Run Road makes it easy to explore the gorge.


Like waterfalls? Almost every stream in the gorge has them, although most are seasonal. The most popular by far is 20 foot Dry Run Falls, but also see Andrea, Grotto, Old Bark, and Dutters Run Falls.


Want a picnic? The Dry Run picnic area features two shelters made of heavy timber and stonework from the CCC era. Recently, they have been beautifully reconstructed.  They are the perfect place to relax with friends and family.


Want to hike? There are wealth of trails that allow you to hike around the entire gorge. You can make a great loop via the Old Bark, Loyalsock, and Dutters Run trails. Take the High Knob Trail to a mountain top pond and the famous view. Stony Run trail is more isolated with a gorge, cascades, and laurel. If adventurous, hike off trail up Dutters Run to see its gorge and assortment of waterfalls.


The Hillsgrove ranger station is located along Dry Run Road and is an ideal place to get maps and the latest information.


Enjoy the beauty of the Loyalsock State Forest.

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