Hike the Quehanna Meadow Route and East Cross Connector-Quehanna Wild Area

Quehanna Wild Area is a special place, and is starting to attract the attention of hikers and backpackers with its extensive trail network and diverse scenery.  Quehanna has vast meadows, pristine streams, views, cascades, giant boulders, great camping, forests of spruce and pine, and wild elk herds.  I’ve been to Quehanna many times, and on this hike we did something different.  I parked at the Beaver Dam parking area and took the Lincoln Loop to the East Cross Connector (ECC) with forests of spruce, pine, and meadows,  Streams were running full from the snowmelt.  Creeks in Quehanna are beautiful; the tend to be deep, with sandy bottoms.  

I met my friends who were camping along the ECC, and we headed north to the Quehanna Trail.  Along the way, the sun lit the forest of laurel, pine and spruce.  We also passed a large spring gushing from the ground.  We reached the Quehanna Trail and stashed our packs.  We then hiked off trail, heading east, across the plateau.  The forest was mostly open, but we did encounter some laurel and big rocks.  We then reached a view over Red Run, which we could hear roaring far below.  The view of the canyon was beautiful.  We returned to the Quehanna Trail and our packs.

Here, I left the group, who wanted to hike a different route.  I wanted to hike the Quehanna Meadow Route, something that has long been on my list.  I hiked south on the ECC and then hiked the Teaberry Trail, which still had deep snow in places.  The two views were mostly overgrown and I ran into a group of five hikers.  I then hiked a trail I had not been on,  Teaberry Trail Connector, it was a great trail with a series of meadows.  I then continued on the Marion Brooks loop, which went through hardwoods, tunneled through laurel and then went through more beautiful meadows with white birch trees and spruce.  A great trail.  I turned left on Losey Road and checked out the white birch forest in the Marion Brooks Natural Area. 

I continued on the yellow Marion Brooks loop, passing another hiker.  The pine forests were awesome.  I reached the meadows, which were wet.  Here, my off trail hike on the Quehanna Meadow Route began.  I crossed meadow after meadow, lined with pine and spruce trees.  It was incredible.  I reached Pebble Run and passed through some woods.  I then reached more incredible meadows as the creek shone silver in the bright sun.  I went through another forest and pushed through a hemlock thicket to reach the largest meadows.  Amazing.  Vast meadows continued for miles as Pebble Run, then joined by Mosquito Creek, flowed in the valley to my right with rapids and white boulders.  It really felt like Dolly Sods.  I could not imagine the stars here.

As I hiked, the valley grew deeper with large rocks.  Before Beaver Run, I reached some giant boulders with caves and deep chasm that I hope to explore.  This chasm might run for over a hundred feet.  I crossed Beaver Run, flowing fast and deep, and got wet feet.  I hiked up the meadow with fine views to the south over the oxbow bend of Mosquito Creek, an awesome spot.  Giant boulders and cliffs loomed across the creek.  The sun began to set, and I was tired.  I pushed on to the Bridge Trail, which I hiked down to Mosquito Creek and our campsite.  We enjoyed a fire and conversation, even though it was hard to hear with the roar of Mosquito Creek.  Since we were assured clear skies, I just slept on the ground without a tent.  The stars were incredible, as they appeared one by one.  The Orion constellation was vivid.  I could see the Milky Way as satellites zoomed overhead.  The sound of the creek quickly put me to sleep. 

The next morning, we got up, hiked up to beautiful Crawford Vista and then headed north on the ECC.  Meeker Run was filled with cascades, and had some great campsites.  We saw meadows and postholed through the snow.  It was a windy day as cumulus clouds sailed overhead.  We crossed more meadows and a bridge over Beaver Run; colors seemed to be everywhere, from the stones in the creek, the dried ferns, green evergreens, blue skies, white clouds.  Even in winter, Quehanna is colorful.  As we hiked out, we passed a couple backpacking in, starting a three-night trip.  They were from Texas, moved to Detroit, and were excited to explore the Quehanna.  We gave them some tips and trails not to miss.  

We reached the parking area and were soon heading home.  But Quehanna keeps bringing people back.  

For the map above, red is off trail. The vista over Red Run is at 41.295158, -78.252096. Parking is at 41.261274, -78.258002.

Backpacking the Panther Run and Three Runs Loop-Quehanna Wild Area

The vast Quehanna Wild Area is a hiking destination with a wide network of trails creating countless loop options.  The Quehanna is known for its diverse habitats and scenery, and is home to wild elk herds.  This loop is about 20 miles and is ideal as an overnight backpack or a long dayhike.  I backpacked it.  Parts of this hike are wet and there are stream crossings without bridges.  Much of the route is level or rolling, but the eastern part of the loop is more rugged.  This route was easy to navigate, the trails are in decent shape and many have signs.

From the parking area at Hoover Farm, take the yellow David Lewis Trail as it explores meadows, wetlands and spruce forests.  It is a scenic trail.  Parts of this trail are similar to Dolly Sods in West Virginia.  Reach Reactor Road and turn left onto the yellow Panther Run Trail.  This is a highlight of the loop as I hiked through a stunning spruce and moss forest; thick carpets of moss covered the forest floor.  The scenery was incredible.  The trail then crossed a vast meadow with beaver dams and rock outcrops in the distance.  Hike along a creek with small meadows and then climb into the forest.  Turn right onto an old forest road, descend to a creek and cross on a bridge and then turn right onto Kunes Camp Trail.

This is another great trail as it passes boulders and descends for a beautiful streamside hike with possible camping.  Enjoy the cascades and pools with hemlocks and laurel.  Turn right onto Erie Camp Trail, an old forest road, descend, cross a creek, and climb to the plateau with white birch trees.  Explore open woodlands and then turn right onto Cole Run Trail, a short connector to the orange Quehanna Trail (QT).  Turn left on the QT as it explores more open hardwoods with laurel and descend to Cole Run.  It was here when I heard a snap of a branch, looked up, and saw a herd of elk and a giant bull.  These animals were so massive, yet moved through the forest with grace and ease.  An amazing, and little intimidating, experience.  I reached Cole Run and met my friends at camp.  We enjoyed the night sky and its incredible display of stars.

The next morning was overcast and I got on the trail early, following the QT up a creek with laurel, hemlock and pine.  I hiked near a meadow, passed through a spruce forest and crossed the Quehanna Highway.  The trail continued into an open forest, passing springs, small meadows, and laurel thickets before reaching Rider Draft Vista, a modest view to the south.  Open hardwoods and laurel continued until the steep descent to Upper Three Runs with a long footbridge, and a small reservoir downstream.  A sign also indicated the availability of camping.  A climb followed as the trees creaked from the winds of a coming storm.  At the top, there were two views.  One looked south and wasn’t much of a view.  But the second view to the west was very nice as it looked into a wooded gorge. 

The trail then explored open hardwoods and then entered a hemlock forest and wet area with a short boardwalk.   I reached Three Runs Tower Road and followed the QT.  At the site of the former firetower is a juncture with the No. 14 Trail, an ideal shortcut with meadows and spruce.  Otherwise, continue on the QT as it passes Three Runs Vista, steeply descend to Lower Three Runs and climbs to a juncture with the No. 15 Trail.  Go straight onto this trail to Three Runs Road.  Go left on this road and then turn right on Big Spring Draft.  Pass a walled spring and descend on this gorgeous trail with rhododendron, pine, and hemlocks along a creek.  There are two nice campsites.  Cross the creek and climb into open hardwoods and wetlands.  Turn left onto Wykoff Trail, left on Ligament Trail and then a quick right onto a red trail back to the Hoover Farm parking area. 

Parking is at 41.229061, -78.191713.   For the map above, “C” are campsites or potential campsites. 

Hiking the Mosquito Creek Gorge-Quehanna Wild Area

The Quehanna Wild Area is an outdoors wonderland just waiting to be discovered.  Jodi and Michael invited me along for a backpacking overnight to explore the Mosquito Creek Gorge.  Hiking off trail up the gorge had been something I’ve wanted to do, so I was glad to accept.  This gorge promised to have extensive rapids and house sized boulders.

I drove out, parked at Reactor Road and hiked in along the Meeker Trail.  I reached the campsite at evening, and saw their tent in a grove of hemlocks.  A beautiful site.  Nearby, along Meeker Run, another group of backpackers were camping.  We enjoyed a fire and the incredible display of stars above.  

We got up the next morning, leaving our tents, and shouldered our packs for our hike, which would be about ten miles.  We began by hiking down the Meeker Trail to Meeker Run, and then took the East Cross Connector south.  This is a great trail with beautiful forests, big boulders, and some cascades in Meeker Run.  We reached the road, hiked it south to Mosquito Creek, passing more hikers.  Once we reached Mosquito Creek, we left the road, and began our off trail hike upstream.  

We soon saw the remnants of an old splash dam, used by logging companies a century ago to release water to send the logs downstream.  We hiked along meadows with flowers and avoided wet areas and beaver marshes.  We soon noticed a distinct rock wall along the creek; it appeared some kind of water diversion dike for the splash dam.  As we hiked upstream, the gorge began to close in with massive boulders and rapids.  We also saw some deep pools.  The terrain was tiring, but very beautiful.  In high water, this creek will have a lot of rapids.  As we hiked north, the gorge opened up, but the creek was as beautiful.  Its streambed studded with sandstone boulders.  We saw another rock wall; likely another diversion dike.  Fern meadows and large hardwoods covered the slopes above the creek.  We entered a grove with giant white pine trees above more rapids and giant boulders.  This place felt so primeval.

We soon reached the Bridge Trail and took a break.  We followed the Bridge Trail north across vast meadows with bleached white boulders in the distance.  As we hiked we saw something odd-white meadows in the distance.  We soon saw the reason why-incredible, vast blooms of cottongrass.  Cottongrass grows in colder, wet areas and blooms in late summer.  The blooms were impressive.  We couldn’t believe it.  (I mistakenly called it snowgrass in the pictures below).

We continued our hike along meadows with more cottongrass superblooms.  We hiked under pine and tamarack, and through beech forests.  We returned to our campsite, packed up, and hiked out to the cars.  

The Quehanna is a special place and I’m looking forward to my next visit.

We parked at 41.228493, -78.213383.  Do not hike along Mosquito Creek in high water as it becomes a powerful and dangerous whitewater river.

New Years at Parker Dam State Park

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On the Souders Trail, Parker Dam State Park

We wanted to do something different this New Years, something other than watching the ball drop at Times Square, fireworks, and staring at television screens.  So, we got a cabin at Parker Dam State Park in the PA Wilds for some peace and quiet.  I’ve been to this park a few times and have always enjoyed it.

The cabin was made of logs and was somewhat rustic with beds, fireplace, stove, and fridge.  A bathhouse was nearby with water and a shower.  And cell phone service was limited.  Our first hike was in the park itself, on the Beaver Dam and Souders Trails.  We were treated to an incredible winter wonderland.  Snow had recently fallen, coating the hemlocks and pines with gowns of white, bending the branches down.  We hiked along wetlands and beaver dams, as ice encased the water below.  The Beaver Dam Trail began right at the cabin area and first explored a hardwood forest with some very large trees.  We then descended to the beaver meadows, crossing them on a bridge.  The trail then entered the pine and hemlock forests, the most beautiful part of the hike.  The deep forests encompassed the level trail, it was a joy to hike.

The skies were overcast, but the temperatures were fairly warm.  We reached the park road and walked to the park office and turned right onto the Souders Trail, a short loop with more winter wonderland scenery, and views of scenic Laurel Run, as it flowed through forests encased in snow.  We passed a mountain biker, riding the trails on a bike with really fat tires.  Next was a hike along the lake, dam, and the boardwalks before returning to our cabin.

Laurel Run

Parker Dam has miles of easy trails that explore streams, wetlands, and different forest types.  The park has a long logging history and was once a CCC camp, which built its impressive stone dam.  The park is also the western trailhead of the Quehanna Trail, a 72 mile loop.  It feels isolated, despite its proximity to I-80.  I think the Beaver Dam and Souders Trails are the most scenic in the park, but also consider some longer loops in the nearby Moshannon State Forest.   The Trail of the New Giants is a nice loop that climbs a hill with a view of the park. There are both mountain biking and cross country ski trails. You can also do a variety of loops along the Quehanna Trail.

The next day we traveled to SGL 44 south of Ridgway to find Umbrella Rock and explore the fascinating rock outcrops.  That trip will be described in the next post.

Parker Dam Lake

As we drove home, we stopped by the Marion Brooks Natural Area next to the Quehanna Wild Area to see the white birch forest in the snow and mist.  It was beautiful and captivating.

Marion Brooks Natural Area

A great weekend in the PA Wilds and a great way to start the new year.

Map of Beaver Dam Trail and Souders Trail, which we hiked

 

More photos

More info on Parker Dam State Park

 

David Lewis, Bellefonte Posse, and Kunes Camp Trail Loop- Quehanna Wild Area

 

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Crossing an autumn meadow on the Bellefonte Posse Trail.

 

 

After leading a hike for the Keystone Trails Association’s Quehanna Elk Quest hiking event on the beautiful Fred Woods Trail, I decided to drive to the Quehanna Wild Area and hike some new trails.  My plan was to do a loop including the David Lewis, Bellefonte Posse, Kunes Camp, Ligament, and Twister Trails.  This loop is roughly 9 miles long and the terrain is level or rolling with some wet areas.

Meadows with ferns on fire

I parked along the Quehanna Highway at a lot across the road from where Wykoff Road meets.  This is also an elk viewing area.   It was a beautiful cool, sunny day as I began the hike along the David Lewis Trail.  I followed a grade past the restrooms, turned right on another grade, and followed the trail to the left into the woods.  The trail was level and easy as it explored gorgeous forests of spruce, open hardwoods, and then a combination of spruce and hardwoods.  The trail also crossed a wet meadow with snowgrass and ferns that were a deep orange.  As I headed west, I crossed a few small meadows and then entered another spruce forest.  I reached a sign for the Bellefonte Posse Trail, where I turned left.  (Note: if hiking east on this trail it is very easy to miss a turn and cross an electric line swath.  If you cross the swath, turn around and look for the discreet turn that would have been on the right).

Love the Quehanna forests

This was a great trail as it explored a stunning moss and spruce forest with some old camp ruins.  I then crossed a large meadow as a stream flowed to the right with more white snowgrass.  The scenery was great.  I climbed away from the creek back into the woods until I reached a grassy forest grade.  The grade crossed a stream and then I turned right onto the Kunes Camp Trail.

Beautiful spruce/hardwood forests along David Lewis Trail

This trail was the focus of the hike, to see the odd ruins of a hunting camp between two massive boulders.  The trail, however, would prove to be scenic even without that feature.  I dropped into a valley with large boulders and reached a small stream that would have cascades and rapids with higher flows.  I entered a laurel jungle with pine and hemlock along the stream.  It was a beautiful place.  There were also places to camp along the creek.  I really enjoyed hiking this section.  The trail turned up another stream valley, but kept its distance from the creek.  There were more fern meadows and pine forests, with some nice sized trees.  I came across a plump porcupine as it waddled down the trail and clawed its way up a tree.  I hiked up from the creek and passed a mossy spring.  Up ahead I could see the ruins.  This was a fascinating spot with the stone walls placed between two huge boulders; other boulders were nearby, creating a rock city.  The trail went through the doorways of the ruins.  I took some photos and was soon on my way through more glorious forests to the Quehanna Highway.

Incredible spruce/moss forests along the Bellefonte Posse Trail

I turned left along the highway and followed it to the Twister and then the Ligament Trails; it would be easier to just to follow the highway, but both trails were easy forest hikes with some wildflower meadows.  As I neared the Quehanna Highway, I heard an eerie call.  It echoed through the trees repeatedly.  A coyote?  A loon?   No, it was a bull elk bugling.  I knew where it was, at the elk viewing area near where I parked.  I ran down the trail to see it.  I reached the viewing blind and there it was- a huge bull elk with massive antlers in the middle of the field behind some trees.  It was too far away to get a good photo.  This majestic animal moved with such powerful grace and soon returned to the forest, slipping between the trees in silence.  I was in an excited awe.

The Quehanna Wild Area is one of PA’s best kept hiking and backpacking secrets, featuring miles of beautiful trails with diverse habitats and forests, views, big rocks, cascades, meadows, and jungles of laurel and rhododendron.  It is isolated, a place set apart.  A place you must explore and experience.

Big bull elk

 

Map of the Quehanna Wild Area, showing the trails of this hike in the center of the map:

Click to access dcnr_009418.pdf

 

More photos:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskKWDdLi