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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Pine Island Vista-PA Grand Canyon

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Pine Island Vista

I’ve always wanted to check out the elusive Pine Island Vista in the PA Grand Canyon.  Its view seemed unlike any other in the canyon, rising dramatically straight up from Pine Creek, with the other side of canyon so close.  To the north, the steep slopes of the canyon were cloaked in shadows as the creek flowed deep within the plateau.  Unlike the other vistas, it seemed inaccessible, far from any road or official trail.  It was located deep in the gorge.  I finally found enough info to try to find it.

Pine Island Vista

I parked along Claymine Road in the Tioga State Forest at a parking area large enough for about three cars.  An obvious, unblazed trail descended to Pine Island Run.  At first the trail was wide, but it narrowed as I descended under a forest of large hardwoods.  The descent was consistent and never very steep.  I reached an intersection of another old grade above Pine Island Run, with another trail (let’s call this the side trail) to the right (a potential route to the vista by hiking counterclockwise, although I did not hike it).  I followed the trail as it beared left, following an old, overgrown grade with blowdowns.  The trail was still there, but not as obvious.

The trail descended, crossed a sidestream above a seasonal falls and descended to Pine Island Run.  The trail now followed the creek, usually staying on the right/northwest side, but there were some stream crossings.  The trail was faint, but could still be followed.  Pine Island Run was mostly dry, but when it has water it would be very scenic with cascades, bedrock pools and slides.   I reached a grotto of bedrock ledges, hemlocks, and cascades.  Very beautiful.  From here, the trail is not evident as it follows the creek down; again, the right side appears to have the more reasonable terrain.  The beauty only improves as the run enters a gorge with fractured cliffs, long bedrock slides, and two waterfalls about ten feet tall.  I made my way down along the bedrock of the creekbed.  Needless to say, do not hike along Pine Island Run in high water.

Pine Island Run

Pine Island Run wasn’t done as it dropped further into its gorge as cliffs rose above.  I reached the top of a stunning waterfall, if there were water, which had three drops over a long, steep slide.  I made may way along the right of the run, across eroded, steep banks below the cliffs.  I then picked up an old grade and the Pine Creek bike trail soon came into view.  Before reaching the bike trail, an obvious trail went straight up the ridge to my right-the trail to the vista.  First, I enjoyed taking a break along Pine Creek at the bottom of the canyon.  What a beautiful place.   It was quiet and serene.  Minnows darted in a pool next to me.  I then noticed shiny threads drifting through the air, reflecting the sunlight as if electric.  They were spider webs, launched by baby spiders to catch the wind so they could float away.  Something I had not seen before, it was magical.

Pine Creek, bottom of the gorge

I left Pine Creek and began the grueling climb up the unblazed trail.  It was steep with loose rock and followed the spine of the ridge.  A hawk pierced the canopy.  At times, the trail split and rejoined along the steep spine.  I continued the aching climb.  This view better be worth it, I thought.  Steep slopes went down to Pine Creek on one side, and Pine Island Run on the other.  I could see the canyon through the trees.  The terrain eased a little and soon I reached the view, where I disturbed a dozen turkey vultures, flying into the air.

The vista was stunning, and I think it is the best view of the canyon.  It was completely serene with virtually no sign of development, other than a small, distant antenna.  Here, the canyon is quite narrow and cliffs rise hundreds of feet directly above the creek.  These are true cliffs, so be careful along the rim.  I was impressed.  The other side of the canyon seemed so close.  Looking north, Pine Creek disappeared into the shadows of the canyon.  The vultures flew around and below me.  A distant crow squawked.  Red pine trees grew along the cliffs.

I finally forced myself to leave, and decided to explore the trail that went further up the ridge, hoping to find the side trail I passed when I first reached Pine Island Run.  This would make a loop and avoid the steep descent back down the way I climbed, I thought.  The trail was in good shape and easy to follow, passing a few more smaller views of the canyon.  The trail leveled, widened and was easy to follow as it went along the rim and entered a beautiful forest of pine and hemlock with some large trees.  I couldn’t find the side trail I hoped to follow to make a loop and the trail I was on went too far north; I presumed it lead into private property.  So, using my GPS I bushwhacked back to where I first passed that side trail.  At first it was easy hiking, but as usual, I had to traverse a very steep slope back to the run and the trail I was on before.

I did hike the side trail for a little ways; it was an established footpath and it appears its only purpose would be to reach the vista.  It is also the route as described in Chuck Dillon’s Pine Creek gorge hiking guide.  If this trail leads to the vista, it would make an incredible loop and an easier alternative route to the vista.

I climbed up the trail back to my car along Claymine Road, fulfilled with the hike.  To see the true majesty of the PA Grand Canyon, go to Pine Island Vista.

More photos:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskFvw5tG

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How to hike to Pine Island Vista.

  1. Park along Claymine Road in the Tioga State Forest.  N 41 37.885  W 077 23.728
  2. Hike obvious, unblazed trail down to a grade above Pine Island Run. N 41 37.614  W 077 24.296
  3. The side trail is to the right (possible alternate route to the vista, I did not hike it)
  4. Continue left on grade above Pine Island Run.  Trail is less obvious, but can be followed.
  5. Descend to and cross the run.  Trail stays mostly on right bank, but there are several stream crossings.  Nettle will be an issue in summer.
  6. Pine Island Run enters a beautiful gorge, trail disappears.  Easier terrain is primarily on the right.  Cliffs, pools, waterfalls, and waterslides make this very scenic. Terrain is steep.  Do not hike this section in high water as it would be very dangerous.
  7. Pick up an old grade.
  8. You can see the Pine Creek rail trail.  Turn right on a steep trail to the vista.  N 41 36.629  W 077 24.412
  9. Vista is located at N 41 36.911  W 077 24.603
  10. Obvious trail continues above vista along the rim and continues north.
  11. I left this trail at N 41 37.568  W 077 24.709
  12. I presume this trail goes into private land.  The side trail may join it at some point.  If so, this would make an excellent loop hike.

Hiking the West Rim Trail

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Mike Servedio at the final, southern vista on the WRT.

Over Labor Day weekend, I met up with two friends, both named Mike, to hike the West Rim Trail (WRT), Long Branch Trail, and finish on the Black Forest Trail.  With perfect weather, I was looking to hike some miles and spend a couple nights in the woods.

View from Barbour Rock

Day 1

After shuttling cars between Slate Run and Ansonia, we began the hike.  I was surprised to see so many cars at the trailhead.  We made it to Barbour Rock in good time and enjoyed the splendid views of the canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania or the Pine Creek Gorge.  Carved by glacial meltwater, Pine Creek changed course from a northeasterly direction, to a southerly one through the mountains.  It is one of the largest canyons in the east, measuring 50 miles long and 1,500 feet at its deepest point.

The trail hugged the rim with more views.  Pine Creek was very low; it has been a dry summer and we were a little concerned about water since most streams along the WRT are small.  The trail went around Colton Point State Park and we passed two nice campsites along Bear Run, which was a muddy trickle.  Several new, thick timbered foot bridges have been built along the trail- and one crossed Bear Run.  We hiked through scenic woodlands with small streams and sunny meadows over hilly terrain.  There were many people on the trail and we passed several groups camping.

The WRT returned to the rim and we found a place to camp along Horse Run, also a trickle.  There was a nice site above the trail under large, old growth hemlocks.  It was a beautiful spot.  I hiked out to a nearby vista where several more people were camping to enjoy watching the sunlight inch up the east side of the gorge as the sun set to the west.  We hiked about 9 miles.

That night I awoke to hear the eerie calls of coyotes echoing through the forest.  They seemed both close and far away.

Day 2

I got up early and hiked out to the vista to see mist levitating in the gorge.  I stayed until sunrise.  We made our way along the rim with occasional views. The WRT turns away from the rim, in and out of stream drainages, at multiple places.  The trail offers views down into these side gorges through the trees.  We took a break at Little Slate Run, the largest side stream with large campsites.  It had the most water of any stream we encountered.  As we hiked back to the rim we looked deep into Little Slate Run’s steep gorge and heard a few waterfalls.

We reached Bradley Wales picnic area where there were several superb views of the gorge in the bright sunshine. This day was a bit warmer than the previous.  We took a break at the picnic area, which was filled with hikers and backpackers.  Several mentioned hearing the coyotes from the prior night.  A hand pump provided water.  It was a great to relax in the grass.   Leaving Bradley Wales, we briefly lost the trail, following the road instead.  The trail crosses the road and enters the woods across from the restroom area.  The trail was nice through the woods.  Suddenly, we saw a bear get up, followed by a cub.  The bear hurried down the trail as a second cub appeared from under a fallen tree and followed.  I have never seen so many bears as I have this year.  A guy running on the trail came along and told us that bear had been a common site and I half expected that it had been named.

The hilly trail offered great woodland hiking under spruce and along a meadows.  We made our way back to the rim.  The southern half of the trail is different from the northern; there are much fewer vistas, but the trail also feels more isolated since traffic is often heard around Colton Point State Park.  We enjoyed one vista looking down the gorge and soon entered the woods.  The trail was in good shape and offered more fine forest walking with small meadows, fern glades, pine, oak, and teaberry.  I liked how the trail winds in and out of the side glens, following the edge of the plateau, enabling hikers to look down the steep slopes below the trail.  Water was a concern due to the dry weather.  Steel Hollow had a few small seep springs.  Dillon Hollow had a small stream that was flowing, and a couple nice campsites.  The terrain was rolling, if not hilly, but I found the hiking through the woodlands very enjoyable, even with fewer views of the gorge.  The trail followed the contour above Bohen Run across fern glades and one last view of the day, as the amber sunlight filled the gorge as the shadows cloaked the lower elevations.  We reached Bohen Run, also reduced to a trickle, and set up our tents.  A couple camped above us.  Later, a father and two young kids walked along the trail looking for a place to camp, but they hiked further down the Bohen Trail.

The weather was warmer than we were anticipating.  To complete our route on the Long Branch and Black Forest Trails, we had about 15 more miles to go.  Further, due to the dry weather, the waterfalls we hoped to see on the Long Branch Trail were likely reduced to trickles.  So we decided to hike the rest of the WRT and finish the trip at Rattlesnake Rocks, and hope to hitch a ride to Mike’s car which was still at Slate Run.

Camping at Bohen Run

We got a fire going and enjoyed the rest of the night.

Day 3

We got up to a beautiful morning as mist hung through the trees and splintered rays of sunlight.  One side of the glen had hemlocks and birches, trees commonly found further north, while the other had oak and ash, more southerly trees.  The diversity right at our campsite was unique.

We returned to the trail and the gorgeous woodland hiking continued as the side of the gorge fell away through the trees.  We reached a final, beautiful vista over Blackwell and Gillespie Point.  The misty haze in the valleys below hinted at an even hotter day.  The trail crossed over the plateau with more scenic forests of pine, hemlock, and laurel.  I really enjoyed the walk.  We crossed a dirt road and were treated to pine forests and glades of ferns, creating a wonderful aroma.  Along the way we passed a dynamite shed that may be a century old, a remnant from the logging era.  We passed the juncture to the Long Branch Trail, vowing to return and descended along Lloyd Run and its deep glen.  There were hemlocks and small waterfalls below us.  Again, a gorgeous hike.  The trail reached the bottom in a pine forest and a great campsite.  We crossed a field and finished the WRT.  Across the road was the parking area.

Now, we had to find a ride to Mike’s car at Slate Run.  A group of backpackers from Pittsburgh were finishing at the same time, but were driving the opposite way.  Mike went out the road and thumbed for a ride.  The second car that passed pulled over and gave him a ride.

Sunrise over the gorge

The WRT is a great trail that I enjoyed very much.  I love the entire Pine Creek Gorge region.  Over the last few years, there have been a profusion of new trails, making the gorge a true hiking and backpacking destination.

Lots of yellow flowers

More photos:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/49239558@N04/VU6bLQ

Trail maps:

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/recreation/hiking/stateforesttrails/westrimtrail/index.htm

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  1. The WRT is a 30 mile long linear trail, blazed orange.
  2. The easier route is to head south.  To save the best vistas for last, hike north.
  3. Most vistas are at the northern half of the trail (north of Bradley Wales).  We saw three vistas south of Bradley Wales.
  4. The northern half is closer to roads around Colton Point State Park, so you can hear occasional traffic.  The southern half is more isolated.
  5. We hiked in dry conditions.  We saw trickling water at: Bear Run, Horse Run, Steel Hollow, and Bohen Run.  Dillon Hollow, Lloyd Run, and the left branch of Fourmile Run had low, flowing water.  Little Slate Run had the most flowing water.  Hand pump well available at Bradley Wales in season.  There is also a spring near Fahnestock Run and West Rim Road.
  6. Campsites on the WRT can be small in size.  We saw campsites at: Bear Run (2), left branch of Fourmile Run (near dirt roads, 3-4 sites, spread out), Burdic Run, Horse Run (on bank above the trail), Little Slate Run (2 large sites), Dillon Hollow (2 sites), Bohen Run (two smaller sites), bottom of Lloyd Run near the southern terminus (one large site).  Dry sites also available at many vistas, which seemed to be the preferred camping option that we saw on our trip.
  7. Want a challenging, and extremely scenic, hiking option?  Hike south through Colton Point State Park and enjoy the numerous vistas.  Take the Turkey Path down to Fourmile Run.  Bushwhack up Fourmile Run (may be a faint trail) to see a stunning gorge and three superb waterfalls.  Connect with Leetonia Road, and hike back to the WRT.
  8. At the vistas north of Bradley Wales, make sure you hike down the dead end dirt road (if hiking south, the WRT follows the road to the right, go left) to see the best vista of all those near the picnic area.
  9. Nettles can be a problem from Good Spring Hollow to Gundigut Hollow.
  10. Mountain laurel abounds along the trail, making it ideal in June when it blooms.
  11. The WRT offers many fine vistas, several off trail waterfalls, beautiful woodlands, scenic streams, and since it follows the rim of the gorge and side glens, steep terrain falls away from the trail, enabling you to look down the steep forested slopes.
  12. Want more?  Side trails connect the WRT to the Black Forest and Mid State Trails.  This is a hiking paradise.