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. 

Quehanna Cliffs and Boulder City-Quehanna Wild Area

As many of you know, I love the Quehanna Wild Area.  One place I had always wanted to explore were the cliffs and boulder city above Red Run.  A few months ago, Michael joined me to check it out.  

The best access is the pull off parking along Red Run Road, where the Quehanna Trail joins it.  Hike up, or east, on the trail along scenic Red Run and Sanders Draft.  There are beautiful cascades, pools, rhododendron, and hemlock.

It is an off trail hike up to see the rocks.  Some flagging marked where we left the Quehanna Trail.  The climb was steep, but the giant rocks we saw along the way provided some respite to our screaming thighs.  As we reached the top, we saw an impressive collection of giant sandstone boulders looming in the forest, often draped with moss and lichens, or surrounded by rhododendrons.  Up ahead was a prominent cliff, 50-60 feet tall.  Giant boulders were below the cliff.  There were some overhangs, and anchors for rock climbing.  
We scrambled to the top of the cliffs where there were some views, but the most interesting feature were some caves, chasms, and mazes near the north end of the cliffs.  It was a fascinating place to explore.

From there, we made our way down the steep slopes back to the Quehanna Trail.  There is a lot of great hiking nearby, including the beautiful Red Run Gorge Vista.

For the map above, the Quehanna Trail is blazed orange and red is the off trail route.

Pull off parking is at about  41.279226, -78.245685.  The cliffs are at 41.279734, -78.237746.

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Quehanna Trail over Red Run.

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