Mountain Springs Loop

Small stream at Hall of Hemlocks

One of my favorite hikes is a combination of the Cherry Run and White Gold Circuit hikes, described as hikes nos. 27 and 29  in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”. This route follows the eastern part of the Cherry Run hike, and the western part of the White Gold Circuit hike.   This loop has it all- views, hemlock forests, cascades, streams, ponds and some history.  It is also moderate in difficulty and about 7-8 miles in length.

Hall of Hemlocks trail

I parked at The Meadows along Mountain Springs Road and entered the woods on the unblazed, unsigned Hall of Hemlocks trail.  The trail follows an old grade along the edge of the plateau, passing small streams and deep hemlock forests with ground pine.  It is very scenic.  The trail gets closer to the edge of the plateau with rock outcrops and partial views.  The trail moved away from the edge and climbed into a hardwood forest, this section can be a little hard to follow if there is snow or leaves on the ground.  It is likely easier to follow in summer.  I followed the trail back to the edge with more hemlocks and a small stream with a trickling falls.  The hemlocks continued as I descended to beautiful Cherry Run with its cascades.  Without a bridge, I made my way across the water using rocks.  I soon reached the yellow blazed Little Cherry Run Trail in Ricketts Glen State Park, where I turned left.

Little Cherry Run Trail

This is a gorgeous trail with two bridges as it closely follows Cherry Run with all its rapids and cascades in a narrow gorge.  It looks like this trail is becoming quite popular.  There is a large rock outcrop, pool and small falls at the bottom of the trail.  I then turned left on the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail, which followed an old forest road and also doubles as a snowmobile trail.  This was another scenic forest walk with more hemlocks, birch, and maple.  I could hear Bowmans Creek flow below.  I reached the end of Mountain Springs Lake, following the trail to the left.  The lake has been officially drained, but when enough water flows in, it does fill back up.  I was lucky to see the lake full once again.  The trail went along the north shore of the lake with many nice views.

Mtn Springs Lake

I reached the end of the lake and passed the dam, heading straight on the dirt road.  Old foundations for the ice industry were to the right.  I turned right, or straight onto an old grade where the dirt road turns left.  This obvious grade headed east, passing on the north shore of the wetlands of what once were Ice Dam No. 1.  I had not hiked this trail before and I enjoyed it.  Bowmans Creek meandered within this wetland with many beaver dams.  I reached the end of the wetlands at the remnants of the dam and deep meandering pools.  I turned left onto an old forest road and climbed up to the dirt road.  This was now a part of the White Gold Circuit.

Outlet of former dam of Ice Dam No. 1

I crossed the road and followed an obvious trail up a gradual slope back to the plateau. As I neared the top, huge boulders and ledges rose above me.  This is a beautiful trail.  The trail kept close to the edge with views through the trees.  The views opened up from cliffs and ledges of the lake and the streams that roared below.  This is a nice place for a sunset.  The trail left the cliffs, meandering through woodlands, and reached Beech Lake Road.  I turned left on the road, took the grassy grade on the right out to Beech Lake to see some ducks and geese.  To my surprise, there was no ice on the lake, which reflected the blue skies and white clouds.  I retraced my steps and returned to my car.

If you’re looking for a new place to hike, I highly recommend this superb loop.  While all trails are not blazed or signed, all trails and grades are well established and this loop is fairly easy to navigate.

On the drive home, I stopped by the Hayfields in Ricketts Glen State Park.  I never really hiked here, so I explored the meadows and wetlands, and enjoyed a sunset in the frigid breeze.  I also stopped by the former site of the lumber town of Ricketts, once home to 800 people, but now replaced by forest.  It is amazing all the lives that have come and gone in a place that is now so isolated.

More pictures.

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Hiking this loop is easy, it is about 7-8 miles long.  Terrain is moderate with gradual inclines and declines.

1.  Park at the Meadows along Mountain Springs Road.  N41 21.574  W76 14.120

2.  Enter the unblazed Hall of Hemlocks trail into the woods and bear left onto an old railroad grade.  There may be some yellow or blue paint blazes, but they are infrequent.  N41 21.519 W76 14.138

3.  Cross some small streams and enjoy the hemlock forests.  N41 21.068  W76 13.920

4.  The trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau.

5.  Leave the hemlocks and enter a hardwood forest.  Trail may be a little harder to follow through here, especially if there is snow or leaf cover, but it is discernable.

6.  Trail moves away from the edge of the plateau, going off and then onto an old grade.

7.  Trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau with more hemlocks.

8.  Cross a small stream with a seasonal falls.  N41 20.522 W76 14.531

9.  Enjoy more hemlocks above Cherry Run and descend.

10.  Cross Cherry Run (no bridge) and meet the Little Cherry Run Trail, blazed yellow.  Turn left on this trail.  N41 20.815 W76 14.929

11.  Hike the trail down along Cherry Run, very scenic.

12.  Turn left onto the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail.

13.  Hike to Mountain Springs Lake, walk to the dam and parking area.

14.  Continue straight on dirt road.  Ice industry ruins on right.

15.  Where dirt road turns left and climbs, continue straight onto obvious old forest road.

16.  Hike above the wetlands of former Ice Dam No. 1.

17.  Reach four way intersection, turn left and climb to dirt road.  N41 20.828  W76 12.565

18.  Cross dirt road and follow obvious footpath as it goes through pickers and up an old grade.

19.  Trail bears left on an old grade, near edge of plateau.  N41 20.903 W76 12.800

20.  Trail turns right and climbs, levels below cliffs and ledges.

21.  Reach the top of cliffs with views of the lake.  N41 20.773 W76 13.509

22.  Trail meanders through woodlands and ends at Beech Lake Road.  N41 21.538 W76 14.005

23.  Turn right onto obvious forest road to Beech Lake.  N41 21.555 W76 13.822

24.  Retrace your steps and return to your car, which is nearby.

Map

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First Day Hike- Ricketts Glen State Park

Little Cherry Run Trail

Last year we began a tradition of having a First Day Hike, a concept that has spread across the nation over the last few years.  This year, we decided to keep the tradition alive.  Despite the frigid 9 degree temperatures, the bright sun provided some motivation to hike as five brave souls met me at the parking area in Ricketts Glen State Park.  While surrounding areas were free of snow, over six inches covered the trails in the park, giving the impression that this was in fact winter.

This hike was about 5 or 6 miles long and we began by hiking down to the breached Glen Leigh dam, an old, crumbling concrete structure that is odd for a dam since it is essentially hollow.  We passed above some frozen waterfalls and hiked along the headwaters of Bowmans Creek under deep green boughs of hemlocks.  Maples and birch trees with rolls of peeling bark rose through the forest.  The temperatures warmed a little since we were out of the wind.  The trail was beautiful as it explored peaceful forests and countless animal tracks across the snow.

Little Cherry Run Trail

We turned left onto the new Little Cherry Run Trail, the most scenic section of the hike.  Everyone loved this trail as it climbed up a gorge with a tumbling stream that had several small waterfalls and cascades.  Large rocks and boulders loomed overhead.  The gorge was draped in snow and ice flows.  Two bridges offered easy passage over the frozen stream as the sound of the falling water filled the gorge.  The water was reddish from the swamps upstream.  For those that tire of the crowded Falls Trail, be sure to hike the Little Cherry Run Trail.

Group on the Little Cherry Run Trail

The trail leveled off through a beautiful, deep, green hemlock forest as we crossed small meandering streams.  The frigid sunlight cast shadows across the snow.  We turned left onto the Cherry Run Trail and returned to the dam to complete the loop.  We retraced our steps back to the cars.  Join us for next year’s First Day Hike!

More photos.

The loop we hiked.

 

 

Hall of Hemlocks, Cherry Run, and Beech Lake Loop

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Cherry Run

This is one of the most diverse dayhikes in the region, following both official and unofficial trails in SGL 57 and Ricketts Glen State Park.  This hike offers a taste of everything, from views, big rocks, lakes, wetlands, mountain streams, hemlock forests, gorges, and small waterfalls.  And the terrain is moderate in difficulty.
I started at the parking area along Bowmans Marsh and crossed the road into the state park, following an obvious, unblazed trail.  I continued along an old railroad grade with ties still in the ground.  The forests through here were very scenic, with deep hemlocks, carpets of moss, and ground pine.  Springs bubbled from the earth.  The trail followed the rim of the plateau, offering views through the trees.  I left the hemlocks and entered a bare hardwood forest, only to return to the hemlocks.  A gradual descent brought me to Cherry Run, where I followed one of the state park’s yellow blazed trails.
Cherry Run is a highlight of the hike as it tumbles down a gorge with rapids and small waterfalls.  It is very beautiful with hemlocks and moss covered boulders and ledges.  I took photos of a falls and pool under a huge overhanging ledge, before leaving the gorge and turning left onto a red blazed trail.  I hiked above Bowmans Creek and saw Mountain Springs Lake through the trees.  I was surprised; the lake had been drained, but does refill when enough water enters it.  The lake was peaceful as a fading sun reflected off of the water.
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View of Mountain Springs Lake

I explored some old foundations, remnants from the ice industry that existed here a century ago and hiked down the road to another trail.  I hiked back up the plateau through scenic woodlands as large boulders and ledges loomed to the right.  I looked across the valley to see a large cliff rising through the trees; I made a mental note to explore it in the future.  I reached the top, hiking along the top of the cliffs with several views of the valley below.  Mountain Springs Lake reflected like silver in the setting sun as clouds spread across the sky.
My next stop was Beech Lake, a special, hidden lake that is one of the few, undeveloped natural lakes in the state.  The clear water revealed the rocks and gravel at the bottom.  The sun faded into the bare trees as I hurried back to the car, trying to keep at bay the cold, crisp temperature.
More photos.
Parts of this hike are described in MidAtlanticHikes.com and Hike Nos. 27, 28, and 29 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.

Forests in the Mist

Forest in the mist- along the Evergreen Trail

Forest in the mist- along the Evergreen Trail

Yesterday, I decided to go for a quick hike and I found myself in Ricketts Glen State Park.  It has been years since I hiked the famous and popular Falls Trail; I now spend more time exploring the little-known areas of this large and diverse park.  Regardless, the Falls Trail was closed.  With snow on the ground and fading daylight, my options were limited.  I was going to drive up to Lake Jean, but as I drove over Kitchen Creek along PA 118, the forest floor was shrouded with a dense layer of mist.  I had to check it out.

The mist was formed by the warm and humid air over the snowpack.  The mist congregated along the creeks and hollows.  I began my walk on the Evergreen Trail, an easy, overlooked trail that is a pleasure to hike.  It is perfect for kids.  The icy walk down to Adams Falls took some care.  The falls were flowing great with roaring water surging through a chasm in the red bedrock.

The trail took me across the creek and into the “Hemlock Temple” of the Evergreen Trail.  This trail features an impressive old-growth forest that is serene and beautiful.  However, the hemlocks are dying from an invasive species, the wooly adelgid.  The largest and healthiest trees are now the white pine and tulip poplar.  The veil of mist that was draped across the floor of this ancient forest was both eerie and beautiful.  Massive white pine trees soared into the air, towering over 120 feet.  The dead standing trees were stripped of their bark, leaving a silver sheen over the damp wood.  As the sun tried to fight the clouds, a translucent light spread through the forest, illuminating the mist.

The trail passed a huge tulip poplar, the park is near the northern limit of this tree’s range.  These trees can grow to incredible proportions, and they create a sap that is sweeter than maple syrup.

Once I hiked out of the mist, the temperature became much warmer and my glasses briefly fogged up.  I hiked a little further, gazing at the large trees, and returned to my car.  It is hard to believe some of these trees are older than the United States.

It seems the greatest temples are made by nature.

More pictures.

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park