Waterfalls of Somer Brook Gorge-SGL 57

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Somer Brook is located deep in SGL 57.  It has carved a deep gorge in the plateau featuring big rocks, rapids, pools, slides, and several waterfalls.  It is a place of rugged, dramatic beauty.  A few weeks ago, I decided to check out this gorge.  With recent rains, and the game lands road to the top of the mountain opened for turkey hunting season, it was an ideal time to do some exploring.

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I parked at the last parking area before the gate and followed the gated roads, which were flowing with water through the spruce forests.  The woods were incredibly aromatic.  I turned right on the next road and crossed Somer Brook, rushing with water.  I continued on the road as it went around the top of the plateau until I reached a discreet side stream.  My bushwhack began as I descended this stream.

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This small stream proved to be gorgeous with a slide and then a 15 foot falls over a cliff.  Below was a gauntlet of large boulders and nonstop cascades and pools.

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The scenery became even better.  Three stream joined at the same place among a slope of large boulders.  There were waterfalls and cascades everywhere as the water tumbled over the boulders.  It was breathtaking.

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These three streams converged into a larger one that continued with cascades until it disappeared over the edge of a grotto.  I descended into the grotto to see a place of great beauty.  A 20 foot falls with huge car sized boulders at its base, followed by more waterfalls.  Ferns covered some of the boulders.  I named this place Atkinson Falls.

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As I negotiated the tough terrain, there were many loose rocks that shifted under my feet.  I stepped on one rock, and the other end shot up, slamming into my shin.  It was very painful as blood oozed from my leg.  I had no choice but to keep walking.

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Below was an 8 foot falls with a long slide over red bedrock.  I could see Atkinson Falls above through the trees.  This unnamed creek continued with rapids and boulders until it joined a rain swollen Somer Brook.

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Somer Brook worried me- it was a raging whitewater river as it surged between boulders and swirled through pools.  I needed to find a safe place to cross.  I made my way up the creek and found a calm, shallow pool above some rapids.  With my poles, I made it across safely but the current was surprisingly strong.  I looked upstream to see Somer Brook choked with boulders and whitewater.  This place was wild, untamed.

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I found another unnamed sidestream and began the arduous hike up.  My legs shook with pain and exhaustion.  This sidestream was filled with cascades over boulders, but no distinct falls.  I then reached Southbrook Road.

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I followed the road a short distance and then saw an old, discreet grade to my left.  I knew this led to the base of Somer Brook Falls, the tallest of them all.  I reached the base of the falls, crossing the powerful creek again above a 15 foot falls.  The base of the falls was filled with natural foam from the reddish swamp water.   I reached the point where the two branches of Somer Brook joined- it was awesome.  The forest and gorge were filled with the roar of water.  Trees dripped with moisture.

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I made my way up to Somer Brook Falls and it was a stunning sight as a torrent plummeted 80 or so feet through a chasm.  This is an amazing falls.  I made my way up the top of the chasm through a forest of hemlock and spruce.  Above is a beautiful spruce forest with a 3 foot falls over pebbly conglomerate.   I made my way through the deep green spruce forest over the blood-colored water from the tannins in the spruce and hemlocks.  I returned to the road and made my way back to the car.

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This is an amazing place, a gem in not only SGL 57, but all of Pennsylvania.  I’m glad I was able to experience it.

Location of Somer Brook Gorge.

More photos and videos.

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GPS coordinates of the scenic places in Somer Brook Gorge:

Boulder Cascades (above Atkinson Falls):  N 41 26.376  W 76 09.646

Atkinson Falls:  N 41 26.383  W 76 09.678

Somer Brook Falls: N 41 25.834  W 76 10.123

Parking area:  N 41 25.087  W 76 09.817  (Road to parking area is only open during the fall and spring hunting seasons)

My route:

My route

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Hike to Koerber and Cali Falls-SGL 57

Koerber Falls

SGL 57 is becoming well known for its wilderness, diversity, and places of beautiful scenery.  It is also home to a number of waterfalls.  I recently decided to do an afternoon hike to check out two of its little-known waterfalls which are not on any map, Koerber and Cali Falls.

Cali Falls

I parked along Windy Valley Road at the bridge and made my way through the woods and up a steep bank.  I found an old woods road on the south side of an unnamed stream, as it tumbled down through a deep gorge with cascades, slides, and pools.  I soon reached a falls no more than ten feet high.  The old road crossed the creek and I turned right off the old road and proceeded up the creek, where Koerber Falls soon came into view.  Thanks to recent rain and snow melt, it was a powerful torrent of water surrounded by dripping red cliffs clothed in moss.  A pool was at the base of the falls.  In low water, it is equally scenic, becoming a graceful spout.  Winter brings impressive ice flows.  I enjoy these falls due to their power and an almost unbroken sheet of water.  I’ve previously hiked further up this creek and did not see any other waterfalls.  Koerber Falls flows most of the year and is about 15-20 feet tall.

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I made my way over to Scouten Brook with its bedrock rapids, pools, cascades, slides, and boulders-a truly beautiful stream.  My goal was Cali Falls.  I hiked up the brook and soon followed an old grade on the south side of Scouten Brook.  Through the bare trees I kept an eye out for a glen that came down on the north side of the brook.  I made my way down the steep slope back to Scouten Brook, filled with cascades and rapids with crystal clear water, and crossed it.  I made the steep, rocky climb up the unnamed tributary, which was flowing well.  Cali Falls soon came into view as it plummeted with a curtain of water in a bedrock grotto into a pool.  This falls is unique in that you can go behind it.  Cali Falls is about 25-30 feet tall.  It is in a wild, rugged, isolated spot that few have seen.  It was beautiful to look up from Scouten Brook to see this waterfall through the bare trees.  Cali Falls does dry up in summer or periods of little rain and it also features ice flows in winter.

Cali Falls

I made my way back down the mountain trying to keep ahead of the twilight.

No official trails reach these falls, although old grades do get fairly close to both.  Avoid using Scouten Brook Road to reach Scouten Brook or Cali Falls, as it is a private road.  SGL 57 does reach Windy Valley Road just north of Scouten Brook Road, so that is a way to reach Cali Falls and Scouten Brook.  Expect wet feet and stream crossings on this rugged, off trail hike.  Be careful crossing the streams, particularly Scouten Brook, in high water.

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GPS coordinates below are from Google Earth and are approximate.

Location of Koerber Falls:  41°29’22.41″N  76° 7’25.47″W

Location of Cali Falls:   41°28’38.36″N  76° 6’42.27″W

Where I parked:   41°29’26.49″N   76° 7’58.15″W

More photos.

Scouten Brook

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

How to Hike to the Bartlett Mountain Balds

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Over the last few years, I’ve described the Bartlett Mountain Balds several times on this blog.  This entry is different.  It focuses on how to reach the balds- it’s not as hard as you might think.

  1. 41.496553, -76.132010  Game commission parking area along Windy Valley Road
  2. 41.497746, -76.134815  Cross the field and climb a bank with some pickers (no real trail), reach a mowed area below  two homes/cottages.  Follow a steep grade up through the pine trees.
  3. 41.497670, -76.138507  Reach an old forest grade at the edge of the pine forest.
  4. 41.498798, -76.161082  Follow the grade up the mountain.  It is obvious, but steep and eroded in places.  Reach the top at White Brook, turn right on another obvious grade.
  5. 41.508405, -76.157502  Heading north, this grade is level but wet in spots.  Reach an area with exposed white bedrock and wet trails.  Turn left on an old atv trail.
  6. 41.511151, -76.163631  The old atv trail goes through fern meadows and scenic forests where spruce trees become more common.  Turn left, off trail hike to bushwhack 300-350 feet to the base of the balds.
  7. 41.510945, -76.164744  Negotiate large boulder, brush, and spruce trees off trail.  Reach thick laurel and a game trail at base of the balds.
  8. 41.512344, -76.165765  Climb up and turn right to reach the balds.
  9. 41.512166, -76.170255  West end of balds at chasm
  10. 41.509299, -76.162934  Balds to south
  11. 41.497219, -76.143645  White Brook Falls is a nice 20 foot falls that you can see on the way back down, off the trail.
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Map to the balds.  Numbers correspond to the above GPS coordinates.

 

The balds are spectacular in late September or early October with impressive fall color.   Winter is another great time to see them, with the white bedrock and green spruce. Treat this special place with respect.  It is unique due to its extensive spruce forests, wetlands, cliffs, chasms, boulders, wetlands, and some views.  It resembles a sub-alpine or boreal forest.  While PA has several areas with stunted forests or balds, none are like this one with its isolation, topography, terrain, and spruce forests.

Be sure to try to walk on the bedrock or herd paths.  Do not damage the lowbush blueberry meadows.

Enjoy this special place.

More photos:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/49239558@N04/albums/72157675174918495