Emerald Forest/Scouten Brook Loop-SGL 57

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Emerald Forest, SGL 57

This is one of the most scenic loop hikes in Northeast Pennsylvania.  It features Scouten Brook, a tumbling mountain stream with cascades and waterfalls, an off trail hike to Cali Falls, and one of PA’s most scenic forests, the Emerald Forest, with its deep green canopy of hemlock and spruce, with carpets of moss.  Another short off trail hike will take you to a fine vista, great for sunsets, and massive boulders with passageways and overhangs.

This loop is approximately 7-8 miles long.

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The trickiest part of the hike is the very beginning.  The remainder of the hike follows well established old grades and logging roads, although there are no blazes or signs.  Of course, the hike to Cali Falls, Zion Rocks, and the vista are off trail.

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Drive down Windy Valley Road from Forkston, cross the bridge, and about .4 mile further reach Scouten Brook Road, a private road on the left.  Slow down.  Cross over Scouten Brook and pass a white cabin on the left.  The game lands touch the road just past the cabin at 41.483737, -76.133386.  Pull off as best you can, parking is very limited.  You may notice the white blazes on the trees, which are the game lands boundary.

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Enter the woods, there is no trail.  Some mobile homes are off to your right.  Walk back, slightly southeast, for about 1,000 feet, and reach an old forest road; turn left as it curves uphill.  Enter a forest with some pines and continue a climb before the grade descends.  There’s a grade on the left; take it.  The grade straight ahead is your return route.

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Reach views of Scouten Brook, and in winter, an old log cabin off to your left.  Reach another grade, turn right on it and follow it up Scouten Brook.  The grade stays above the creek and offers many views of it in winter.  There are cascades and small falls.  Some parts of the grade are eroded.  A side glen comes down on the north side of the brook; this is where Cali Falls is located.  It is a seasonal falls, so if Scouten Brook is low, Cali Falls will be dry.  The cascades and falls on Scouten become larger with some large boulders and pools.

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Reach where the two forks of Scouten Brook join.  The grade turns left, above Scouten Brook Falls, a wide ledge about 12 feet tall.  Now climb and veer right and hike across the other fork of the brook.  The grade soon levels and reaches another grade, make a sharp left.  This grade is often wet and makes a gradual ascent.  Reach a four way intersection; turn right.  You will soon reach another intersection, turn right.  The grade ascends slightly and soon enters a stunning spruce forest.  The terrain is rolling and the forest becomes more scenic the further you hike, this is the Emerald Forest.  There are wet areas.  This evergreen forest is comprised of hemlock and spruce, with some pine.  Moss covers the ground.  It is like hiking in Maine or Quebec.  This forest is very beautiful.

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Where the grade begins to descend, and before it leaves the Emerald Forest over some boulders and ledges, you can hike off trail to the south to see the vista and Zion Rocks.  The vista is a window opening through the trees to the vast plateaus to the west.  It is notable for its isolation, no sign of development, and the plateaus look particularly impressive here.  It is also a good sunset vista.  Below the vista are a maze of massive boulders.  About 500 feet north of the vista are the incredible Zion Rocks where huge mansion-sized boulders feature overhangs, caves, and crevices.

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Back on the trail, descend and leave the Emerald Forest.  The trail levels and then drops down the benches of the mountain.  Two other grades join from the left but continue straight.  The trail curves right and descends.  Reach another grade and turn left, continuing the descent, which can be steep in places.  Reach the point where you began the loop and retrace your steps.

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Please treat this special place with respect.  The Emerald Forest is unique in PA for its size, composition, and scenery; help make sure it will be there for generations to come.

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Hike to White Brook Falls-SGL 57

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White Brook Falls, SGL 57

White Brook Falls, with its graceful spout, is one of the most scenic waterfalls in SGL 57. It is about 20 feet tall. This is largely an off trail hike that is moderate in difficulty and has two stream crossings.  It is about .75 mile, one way.

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Park at the game commission parking lot along Windy Valley Road (41.496502, -76.132023) and hike across the meadow to the back right hand (northwest) corner (41.497371, -76.134595). Climb a bank with some pickers and then ascend along a mowed area near some cabins or homes (41.497745, -76.135801). Don’t worry, you’re still on the game lands.

White Brook Falls, near Forkston

Follow an obvious path straight up through the pines. The trail does become steep. Leave the pines and veer right to an obvious old forest road. White Brook is now below you on the right.

From here, follow the old forest road for about 100 feet and then leave it to the right. Hike to the top of the steep bank above White Brook. Continue to follow the bank upstream for a short distance until you notice a buttress of land descending gradually to the brook, now descend (41.497591, -76.140524). Cross White Brook and pass a tree with a large burl. Reach an old grade and turn left onto it for a short distance. Cross White Brook again.

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The falls should now be in view. It is best to hike the south side of the stream to the falls (41.497237, -76.143642).  The falls are beautiful and unique, with a deep pool and a beautiful spout in normal flows. In high flows, the creek also tumbles down a slide next to the falls. There are slides and smaller falls below the main falls.

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Above White Brook Falls there are smaller cascades, slides, and boulders, but also lots of fallen trees from flood damage. It may not be worth the effort to hike above the falls.

Return the way you came.

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Hike to Koerber Falls-SGL 57

 

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Koerber Falls, SGL 57

 

Koerber Falls is one of many waterfalls in SGL 57. Although there is no trail, it is a fairly easy to moderate hike.

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Drive south on Windy Valley Road and cross the bridge. There is space to park on the right (41.490850, -76.132825). Hike across the road and head east, you will soon encounter a steep bank. Scramble up the best you can, I usually go up at a ravine eroded by a seasonal stream.  This is the toughest part of the hike.

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Now just follow the top of the bank, heading east. You will soon be hiking above the creek itself with a gorge and several slides, cascades, and pools. Reach an old grade and follow it.  Below is a gorge with more slides and cascades, including an 8 foot falls.

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Cross the creek above the 8 foot falls. Leave the grade and simply hike up the creek, heading east. The north side is best.

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Koerber Falls soon comes into view. It is 15 to 20 feet tall in a red rock grotto. There is a pool and many dripping springs. It is a beautiful falls that has great ice flows in winter. In spring, this hike has wildflowers. This falls flows most of the year, but can dry up in summer.  The falls are located at about 41.489664, -76.123440.

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There are no sizeable falls upstream other than some slides and cascades. After enjoying the beauty and isolation of this falls, return the way you came.  This hike is about .6 mile, one way.

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Hoagland Branch, Whale Rock, Warburton Hollow-Loyalsock State Forest

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Waterfalls in Warburton Hollow, Loyalsock State Forest

The Hoagland Branch area of the Loyalsock State Forest contains some of its finest scenery. Here you will find waterfalls, vistas, ponds, cascades, deep pools, bedrock grottos, hemlock forests, and pristine streams. The only drawback is that the trail system through this area of the state forest is rather disjointed.

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That may change with a proposal to connect the Old Loggers Path and the Loyalsock Trail with a new trail- the Hoagland Loop Trail. Last Thanksgiving I went out to Hoagland Branch to scout some routes. I began at the vista and hiked a loop counterclockwise. I found an old grade along the edge of the plateau. The grade was well established and traversed the forest, passing springs and rocks. I hiked above some ledges. Eventually, the grade faded out near where Whale Rock is located. I dropped down to the bottom of the ledge to see a rock outcrop that looks remarkably like a whale. I climbed above the ledge and continued along the edge of the plateau.

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I soon reached a beautiful city of sandstone boulders, orange and rust in color. The boulders leaned in different directions and were a beautiful sight. The most impressive boulder was eroded smooth, and leaned, 20 feet tall, with a mat of ferns growing on the top. I then dropped to Warburton Hollow.

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This hollow is very beautiful with large mossy boulders and non-stop cascades and waterfalls. The water is pristine and even serves as a water source for cabins downstream. An old skid trail on the east side of the creek provided for a convenient, if a little steep, hike. I then turned left onto the old Trout Hole Trail with its red blazes.

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This trail climbed under ledges and then descended to Hoagland Branch Road. Before reaching the road, I saw an old trail to the left with a small cairn. I would return to this point to hike back to my car. I reached the road which was devastated by the floods; much of it was washed away. The bridge had twisted guardrails and trees draped over the concrete. It is hard to imagine the incredible force of the flashfloods from 2016. Regardless, this section of Hoagland Branch is very beautiful with its bedrock rapids and deep, aquamarine swimming holes.

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I returned to the cairn and followed the grade uphill. This grade soon became a narrow skid trail, but the hike was enjoyable under the hemlocks. I hiked above a glen where I could hear a falls far below. I was half tempted to scramble down to see it. The skid trail climbed to another grade, where I turned right. This grade gradually climbed, passing many other old logging grades along the way. The grade I was following faded out below my car, so I bushwhacked up to my car, completing the loop.

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From there I stopped by Bearwallow Pond and then headed home. Another great day exploring the secrets of the Loyalsock State Forest.

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Mill Creek Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

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Mill Creek Falls, Loyalsock State Forest

Mill Creek Falls, located outside of Hillsgrove, is a well known destination in the Loyalsock State Forest. The falls is about 12 feet high and has a beautiful deep pool surrounded by ledges and cliffs. Downstream is a gorge with moss, hemlocks, slides, and pools. A longer loop version of this hike is described as hike no. 49 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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I parked in a pull-off on the left along Mill Creek Road, which about 1.5 miles from Hillsgrove. An unmarked but obvious trail descended to the creek and gorge; the falls soon came into view. It isn’t hard to descend to the creek and look at the falls from the bottom, the more impressive view, with the cliffs, ledges, and aquamarine pool. In 2016, an epic flash flood struck Mill Creek, causing catastrophic flooding to Hillsgrove. Even on this hike I was able to see where the flood line scoured the sides of the gorge, about 15-20 feet high. Vegetation was stripped from bedrock and large boulders were tossed with ease.

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I decided to hike up the creek to see how much of the old trail remained. I crossed the creek above the falls and followed the remnants of an old grade. I then crossed Mill Creek a second time and walked around a vast floodplain of gravel and cobblestones. On the left side of the creek was a cliff with cascading springs. I crossed the creek a third and final time and entered a grotto of green ledges with moss and lichens; many springs flowed out of the ground. I crested a ridge and then followed another old grade that was damaged by the floods, but I was still able to follow it. Large trees and root balls littered the forest floor. The creek was still scenic but I thought of my hike on this trail years ago with the thick hemlocks and peaceful stream unmarred by floods.

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I hiked past a cabin, turned right onto Big Hollow Road, and found away across Mill Creek again as the bridge was separated from the road. Mill Creek created a new channel that bypassed the bridge. I walked to Mil Creek Road and turned right and walked the road back to my car.

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While the hike up Mill Creek may no longer be as beautiful as it once was, the short hike to Mill Creek Falls is- it is a gorgeous place whether it be a hot summer day or frozen in white by winter.

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Holtzauer and Jackson Trails-Loyalsock State Forest

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Small waterfalls off the Holtzauer Trail.

There is a proposal to create the Hoagland Loop Trail (HLT), which would connect the Loyalsock Trail to the Old Loggers Path. Over Thanksgiving of last year, I spent some time scouting some routes for the HLT by hiking the Holtzauer and Jackson Trails in the Loyalsock State Forest, west of High Knob overlook. I hiked these trails as a loop, although it was not ideal due to all the road walking.

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I began by hiking the yellow blazed Holtzauer Trail from Old Sock Road (a sign along the road has it spelled as “Holtzhauer”). This was a surprisingly nice trail and even seemed to get some use as it had a well defined path. I climbed gradually to a beautiful series of ledges, cliffs, and even a small cave. The orange and yellow hues of the rock reminded me of Utah. The trail climbed above a glen with thick laurel. I went off trail down to the stream where there was series of ten foot waterfalls.

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The trail continued its climb, coming closer to the small stream between the laurel. I then entered a valley surrounded by large boulders and ledges; it was very beautiful. A series of climbs brought me through laurel thickets and into a scenic hemlock forest next to a wetland. The Holtzauer Trail then ended at the High Knob Trail, on which I turned right.

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I always enjoy the High Knob Trail due to its mature hardwoods and isolation. It is a beautiful woodland walk. I reached the back side of a pond in a pine forest and reached a juncture with the Jackson Trail, where I turned right. The Jackson Trail is one of my favorites, I soon reached the outlet of the pond framed by pine trees. This pond is one of my favorite places in the state forest.

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The Jackson Trail went through thick laurel under pine and hemlock, over ledges, and around vernal pools and frog ponds. I followed the trail as it veered right and descended through more laurel and down to a small stream. I crossed the stream and hiked along side it with cascades, although this creek is often dry. The creek disappeared down a rugged gorge. The Jackson Trail became very steep as it dropped straight down; it is probably the steepest trail in the state forest. I looked into the gorge and thought I saw some waterfalls.

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The steep descent eased as the trail veered right and followed a grade down to a private property line, and then made a sharp left onto an old grade, which it followed to PA 87. I then walked PA 87 and Old Sock Road back to my car.

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Both trails are scenic and worth hiking. I hope to return in wet weather to explore the waterfalls in the gorge along the Jackson Trail.

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Waterfalls of Rock Run (North of Sones Pond)-Loyalsock State Forest

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Falls and pool on an unnamed tributary of Rock Run, Loyalsock State Forest

Rock Run is a popular place with amazing natural beauty located near Ralston in the Loyalsock State Forest. But did you know the state forest has another Rock Run that is also very beautiful? This one is located north of Sones Pond and is a tributary of the Little Loyalsock Creek.

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There are no trails that explore this watershed, but Rock Run Road provides convenient access to the creeks. Hike off trail a short distance from the road down to Rock Run. This valley is filled with an assortment of waterfalls, cascades, grottos, and pools. Some of the falls are seasonal.

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There is a 20 foot falls just below Cavanough Road, which I call Cavanough Falls. It is in a hemlock shaded glen with ledges and is very scenic.

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Rock Run itself has an assortment of falls, cascades, and deep pools. None of the falls are over 10 feet tall, but it is a stream of remarkable beauty. Old grades on the east side of the stream help with access. There are about 6-7 falls or cascades of varying heights.

Falls off of Rock Run Rd.

An unnamed tributary east of Rock Run features a narrow gorge with beautiful falls and cascades, which culminates with Balcony Falls, a spout that leaps off a protruding rock ledge, which looks like a balcony. I’ve never seen a falls quite like it. It is about 15 feet tall.

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Just above Rock Run Road is a seasonal stream with a series of falls and cascades over mossy ledges. It is very beautiful when flowing.

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The Loyalsock State Forest has so much natural beauty. Next time you’re at Sones Pond, check out Rock Run.

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For the map below, the blue dots are waterfalls and cascades.  The red dots are places where there is enough space to park.

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