A few weekends ago, I was able to get out and do a 6 mile hike along the Pinchot Trail in the Lackawanna State Forest. The day was grey and it showered pretty consistently on the drive up and it was raining as we pulled into a small parking area along Phelps Rd.
I took a gated woods road less than a 1/4 of a mile where it met up with the orange blazes of the Pinchot Trail. I turned right and started to make my way along a flat, though somewhat rocky, section of trail.
It showered pretty consistently as I made my way through the forest. The canopy was thick enough so that much of the falling rain wasn’t actually hitting me, but it was muddy and much of the brush along the trail was already wet.
I made my way through some nice sections of forest. In some places, there were small open fields and an in others the trail was closed in almost completely by trees. It hadn’t rained in awhile before this particular Sunday and even with everything being wet, much of the underbrush was still very brown and thirsty for the precipitation.
After about two miles of walking, I reached Choke Creek at a very nice campsite. The campsite sits on a small bluff where the creek makes a turn. There were stone chairs, a nice fire ring, and even some pots for hauling water or cooking.
I continued past the campsite for another mile or so. The trail continued to run near the creek, which had some nice cascades, many of which were nestled in small hemlock groves.
About three miles into my hike, I turned around. The Pinchot Trail continued on away from Choke Creek, but I simply began back the way that I came.
It finally stopped raining as I made my way back along Choke Creek, past the cascades and the campsite. Some blotches of blue sky even appeared as I got closer to my car.
I reached the old woods road and took the short walk back to my car. I drove 1/4 or so back down Phelps Road and parked at a gate, where the road actually continued on for some way as a dirt path.
I walked down the path about a 1/2 mile, past some construction where a new power line swath is being built. I reached Choke Creek again, further downstream from where I was last. A short side trail led to beautiful Choke Creek Falls.
I’ve visited this falls a few times. In the spring, it flowed heavy with snow melt and was very powerful. In summer, it was much lighter. On this day it was a little bit in between. Despite the rainy morning and afternoon, it had been dry for weeks, so the flow was a little below average.
There is a deep pool here, and in the summer, very often filled with locals swimming. There are even two ropes for swinging from the cliff into the pool.
I didn’t pack my good camera due to the weather, so I grabbed a few photos and short videos with my phone.
The clouds started to break a little more as I hiked the 1/2 mile back to my car. The sun appeared in the distance as I reached my car again and started to head for home.
I was able to do three really fantastic hikes in the northern part of the Lackawanna State Forest over the month of April. I’d previously hiked the Pinchot Trail and spent time exploring the area around Choke Creek and its falls in the southern part of the forest. But we’d never explored the fairly newly acquired lands in the northern part of the forest.
My friend Mike and his dog Dutch joined me for all three hikes. Our friend Darin and his dog Alice joined us on our second trip.
I’ve wanted to explore Painter and Panther Creeks since reading about Jeff Mitchell’s adventures there in this post. There was supposedly some good views to climb to on Panther Hill and we expected the streams to be swollen with spring runoff.
On our first hike, we parked on Aston Mountain Road where it intersects with Spring Brook. Spring Brook was flowing swiftly and a short trail allowed us to walk right beside it for a little while. We arrived at the confluence of Spring Brook and Panther Run, a very beautiful spot. The water was turquoise as the streams came together in a series of rapids.
We bushwhacked up the hill and reached a state forest parking lot (where we actually intended to park). We descended through the forest on a trail, always bearing left wear the trail split, moving closer to Panther Creek again.
We reached the creek near the confluence of Panther and Painter Creeks. The stream was swollen and hard to cross where the trail looked to cross the creek. We walked up Painter Run a 1/4 mile where we scurried across a fallen tree branch.
From here, we knew we wanted to start to scale the hill to our east. I’m not sure if the mountain is officially Panther Hill at this point, but we climbed. There were grades we came across here and there as we made our way up. We eventually reached a level that seemed one level short of the top. The terrain got rocky here and we had to continue to the south to find a place where we could ascend.
We reached what seemed to be the top of the mountain. There was a big rock bald and a stunted forest. There were limited views over the valley forged by Panther Creek. We headed back north a little ways to more limited views.
We wanted to head further south to see if there were more views, but we were a little short on time and still wanted to see if we could find our way to some falls on Panther Creek.
We started to descend back down the mountain, taking a fairly straightforward route straight down where we could. We eventually reached Panther Creek again where it curled around a bend and tumbled over rapids.
We turned right to follow Panther Creek downstream. It tumbled over more rapids and cascades, occasionally passing through beautiful hemlock forests.
We eventually crossed the stream above a nice, tiered waterfall. We were able to get down the first tier of the waterfall along the side of the stream. But the bottom proved to be harder and we were forced to backtrack and go around by climbing the bank. I imagine when the creek is not flowing so high, you could walk right down the falls. We backtracked to the base of the falls for pictures and to enjoy the view.
From the falls, we headed back up the bank and continued to walk downstream. About 1/4 mile from the falls, we hooked up with a grade that looped back toward Painter Creek and eventually reached it just above the confluence of Painter and Panther Creeks, a place we crossed earlier in the day.
We crossed the creek. It was running high, and was about 1-1.5 feet deep where the trail crossed. My feet had stayed relatively dry to this point, but did not after that. We made our way away from the creek and back to the game commission parking lot.
We bushwhacked back down to Spring Brook from the parking lot. When we arrived back at the trail, we found a fairly disconcerting site along Spring Brook. A small campfire was lit within a fire ring, but there was not a soul in sight. We waited a few minutes to see if anyone would return to the fire, but they did not. We threw what was left of the two burning logs into the creek and threw some water on the hot coals.
We came across a few vernal ponds as we made our way back to our car. A local reptile enthusiast filled us in on the spring frog orgy that was happening in the small ponds around the creeks.
On our second hike in the area, we parked in the game commission lot and bushwhacked almost all the way to the end of Painter Creek. It is a beautiful run and was still running swiftly with snowmelt. (The nearby Nesbitt Reservoir was still frozen on our first hike in the first week of April, but was totally melted on our subsequent trips. )
Painter Creek has no falls, but many small cascades and was really a treat to hike. There were many small hemlock forests along the run, a few containing beautiful campsites.
On our final trip to the area, we parked along Pittson Rd and hiked the Pinchot Trail to where it meets up with the newly created Watres Trail, about a mile from the road. We walked along the Watres Trail for a short while. The headwaters of Painter Creek are actually on private land, so we just made our way along the Watres Trail until we were clear of the private land. We then made our way back down to Painter Creek, bushwhacking to the place where we stopped on our previous hike.
The southern part of Painter Creek was as beautiful as the northern part, as we passed more cascades and hemlock forests. We bushwhacked up the back of the creek, back to the Watres Trail, which we took back to the Pinchot Trail, and returned to our car.
We took the short drive to the Pine Hill Overlook, which contains a viewing platform featuring 360 degree views of the surrounding areas. We tried to linger through the entire sunset, but a cold breeze forced us back to our car a little before the sun was completely down.
I thoroughly enjoyed our hikes in this area. Painter and Panther Creeks are both beautiful small streams. The falls on Panther Creek were impressive in high water. I hope to return to this area in the fall when we can look for more views on top of Panther Hill during peak foliage.