Tag Archives: loyalsock

Loyalsock State Forest: Rock Run, Sharp Top, Hoagland Branch

In what’s becoming a Memorial Day tradition, Stubbs and I headed for the Loyalsock over the holiday weekend. We drove up Sunday afternoon and camped at Masten, enjoying the sound of Pleasant Stream and croaking frogs for most of the night.

Monday, we awoke to a beautiful, cool morning. I was up first and took Dutch for a short walk down to the stream and enjoyed the light for a while. Stubbs was soon awake and we cooked up some eggs and veggie hot dogs for breakfast (which is totally appropriate as a camping breakfast, right?) before packing up our gear.

Morning light at Masten

Our goal for the day was to hike down to Rock Run but we had a few places to visit before we did that. We took Masten Road to where it met Hillsgrove Road, climbing slowly up the mountain away from Masten. We soon arrived at a clearing along the road that featured a nice vista overlooking the valley of Pleasant Stream.

Valley of Pleasant Stream
Valley of Pleasant Stream

Continuing on, we took Cascade Road and finally John Merrell Road as they wound through the forest. The dirt roads of the Loyalsock almost always make for a scenic drive, and were very beautiful on this day in the morning light and with the forest blooming in various shades of green. Soon enough we reached the end of the road at beautiful Sharp Top Vista.

The view looks out over dense forest and only a few small farms are visible. We admired the view and took a few pictures. After a few minutes we were joined by a few backpackers. The two men were doing the entire Old Loggers Path over the course of two days and were making good time in their second day. We chatted about the trail for a few minutes and they soon disappeared into the forest and we got back in the car.

Sharp Top Vista
Sharp Top Vista

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We drove back the way we came, passing through Masten once again before reaching Ellenton Ridge Road. We passed a few hunting lodges and reached a small parking area just before the road ends at Yellow Dog Road. Our goal was to hike down to Rock Run, roughly 1.5 miles from the road.

This was only the second time I’ve been able to hike in Pennsylvania since last October when I ruptured my achilles tendon playing soccer. Sitting on my couch with my foot in a cast for over two months, Rock Run was a place that I dreamed about returning to.

We were soon off on the unblazed Yellow Dog Trail. An abandoned logging road, the path is obvious through the woods despite not being blazed. After only about 1/3 of a mile, the trail met up with the orange blazes of the Old Loggers Path. The trail descended through the forest on a wide path and for the most part is pretty gradual.

Walking downhill is still one of the most challenging parts of my injury recovery and I was forced to take it slow as we continued to descend. Yellow Dog Run could soon be heard and then seen as it tumbled downhill to our left. Small rapids were visible as well as one larger waterfall. On a day that my foot felt better, we probably would have bushwhacked down to it.

Before long though we arrived at our destination, the confluence of Yellow Dog and Rock Runs. Here, Yellow Dog Run tumbles straight into Rock Run over a 12-foot falls. Rock Run flows clear and cold over small rapids and through deep pools. It is one of the most beautiful places that I have visited not only in Pennsylvania, but anywhere that I have travelled.

Rock Run, Old Logger's Path, Yellow Dog Run, Loyalsock State Forest
Stunning
Rock Run
Rock Run

We scurried around on the rocks and took photos. Stubbs tried his hand at fishing in Rock Run but didn’t have any luck. We enjoyed the scenery for a while but still had much to see on the day and packed up and started to head back uphill.

We made it back to the car and were soon on the road again on the beautiful dirt paths of the Loyalsock. We passed through Masten once again but this time turned away from Sharp Top and down Mill Creek Road. We made our way to Slab Run Road, which dead ends at the beautiful Hoagland Vista. The view looks out over the zigzag valley of Hoagland Branch, a scenic branch of Elk Creek.

Hoagland Vista
Hoagland Vista

We took in the view but then soon set off to explore the creek itself. Hoagland Branch Road runs along the creek for a few miles as it cuts through the forest, but the road had been closed for bridge repairs the last few times we’d been through that section of the Loyalsock. But the bridges were all recently rebuilt and the road reopened.

We made our way to Hoagland through more beautiful forest roads, passing the scenic Bearwallow Pond as well. We were soon riding parallel to the stream along Hoagland Branch Road. The stream has no large waterfalls but carves some impressive small cascades through the bedrock.

We parked next to one of the new bridges and enjoyed the stream for a few minutes. Sunlight cut down through the valley and the afternoon light was superb. There was a deep pool just off to the side of the bridge and we spotted some trout darting through the clear waters.

Hoagland Branch
Hoagland Branch

With a 3.5 hour drive in front of us, we finally packed up the car one last time and started to make our way back toward civilization.

Click here to see the full gallery of photos.

Loyalsock State Forest: Fern Rock Nature Trail and Ketchum Run

This will probably always be the hike that I remember more for the car breaking down on the turnpike on the way home. But a few hour detour in Lehighton did nothing to diminish the experience of our trek through the Loyalsock.

We started our hike from the parking lot along High Knob Rd where it meets World’s End Road. (High Knob Rd is closed to traffic in the winter, but the parking lot is accessible.) About 2 inches of soft, crunchy snow covered the ground. The weather was pretty mild for January in PA, almost 30 degrees. It was the Monday of MLK Day and there were no other cars in the lot and we saw no one all day.

We set out on the Fern Rock Nature Trail and soon crossed over the east branch of Ketchum Run. The creek gurgled under the bridge and snow and ice covered the banks. It was quite serene.

After about a mile of hiking, we reached beautiful Ketchum Run.  Thick ice covered the banks but the stream flowed quietly through the forest. We turned right and followed the stream north, still along the FRNT.

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Ketchum Run
Ketchum Run

We met up with a cross cross country ski trail for a few minutes before reaching a red blazed bridle trail. This trail crosses Ketchum Run and eventually meets up with the Loyalsock Trail. The trail crossing was impossible, with a layer of ice covering the entire stream. In some places, the stream tunneled under the snow, completely out of sight.

We continued along the bank of Ketchum Run. There is no official trail that follows the run, but a path through the woods is fairly obvious. We soon reached a 10 foot high waterfall. When we were here in the summer, you could hike all the way into the run and right up to the falls. Today, we were forced to take pictures from further away, as thick ice blanketed the falls.

Frozen falls

Further down the run, we came to the top of a 20 ft falls. The top of the falls was completely frozen over. We climbed down to the bottom. Large icicles encased flowing water at the base of the falls.

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More frozen falls

The Loyalsock Trail is only a short walk from the second waterfall and we hiked on to that spot. There is a nice campsite here, though it looked as if it had been some time since its last use.

From here, we retraced our steps (easy to do when yours are the only ones visible in the snow!) back to the FRNT. We took the north side of the trail on the return trip. The east branch of Ketchum Run flowed quietly nearby for the final mile.

Untouched cross country ski trail
Untouched cross country ski trail
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East Branch Ketchum Run

There was only one visible set of footprints in the snow outside of ours along the FRNT. We saw numerous animal prints though, including deer, what appeared to be hare, and even bobcat tracks near Ketchum Run.

My friend’s car is back running. He was even so kind as to supply the videos seen here. Check out his photography.