Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Photos: Loyalsock May 2015

 

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Six Hikes to Do in Eastern Pennsylvania this Autumn

After a mild, moderately rainy summer, a September of cool nights and sunny days will soon give way to a beautiful autumn throughout Pennsylvania.

The Department of Conservation of Natural Resources website boasts, “Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation — or anywhere in the world.”  It continues, “Pennsylvania’s location between 40° and 42° North latitude and its varied topography…supports 134 species of trees and many more shrubs and vines that contribute to the display of autumn color.” If you’ve spent much time in Penn’s woods during Fall, you know that Pennsylvania puts on an incredible display. Maples aflame with orange and red, oaks blazing a deep orange, and ash and birch trees twinkling with every shade of yellow represent just a small sample of what you’ll find throughout the state.

This post is by no means a comprehensive list of beautiful autumn hikes in eastern Pennsylvania. It’s more of just a short list of hikes that I’ve been able to do personally over the last few years. I originally wrote this for the Keystone Trails Association, so please don’t think that I have any bias against the other states in the area, all of which feature trails worth exploring as the leaves change.. And though I know eastern PA better than the rest of the state, I acknowledge that there are many beautiful hikes in the central and western parts of PA as well. I welcome comments with advice on other trails to explore this Fall, in PA and elsewhere.

DCNR claims the Pennsylvania weather will “favor earlier peak dates this year.” I’ve tried to use that information, combined with my own experiences, to give the best times to attempt these hikes. My “Best Time to Visit” looks to give others the best chance to experience peak foliage.

DCNR has a great page about foliage in Pennsylvania that includes weekly updates.

Old Loggers Path

Old Loggers Path
Rock Run Gorge. Sullivan Mountain to the left, McIntyre Mountain to the right. October 18, 2010.

The only backpacking loop I’ve included here, though there are plenty of others to tackle during Autumn (the Black Forest Trail, Loyalsock Trail, and the Pine Creek Gorge area all come to mind.) Located in Lycoming County, the OLP is 27 miles long and often hiked over 2-3 days. There are numerous mountain streams, including one of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful waterways, Rock Run. The trail itself is comprised mainly of old logging roads and often the trees themselves create vibrant tunnels over the path during Fall. The loop also features some outstanding views, all of which are amplified during the first few weeks of October. Vistas overlooking the Rock Run Valley, atop Sullivan Mountain, and the incredible Sharp Top Vista should not be missed.

Woods Road
Old logging road. October 19, 2010.

Best Time to Visit: Early to mid October

Bonus Tip: The Loyalsock State Forest is a wonderland of fantastic hiking. Plan to visit any number of beautiful vistas and waterfalls. Some of my favorites include Hoagland Vista and Smith Knob, as well as Mill Creek Falls and Angel Falls.

Flat Top Vista

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Flat Top Vista, November 5, 2013.

This beautiful vista in Wyoming County gives hikers a view over the untouched valley carved by the Mehoopany Creek. Only a few remote hunting cottages are visible as the stream flows through the dense forests of State Game Land 57. On clear days, you can see all the way to the fire tower in Red Rock. There are no official trails in the State Game Land and only experienced hikers should attempt to reach this view. Park in the Game Commission parking lot near White Brook and take the path out of the lot past the cottages and up the mountain. I visited this beautiful vista in the first week of November last year and most of the leaves were already down, but those that remained were beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red. We hiked here the day after the start of daylight savings time and the high only reached into the mid 30s for the day. There was a cool wind at the top and an outstanding feeling of solitude.

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Best Time to Visit: Early October

Bonus Tip: If you have a four wheel drive vehicle, drive the length of SR 3001/Windy Valley Rd through the game land. The road is precipitous but closely follows the beautiful Mehoopany for a short while. Many of the tributaries of the Mehoopany feature waterfalls and are worth exploring. Hikes in SGL57 are some of the most remote that you can do in the eastern part of the state.

Worlds End State Park

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Canyon Vista, October 13, 2015

Though one of the smallest, World’s End State Park is also one of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful state parks. There are multiple vistas and streams to explore and even more in nearby Loyalsock State Forest. In autumn, a trip up to the most popular vista in the park is a must. Canyon Vista looks out over the beautiful S shaped valley of the Loyalsock Creek as it flows through Sullivan County. It is possible to drive right to this vista, but the beautiful forests and clear mountain streams around it are best explored on foot. The park’s Canyon Vista Trail brings you straight to the view, but more intrepid hikers can construct a loop using the Loyalsock Trail, Link Trail, and the Double Run Nature Trail for a beautiful, and relatively challenging, 3-4 mile trek.

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Best Time to Visit: Early to Mid October

Bonus Tip: The beautiful High Knob Overlook is only about 5 miles from World’s End. It is another impressive vista that overlooks Sullivan and Lycoming Counties. It is also possible to drive up to this vista.

Big Pocono State Park

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Looking west from the top. October 13, 2013.

The view at the top of Big Pocono State Park is always impressive, and it is made even more beautiful with the addition of Fall foliage. Panoramic views showcase a large swath of eastern PA, as well as portions of New Jersey and New York. The Delaware Water Gap, some 20 miles away, is also visible. Various hiking loops can be started from the top, and a trek out on the orange-blazed Indian Trail is a must, as it ends in yet another impressive vista. When hiking here, I often start at the bottom of the mountain, at a parking area known as Riday’s Gate. Using the North/South Trails, in addition to the mountain biking trail at the beginning of the trip, a decent 7 mile lollipop loop can be formed. The trails cut through beautiful forest as they make their way up the mountain, reaching the top in about 3 miles.

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Old railroad grade near the trailhead at Riday’s Gate. October 13, 2013.

Best Time to Visit: Mid October

Kelly’s Run and Pinnacle Overlook

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View of the Susquehanna River from the Pinnacle Overlook. October 21, 2012.

I’m always surprised by the workout I get from this hike in Lancaster County. Located in the Holtwood Recreation Area, a nice 5 mile hike will take you along beautiful Kelly’s Run before climbing to the impressive view of the Susquehanna River at the Pinnacle Overlook. Kelly’s Run features many cascades and even a few small waterfalls as it nears the Susquehanna. The climb out of the gorge is a bit steep, but not terribly long. The reward at the top is more than worth the effort though, with the beautiful Susquehanna River flowing through the farmlands of Lancaster and York Counties.

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Kelly’s Run. October 21, 2012.

Best Time to Visit: Mid to late October

Bonus Tip: Extend your hike by taking the Conestoga Trail from the Pinnacle Overlook to the north, where you can meet up with the beautiful Tucquan Creek.

Ralph Stover State Park

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Tohickon Creek. October 14, 2013.

Located in scenic Bucks County, Ralph Stover State Park features views over the lovely Tohickon Creek as well as streamside hiking along the creek itself. Park at the lot in the High Rocks section of the park and explore the (mostly) unblazed trails that lead to views over the creek. Follow the trails to the east and make your way down the creek, where more unblazed trails follow the water in both directions. There are some nice rapids and great places to picnic along the Tohickon as it makes a horseshoe bend in the park. 

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View from High Rocks. October 14, 2013.

Best Time to Visit: Late October and even early November

Bonus Tip: Longer hikes can be put together using the trails at Tohickon Valley Park.  Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the Bucks County Covered Bridge Tour.

Rainy Day in the Loyalsock

Stubbs and I set out for the Loyalsock late on Saturday. I had to cover a soccer game in the afternoon, so it was after 6 pm when we finally got on the road from Philly to take the four hour drive to Lycoming County.

We made it to Bloomsburg as the sun was setting and wound through progressively smaller roads as the darkness set in. A few detours and a stop for snacks found us getting into Masten around 10:30 pm.

I wasn’t sure how crowded the primitive campground would be and was worried that it might be hard to find a spot. We arrived and parked next to the lot for backpackers parking, which was full. But we found there was only one other person camping at Masten after wandering in the dark with our flashlights for a few minutes. We found a nice campsite and started setting up camp.

As I was pitching my tent, a man emerged out of the darkness and said hello, scaring the hell out of me for a moment. His name was Herb, and he was the only other person camping in Masten. He was a colorful (and drunk) character from nearby Laporte. He explained his friends had stood him up on a fishing trip and he was enjoying the night by himself. We chatted for a few minutes about hiking in the area and the threat of threat of gas drilling. And how crazy it was that anyone wanted to drill anywhere near the Loyalsock.

He eventually returned to his camper and we ate a quick snack and turned in to get some sleep. Herb’s trailer played music  into the early morning.

We awoke on Sunday morning to grey skies and light rain. We packed up camp and drove the few miles to Ellenton Ridge Road to park for our intended hike. We were going to hike the Old Loggers Path to connect to the Sharp Shinned Trail, to connect with Rock Run. Our plan from there was to bushwhack Rock Run down to wear it meets Yellow Dog Run, some three miles away. We had done a different version of this hike last year, taking the OLP to the same destination. We were hoping to check out the cliffs and cascades of the upper gorge of the Rock Run.

But all the best laid plans…The rain tapered on and off as we drove to the trailhead. It rained steady for a while as we started our trek on the OLP. We reached the yellow blazed Sharp Shinned Trail and took that as it descended gradually through the woods. The rain really came down as we approached Rock Run. We took cover under a giant pine tree as it poured for about 20 minutes.

I’m fine with hiking in the rain. And certainly don’t mind a little bushwhacking, particularly in the Loyalsock and even more particiualrly along Rock Run. But the cards seemed stacked against us for this one. With the rain pouring down and the rocks in the run feeling like they were coated in ice, we decided that it was going to be a rough day if we continued on with our intended hike. We instead bagged it, and hiked back up the Sharp Shinned Trail, back to the OLP, and back to the car. If the weather was going to suck, no worries, we were in the Loyalsock and there was plenty to see.

Old Loggers Path
Old Loggers Path

I pulled out my map and made a plan for the rest of the day as we jumped into the car to avoid the rain. I’ve been wanting to hike a loop through the Hoagland Branch of the Loyalsock for a while, and we would now have a little time to scout some trails and some of the roads. There was also a waterfall that we’d not yet explored that was fairly accessible from where we planned to go. So I threw that into the plan as well.

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Hillsgrove Road

We drove from Ellenton Mountain Road back to Masten. We crossed Pleasant Steam and headed through the forest on Hillsgrove Road. It rained intermittently, but the road gradually rose away from Pleasant Stream and reached a nice vista. We parked the car and dodged rain drops to take a few pictures.

Hillsgrove Road Vista

Hillsgrove Road Vista
Hillsgrove Road Vista

We continued on past the vista and through more rain. We turned on to Merrell Road to take the route toward Sharp Top Vista. I’d only been up to Sharp Top once before, on our OLP hike in 2010, and recalled it as a beautiful view. We’d not be so lucky this day though.

Even though the rain tapered off, the vista was completely closed in by clouds. We waited a few minutes, hoping things would improve, but they didn’t.

Sharp Top Vista in the rain
Sharp Top Vista in the rain

We headed back down the mountain and through more mysterious roads. An occasional deer scampered out of the way as we continued through the fog.

Merrell Road
Merrell Road

We arrived at our next destination after about 20 minutes of back roads driving. It was only drizzling as we jumped out of the car at Hoagland Vista, a lovely view at the end of Slab Run Road.

We experienced just about every type of weather one can experience in August on the vista. It drizzled for a little while before the rain pushed off momentarily and the sun appeared. I was hoping we’d get a rainbow, but it never appeared (though we saw one later in the day.)

Hoagland Vista
Hoagland Vista

Hoagland Vista

We hopped back in the car and headed back the way we came, eventually getting back to Mill Creek Road. We drove a few miles as the creek parallelled us on the right.

The creek eventually disappeared into the gorge on the right. We reached a small pull off where a trail lead down the hill. The rain had pushed off completely by this point and it was actually pretty nice, with sunshine and a bit of a breeze. We made our way down the hill toward the sound of rushing water and shortly arrived at the top of Mill Creek Falls.

A quick look around saw a path that led down some small cliffs to the base of the falls. We scrambled down and made our way back to pool at the bottom of the falls. I’ve been to bigger falls in Pennsylvania, and even in the Loyalsock, but Mill Creek Falls was impressive in its own way. It’s pool of turquoise water had me particularly enamored.

Mill Creek Falls
Mill Creek Falls

Mill Creek Falls

Mill Creek Falls
Turquoise pool

We had one last stop to make before heading back home and we backtracked once again. Back down Mill Creek Road and back to Camels Road.  We went past Slab Run Road and hit Bearwallow Road.

Shortly after that we reached lovely Bearwallow Pond. We pulled into the parking area and next a lone pick up truck. The clouds had returned and it was threatening to rain again. We snapped a few photos and watched as a lone canoe drifted along in the water.

Bearwallow Pond
Bearwallow Pond

We continued along Bearwallow Road, eventually finding our way back to SR4001 (after a few wrong turns and an inconvenient detour). We surprised a few deer along Bearwallow Road, and they were kind enough to stand still for a few seconds so  I could grab a picture.

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Some friends we met along Bearwallow Road

We made our way back toward southeast PA. I grabbed one last picture as we made our way our way past Forksville near World’s End State Park. The covered bridge there dates back to 1850 and it stopped raining enough for me to stick my lens out the car window to grab one good photo.

Covered Bridge
Covered Bridge

Despite some foul weather, we still managed to find our way to new locations and get the lay of the land for a future trip.

Hyner View State Park

After spending Saturday hiking in the Sproul State Forest, we packed up our camp at Hyner Run State Park and took the short drive up the mountain to Hyner View State Park.

The park is small, containing just a small parking area, a few picnic tables, a pit toilet and one amazing vista. The vista looks out over the largest state forest in Pennsylvania, the Sproul State Forest. You can also see the West Branch Susquehanna River both coming and going past the village of Hyner, PA.

The vista is impressive and we lingered here for close to an hour taking photos and looking out over the view.

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Sproul State Forest: Round Island Run

After years of having scheduling conflicts, I was finally able to make to the Keystone Trails Association’s Prowl the Sproul event in north central Pennsylvania. I passed on the opportunity to camp with the KTA at the Western Clinton  Sportsman Association, having my friends Bennett and Julia with me, who intended on doing some fishing in the area. We instead camped at nearby Hyner Run State Park.

After the approximately four hour drive up to the area, we arrived to Hyner View in the mid afternoon. With the rest of the campground full of RVs and campers, it was funny to arrive in my tiny Hyundai packed to the brim with three days worth of gear. We were some of the few in the campground actually sleeping in tents and the ranger commented something about us “roughing it.” I never considered car camping to be roughing it really.

We set up our camp and cooked up a quick lunch on my camp stove. Hyner Run State Park is completely surrounded by the Sproul State Forest and a few trails run right through the park. We decided to do a short hike along Hyner Run toward wear it hooks up with the Donut Hole Trail north of the park.

The stream was pretty and ran fairly shallow as we followed a path alongside the creek. A fisherman with a fly rod said he had some success pulling trout from the stream during the day. We turned around after a mile or so as the trail we were on continued uphill. We made our way back downstream past the entrance of the park. The stream continued to tumble over rocks and we enjoyed our short walk.

I woke early on Saturday to a cool morning and a little bit of drizzle. I packed up a quick lunch, grabbed a cliff bar for breakfast and took the short 2 mile drive down to the Western Clinton Sportsman Association. I checked in with the KTA and signed up for the hike I was planning on doing. Hikers that were camping at the WCSA mingled and prepared for their own hikes while finishing breakfast.

There were to be six of us for the hike to Round Island Falls in a remote section of the Sproul, an hour from where we were. Venerable Pennsylvania hiker Jeff Mitchell was leading this hike and I was lucky enough to drive out to the trailhead with him. I’ve been a big fan of Jeff’s since purchasing his book, Hiking the Endless Mountains , a few years back. The book is a fantastic guide to that area of PA and has led me to some of my favorite hiking spots over the last few years. We were joined by Nicole, a hiker from near Pittsburgh who herself had a good list of PA trails that she’d covered. We swapped stories as Jeff’s Subura chugged down the gravel roads of the Sproul, past the small towns of Renovo and Keating.

We arrived at a small parking lot off of Jerry Ridge Rd, about a mile before the road dead ends. Paul, Vickie, and Joyce rounded out our group and arrived in a separate car just behind us. We hiked down the road under grey skies and light drizzle. Morning fog drifted from over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the Sinnemahoning Creek. We arrived at the end of the road, where a short side trail led us out to a beautiful vista over the Sinnemahoning Creek Valley.  We stopped shortly to take pictures and enjoy the view of low clouds drifting through the mountains.

View over the Sinnamahoning Creek Valley
View over the Sinnemahoning Creek Valley

Turning back the way we came, we walked a short while and another side trail led to another vista. We stopped quickly for more photos.

Sinnemahoning Creek View
Clouds in the valley
Clouds in the valley

Another short walk along Jerry Ridge Rd back toward the cars led us to the Jacob’s Hollow Trail. The trail is unblazed, but a wooden sign along the road showcased the trail head. We turned here and started to make our way toward the stream the trail is named for. Along the way we passed a huge garter snake just off the trail. It was the largest one I’d ever seen, close to 2.5 feet in length. Jeff had seen the snake the day before in the same spot.

We reached Jacob’s Hollow, a small stream that had a number of small cascades and moss covered rocks.  The trail crossed the stream and descended more steeply as we made our way toward Round Island Run. This area was very scenic but was only a taste of what was yet to come.

Mossy rocks of Jacob's Hollow
Mossy rocks of Jacob’s Hollow
Jacob's Hollow cascade
Jacob’s Hollow cascade
Beautiful greens
Beautiful greens

We reached the confluence of Jacob’s Hollow and Round Island Run in a beautiful spot. We stopped for lunch at a small pool with a cascade and surrounded by rhododendron. One of the members of our group commented that she could have sat there all day, and we all had to agree.

Not a bad spot for lunch
Not a bad spot for lunch
The crew chows down
The crew chows down

We certainly could have stayed at our lunch spot longer, but there was still plenty left to see. We turned right to follow the Round Island Run Trail.  This was another exceptionally beautiful trail, with the run gurgling off to our right and blooming rhododendron to our left.

Round Island Trail
Round Island Trail

We moved through more beautiful sections of the trail when all of a sudden Jeff stopped short while right in front of me.  He turned to the group and pointed toward the ground, where about 5 feet in front of us a black phase timber rattle snake lay coiled right in the middle of the trail.

Timber Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnake

Jeff poked the brush in front of him, but the snake was unconcerned with us. It seemed sedentary on a cool, drizzly day and didn’t rattle or hiss at all. Jeff hiked around the snake through the brush and as I went to do the same, it slithered off in the other direction down the hill.

The trail continued to impress and we made our way along the run. The stream had a number of small cascades and there was so much blooming rhododendron.

Round Island Run
Round Island Run
Rhododendron
Rhododendron
In bloom
In bloom
Waterslide
Waterslide

Already impressed with our hike so far, there was yet another highlight to reach further on. We continued along the Round Island Trail as it rose gradually through forest. A side trail arrived on our left and led us to Round Island Run Falls. The falls was beautiful, a bridal veil falls that tumbled over two tiers. There was a small campsite and a side trail allowed us all to sneak behind the top tier of the falls.

Round Island Run Falls
Round Island Run Falls
Me, behind the falls
Me, behind the falls
Meta
Meta

We took the short walk back to the main trail and continued for a short while longer. We reached a side trail on the right side about 1/4 mile from the falls. We took this trail as it moved up the hillside away from the run.

Climbing away from the run
Climbing away from the run

We reached a plateau after a short climb and continued along the unblazed trail as it cut through a beautiful forest complete with many ferns. The trail was difficult to follow and was faint as it made its way through the ferns. Jeff lost the trail hiking the other way the day before, and I could see how that it would be easy to do. After a mile or so of making our way through the forest, the trail reached Jerry Ridge Rd again. The car was a short walk away.

Fern forest
Fern forest

We started to make our way back toward the WCSA. We stopped along Keating Mountain Rd where there was a short trail that led to another partial view.

Partial View
Partial View

We also got a good laugh on the drive back through Keating, which is a village with just a handful of houses along a gravel road, where a sign in front of one of the houses said “Caution Nudist Crossing, Slow Down.” We saw no nudists though.

Nudist Crossing
Nudist Crossing

The car ride back to WCSA was quiet as we all let our minds linger in the Sproul a little bit longer.

Loyalsock State Forest: Scar Run

On Memorial Day, my friend Mike and I were able to return to one of our favorite areas: the Loyalsock State Forest. Having previously hiked along Ketchum Run, we wanted to explore nearby Scar Run, which we had heard had some impressive waterfalls.

We parked off of Coal Mine Rd, near where the Worlds End Trail crosses the road. We descended on the Worlds End Trail through a forest of Pine trees to a place where the trail hooked up with an old grade. The grade hugged a deer fence while parallelling Scar Run near its headwaters.

The trail ascended gradually through the forest as Scar Run gurgled off to our left.  After a 1/2 mile or so, the trail bent away from the run. We continued straight to stay along Scar Run as the hillside started to rise near the North Branch Scar Run. We eventually reached the North Branch Scar Run and bushwhacked down the stream toward the main branch of Scar Run.

There was an impressive 10 foot falls as we grew closer to the main branch of Scar Run.  The falls sprayed into a shallow pool and then over a small waterslide.

10 ft falls on North Branch Scar Run

Just downstream, the two branches of Scar Run come together in an amazing place. The north branch tumbles over three tiers and what looks to be 60 feet or so to flow into the main branch. The main branch cascades almost continually for close to 30 feet just before the confluence.


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North Branch Scar Run at the confluence
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Scar Run at the confluence

We spent some time taking pictures and taking in the scenery in the middle of the confluence of the runs. It is a very beautiful place and we found it to be the highlight of the day.

We continued our bushwhack down Scar Run. We mostly stayed on the left side of the stream, occasionally having to rock hop in the stream itself.

We soon reached another small waterfall. This falls was about 8 feet high and the stream carved an impressive chasm before tumbling into a shallow pool. We were able to grab a few photos before being attacked by mosquitoes (who were present for most of the hike, but at their worst while we were in the stream).

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Long exposure

Stinging nettle was also prevalent in the grassy areas around the stream.  Mike and I both let out a few f-bombs as we got stung repeatedly.

We continued downstream, eventually hooking up with an old grade on the right side of the stream. We passed another 10 foot high waterfall that tumbled into a nice pool and then proceeded through a cool waterslide.

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10 foot high falls
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Falls with a waterslide

We reached one last falls, where the stream tumbled over a smooth rock face in two separate  spots. PA 87 could be seen and heard now and two hunting cabins came into view. The stream continues under the road, but we turned around here.

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Last falls on Scar Run

The red blazed Scar Run Trail links up with the road here and we planned to take that back to Coal Mine Road. The trail stays close to the run for the first 1/5 mile or so, but quickly starts to ascend the hillside and move away from the stream.

After about a mile or so, the trail reaches a power line swath. It is here that we lost our way temporarily and became a bit frustrated. According to our map and the GPS coordinates we had, the trail crosses the swath and continues on the other side. The swath itself was very overgrown with high grass and sticky mud. We walked to the other side of the swath and saw no sign of the red blazed trail. We walked down and then up the swath looking for a blaze for a good 30 minutes, all the while being attacked by mosquitoes, being stung by thorn bushes, and almost having our boots sucked off by deep mud.

Eventually we gave up trying to find the trail and decided just to bushwhack up the hill toward Coal Mine Rd. Within 45 seconds of making the decision to head into the woods, we saw a faded red blaze and found the Scar Run Trail again as it continued to ascend away from the creek. The best guess I have about what happens with the Scar Run Trail at the powerline swath is that it continues up the swath for a short period before turning left.

We continued along the trail as it gradually ascended along an old forest road. In places the trail was wide and flat, and other times it became overgrown and choked with ferns and high grass.

After another 1.5 miles or so, we reached the top of the gorge and walked along a flat section of the trail before reaching Coal Mine Rd at a gate. We made a left onto the road and walked the mile or so back to our car.

We took a short drive to High Knob as the sun started to set. We had the vista to ourselves for a short while and we enjoyed the expansive view.

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ScarRun 9
Views at High Knob

My Scar Run souvenirs:

ScarRun 1 ScarRun 15

Lackawanna State Forest: Panther Hill, Painter Creek, and Panther Creek

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.

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Dutch
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Alice

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.

Spring Brook
Spring Brook

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.

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Toward the “top” of Panther Hill

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.

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Panther Creek
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Panther Creek

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.

Long exposure on the top tier of Panther Creek Falls
Panther Creek Falls

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.

Crossing Painter Creek at the confluence of Panther Creek

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.

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Painter Creek

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.

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Campsite and Hemlocks on Painter Creek

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.

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Pine Hill Overlook and views

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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.