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