Tag Archives: waterfall

Pinchot Trail: Choke Creek and Choke Creek Falls

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.

Pinchot Trail
Pinchot Trail

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.

Campsite
Campsite

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.

Choke Creek
Choke Creek

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.

Red Spotted Newt
Red spotted newt

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.

Choke Creek Falls
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.

Phelps Road
Phelps Road
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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.

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

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.

Loyalsock Trail: Ketchum Run Gorge

This is one of the best day hikes I have done. With beautiful water features in the deep chasm of Ketchum Run and vistas along the Loyalsock Trail the scenery is superb. We were a bit past peak foliage for Sullivan County when we visited in late October, but the foliage that remained was excellent.

We started off following the Fern Rock Nature Trail as it meandered through wetlands with interpretive signs. We soon reached Ketchum Run and started our short bushwhack. There is no official trade that follows the run here, but there is a clear path through the woods for the most part as you keep the run on your left.

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First of the falls along Ketchum Run

The bushwhack features two very nice waterfalls. We reached the first, as a the stream slid over a long flat rock face at about 10 feet. Shortly downstream we reached an even more impressive falls, a 20 foot falls that tumbles into a nice pool. The setting was serene with the fallen leaves around the falls.

Largest falls along Ketchum Run
Largest falls along Ketchum Run

After less than a 1/4 mile of bushwhacking, we soon reached the Loyalsock Trail with its obvious red on yellow LT markers. There are some lovely campsites along Ketchum Run here.

Ketchum Run carves a deep gorge and the Loyalsock Trail follows the stream closely. Large cliffs emerge above the run. We took our time through this serene place. The creek gurgled below, impressive cliffs towered overhead, the colors in the forest featured yellows and reds and deep greens.

We reached the rim of Lee’s Falls, a large powerful falls. We skipped the RX-4 trail and stayed on the LT as it climbed away from the run temporarily. We soon came across the RX-5 trail, which we had to take to avoid the ladder that descends next to Rode Falls.

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Rode Falls

We soon linked back up with the LT and were forced to backtrack to see lovely Rode Falls. It was well worth it to backtrack the .4 miles though. The falls is lovely and tumbles into a scenic pool. Big cliffs feature on both sides.

From Rode Falls we trekked back up the LT to where it passed the RX-5 trail. From here we climbed out of the gorge. We reached Lower Alpine Vista with its lovely view out over the valley of the Loyalsock Creek. While we were hiking in mid October and the area had already seen its first frost, we learned on a subsequent trip that Lower Alpine Vista is often a haven for rattlesnakes. With the vista featuring a cliff that protrudes out over the valley, its no surprise it is a good place for a snake to sun itself. Be careful hiking on hot, sunny days.

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Lower Alpine Vista

We pushed on past Lower Alpine Vista as the LT followed an old logging road for a short time. But soon enough we were climbing on a rocky path again. After about 3/4 of a mile we came upon Upper Alpine Vista which featured the same view out over the Loyalsock Creek as Lower Alpine Vista, with just a little more elevation.

Just past Upper Alpine Vista, the LT reaches Coal Mine Road. We crossed the road and made our way along rolling terrain. We crossed the World’s End Trail and then descended steeply as the trail made its way back to SR 3009. We spent a little time at the intersection of the LT and SR 3009 as we were looking for a red blazed bridle trail. We eventually found the very overgrown trail and followed it.

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Beautiful forest

The trail met up with Coal Mine Road again which we forced to walk up for less than a 1/4 mile to stay on the trail. The bridle trail weaved in and out of a power line swath through very beautiful hemlock forests and eventually led us back to the parking lot from where we started.

We took the short drive up to Canyon Vista in World’s End State Park as the sun set.

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Canyon Vista, World’s End State Park