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Quehanna Trail Questions

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  • Quehanna Trail Questions

    I've got a couple of weeks off coming up and I'm toying with the idea of spending one of them hiking the 75 mile Quehanna Trail in PA's Moshannon State Forest. My tentative plan is to give myself 7 full days and change to hike this trail- Sunday through Saturday, with a late arrival on the Saturday evening prior. This would allow a moderately relaxed pace averaging 10-11 miles per day- which gives some extra time each day for poking around, enjoying the scenery, relaxing in camp, etc.

    A few questions:

    What is the best way to hike the trail? Right now I'm considering the traditional start at Parker Dam State Park, and going CCW around the loop. This leaves most of the bigger climbs for the second half of my trip, when my pack will be a bit lighter with less food. Are there any other considerations that might lend themselves to picking a different start/end point? Or going the other way around the loop?

    Where are good campsites located on this trail? I'll almost certainly be solo so even small sites will work. Also, are there any campsites in either direction close to the traditional trailhead at Parker Dam? It looks like the trail follows streams on either side immediately where it leaves the state park and camping becomes legal- Little Laurel Run when headed CCW, and small unnamed tributary of Laurel Run when headed CW. I'm hopeful that I'd be able to find sites not far from Parker Dam my first night since I'm planning to start late in the day.

    What are some "must see" spots along the way? I know that some of the "best" spots of the Quehanna Wild Area aren't actually on the Quehanna Trail, but since this is my first visit to the area I'd prefer to follow the QT over any alternate routes that skip portions of the QT. That being said, short side trips would certainly be of interest, especially if I can pair them with a campsite- I.e., drop pack, quickly set up camp for the night, and then hike a mile or two with a day pack to see something off trail if it's worth the added effort.

    (And I'm sure I'll be back again in the future with friends for shorter weekend trips to hike some of the smaller "nested loops" formed by the QT and the connector trails across the middle.)

    Any other considerations to be aware of? I understand that the Mosquito Creek bridge is out so this is a wet (and potentially challenging) crossing. Anything else that should be taken into consideration?


    As usual, thanks in advance!

  • #2
    QT is a great trail. Lots of isolation, meadows, streams, some views, big rocks, cascading streams. Elk are becoming more widespread. Beaver dams are popping up more frequently. Yes, the Wild Area side trails have the best scenery, but the QT itself is still great. I particularly like the south side of the loop. QT has beautiful streams often with hemlock, rhododendron, moss boulders and cascades. Upper Jerry Run is gorgeous, as is Sanders Draft.

    What is the best way to hike the trail? CCW is a good choice.

    Where are good campsites located on this trail? I'll post more about this later. Little Laurel should have camping, or at least potential campsites.

    What are some "must see" spots along the way? Crawford Vista is nice. Table Falls is unique, not tall at all, but cool when flowing well. A separate hike, but while in the area you should check out the Fred Woods Trail and Bucktail Overlook.

    Any other considerations to be aware of? There are snakes and nettle in places, porcupine draft is known for its nettle. Unbridged creek crossings and wet areas.


    • #3
      Thanks, Jeff.

      I should be able to grab my copy of the Quehanna Trail Guidebook this weekend; I'll probably spend next week pouring through it.

      Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk


      • #4
        One quick question- Different sources that I've looked at so far show a completely different route for the trail where it crosses the plateau between Medix and Laurel Runs (on the northwest quadrant of the loop, towards the end as it is approaching Parker Dam again). Your (Jeff's) book and the Quehanna Trail guidebook both show the trail taking a more northerly route, ascending up along Bear Run and descending into a roadless section of the Laurel Run Drainage.

        In contrast, the official DCNR map, the AllTrails entry for the trail, and the Purple Lizard Map all show the trail taking a more southerly route here, continuing south parallel to Big Medix Grade Rd, then bumping west up and over the plateau and down to Laurel Run where Blackwell/Saunders Road crosses the stream.

        To further add to the confusion, on Open Street Map, both of these trails segments are labeled as the "Quehanna Trail."

        Which is the correct route? And what is the deal with the confusion? Was the trail re-routed at one point?

        And if it's a choose your own adventure sort of thing, it would appear that the northern route is the nicer alternative? I note there are two purple lizards along this section on the Purple Lizard map (both seem to correlate to overlooks on the edge of the plateau), and it also clearly has more trail mileage set in a roadless area.


        • #5
          Well, with some careful examination of the QT guidebook, I think I've answered my own question. The northern route is the "old" Quehanna Trail, whereas the southern route is the "new" Quehanna Trail. The reroute was deemed necessary to avoid a wet crossing of Medix Run- a stream that can be dangerous to cross when running high, and likes to consume foot bridges for breakfast.

          The "new" southern route allows the trail to take advantage of a road bridge further upstream.

          I think in this case, I think I might be ok with deviating from the "official" QT to follow the old route if conditions are such that the crossing is safe to make. The alternative follows the old QT anyways, and this route is a mile longer than the current QT so it's certainly not any easier. But the guidebook does make mention of potential plains to abandon the old QT, which leads to an obvious question since I'm considering this route: Any ideas what the current condition of the old (northern) route is?
          Last edited by DSettahr; 04-27-2021, 06:06 AM.


          • #6
            Yes, the QT was rerouted due to the inability to keep a bridge across Medix Run. The old route was a nice one.

            As for camping, I recall sites at the following: Twelvemile Run/Corporation Dam, Cole Run, Upper Jerry Run, bottom of Upper Pine Draft, top of Laurel Draft, Arch Spring, Sanders Draft, Sullivan Run. Most creeks should have a site, or potential camping.


            • #7
              Thanks again, Jeff. It sounds like the planned replacement bridge for Mosquito Creek hasn't yet been constructed?


              • #8
                I went through a number of different sources (Jeff's book, the QT Guidebook by Ben Cramer, a GPSed list of sites compiled by Bob and Carol Zinn and published to, and the Purple Lizard Maps) and compiled a list of possible campsite locations along the trail. Included is the mile marker, whether the site has water, and a short description (and also a citation of the source used to gather information about that site). I figure this info may be useful to others at some point (such as anyone googling the trail who happens to stumble across this thread in the future):

                All miles are from the traditional trailhead at Parker Dam, and correlate with the mileage listed in the Cramer Guidebook. I did subtract 1 mile for any mileage after the Medix Run re-route to account of the new (shorter) route (included in the notes is mileage for those sites if approached via the old route).

                Mile Water Description
                0.50 N/A End NO CAMPING, State Park Lands
                0.68 Yes "Nice camping" along Little Laurel Run (Cramer)
                1.54 Yes "Pretty nice campsite on island in stream" along Little Laurel Run. LNT much? (Cramer)
                1.90 Yes "Possible campsites" in rocky area along Little Laurel Run (Cramer)
                1.97 Yes "Many possible camping locations on both sides of stream" in "relatively flat and sparsely forested" area along Little Laurel Run (Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                4.90 Yes Campsite near Alex Branch (Zinnware)
                5.21 Yes Campsite along Alex Branch (Zinnware)
                5.76 Yes "Possible camping spots on other side of stream" along alex Branch (Cramer)
                5.98 Yes Campsite along Alex Branch, "nice camping spot" (Zinnware, Cramer, Mitchell)
                6.36 No "Dry camping" possible in hilltop meadow (Cramer)
                7.30 N/A Begin NO CAMPING, State Game Lands.
                8.96 N/A End NO CAMPING, State Game Lands.
                9.56 Yes "Nice camping in this area" along Roberts Run (Cramer, Mitchell)
                13.35 Yes "Some possible campsites" along Deer Creek in rocky terrain, "camping along creek" (Cramer, Mitchell)
                15.44 Yes Campsite along Gifford Run. Small 1 to 2 tents in existing cleared area. "Nice camping spots on far side of bridge." (Zinnware, Cramer, Mitchell, Purple Lizard)
                16.13 Yes "Great camping spot in hollowed out area (possibly an old quarry)" along Gifford Run (Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                18.12 Yes Campsite along Deserter Run (Zinnware)
                21.39 No "Dry campsite" (Cramer)
                23.98 No Dry campsite, Water source is 0.28 miles downhill, "Dry campsite with partial views." (Zinnware, Cramer)
                24.28 Yes Campsite near building and along Gifford Run Other locations possible just down the trail near Mosquito Creek (Zinnware)
                24.50 Yes "Nice camping" at Twelvemile Run/Corporation Dam site (Mitchell)
                29.54 Yes Campsite at Cole Run (Zinnware)
                36.00 Yes Campsite with spring along Lower Three Runs, "a few nice camping spots a bit uphill from here" (Zinnware, Cramer, Mitchell, Purple Lizard)
                37.56 Yes "Area that is generally favorable for camping" along Upper Jerry Run (Cramer, Mitchell)
                38.24 Yes Campsite Upper Jerry Run, "nice but cramped camping spot" (Zinnware, Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                38.50 Yes Campsite Upper Jerry Run, "some possible camping spots here and there" (Zinnware, Cramer)
                40.39 Yes Campsite Upper Pine Hollow, "some possible camping opportunities in this area" but "tough to find a flat spot" (Zinnware, Cramer)
                40.97 Yes "Possible camping area near confluence with another branch of Upper Pine Run," "potential campsite where Upper Pine Draft joins" (Cramer, Mitchell)
                41.29 Yes Campsite Wykoff Run, "Turn right into a possible camping spot" (Zinnware, Cramer)
                41.90 Yes "Several nice campsites down along stream" in Laurel Draft (Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                43.40 Yes Campsite head of Laurel Draft, "turn left at nice campsite" (Zinnware, Cramer, Mitchell)
                45.75 Yes Campsite Little Fork Vista (Zinnware)
                45.99 Yes Campsite Arch Springs, "an intriguing campsite," "potential campsites," reports of broken glass all over ground here (Zinnware, Cramer, Mitchell)
                47.01 Yes Campsite Sanders Draft, "cleared out campsite on left," "nice campsites" (Zinnware, Cramer, Purple Lizard, Mitchell)
                47.40 Yes Campsite Sanders Draft (Zinnware)
                48.00 Yes "A couple of cramped campsites" (Cramer)
                48.37 Yes Campsite Sanders Draft, "a nice campsite near the confluence of two branches of Sanders Draft" (Zinnware, Cramer, Purple Lizard, Mitchell)
                48.95 Yes "Some possible camping sites in this area" along Red Run (Cramer)
                49.94 Yes "Some nice camping spots between the grade and the run" at the mouth of Porcupine Draft (Cramer)
                50.50 Yes Campsite Porcupine Draft (Zinnware)
                54.73 Yes "Some camping spots in this area" at the third crossing of Deible Run (Cramer)
                54.92 Yes Campsite Mix Run, "nice camping area in a bottomland" (Zinnware, Cramer, Mitchell)
                55.09 Yes "Many nice camping spots" in Mix Run hollow (Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                55.71 Yes "Another fine area for camping" on either side of Mix Run (Cramer)
                56.22 Yes "More good camping in this area" near headwaters of Mix Run (Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                59.08 N/A Begin NO CAMPING, State Game Lands, head of Sliver Mill Hollow.
                59.37 N/A End NO CAMPING, State Game Lands, head of Sliver Mill Hollow.
                69.29 Yes Campsite Saunders Run, "excellent campsite to left" NOTE: MILE 70.29 VIA OLD QT (Zinnware, Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                70.60 Yes "Can scramble down to several viable campsites" along Saunders Run NOTE: MILE 71.60 VIA OLD QT (Cramer)
                71.09 No "Dry campsite" 0.4 miles east of Tyler Road NOTE: MILE 72.09 VIA OLD QT (Cramer)
                71.98 No "Meadows in this area offer some possibilities for camping" 0.5 miles west of Tyler Road NOTE: MILE 72.98 VIA OLD QT (Cramer)
                73.25 N/A Begin NO CAMPING, State Park Lands

                And the same for the old stretch of the QT via Bear Run:

                63.60 Yes Campsite Medix Run, west side of creek. NOTE: OLD QT (Zinnware)
                63.80 Yes "Slim possibilities for camping" along Bear Run NOTE: OLD QT (Cramer)
                65.82 No "Dry, open air campsite" in upper reachs of unnamed hollow near Laurel Run NOTE: OLD QT (Cramer, Mitchell)
                66.22 Yes Campsite Unknown Branch NOTE: OLD QT (Zinnware)
                66.79 Yes "Excellent camping area" in bottom of Laurel Run hollow NOTE: OLD QT (Cramer, Purple Lizard)
                Last edited by DSettahr; 05-05-2021, 09:17 AM.


                • #9
                  To my knowledge, the bridge over mosquito creek has not been replaced.


                  • #10
                    I got out of the woods yesterday- did the whole loop, followed the old Quehanna Trail from the Medix Run crossing to Laurel Run (now blazed in yellow and called the "Bear Run Trail"). Trail was very scenic and beautiful- as you've mentioned before Jeff, parts of it do evoke comparisons with the Dolly Sods albeit on a bit smaller of a scale. Similar open heath barrens and bogs. Also some of the deeper hollows with cascading streams were incredibly scenic.

                    Temps were on the colder side- colder than I'd anticipated. I was also not expecting the 1-2 inches of snow that fell on Sunday night. Made some of the nights a bit less comfortable than I'd anticipated but for the most part I was at least able to remain safe. And the nearly 2 inches of rain that fell across the full duration of my traverse also contributed to some challenges (particularly the Medix Run crossing). But on the plus side- very few bugs!

                    Mosquito Creek does have a bridge... of sorts. It looks like someone intentionally felled a tree across the creek maybe 100-200 feet upstream of the old bridge site, and then bolted iron bars to it with cable handrails attached. It felt as sketchy walking across it as it looked (the bolted bars were all loose and wobbly and there was zero tension in the cable handrails). Honestly the whole contraption was obviously anything but official and it's likely even a liability for DCNR. But also I would not at all be shocked to find out that it had washed away after I crossed it (the rain didn't begin until after I'd passed that area).

                    Was a bit less impressed with the campsites. Many of them are small and noticeably lacking in flat/level ground. I would be hesitant to hike portions of this trail with a larger group (using more than 1 or 2 tents) as I think such a group would struggle with making a lot of the established campsites work. Honestly, the best/nicest options were often the dry sites atop the plateau- on several nights I grabbed water in the last hollow as I was climbing up through and then just found a flat spot up high on the plateau, where the forest was usually open and fairly level with plenty of options.

                    (Also I noticed that when the Cramer guidebook indicates that there's "nice camping options" along a stretch of the trail, that doesn't actually mean there's established campsites in that area- just flattish ground where maybe you can find something that you could make work.)

                    Took hundreds of photos on the trek (as usual). At some point I'll hopefully get a proper trip report up. Still sorting through and editing photos from my Loyalsock Trail hike back in April, though!

                    Thanks again for your info- it was super helpful
                    Last edited by DSettahr; 09-28-2021, 09:14 AM.


                    • #11
                      I'm glad you enjoyed the QT. Now spend some time on the wild area trails.


                      • #12
                        Sounds like a good trip! I personally love the rickety-ass-bridge, there's-supposed-to-be-a-campsite-is-that-really-it nature of PA forests. Would love to see the pics when you get them processed!

                        Also I second Jeff's comment. Quehanna is worth another visit just to build your own side-trail adventure.


                        • #13
                          Was the Bear Run Trail in decent shape? I’m considering it over the new reroute. I see the DCNR map lists the trail at 71 miles but most sources say 73. Is this reroute off the Bear Run Trail where the 2 mile mileage difference comes from?


                          • #14
                            It was in decent shape. You could tell it gets less use now that it is no longer part of the official QT but it was still well marked and easy to follow. There was also some decent camping options in the hollow that the old route drops down into on the west side of the height of land- not particularly well established sites but decent flat space for pitching tents nonetheless with an old fire pit nearby.

                            Based on descriptions I've read about the new QT route, I was glad I stuck to the old route- it was a bit more scenic than it sounds like the new route is.
                            Last edited by DSettahr; 06-14-2022, 05:00 PM.


                            • #15
                              I hiked the QT last week. I camped in Mix Run hoping to hike Bear Run but got hammered wit 1-2 inches of rain in about 4 hours in the AM and decided against risking the Medix crossing. It was churning fast and muddy. The new QT follows a very brushy grass area after the STart of Bear Run with waist high grass before dropping to the road. Once back in the woods, the new route passed through an extended stretch of blooming mountain laurel that made for a scenic time. Two screaming foxes added to the experience. No vistas but I can’t complain. It was one of the drier sections of the day after the morning deluge. I’ll post my TR here when I Get a chance to sit down for more than a few minutes.