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Loyalsock Trail (PA's Loyalsock State Forest) 4/4 - 4/9/21

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  • Loyalsock Trail (PA's Loyalsock State Forest) 4/4 - 4/9/21

    This past spring, I finally had the opportunity to hike a longer trail that I've been eyeing for a while: The Loyalsock Trail in PA's Loyalsock State Forest. Back in 2014, a couple of friends and I hiked a shorter loop incorporating the eastern-most stretch of this trail, and I've been pining to return to hike the full trail ever since. At 60 miles, the Loyalsock Trail is no simple weekend undertaking, and hiking the entire thing in one go would demand the better part of a week at least. I was lucky enough to be joined by 3 human friends (Danie, Tony, and Bryan) and one canine companion (Owen). We elected to give ourselves 5 full days and change to hike the trail, which allow us to traverse the rocky and rugged Allegheny plateau at a fairly casual pace (~12 miles per day) that would also afford plenty of time spent hanging out in camp and enjoying each other's company.

    And so Sunday afternoon saw several of us meeting at the western terminus of the trail on PA 87 to spot a car and make the drive to the eastern terminus to begin our hike on Mead Rd just off of US 220. It would be dark by the time we started hiking, but fortunately our planned destination for the night was a campsite not far in on the Loyalsock Creek, near the Haystacks rapids.

    We stumbled across a nice site well before the Haystacks even, and elected to set up there for the night. As it was spring, DCNR's seasonal fire ban was in full force so we'd be forgoing campfires for the duration of our hike. No matter, we'd carried a number of solar lanterns for ambience, and had plenty of fuel for warm dinners and hot drinks to ward us against the chilly early season nights.

    Morning dawned cold but sunny, and before long we were breaking down camp and setting out to embrace the day.

    Despite roughly paralleling the eponymous creek for which the trail itself is named, the Loyalsock Trail for the most part is rarely near the Loyalsock Creek. Only the eastern-most mile or so of the trail actually follows the banks of the creek, and along this stretch we were treated to nice views of the river.

    It wasn't long before we reached the Haystacks area itself. This is a neat area where rock outcrops, each resembling a haystack, arise out of the river bed to form a series of interconnected cascades and rapids. It's a neat, beautiful, and popular area- and we saw a number of nice established campsites in the vicinity. Because of high levels of use (and abuse), DCNR has permanently banned campfires at any campsites near the Haystacks. It would be a neat spot to camp nonetheless.

    From the Haystacks we had a short but rocky climb up and away from the river, up to where the trail joins and follows an old railroad grade for the next mile or two. This stretch provided us with easy hiking and we made good time up to the Rock Run Rd bridge, where the trail crosses the Loyalsock Creek on a single-lane road bridge before beginning a hefty climb up and out of the Loyalsock gorge to Sones Pond.

    The climb to Sones Pond was rugged, rocky, and steep. We'd stopped to take off bits and pieces of warm weather gear already along the way, but the climb itself dispensed with any last-remaining early morning chills. By the time the trail leveled off, sweat was streaming down our faces.

    Sones Pond has a number of nice campsites set in a pleasant hemlock stand on the northeast side of the pond, adjacent to where the LT passes the shoreline. As we approached the pond and the campsites there, memories of a rather cold and frigid night spent camped there during our previous backpacking trip 7 years prior quickly flooded into my mind. Our return visit to Sones Pond was much more pleasant, and we elected to take an early break for lunch in one of the sites.

    As with the Haystacks, DCNR has enacted additional restrictions for the Sones Pond area due to the area's popularity. Fires are permitted there (outside of the spring fire ban), but car camping is not. The only groups allowed to use the area for overnight camping are backpackers hiking in on the LT.

    After an hour or so of relaxing on Sones Pond, it was time to set off again. The next few miles of hiking were across the level top of the Allegheny Plateau, and we made good time over the level terrain with only a few sections of rocky outcrops along the way. At Tamarack Run, we passed a sign pointing out Ann's Bridge, a bridge that was long gone but for which the sign remained.

    Soon we were dropping down into the deep gulf that is the Big Run drainage. This was a bit of a steep and rocky descent that gave our ankles a good workout. Not far from the bottom of the gulf, we passed a nice campsite on the bed of an old, now-defunct logging road.

    Tom's Run, a tributary that we arrived at above Big Run, also had some really nice waterfalls and cascades, including Alpine Falls.

    Along Tom's Run, the trail passed through some moderately rugged terrain. One stretch of rugged hillside was traversed on switchbacks- the great thing about switchbacks is that even if you're hiking companions are some ways ahead of or behind you, you still get to say hi to them on the trail.

    We also passed by a somewhat nice looking campsite on Tom's Run, not far from where that stream empties into Big Run.

    Between Tom's and Big Runs, the trail climbs up and over a low bug rugged ridge. At the top of the ridge the trail passed by a spot known as Ken's Window. There was once a nice view hear out and over the narrow valley, but in recent years the view has grown in. Even without leaves on the branches there really wasn't much to see.

    From here the trail turned to climb up along Big Run for about a mile. Not far from Ken's Window, we passed a small but otherwise seemingly nice campsite below along Big Run, with room perhaps for 1 or 2 small tents.

    It wasn't too long before we were rock hopping across the headwaters of Big Run, then climbing to and crossing Loyalsock Road.

    At this point we were starting to think about making camp for the night. It was early still, and we'd only traversed about 10 miles for the day, but we were also approaching the stretch of the Loyalsock Trail that passes through World's End State Park. Once we entered the state park, primitive/dispersed camping would no longer be permitted for several miles, and indeed the next realistic camping option as indicated by the guidebook was some 6-7 miles further on. A 16-17 mile day was more than we were looking for with packs filled with food and provision for the rest of the week.

    Near the swamp that forms the headwaters of High Rock Run, we encountered a nice site set in a stand of hemlocks, well-shaded from the brilliant spring sun that was relentlessly burning down on us in the absence of leaves. We briefly considered stopping there for the night, but the Loyalsock Trail guidebook promised us one more site a bit further down on High Rock Run, just before the trail passed into the state park, so we continued onward.

    A bit more hiking plus a short stretch of road walking back on Loyalsock Road brought us into High Rock Run drainage, which we descended partway into. The campsite was not quite located on the Loyalsock Trail itself, but perhaps a few hundred feet down the Flynn Trail, at the bridge where that trail crosses High Rock Run. It was an alright site- really two very small sites on opposites of the creek, both located a bit too close to the water to really be in complete accordance with LNT. None in the group were particularly keen on backtracking up to the site we'd passed further up along High Rock Run, however, so we settled in and made ourselves at home for the afternoon and evening.

    Continued in next post...
    Last edited by DSettahr; 10-05-2021, 01:24 PM.

  • #2
    It wasn't long before mixed drinks (a staple of our backpacking trips) made an appearance. It was also someone's birthday, and a surprise birthday cake was soon revealed.

    I also took some time to poke around and explore in the vicinity. High Rock Run is a cascading mountain stream and even if the campsite itself was subpar, the scenery was nonetheless nice. As afternoon waned and it got darker, I also got some nice photos of cascades further down on the stream.

    We were up and at it early the next morning, breaking camp before the sun had even crested the horizon. Some early morning stretches loosened any muscles that had tightened overnight, and puffies kept us warm for the first mile or so until hiking kicked our internal furnaces into high gear.

    Not long after we set out, we passed into brilliant morning sunshine. Our spirits were immediately elevated, and everyone was grins and giggles (aided by one or two extremely inappropriate jokes, no doubt).

    World's End State Park occupies a rather scenic portion of the gorge carved by the Loyalsock Creek, and as we were hiking we were descending into said gorge. Just before starting the steepest part of the descent, we arrived at the High Rock Vista, which has excellent views out and over the gorge.

    From there we began a steep and rocky descent through what is probably one of the most rugged stretches of the entire 60 mile trail. "Rocksylvania" was on full display here, with not shortage of ankle-twisters along the way. still, it was nevertheless a scenic portion of trail.

    Before long, we were crossing the Loyalsock Creek on a footbridge and entering the developed part of World's End State Park proper.

    Just outside of the World's End State Park office, we found a little lending library... Danie was enamored with the selection of romance novels we found within.

    From the State Park office, the trail crosses PA 154, passes through a day use picnic area, and then begins a rather rugged climb up the opposite side of the Loyalsock Gorge. Here, the impacts of a tornado that passed through the area in 2019 were on full display- there were a number of dead hemlocks on the ground.

    Further up the side of the gorge, the trail joins the original road route between Forksville to the north, and Eagles Mere to the south. This road was abandoned in 1897 when a newer road route was built along the bottom of the gorge, and now serves as part of the extensive trail network in the World's End State Park vicinity.

    Some older maps promised good views from this stretch of the trail. We got a few glimpses of the gorge below through the trees, but nothing really worth writing home about.

    Following the old road took us up into the Double Run drainage, a large Y-shaped drainage on the side of the Loyalsock Canyon with two main tributaries. Here, we crossed World's End Road and descended to the confluences of the two forks of Double Run. This was a very scenic area with pleasant cascades, and also served as a good place to top off our water bottles.

    From here, the LT began a rocky and at times somewhat rugged climb back up and out of the Double Run drainage- also our final exit from the Loyalsock Gorge for good. As we climbed, the trail passed some neat rock formations- and also a trail marker that had been affixed to solid rock.

    Near Cold Run Road and at the top of the Loyalsock Gorge, we were treated to one last spectacular view of World's End below. We elected to take a quick snack break while enjoying the view.

    The next ten miles or so of the LT would be on or near the top of the Allegheny Plateau, and the hiking was generally easy with flat terrain punctuated by the occasional gentle ups and downs. For a bit over a mile south of the vista, the trail followed an old logging railroad grade.

    Along this stretch we also passed out of World's End State Park, which meant that dispersed primitive camping was once again allowed along the trail. Near the headwaters of the east branch of Double Run, we also encountered a couple of nice campsites.

    Continued in next post...


    • #3
      For the next half mile or so, the LT descended gently along the east branch of Double Run. This was another scenic stretch of trail with more beautiful cascades.

      In particular, we were treated to nice views of Neeneha Falls. The name purportedly is a Wanabago name that means "falling water."

      After crossing Mineral Spring Road, the trail began a relatively gentle climb up and over the broad hill that seperates the headwaters of the east branch of Double Run from the headwaters of the west branch of Double Run. As we climbed, the trail traversed beneath some interesting rock ledges and overhangs.

      Some blowdown along the way slowed us up somewhat, but before long we were enjoying the warmth of brilliant spring sunshine in an open and young hardwood forest atop the hill.

      More easy hiking brought us down to the headwaters of the west branch of Double Run. While not nearly as scenic as what we'd just encountered near the headwaters of the east branch, it was still a neat area- a babbling brook in a hemlock forest that shaded us from the brilliant sun. We elected to take a longer break alongside the stream for lunch (and at least one of us took advantage of the opportunity for a nap).

      Not far from our lunch spot I spied another infrequently used by nice campsite.

      Not long after we started hiking again, we crossed World's End Road and some more mostly gentle and easy climbing along a short stretch brought us back up to the top of the plateau proper. The next several miles consisted of mostly flat hiking across level terrain, with a few small ups and downs along the way, through patches of both young hardwoods and older mixed woods.

      Eventually, we crossed Coal Mine Road and began a gentle descent down to the Alpine View. Here, we were treated once again to spectacular views out and over the mouth of the Ketchum Run drainage, where it empties into the Loyalsock gorge.

      Alpine View is also home to a nice and clearly popular campsite- and it's easy to see why. Not only does it provide easy views right from camp, it was complete with no small collection of camp furniture. One drawback- it is a dry site, with no water available nearby.

      After passing the Alpine View, we were subjected to a steep descent down into the Ketchum Run drainage. About halfway down, the trail leveled off for a stretch on a shelf on the side of the drainage, where we hiked past more neat rock formations and ledges- including some very deep and narrow clefts in the bedrock.

      The shelf also provided us with one more vantage point- the uniquely named Lower Alpine View. Whereas the higher up Alpine View faced more into the Ketchum Run drainage, the Lower Alpine View faced more directly into the Loyalsock gorge itself. The Loyalsock here was downstream of the World's End portion we'd passed earlier in the day, and was both a bit broader and more developed, but the views were spectacular nonetheless.

      Ordinarily, the LT descends into the very bottom of the small gorge carved by Ketchum Run, with rugged and rocky terrain and even a stretch where the use of a wooden ladder is necessary to ascend a ledge adjacent to the scenic Rode Falls. An alternate route exists higher up on the side of the gorge for those who wish to avoid the rugged terrain. However, a landslide the previous fall had forced the closure of the lower, more rugged route, so we were forced to take the alternate route which follows an old road.

      Rode Falls was advertised as one of the most scenic parts of the LT, through, so when the alternate route rejoined the old, "proper" LT, a couple of us dropped packs and wandered down to check out the falls. They definitely didn't disappoint.

      Some guides advertise the existence of a campsite at Rode Falls, but despite the incredibly scenic views, I was not too impressed with the site itself. A bit too close to the water to be in accordance with LNT, and it looks like the site itself is in the water when the creek is running high. As we would find, there are better campsites located further upstream along Ketchum Run.

      Even up and beyond the falls, Ketchum Run provided excellent scenery, with no shortage of beautiful cascades and riffles right beside the trail as we made our way upstream.

      Our destination for night #3 was one of the campsites located near the old Ketchum Run splash dam, located about a mile upstream of Rode Falls. This was the historic site of a logging dam that was used to build up a head of water to send harvested logs downstream. Right at the splash dam site, the gorge opened up in a beautiful flat space with open forest and a really nice campsite located adjacent to what was once the pond held back by the dam. It wasn't long before tents were being erected and we were settling in for the afternoon and evening.

      With camp set up and the shadows starting to lengthen, Bryan and I decided to take a short stroll back down Ketchum Run to admire the falls once more. With the sun starting to settle below the walls of the gorge above us, I was able to get some nice long exposure shots of Ketchum Run, including a really nice shot of Lee's Falls. The entire area felt like something straight out of Lord of the Rings- I've no doubt that if elves exist, they probably live along Ketchum Run.

      Continued in next post...


      • #4
        Some further poking around before dinner also revealed the existence of a couple of other nice campsites, located in pleasant hemlock stands upstream of our splash dam site on Ketchum Run. Clearly Ketchum Run is occasionally a somewhat popular place for backcountry camping (and it's easy to see why).

        The early setting of the sun behind the gorge walls also meant that warm clothing was quick to make an appearance as we cooked and ate dinner, and relaxed in camp.

        Not too long after midnight, I awoke to hear the familiar pitter-patter of raindrops hitting the fly of my tent. We'd enjoyed nothing short of amazing weather for the duration of our hike thus far, and over 5+ days we were probably going to experience at least some precipitation. Still, I was glad that I was warm, dry, and snug in my sleeping bag in my tent, and I kept my fingers crossed that just maybe the rain would let up by morning.

        Apparently karma was on our side, because sure enough, just as it was getting light enough to think about getting up and starting morning camp chores, the rain ceased. It would be the only precipitation we could see for the entire duration of our trek. We emerged from our tents into a rather damp forest, and it took some effort to dry our rainflies out, but still- we really lucked out with the timing of the single rainstorm we saw.

        It wasn't long before camp was broken down and we were again on the move. The climb up and out of the Ketchum Run drainage (no longer really a gorge in the upper stretches) was fairly gentle and easy. The two forks of Ketchum Run were easily rock-hopped across, and further up the trail mostly followed old logging roads.

        A couple miles of easy ascent brought us close to the Split Rock formation. We could tell we were getting close when we started to see rock outcrops alongside the trail.


        We also passed an infrequently used campsite situated right atop an outcrop of bedrock. This was another dry site, without a nearby water source.

        One final short but rugged climb brought us to the Split Rock formation itself.

        The Split Rock area is super neat- there's extensive rock outcrops here and the trail passes through a narrow notch betwixt two of the outcrops. Several in our group are climbers and they were enthralled by the scenery.

        After passing through Split Rock, the Lt descends into the upper reaches of the Cape Run drainage. Apparently there are numerous waterfalls on Cape Run, but most of these are well below the trail and bushwhacking is necessary to see them. We did catch a glimpse of a small cascade through the trees on one of the tributaries of Cape Run, however.

        There was also a small and infrequently used but otherwise nice campsite near Cape Run that was situated on the flat space provided by an abandoned logging road.

        The climb up and out of the Cape Run drainage also had some short scrambles to get our blood pumping again.

        Once out of the Cape Run drainage, the next mile or so of the trail traversed the summit of High Knob, and here the trail was fairly flat with more easy strolling.

        There is an overlook on High Knob, but it's not directly on the LT. At the southern crossing of High Knob Road, a loop scenic drive that circumnavigates the summit of High Knob, a 0.3 mile detour west along the road will take one to the overlook. We elected to drop our packs at the road crossing and take the detour to see the views. At the overlook is a nice picnic area, and the views were certainly worth the side trip.

        High Knob is well-named; the knob rises up and above even the top of the surrounding Allegheny Plateau. Once reunited with our packs, we were subjected to another steep descent, not even into a gorge, but back down to the plateau. More switchbacks here allowed us to say hi to each other even while spread out along the trail.

        Once back on the plateau proper, we decided to stop for lunch near the headwaters of Dry Run. This is also roughly the halfway point of the trail- we were just about 50% done!

        Not far before crossing dry run, we passed a nice campsite alongside the trail, with plenty of flat space for tenting.

        Dry Run itself was easily stepped across. From what I understand, Dry Run is well named, and runs dry for most of the year. The nearby campsite (pictured above) should probably generally be treated as a dry site for most of the year, with plans to carry water made accordingly.

        Continued in next post...


        • #5
          Not far beyond Dry Run we crossed the appropriately-named Dry Run Road. From here, the trail side cut across the grade, generally staying high above the valley carved below by Dry Run. Before long, we were passing Mary's View, with afforded us a view of the Dry Run valley.

          Beyond Mary's View, the trail turned and climbed gently into the upper reaches of the drainage of Dutters Run, a tributary of Dry Run. Soon, we'd reached Dutters Run itself, which turned out to be a very scenic stream- quite possible one of the most scenic stretches of the entire LT, even. The trail crossed and re-crossed the stream multiple times, and we also hiked passed a number of very scenic waterfalls.

          As with Dry Run, Dutters Run also appears to run dry at times- and indeed, there were even a few sections of stream bed where no water could be seen during our visit.

          Just before turning away from Dutters Run for good, we also passed a nice campsite.

          Not long before starting the descent down into the Kettle Creek area, we also passed a piece of Loyalsock Trail history- one of the original trail markers. Most of the present-day LT is marked with special plastic markers (similar to the markers used by the DEC in the Adirondacks), but the trail was originally marked with hand-painted tin can lids. Not too many of these older style markers remain.

          I was also quite psyched to find the discarded leaf of a tulip poplar, but my friends were a bit less enthusiastic about the discovery. (Or perhaps it was a lack of enthusiasm for being forced to pose with the leaf for a photo...)

          About a mile of steady descent brought us down into the depths of the Kettle Creek Gorge. This is one of the more wild and remote drainages traversed by the LT. Much of the vicinity of the gorge is a state-designated Wild Area (PA's version of Wilderness Areas), while the gorge itself is a state-designated Natural Area. Natural Areas enjoy even stricter protections than Wild Areas, including even generally a prohibition against camping. Accordingly, by entering the gorge we were committing ourselves to camping somewhere beyond to the south- but as it was still early in the afternoon, this was of no concern for us.

          Kettle Creek itself is a very scenic stream, with plenty of riffles and rapids.

          We also opted for a bit of a break alongside the stream, and Owen was once again quick to take advantage of yet another opportunity for a catnap.

          And while resting, one of us discovered an old discarded horseshoe rusting away in the leaves not far from the trail. It was certainly a neat find that quickly invoked thoughts of the area's early history. Perhaps the horseshoe dates back to the earliest era of logging in the Loyalsock State Forest area...

          For about half a mile, the LT closely paralleled Kettle Creek, affording us more excellent views of the creek itself. The trail itself followed yet another old logging railroad grade as we hiked downstream along the creek.

          Soon, we were at the Kettle Creek crossing. This can apparently be a challenging, if not downright dangerous crossing at times when the water is running high. Fortunately for us, the water was relatively low and we had little difficulty crossing.

          Some of us elected to cross in sandals...

          While Danie was determined to get across without taking her shoes off. It was touch and go for a bit, but she was ultimately successful in getting across with dry feet.

          Beyond the crossing, the trail began a long and steady climb along an old road back up and out of the Kettle Creek drainage. About a third of the way up, we passed an overlook with nice views out and over the gorge- the Kettle Creek Vista.

          Beyond the vista, the trail got a bit steeper, and soon we were huffing and puffing as we scrambled the rest of the way back up to the plateau. We passed through another patch of young forest, followed by a hardwood stand filled with club moss, and began the gentle descent down into the upper reaches of the Falls Run drainage.

          Angel Falls on Falls Run was apparently once a popular spot for camping, but it was closed to camping due to overuse and abuse. Fortunately for us, a number of established (and legal) campsites exist along Falls Run about half a mile or so upstream of Angel Falls. It was still early when we arrived at these sites, but we were coming up on the lengthy private-property stretch of the LT- on which no camping is permitted- and a careful examination of the guidebook seemed to indicate that these sites were the last legal camping opportunity for the next 10 miles or so. None of us were keen on hiking that much further, so we selected the nicest of the Falls Run sites for the night and moved in.

          After setting up camp I took a few minutes to poke around the other nearby sites- I found a couple of other old fire pits that did not appear to get much use. We'd clearly selected the most popular (and most well-used) site in the vicinity, but the other sites also seemed nice enough.

          As the afternoon waned, I also opted to take a stroll downstream to check out Angel Falls itself. The closer and closer one gets to the falls, the more and more gorge-like the drainage becomes.

          The views from the top of the falls aren't great- there's too much vegetation to peer through, and to try and lean out through the vegetation was risking too much exposure for my tastes (plus apparently Angel Falls has been a regular site for backcountry rescues and I had no inclination to add to the total number of incidents). Fortunately, a trail down to the base of the falls exists, where I was able to take in some nice views of what is apparently the tallest waterfall in Loyalsock State Forest.

          There's also a number of smaller yet still quite scenic cascades located further downstream on Falls Run below Angel Falls. Once again, I found myself invoking mental imagery fit for Narnia or Middle Earth.

          My hike back up to our campsite far above brought with it one more spectacular sight- well, spectacular to me, anyways: A positively massive tulip poplar. The poplar was so huge it stretched high up and above the surrounding canopy.

          Continued in next post...


          • #6
            Back in camp, my companions were busy cooking dinner. It had been a long day, and exhaustion was clearly starting to set in.

            And early bed time meant that we were once again up and at it early the next morning, before the sun had even crested the horizon.

            Not everyone was particularly excited to be up and moving in the chilly morning hours...

            Soon, however, we were off and on our way, eager to move to drive the chill from our bones. Bryan and I took a quick side trip back to the top of Angel Falls to take in the views there before moving on.

            Beyond Angel Falls, the trail began a steady descent down the hillside into the Ogdondia Creek drainage on an old road grade. Soon, we were at the bottom of the valley, crossing Ogondia Creek and it's tributary, Brunnerdale Run, and then following the short road walking section along Brunnerdale Road.

            The trail then began a long and steady climb back up and out of the Ogdonia Creek valley. Over the next two miles, we were treated to nearly a thousand feet of elevation gain as the trail climbed to it's high point at 2140 feet in elevation, along a historic road bed that was once part of the Genesee Road. The Genesee Road was constructed in 1799 and followed the route of an even older Native American footpath, the Sheshequin Path. This route was also used by escaped slaves traveling northward to Canada on the Underground Railroad prior to the American Civil War.

            The lengthy climb did away with the last chills of the cool morning, and by the top we were all shedding layers for the day.

            The high point of the trail also meant cell service, and phones where quick to make a short appearance before we moved on.

            We were now on to the private property section of the trail. This section was still fairly rural in character and also provided some nice hiking, but the difference between public and private lands was also on plain display. Not far from the high point, we passed a shooting blind beside the trail, situated in a patch of woods that had clearly been managed to keep the understory open.

            Not far beyond, we passed a capped gas well, which provided nice views... and a bit of a stark reminder that PA has been a bit more strictly utilitarian in it's use of non-renewable natural resources than NY has.

            Much of the private property section of the LT follows gravel roads, which we soon found ourselves following. The area traversed was still fairly quiet- and I don't think we even saw a single car along the entire stretch.

            Not long after starting on the roadwalk section, we also passed the entrance to the summer camp featured as the location in the documentary Friday the 13th.

            We also hiked past the Meracle family cemetery, who settled the area prior to 1873. I took a few minutes to explore and photograph the small cemetery.

            According to the LT guidebook, this area was once home to a number of resorts, complete with amenities such as casinos, dance halls, billiards halls, and even bowling alleys. A few buildings from the Hotel Essick still remain but they are in pretty rough shape.

            One of them I wasn't sure was actually part of the hotel- it had more of a "Quaker meeting hall" feel to it. It looked like someone had tried to undertake restoration work on it once but had given up- there were tattered tarps hanging from the roof.

            The trail deviated from the gravel road for about a quarter mile. Along this stretch we passed the "Wind Whistle Inn," which was once a casino for the nearby Grand View Hotel. In the modern era, it appeared to be used as a private hunting camp.

            Near Highland Lake, the trail rejoined the gravel road- and we were treated to a sight for sore eyes: Beer advertisements at the front of the driveway to Highland Lake Manor. We immediately started salivating at the thought of an ice cold beer before continuing on our way, and took a detour up to the main building.

            Our disappointment upon arriving to find the bar closed was immeasurable. We should've known- it was still early in the morning, just barely after 10 AM.

            The next two miles of trail brought us down a gradual descent on the gravel road, dropping us roughly 600 feet in elevation. The easy tread allowed us to make good time along this stretch up until the point where the trail turned away from the road and started to climb back up to the top of the plateau.

            Some sections of the climb back up to the pleateau were mildly rocky and rugged, but for the most part it was not a particularly challenging climb. More distressingly, we did pass a number of patches of well-established invasive plants along this stretch, however- including in particular some really nasty patches of multi-flora rose.

            Our return into the boundaries of the Loyalsock State Forest back atop the plateau also brought with it a clear display of the value of intact native ecosystems on well-protected public lands: The invasive plant infestations immediately just about disappeared, and we were once again hiking through beautiful hardwoods and mixed forest.

            As we traversed across the top of the pleateau, the presence of some old foundations in combination with Norway spruce and daffodils keyed us in to the fact that we were hiking through what was once a homestead. According to the guidebook, this was once the site of a farm owned by one Sammy Miller, and the land was initially cleared in 1872.

            Continued in next post...


            • #7
              Beyond the homestead, we started an easy descent into the Hessler Branch drainage. As we made the gentle descent, the hemlock canopy overhead got thicker and thicker, and soon we were hiking through shade- a relief after the open sun of the earlier gravel roadwalk through the private section of the LT.

              Upon arriving at Hessler Branch we were treated to the site of a nice campsite. Here, we stopped to consider our itinerary for the remainder of the trip. We had food for 2 more nights, yet had only just shy of 14 miles yet to hike to finish the trail. However, those 14 miles were also host to some of the steepest and most rugged climbs and descents of the entire LT and nothing to take lightly. It was also still early in the day- not yet 1 PM. After some discussion, we decided to aim to finish the trail sometime the next afternoon. After some quick map consultation and math work, we figured this would still allow for a fairly leisurely pace- including a nice long lunch in the campsite on Hessler Branch before continuing onward.

              Someone was quick to take advantage of yet another opportunity for a catnap.

              I also took a few minutes to poke around and found 1 or 2 additional campsites in the Hessler Branch vicinity- not nearly as nice as our lunch site, but sites I'd use without complaint nonetheless.

              With the arrival of afternoon we were once again on our way, starting the easy climb up along Hessler Run back to the plateau and back into more stands of hardwood as we crested Long Ridge.

              Another gradual descent brought us down into the upper reaches of the Granddad Run drainage. Granddad Run itself was tiny where the LT crosses it- we were able to hop across without issue.

              Beyond Granddad Run, the understory of the forest atop the plateau become more and more densely packed with mountain laurel. In some areas, the vegetation was so thick that the scenery took on a jungle-like feel to it.

              Another easy descent brought us down to the headwaters of Shingle Run, where we were treated to a beautiful campsite which we were quick to occupy for the evening.

              As usual, Owen wasted no time engaging in some full on relaxation in camp.

              After setting up my shelter for the evening, I took a few minutes to wander around and explore the vicinity. Not far away, I discovered another nice campsite- a bit less used than our site but still a pleasant spot to stay nonetheless.

              Shingle run is also a beautiful stretch of stream, with many cascades along the creek itself and it's tributaries. And were back beneath a dense hemlock canopy, whose shade contributed contrast to the scenery. It was a pleasant spot to spend our final night on the trail.

              One final night also meant our last chance to enjoy each other's company in camp- and accordingly, we made sure to finish just about all of our liquor ration carried for the trek. We had a very nice final evening together in camp, before turning in for the night around dark.

              The final night was warmer than any of the others had been, and noticeably more humid. The humidity was especially pronounced by sunrise, and we awoke to cloudy skies. It was clear that we were timing the end of our trek well- rain was not far off.

              Still, cloudy skies makes for great stream photography, and I made sure to snap some more shots of the cascades on Shingle Run while waiting for my companions to break camp.

              Ever the naptime opportunist, Owen patiently waited for camp breakdown to finish by getting in a few finals zzz's.

              By 6:30 AM we were just about packed and ready to go. Our goal was to beat the rain, and accordingly we'd aimed to get an even earlier start on this final day.

              More easy climbing brought us back up and out of the Shingle Run drainage to the top of the plateau, where we were treated once again to open hardwood forest as we made our way across the height of land.

              On the top of the ridge separating the Shingle Run and Snake Run drainages, we passed a nice and infrequently-used campsite. It was a dry site, however, so anyone planning to use it would need to plan ahead and carry water.

              The descent down into the Snake Run drainage was moderately rugged, with a bit more elevation loss (and regain) than many of the previous drainages we'd recently traversed. It wasn't long, however, and soon were were traversing the bottom of the small gorge carved by Snake Run. Nestled in a stand of pines and hemlocks at the bottom of the drainage we passed another small and infrequently used by otherwise nice campsite.

              Snake Run itself was also easily hopped across. Based on the small stature of this stream, as well as the location of the trail crossing not far from its headwaters, I wouldn't doubt that it also runs dry at times during the year.

              A moderately rugged and in spots, slightly rocky climb brought us back up and out of the Snake Run drainage to the plateau once again.

              As we traversed a flat section of the trail along Red Ridge, the forest opened up once more into a beautiful stretch of open hardwoods. The trail here made for some very pleasant strolling through the woods.

              We did spot a campsite along the gradual descent towards Painter Run, but it appeared to be a site born more out of desperation than due to any scenic qualities contributing to a pleasant stay there.

              Near the headwaters of Painter Run, the trail also briefly passed by a recent timber harvest area.

              The short stretch of the LT along Painter Run also provided more beautiful scenery. This is another nice babbling and cascading brook that made for pleasant hiking alongside of, even if we were forced to make a few wet rock hop crossings back and forth across the stream.

              We also spotted a single campsite alongside Painter Run. Due to the narrowness of the small valley carved by the stream this close to the headwaters, this was a rather small site- a group with a single small one- or two-person tent could definitely make it work, but larger groups would almost certainly struggle to fit.

              Continued in next post...


              • #8
                All too soon, we were deviating away from Painter Run to start the climb up Rock Ridge and Smith Knob beyond. The Painter Run trail continues down along Painter Run itself, and I be that trail is a particularly scenic one to hike.

                The climb up to Rock Ridge was fairly straightforward and easy...

                ... but the climb from Rock Ridge up to Smith Knob was steep and rocky. By the time we crested the summit of Smith Knob, the sweat was pouring freely from our foreheads.

                The east end of the summit of Smith Knob is host to a large and nice campsite with excellent views. It was occupied by a group of 3 or 4 guys when we arrived, and unfortunately, in spite of the fire ban they'd chosen to build a roaring bonfire (or perhaps they were completely ignorant of the fire ban). There was also a bit of a breeze atop the knob, and sparks were being carried aloft no short distance away. Given how dry much of the forest was pre-leaf out, it's no small wonder that they didn't end up starting a forest fire.

                Smith Knob is a bit of a linear summit, and a flat traverse of the top took us to the west end where we were treated to some additional views.

                After dropping down off of the knob itself onto Laurel Ridge, we were treated to one more nice view of the Loyalsock Creek to the north at Helen's Window.

                From here, another at times rugged and steep descent brought us down into the Little Bear Creek drainage, where we crossed the creek as well as the appropriately-named Little Bear Road, and arrived at DCNR's also appropriately-named Little Bear Equipment Storage Area.

                From here, we were just shy of 5 miles from the western terminus of the Loyalsock trail. We had ahead of us one final massive climb back up to the Allegheny Front (the prominent south face of the Allegheny Plateau), before making our last rugged descent down to the trailhead. We elected to take a short break at a picnic table in front of the work shed at the DCNR facility before continuing on.

                Since we were only a few miles by road from the end of the trail, my companions also chose to shed unneeded overnight gear for this last stretch of the trail, thereby continuing on with day packs only. While I don't judge them negatively for choosing to do so, I personally felt that it only counts as "backpacking the full trail" if you carry all of your overnight gear with you all of the way- and so my full pack remained as it was.

                The trail up Pete's Hollow started alongside a small and pleasant cascading stream.

                Maybe about 5 minutes above the DCNR work center, we also passed a campsite on the righthand side of the trail. It was an alright site, neither horrible nor amazing.

                As it climbed into the upper reaches of Pete's Hollow, the trail got very rocky and rugged- it appeared to still be following an old road bed but I can't imagine that this road was ever used for anything other than a single season's worth of timber harvesting.

                There were also a number of dead hemlocks in the upper reaches of Pete's Hollow- presumably killed by the hemlock woolly adelgid.

                Eventually, after what seemed like an endless climb, the trail leveled off as it approached the Allegheny Front. The last tenth of a mile or so up to the front itself was more pleasant hiking through mixed woods.

                We also passed a seasonal spring not far off the trail. I glanced around to see if there were any established campsites in the vicinity but saw none. The forest was generally open enough that for a small group at least, it probably wouldn't be hard to find something to make do with.

                After arriving at the Allegheny Front, the trail turned and followed a pipeline swath for a short distance...

                ...then climbed a bit more through more hardwoods...

                Before arriving at the Allegheny Ridge Vista. This was a viewpoint with grand and expansive views southward across the Valley and Ridge province adjacent to the Allegheny Plateau. The view was very pastoral in nature, with no shortage of farmland in sight. We stopped to enjoy the scenery for a few minutes before moving on.

                There was also a nice campsite set back in the woods not far from the overlook. This was another dry site, so one would need to be willing to haul water to it... but it could be worth the effort to be able to camp not too far from the nearby views.

                Hiking westward along the Allegheny Front took us across more rocky outcrops, although nothing with the views quite like we'd experienced at the vista.

                After following the Allegheny Front for about a mile and a half, the trail turned northward and joined an old woods road, which facilitated more pleasant walking.

                We also passed another nice established campsite along this stretch. There were a few wet springs with running water in the vicinity of this site on the day we hiked by, but again I imagine that in the height of summer this should be treated as a dry site. Still, it was the last established site we saw prior to the end of the LT, and for those attempting to thru-hike the trail from west to east, it's a good site to be aware of for late starts on Day #1... provided that the backpackers are willing to carry all their water for the night up to the top of the plateau with them.

                Not far from the campsite we also hiked by an abandoned- and very well demolished- cooler that someone had ditched on the side of the trail. Weather it can been demolished by the teeth of animals or the bullets/buckshot of hunters it was hard to tell for sure. Mostly a combination of both.

                The final descent back down to the western terminus was a doozy. This was hands down the must rugged stretch of the entire LT- one of those sections of trail that is so rugged, it's not easy going whether you're going up or down. As with the World's End descent we'd endured several days prior, Rocksylvania was on full display along this section of trail, and by the end of the down climb our ankles, knees and hips were definitely feeling it. All told, this elevation change along this stretch of the trail is nearly 1,000 feet in only three-quarters of a mile... I was glad we'd decided not to hike the trail west to east, thereby forcing ourselves to make this climb with overnight gear and 5+ days of food on our backs.

                Along the descent we were treated to one final viewpoint on the trail at Charlie's Look-back, where we caught a final glimpse of the Loyalsock Creek.

                Despite the rocky and rugged descent, having the end in sight made us all smiles. Our 60 mile trek through the heart of the Loyalsock State Forest was complete!

                Continued in next post...
                Last edited by DSettahr; 10-05-2021, 01:37 PM.


                • #9
                  One last treat lay in store for us- an excellent dinner (and beers) at a local restaurant (the Forksville Inn and Tavern) on the way back to the eastern terminus to reunite everyone with their vehicles. Before departing on our respective journey's home, we took one last group photo in the pull-off where we'd started our trek 5 days prior.


                  All in all, it was a great trip with excellent friends through beautiful terrain. I'd definitely rank this as one of my favorite PA backpacking trails- right up there with the Black Forest Trail. I'd say that the BFT just barely beats the LT in terms of overall scenery, but the BFT can be popular and the LT definitely wins when it comes to solitude. I could certainly see myself returning to re-hike the LT at some point in the future, especially if I had the opportunity to introduce someone to the trail who'd never hiked it before. And there's sections of the LT I'd do with friends for shorter weekend trips as well.

                  I know this is a longer post- but I've also received feedback in the past that longer trip reports such as this one are super helpful for those planning future trips along similar routes. So I hope this report comes in handy for a few prospective Loyalsock Trail hikers in the years to come! :-)

                  For those interested in hiking all or a portion of the LT, I'd strongly recommend investing in two resources that we found to be invaluable:

                  The Alpine Club of Williamsport's Guide to the Loyalsock Trail

                  Purple Lizard's map of the Loyalsock State Forest
                  Last edited by DSettahr; 10-04-2021, 08:15 AM.


                  • #10
                    Incredible report and photos. The LT and the Loyalsock State Forest are among my favorite places to hike.


                    • #11
                      Thanks, Jeff- glad you enjoyed it.

                      I hiked the Quehanna Trail about a month after this but I'm still working on getting the photos sorted and edited... at some point I'll (hopefully) have a trip report up for that, too.