Allegheny Front - East Backpack

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Description: This is a moderate 30 mile back pack trip utilizing the trail systems of the Black Moshannon State Forest and Park of Pennsylvania. Several years ago Ralph Seeley came up with the idea of developing a trail that would circumnavigate the entire Black Moshannon Park. The route would traverse approximately 40 miles of trails transporting the hiker through mature hardwood forest, sections struggling to recover from past cuttings, beautiful trout streams, scenic vistas, Pine plantations, Rhododendron thickets, Hemlock groves and finally, the bogs of Moss-Hanne. To provide variety and shorter routes the Moss-Hanne and Shingle Mill Trails would be added as cross connectors right through the heart of the state park. Volunteer trail building crews from all across PA were assembled. In 2003 the project, now known as the Allegheny Front Trail, was completed. The skill, effort and engineering that was required to make this happen is akin only to that found in the beaver that constantly change the topography of this fantastic hiking venue.

 

This outing starts in the center of the park, follows the Shingle Mill Trail north to pick up the Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) which is then followed in a clockwise direction to re-enter the park on the Moss-Hanne Trail which is then followed back to the starting point. I break the trip down into 3 equal 10 mile segments. Day 1 is mostly walking along beautiful streams and creeks with one modestly challenging climb. The focal point of day 2 is a challenging ridge walk with great vistas. There is a 3 mile segment of steep ups and downs on the rockiest trail I’ve ever been on but the views are satisfying rewards. Day 3 features a relatively easy romp through the bogs and swamps of Moss-Hanne. The stone bridges and long boardwalks make this segment a pleasure.

For more info on the AFT go to:

 

Google Custom Directions

 

Immediately turn onto Julian Pike (Note: Google Maps calls this Beaver Run Rd). Mooring area #1 is immediately on the right. Drive approximately 0.25 miles to Ranger Station and inform them of your intentions. If they are closed leave a note with vehicle description and tag#, persons in your group and emergency contact info under the office door. Return to mooring area #1 and begin the trip.

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Printable/Downloadable Mao

Printable/Downloadable Map of North Section

Printable/Downloadable Map

 

Printable/Downloadable Map of South Section

View 3-D Map of Entire Loop

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users

 

 

Trail Notes: All trails are signed and blazed. There are a couple of woods roads (active and inactive) that are crossed and noted in this description. AFT sign posts with pertinent distances are installed at every road crossing. Feel free to start/end this hike at any of these locations keeping in mind water sources, camping areas and park camping policy. Park policy asks that hikers not camp within a mile of the park boundary. For this outing the northern limit is Huckleberry Road. The eastern limit is I mile east of Julian Pike which happens to be the campsites at/near Smay’s Run Trail/Road.

 

Day 1: From Mooring Area #1 proceed north on Julian Pike. Cross Rt 504 and follow Black Moshannon Rd for 0.42 miles. Turn left onto a gated service road. Cross Black Moshannan Creek on a bridge and immediately turn right onto blue blazed Shingle Mill Tr.

 

At 1.72 miles from joining the Shingle Mill Trail cross Huckleberry Road. Although all of Shingle Mill Tr is beautiful the best part is the section north of Huckleberry Rd. Note the campsites marked on the map. The largest area is actually on the other side of the creek at a dog leg just before the trail ascends steeply on a well-constructed piece of side-hill trail. In 1.83 miles from Huckleberry Rd join the orange blazed AFT. Turn right.

 

In another 0.81 miles the AFT crosses Black Moshannon Creek on a bridge and passes in front of a green cabin/cottage to cross Benner Run on yet another bridge. Turn left after crossing the bridge and follow Benner Run for 1.38 miles before re-crossing the run on another bridge. There are a couple of small campsites between the two crossings. It’s possible that more sites might be found on a slight rise to the right of the trail if you can work through the thick Leatherleaf plants that seem to blanket the entire forest.

 

Shortly after the last crossing pass and unsigned blue blazed trail on the right. This follows Benner Run further upstream and may provide yet more camping opportunities. Stay on the AFT and climb up and over the next ridge to Hull Run. There are two water sources here but offers little in the way of campsites.

 

In 2.89 miles after leaving Benner Run cross a gravel woods road. In another 0.33 miles join the Rock Run Ski Trail. Turn right here. The trail will be marked with both orange and blue blazes. In 1.03 miles descend to Rock Run. You can either camp here, just above the bridge for the Rock Run Connector Tr or walk uphill for another 0.5 miles to a nice bench along a huge beaver dam/pond.

Day 2: Continue up Rock Run. There are a couple of small but nice campsites at water’s edge along this section. Cross Rock Run and at 1.96 miles from the Rock Run Connector bridge meet the junction with the upper portion of Rock Run Ski Trail. Turn right onto orange blazed AFT.

 

Soon find yourself walking along the headwaters of Benner Run. There are several potential campsites along this section. Cross Benner Run and walk across an open meadow to a Red Spruce plantation. At 1.26 miles from leaving the Rock Run Ski Trail come to a grassy woods road. Turn left onto the road following the orange blazes. In another 0.3 miles leave the road turning left onto a footpath. Re-enter the meadow and cross a grassy maintenance road for a set of radio towers over your left shoulder. In another 0.15 miles arrive at Rt 504.

 

Cross Rt 504. In 0.13 miles cross another woods road. The path itself will become a well rutted road as it descends steeply. In another 0.21 miles make an abrupt right turn up a rocky foot path and in 0.51 miles come to a partly obscured overlook. Descend steeply and ascend several times visiting the vistas along the way. The last vista is signed “Ralph’s Magnificent Vista” in honor of Ralph Seeley. Leave the last vista and scramble through an area known, for obvious reasons, as “Rock City”.

 

At 0.60 miles from Ralph’s Magnificent Vista cross Underwood road. In another 1.62 miles cross Smay’s Run Trail. This is a good spot to call it a day. A slightly more secluded campsite is just a few more yards down the trail at the bridge that crosses the run.

 

Day 3: Continue west on the AFT. In 1.1 miles cross Julian Pike and join the Moss-Hanne Trail. It will be blazed with orange triangles and is a mix of foot path, old woods roads, rock bridges and wonderful boardwalks. In 2.6 miles pass a spur trail that leads out to Shirk’s Rd on the left and then the continuation of the AFT. Turn right to stay on the Moss-Hanne Tr with its orange triangles.

 

In another 1.02 miles cross the apparently abandoned Airport Trail. In another 1.28 miles cross a small backwater. Here the trail goes un-blazed to the left into a Pine plantation and to the right (blazed) towards the lake. Turn right here.

 

n another 2.09 miles join the Indian trail that comes in from the left. Turn right, following the duel blazes for 0.25 miles (orange triangle and red circle). The Indian trail will turn left. Continue on the Moss-Hanne Trail to it junction with the Bog Trail in another 0.43 miles.

 

Follow the boardwalk around to the launch ramp on West Side Road. Turn right onto West Side Road and in 1.16 miles arrive back at Rt 504. Cross the bridge and return to your cars.

Printable/Downloadable Trail Notes

Critique this outing! ________________________________________

 

Name: Hardcore/Wooly Bully/Shortstack                                                         Hike: ATF-East

Date(s): 08/03-05/13                                                                                           Rating: 4

 

Critique: Encouraged by word of recent trail clearings and re-blazing for a trail race on AFT, Hard Core, Shortstack, and Wooly Bully stopped at the Black Moshannon State Park office, to sign in, get maps and trail updates from the park ranger. We faced light rain as we headed north up the Shingle Mill Trail, descending along the Black Moshannon Creek, charming with plenty of flowers, including Hollow Jo- Pye Weed and Cardinal Flower, sometimes growing in the center of the creek. After joining the AFT, we headed east through fields of ferns and ended the day at a campsite just past the Rock Run cutoff trail. Day one was a nice woods hike with relatively smooth trails and little elevation gain. Overnight temperatures were in the low 50's, with some traffic noise from I-80, and owl and coyote calls in the distance. Day 2 proved different. The weather improved with nice, low-humidity conditions for the remaining of the trek. After crossing Rt. 504, the trail became very rocky (ROCK ALERT!), with some steep sections. At one of the rougher sections, we meet backpackers from the Penn State Outdoor Club, participating in a five-day "Freshman Orientation." We continued up towards the overlooks enjoying more ferns, three "named vistas," and lots of blueberries! After crossing Underwood Road, the blazing (fresh yellow paint to this point) disappeared for a while, and then turned red. The blazes and trail maintenance had been good to this point, but the trail race must have ended here. Three tired hikers almost called it a night at the first Smay's Run campsite along a wood road, but fortunately decided to take the second site under the hemlocks. Again, we had the campsite to ourselves except for the owls and whatever roams through campsites at night (deer?), and everyone slept well. Day 3 included fantastic views of marshlands from a network of boardwalks and more blueberries. The trail notes may need updating here, as we had a few confusing sections getting on to the Indian Trail and Bog Trail was not labeled until on top of it, but we ended up in the right place, along the lake on beautiful boardwalks. The last two miles of the circuit were road-walking past nicely kept lakeshore houses. Overall, this was a nice trail, 32.8 miles total. It was a little rocky, rutted, and steep in the middle as accurately described in the trail notes, but otherwise moderate, seeing only a few groups of hikers and mostly, well marked except as noted. A plus for summer outings here, the beachfront was open and the bathhouse available for showers and changing.

 

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Name: Bob Ardner                                                                                                  Hike: AFT-Eastern Section
Date: August 17-19 2012                                                                                      Rating: 2

Critique: I hiked the Eastern Section of the AFT with a friend on August 17,28, 29 2012.
Friday 8/17/12. We started from the Black Moshannon State Park parking area near the beach, and had a hard time finding the Shingle Mill Trail (SMT) above the dam. We ended up walking Black Moshannon Road to the bridge where we crossed the creek and picked up the SMT. We followed it to where it connected with the Allegheny Front Trail (AFT).
We were surprised to see that the AFT was blazed yellow. All of the trail write ups we read prior to the trip indicated that the trail was blazed orange with no mention being made that the AFT was being re-blazed.
This section of the trail was easy to follow with signs that there had been trail maintenance done recently. After crossing the creek at the green cabin it started to rain and continued for over an hour. Shortly thereafter the trail became overgrown and continued to be overgrown for most of the rest of the day until we got to the Rock Run campsite, the additional water from the overgrown foliage not only added to our becoming even more wet, but slowed our pace since we couldnt see the foot bed of the trail so we had to slow our pace to make sure of our footing and to be sure we could see the blazes. The blazes had also changed back to orange.
Saturday 8/18/12. This was a perfect day for hiking. Cool, sunny with low humidity. The AFT was blazed orange through this section. When the first steep climb started we found the trail choked with picker bushes that were as tall as we were and because of the thorns, slowed our progress considerably along with tearing clothes and scratching bare skin. The blazes changed from orange to yellow again. After the vistas (which were impressive) we continued on to the Smays Run campsite. However at Underwood Road, the blazes abruptly changed to red. We wasted more time checking and double checking our maps and the written trail description we had. The was no mention of red blazes. We followed the red blazes and moved on to our camp. We took the small camp site near the bridge and found it to be fantastic.
Sunday 8/19/12. Our last day, so we were up early and on the trail by 7:20 AM. The weather overnight was cold (low 50s) and the day was cool with low humidity and clouds. When we hit the park boundary, the blazing changed again to yellow. As we continued into the park we were looking for the Moss-Hanne trail (MHT) to be blazed with orange triangles as stated in the on line trail description. We found the MHT had been re-blazed with yellow blazes. Our compass readings agreed with the topo map and the overall topography was right, so we pressed on and completed the hike by noon.
Overall rating: 2. Fully 45-50% of the trail was overgrown and the numerous changes in blazing was confusing, and in some circumstances could be dangerous to novice hikers/backpackers.

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Name: Jason Daschbach                                                                                       Hike: AFT - East Loop
Date: 6/25 - 6/26, 2011                                                                                        Rating: 4

Critique: A friend and I did the hike described here the weekend of 6/26/2011. We went in the opposite direction of the author (counterclockwise) and had a great trip. The trail is very overgrown in a lot sections and our legs took a beating from the overhanging flora but I would still describe it as easy to follow. The overgrowth makes it hard to see where the trail is going in the distance but all of the intersections are clearly marked and we didn't have any navigation issues. The maps above are spot on and a very helpful resource. We did 20 miles the first day and camped at the rock run connector and finished the last 10 on Sunday. We passed a lot of prettier sites that were closer to the water and this time of year infested with bugs so we opted for the less pretty more functional camp. The trail is surprisingly flat with only one portion that could be called a real climb and even that was short. Because of that it's possible to go quite quickly and cover a lot of miles. The mountain laurels were blooming and it was quite beautiful in spots and I have DEFINITELY never seen so many fern in all my life. As far as the eye can see in many spots.

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Name: Chris                                                                                                              Hike: Allegheny Front Trail loop
Date: 6/4-6/6/2011                                                                                              Rating: 4

Critique: My backpacking co-enabler from church and I hiked the 40 mile loop AFT over two and a half days 6/4-6/6. Two years ago we made our first trip up to the AFT to use the trail to do some trout fishing. The trail has changed some since our last trip. I would estimate that only 40% of the trail has seen any maintenance this season and at least half of the remaining 60% is very overgrown. At times the trail appears nonexistent. Blazes are very hard to find due to fading or peeling, the brush at times is over five feet tall and the path seems to disappear under your feet, and in an area where rattlesnakes are known to frequent it can be a little disconcerting to say in the least. All that being said I still enjoyed our trip. Just, if you go, be prepared to pay close attention to trail junctions, have your compass at the ready, and know how to use it. I also recommend not using the park supplied map that we used, instead use the trail notes provided by Mid Atlantic hikes. I printed the notes and left them on the kitchen table, a move I would regret for most of the trip. Scott Adams has a good map at his site http://www.pahikes.com/trails/allegheny-front-trail . On our first day we started at the parking area at rt 504 where it crosses Six Mile Run and hiked 16 miles to the north east side of the loop and camped at the Rock Run trail connector. As we hiked up out of the Red Moshannon valley a thunder storm started to move in. We were picking up the pace when a grouse hissed at my buddy and circled in front of us about ten yards. We looked down to see her peeps literally under our feet. Then about a quarter of a mile up the trail we had two bear cubs run up a tree about 20-30 yards off the trail. They were cool to see, but the problem was we couldnt see mama because the brush was 4-5 feet tall. We just backed away slowly and tried to out run the storm. Then by Gods grace as the storm really started to open up we found a hunting cabin where the owners let us wait the storm out. After the storm had passed we made it to camp (flushing two roosting turkeys) for the evening with about 45 minutes of day light left-- just enough time to pitch hammocks and get in out of the rain. Sunday we made good time to the south east corner of the loop and started our trip across the vistas. This section of the trail is very rocky, and doesnt look hard on the elevation profile but, up-close and personal , it is a challenge. Traveling east to west the third from last vista has a beautiful dry camp site. We took an hour long lunch and let our gear dry out in the afternoon sun. From there we made our way down to Black Moshannon SP and the Moss Hanne trail across the marsh sections of the AFT. Your feet will get wet here there is no avoiding it over the next 4-6 miles. We ended up camping .75 south of Wolf Rocks after a 17.5 mile day. The camp site was a welcome sight with good water and trees to hang from. Monday morning we headed south, back to the car. Wolf Rocks were interesting to see, but I would recommend skipping the next 3 miles of the trail by road walking north on Six Mile Run Rd. The trail is very overgrown in this section , the blazes (when visible) are faded at best , and the trail leads right through about a mile heavily logged (almost clear cut) stretches. Aside from all the overgrowth it just seemed like uninteresting terrain. The last three miles of the loop was a beautiful walk through a mature pine forest. After more than 39 miles on the AFT we finally missed a trail junction and got off the path. An old blue blazed trail took us up by the airport, where with the map and compass we found a pipeline and followed it out to rt 504 where we hiked west back to the car at the 504 bridge over Six Mile Run. No one wants to find themselves off the trail, but if I'm being honest, it showed me that with a map and compass we were able to get to where we needed to go. In spite of the last part of the trip I enjoyed our time on the AFT it was the most wildlife I have ever seen on a trip, the views were good, and I enjoyed the challenge of navigating with the map.

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Name: Tammy                                                                                                          Hike: AFT-East
Date: 9-9 thru 9-11-2010                                                                                      Rating: 4

Critique: Wow, this was a lot tougher than I anticipated - we did the trail counterclockwise making the end really hard - once you pass the vistas you are in for some very steep climbs. I would recommend clockwise unless you are wanting more of a challenge...otherwise, the trail was pretty decent. Some areas weren't clear at all and you really had to fight your way. The Southern portion lacks water so keep that in mind. Benner's Run was beautiful and a perfect spot to camp. Make sure you have good shoes as there are a lot of rock sections. Once you leave Julian (S. end) and head towards 504 (East side) you are in for some major rock climbs!
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Name: MikerTheHiker                                                                                              Hike: AFT-East
Date: 8/31-9/01                                                                                                      Rating: 5

Critique: I registered at the Park Office, picked up their rather basic trail map, and parked in the beach lot. This hike is really awesome. There is a section at the northern end of the park that goes along a beautiful creek, then you hike under giant laurel bushes in a somewhat wet area along another creek. The trail has some good vista's but they were mostly blocked by trees, this is the rocky area. There are quit a few swamps and although they have walkways over them, you really need waterproof boots. Towards the end of the hike there are gigantic pine forests. That is where you will find the Blue Berries. Some of these bushes are over 7 foot high. There are also several nice meadows, and areas covered with ferns. This is a moderate trail with loads to see, including the pristine state park. It is well blazed but has quite a few blowdowns. I went after a somewhat dry spell, and there was still plenty of good water to be found.  I'll definitely be heading back up to hike the west half.

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Name: Joseph Tinker                                                                                               Hike: AFT East BP
Date: 8/1/05                                                                                                            Ranking: 4

Critique: I completed this backpacking trip at the beginning of August. While it was hot and humid in the city, it was cool and drier in Black Moshannon State Forest. I followed the hike description closely. The hike from the parking lot to the first road crossing is flat and somewhat boring. As the hike description implies, the scenery becomes much better as you get closer to the AFT junction north of the state park. For the most part, the AFT is well-blazed. The tread is frequently obscured by large amounts of overgrowth. Most of this plant growth is ferns. The hike along Benner Run is very scenic. After leaving Benner Run, the hike becomes a bit tedious. There are few steep hills along the first days section, but the trail seems to go up and down and change directions frequently. I saw a huge rattlesnake near the end of the first day. I passed the suggested campsite and hiked a bit farther uphill to a very small campsite along the run.

The following days hike started out very easy. The section to RT 504 is pleasant. What is understated in the hike description is the steepness of the hike from RT 504 to Ralphs Majestic Vista. The trail climbs and drops steeply between vistas. After having lunch at the final vista, I made good time to the second nights campsite. I set up camp near the wooden bridge, under the pines. It is a great campsite.

The third day is long and flat. After crossing Julian Pike, the trail is lined with blueberry bushes, which were loaded with ripe berries. I have never seen so many blueberries. As I hiked, I frequently stopped to pick a handful. This was the highlight of the third day. The Moss-Hanne trail is hard to follow in some places, especially near the old airport trail. The final miles are flat and clear. The road walk at the end is scenic, with nice views of the lake.

I enjoyed this hike. I will be back!

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Name: Joan Paswell                                                                                                 Hike: Allegheny Front - East

Date: 9/15>9/18                                                                                                     Ranking: 5

Critique: I'd been wanting to do this particular backpack trip for the last two years. I was pleasantly suprised when I came across your website! With the almost identical trip that I had planned and with all this fantastic info on it and other hikes. I've saved this site to my favorites.

I went with two other women hikers that I met through the Allegheny Sierra Club. We had an approx. 4 hr drive to the Black Moshannon state park. We stopped at the park office and got are free backcountry camping permit. We started out about 2pm on Thurs, hiking on the Shingle Mill Trail then joining the AFT. The trails were easy-going and very scenic and enjoyable. The many ferns and some of the trees were changing colors for fall. We hiked 6.5 miles and camped at a campsite along Benner Run approx. 1.25 miles after passing the green cabin. There was one smaller campsite before this one. But the second one which we chose was much nicer. On Friday, there was one modest climb. We lunched at a great little spot where the Rock Run Ski trail branches off the AFT. We hiked on passing several campsites, but it was too early in the day to stop yet. We planned to camp by Benner

Run (headwater area) but it was completely dry! We continued on another 2 miles to Rt 504. I called the park office to inquire if the rangers knew if water was available further along the AFT or down along Smays Run where streams were

marked on our maps. We were informed that it was doubtful if water was available along the AFT after crossing Rt 504 but that it was available on Smays Run. The park ranger offered us a lift there; so we took him up on it. We did find water at Smays Run but it was very low. We camped there two nites. On Saturday we did a dayhike east on the AFT to the ridge/vistas and back (7.5 miles). Sunday we backpacked west on the AFT then Moss Hanne trails back to the park (10 miles). We all highly recommend this loop; it was very enjoyable. ________________________________________

Name: Mark                                                                                                              Hike: Allegheny Front Trail
Date: 2/17/06 - 2/19/06                                                                                      Rating: 4

Critique: I was looking to do some hiking in the snow when I found this loop. However there is not much snow to be found this winter so I decided to do the full loop in a 3 day weekend. This is a nice trail, but there is quite a bit of blowdown down along Moshannon Creek. The eastern part of the loop is easily the most scenic but overall the loop is a nice walk in the woods and not too strenuous. The north west part of the trail doesn't seem to get much traffic as there is no obvious path in places. I had to keep an eye out for blazes to make sure I stayed at least in the vicinity of the trail. I'm not sure I would do this hike again by myself (too many other places to explore) but I'd do it again with a friend. Water was never a problem and camp sites were easy enough to find. The only real adventure was keeping warm as Sunday morning temperature was 2 degrees! Thanks for keeping this site up. Another resource to be used when looking for hikes in this area.

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