All Outing Critiques - page 1

Name:   Keith Robertson
Date(s) of Hike: 04/30/16
Hike Name: G. Richard Thompson WMA Loop
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique: Due to getting a late start, I opted to hike just the ridgeline portion along the AT.  I tried to find the northern most parking lot as marked on the map but did not see it, so I parked at the middle one where rt. 638 makes a sharp turn right (coming from the west.)

This is absolutely THE best area I've ever seen for Trilliums.  The best spot I found was not directly along the AT, but instead on the blue blazed trail and fire road which looped up to the tower area - take the same fire road as mentioned in the directions to see the yellow lady slippers, and keep going up.  There will be another blue blazed trail on your left which says "AT .25 miles," take that trail and be amazed.  By the way, the yellow lady slippers are still there, there were several on the left side of the road next to a small boulder as described, and I found another one on the right side of the road a little further up.

During my visit I'd say that the Trillium were at about peak, with some of them still white and others becoming pink and dark pink already.  The Showy Orchis were mostly still buds.  I encountered several other hikers who were out to see the flowers, and one family who said that they come here each year.  I think I'll be doing the same from now on, next time I'll start early and do the entire loop.

Name:   Brian S.
Date(s): 04/25-26/16
Hike Name:  Laurel Highlands Trail-South
Ranking): 4
photo   

Outing Critique:   I went out on a solo overnight hike on the LHHT and planned to make it from mile 0 to mile 11.5 and turn around and camp at the Ohiopyle (mile 6.5) shelters. It was warm for late April, with high temps near 80. The leaves were just starting to come in so the sun was very hot too!

I got on the trail  later than I had hoped and had to turn around early (mile 8) to make it to camp in time. I set up my hammock and had a nice evening around the fire in the shelter. The shelter came in handy the next morning as a brief heavy rain came through while I was cooking breakfast.

There were a number of spectacular views and overall a beautiful place to hike! The elevation change was surprising for PA, don't underestimate the uphill section between miles 5 and 8. The trail is well-worn, but I didn't see that many people out there. Trains do run through the main gorge, so the occasional rumbling is heard even at the Ohiopyle shelters. The trail is rocky in many places and in fairly good shape with some springs running down through it making a little mud. However, all of the streams and runs are bridged, which is really nice to have.

Specific to when I was out there, there were a couple larger downed trees that could be stepped over rather easily. There were a number of vines that were in the trail space at the but nothing unavoidable. All bridges were in good condition and all the shelters seemed to be in good condition too. I did not check the pump water at the shelters, as it needs filtered anyway, the cool creek water seemed like a great choice as it was closer to my shelter.

Name:   Michelle
Date(s) of Hike:4/23/16-4/24/16
Hike Name: Iron Stone
Loop
Ranking (1 to 5 with 5 being the best): 4.5

Outing Critique:  My husband and I hiked this as a 1-night backpack.  We started out from the parking area at Lake Perez going the direction described in the trail notes.  The trails within the S.V.R.A. were blazed with different symbols than described (I think it was yellow stick people instead of yellow arrows, or some thing like that) but were extremely easy to follow regardless.  We decided to dry camp on the ridge of Tussey Mountain, at the site marked 2.03 miles into Jackson trail, to even out the mileage for each day.  We planned to fill up on water from the stream before the climb, but it was either dry or farther from the trail than we thought.  Luckily we came across a trickle, although our water pump broke and we had to carry dirty water to camp and boil it instead.  The climb up to the ridge was very steep but not too long, and the ridge was extremely rocky, as advertised.  I'm pretty sure we stayed at the camp site described as hidden in the hemlocks, but we also may have missed that particular site, because the one we found was definitely not hidden.  There were 3 fire rings and multiple spots you could put a tent, but it looks like it is a popular teen/college hangout based on the trash, broken glass, and obvious cutting of standing trees for firewood--we were pretty close to Rte 26 so I think a lot of people just walk in from the road.  There were a few potential spots we could have stopped prior to this, but not many due to the rocks.  Even so, the camp location was amazing and we were able to see the sunset, stars, moon, and sunrise all from the pair of overlooks.  There was a burn ban, so we brought our stove to the overlooks for dinner and breakfast with a view instead of cooking on the fire. On day 2 we completed the loop. The descent and ascent were, again, very steep but having rock and log steps helped.  Overall, we had a fantastic trip--highly recommend this one!

Name:   Patrick B
Date(s) of Hike: 04/22/16
Hike Name:  Roaring Creek Tract-West Backpack
Ranking (1 to 5 with 5 being the best): 4

Outing Critique: Did this as a two night trip, starting at sunset Friday and hiking out noon Sunday. Worked great as a first of the season backpacking trip, as well as an introduction to backpacking for two of our companions.  First night we hiked to the base of the first steep climb and made camp an appropriate distance off the trail.  Second day started with that climb, then a very pleasant mostly level hike along the ridge. This track lacks great vistas, but otherwise has some interesting passages through the old coal mine(s?) area.  Second night spent north of the resevoir.

Downsides of this hike are the lack of vistas and the hike out includes a rather large portion on a frequented walking and biking trail p, which isn't a great backpacking experience.

Upsides were some interesting paths along the ridge and a very pleasant hike along the resevoir.

Overall I'd recommend this as a solid 1 night, 2 day hike, or 2 night, 2.5 day hike as we did.

 

Name:   Sarah
Date(s) of Hike: 04/17/16
Hike Name: Lost Pond Circuit
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique: The primary reason for this critique is to report that the blazing around the lost pond is now complete and easy to follow, as is the "sharp right turn" the previous reviewer missed, as long as you understand traditional trail markings (two blazes, one above the other, with the upper one on the right means "turn right").  I don't doubt this is a recent addition; I did this hike not too long ago and had the exact same problem. Yay for trail maintenance!

Overall, a very lovely hike on a gorgeous day.  At this time in spring, the bluebells are out in full force and are a sight to behold.  The river is lovely, and I definitely recommend adding on the sawmill branch loop to spot a couple *small* but very pretty falls.

I was able to do both this hike and the sweathouse branch loop on the other side of Bel Air Road in one outing, and I highly recommend combining them if you are up for the distance.  It took me just over four hours total and I stopped several times to enjoy views, eat lunch, etc.

I also agree with the previous reviewer that the trail up to Pot Rocks is much more heavily trafficked than the route up to lost pond.
Worth doing!  I've also done this hike in fall and the colors along the river were really pretty.


 

Name:   Sarah
Date(s) of Hike: 04/17/16
Hike Name: Sweathouse Branch Loop
Ranking:4

Outing Critique: A beautiful hike on a beautiful day!  The bluebells were astounding along the river.  Just SO many!  The trail intersections are all well marked.  Do not ignore traditional blaze turn signals (for new hikers: one blaze above another, turn in the direction the upper blaze is on), or you will miss the turn where the yellow trail cuts away from the river.  A very clearly defined trail continues straight beyond that point, just after a stream crossing, but turning right is the right thing to do there.  Just follow the blazes!

The only reason I did not give this hike a 5 is because for the last half mile or so on the pink trail the noise from Bel Air road is pretty pronounced.  Maybe taking the blue trail all the way, which cuts a small amount of distance, would keep you farther away from that. Something to consider.

Overall, highly recommended and also recommend combining with Lost Pond Circuit.  Did both today and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Name:   GaliWalker
Date(s) of Hike: 03/20/2016
Hike Name: Conestoga Trail Shuttle
Ranking: 3.5

Photo

 
Outing Critique: Full report on the Forum: http://midatlantichikes.freeforums.net/thread/474/conestoga-trail-pennsylvania-mar-2016
I hiked the Conestoga Trail as described above, except that I returned back to the Martic Forge trailhead, forgoing the shuttle. The trail was well blazed and easy to follow. The stats I measured for the round trip hike were: 17.25mi and a 3550ft elevation gain (including an extra 40-50ft climbing in and out of the Pequea Creek gorge while taking photos). It took me 5.3hrs to hike in, mainly because I wasted a bunch of time in taking photos, but only 3hrs for the return (despite the 1500ft+ elevation gain). I'd like to make one correction to the original hike description: "Ridge Road" is actually "Bridge Road".

 

Name:   Johnny
Date(s) of Hike: 03/24/16
Hike Name: Mount Rogers Backpack
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: Just completed this hike a few days ago, I also did it in 2 days/1 night, although when I set out I had planned on 3 days / 2 nights - but decided to push harder with some nasty weather moving in.  Grindstone Campground was closed so I parked in the small lot right across from the Mt Rogers Trail Head.  My vehicle was fine when I came back, but this parking area is very close to the road so be wary.   Most of the elevation gain is experienced in the first few miles, and the views after about 4 or 5 miles are well worth it. I would classify this as an easy to moderate hike. The ponies were very cool, and it was very windy.
Here is a video of my trip.

Name:   Jeremy
Date(s) of Hike: 09/04/15
Hike Name : Jones Mountain - Staunton River Loop
Ranking (1 to 5 with 5 being the best): 5


Outing Critique:  A slight variation on this hike...

Starting at the Boundary in the Graves Mill Parking Area, I completed this 13.3 mile loop hike. I followed the Rapidan River (Graves Mill) and  Staunton River trails to the Fork Mountain Road.  I took the road to the Sag where I picked up the Jones Mountain trail which I took to Bear Church Rock and then back to the Staunton River Trail.  I got a late start (noon) hiking to the sound of continuous thunder (which luckily never materialized into rain) in 90 degree heat barely making it off the mountain in daylight.  In what should have been miserable conditions I had a great time and would highly recommend this hike.

Pros: I donít like to throw around phrases like hidden gem, but this was one of the best hikes I have done in SNP.  The Rapidan and Staunton rivers were beautiful to watch transition from flowing rivers at the start to a cascading brook at the top.  For the 6+ miles from the Jones Mountain trail junction to the Sag to Bear Church Rock I did not see a single person (maybe they were smart enough to not hike in these conditions).  This part of the trail, while easy to follow, did have portions where it felt like you were the first person hiking them in a long time.  The rock formations in and around Bear Church Rock were typical of SNP (in a good way).

Cons: SPIDERS.  Seriously, there was a web across the trail every 10 feet once I was past the Bear Church Rock (Jones MTN TR) turn off.  This hike also has a ton of elevation so be prepared for ~6  miles of steady (but never steep) uphill.
Watch the video of this hike.

Name:   Jeremy
Date(s) of Hike: 09/25/15
Hike Name: Catoctin Mountain Loop
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: I hiked this on a Friday in late September and had the park virtually to myself.  I enjoyed the multiple overlooks and did some rock scrambling on Chimney Rock.  I accidentally took a wrong turn and added a two mile down and back to Camp Airy (the trail is not on the Park Service map).

Pros: Multiple overlooks, well maintained trails, good signage.  I have always enjoyed Cunningham Falls so that is a good way to top off a day in the woods.

Cons:  Several portions of the trail are wide smooth gravel.  I guess one personís Pro is anotherís Con.  I thought it detracted from the natural experience.  It seems funny that they donít blaze the trails to keep them more natural but are willing to truck in tons of gravel (note, the gravel tends to only be around the more popular places).  The road noise off of 77 on the south side and 550 (to a lesser extent) on the north side was ever-present (mostly motorcycles).  The hike between Cunningham Falls, the Visitor Center, and the Park HQ is within sight of the 77 which really detracted from the experience.

Watch the video.

Name:   Jeremy
Date(s) of Hike: 08/21/2015
Hike Name : Riprap Hollow
Loop
Ranking: 3

Outing Critique: I hiked the Riprap trail clockwise starting at the Riprap trailhead.  I opted to do the ďboringĒ AT part first and work up a sweat before hitting the swimming hole.  The AT lived up to expectations with only one slight overlook providing a preview of the mountain that would need to be climbed at the end of the hike.  The Wildcat Ridge Trail was an easy descent into the hollow and had a few overlooks.  The last mile follows a small stream until the junction with the Riprap trail.  From there the last 3ish miles were all uphill, although there was only one steep section.

The swimming hole was okay. What it lacked in size it made up for in coldness.  The 20í waterfall was not much more than a trickle when I was there but the rock formations in that section were still pretty.  The vistas in and around Chimney Rock were typical and you could get the same view from just about any of the west facing overlooks on Skyline drive.

Overall it was not a bad hike, but there was nothing about it that would make me hike it again.  The AT and Wildcat trails do not add much value to this hike so you could hit all of the highlights by hiking counterclockwise out and back to Chimney Rock (or possibly down to the swimming hole).

Name:   Michelle
Date(s) of Hike: 11/14/15-11/15/15
Hike Name: Hemlock Natural Area-Bowman Hollow Loop
Ranking: 2.5

Outing Critique:  I attempted this hike with my husband and his aunt.  She hasn't done a lot of backpacking, especially recently, so we thought the relatively low and flexible mileage on this one would make it a good choice.  However, the first section of the trail (up until you reach hemlock road for the first time) has clearly not been maintained for many years.  There were countless downed trees across the trail and areas where we had to search for blazes when the trail seemed to just disappear.  That section, plus the steep descent on rocks covered with slippery fallen leaves once we reached the Tuscarora trail, put us so far behind schedule (despite having very generous time allowances) that we ended up camping at the shelter on the Tuscarora.  It was a great shelter, with a fantastic fireplace that kept us warm in the chilly night & morning air, water source, and nearby privy.  On day 2 we had way too much ground of unknown quality to cover so we decided to follow the Perry & Twig trails to hemlock road, then just walk on the road back to the car.  Overall it was disappointing, but I would attempt it again, bypassing the initial section by walking on hemlock road to reach the Tuscarora trail.  Seems like it would be a nice hike if we could have completed it, so my ranking might be unfairly low..

Name: Tony Van Vugt
Date(s) of Hike: 08/08/15
Hike Name: Roaring Plains Circuit
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique: This area is one of the last places that you can really call backcountry in the mid-Atlantic. Just north is the Dolly Sods, while very beautiful, it has become so popular itís hard to feel like youíre really out in the wilderness alone. Roaring Plains is Dolly Sods 15-20 years ago. But this is also for good reason. The trails are harder to follow, and good map and navigation skills are a must.  Donít take this hike's author lightly when he says this area can be unforgiving. The weather can change in minutes, and being ill prepared can make for a tough time.

But with proper planning, your reward is one of the most beautiful areas on the east coast. The Roaring Plains circuit has beautiful views, high mountain fields, plenty of excellent camping, and solitude that is hard to find in such a spectacular place.

Name:   Alice
Date(s) of Hike:12/30/2014-1/2/2015
Hike Name: Black Forest Trail - South
Ranking: 4.5


Outing Critique: Went over New Years- so very cold, quiet, and crisp.  There was little snowfall, and I was able to hear movement so audibly and clear - a true blessing of winter backpacking.  I recommend getting the trail map and guide by Chuck Dillon.  Some parts of the trail were steep gains and falls, but the vistas are beautiful.  They are not true mountains- rather, syncline(s) and anticline(s).  Beautiful geology, but I found it strange walking along trails named "gas line trail #__".

I urge you to attempt this trail as soon as possible before more aggressive natural gas drilling overtakes the area.

 

Name:  Allison
Date(s) of Hike: 09/23/2015
Hike Name : Bear Run Loop
Ranking: 3

Outing Critique: This was an enjoyable hike, but much of the early part (the Peninsula trail especially) was badly overgrown and COVERED in poison ivy.  At two points we lost the trail--the point where you turn off across a small bridge to cross 381 is especially easy to miss.  The pine tree trail at the end is labeled as the Tree Trail--in the last half mile of the hike, a laminated sign points you down a service road, while the trail blazes continue to the left, but both will get you back to the trailhead.

Name:    Christopher Robin
Date(s) of Hike: 08/22-24/15
Hike Name: Frosty Gap-Cowpasture Loop
Ranking: 4
 

Outing Critique: This was a tough one to rate. It started out as a bit of a let down, but finished with one of the best trails I have hiked!
We (Shortstack, Hard Core, Ted E. Bear and Treebeard) set out from the Nature center about 12:30 or so in fairly clear, humid weather with temps in the low 80ís.  The Pocahontas Trail rises gradually almost right away. The trail has several blowdowns which for the most part were easily navigable just annoying. The real downside of the trail was several stretches of stinging nettles, they made tough to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the forest.
And there was solitude, we only saw one group of three mountain bikers fly past all three days we were there.
Made camp a little after 4pm. Great campsite-level spots, tumbling steams, even a few logging artifacts for us cultural people.
Broke camp about 8am day 2, a partly cloudy, humid day, but the temperature stayed nice on the low 80ís. Climbed Pocahontas to the Frosty Gap trail and walked the Frosted Cat trail-oops, the Frosty Gap trail to the hunter road.
Now, this was the low point of the hike. The next 5 miles are road walk, pretty monotonous. Luckily we had butterflies and good conversation to make it seem much shorter. After the intersection with the gravel road, it becomes a nice footpath again. South Fork Trail is a nice set of switchbacks with really cool rocks and boulders to check out on the way down. Got into the campsite on Cow Pasture Trail about 2:30. Went to the elevated platform overlooking the Glades, and the sun felt great baking the humidity our of our bones! Saw my first otter in the wild there!

 

Day 3 was wonderful! Cow Pasture Trail is one of the best trails I have walked. Peaceful, beautiful, easy grades, just a joy to hike! One to take your time and be with the forest. And it opens up to a beautiful meadow.
Got back to the Nature Center and changed and headed over to the Falls of Hills Creek-something you donít want to miss if you are in the area!

Name:  Paul and Sheri
Date(s) of Hike: 07/11/15
Hike Name: North Fork Mountain Shuttle
Ranking: 5
Photo

Outing Critique: Thank you so much to MidAtlanticHikes.com for the great directions for this hike.  We followed them exactly and they were great! As mentioned, if you like awesome overlooks and killer rock formations, this is a great hike! Starting at Redman Run Trail and then finishing at the North End makes for a nice 9.6 mile one-day hike that is not too strenuous... and it hits some of the best features and builds as it goes. First you see a really cool overlook, then a nice rock outcropping and view at the summit. As you continue along, the Table Top overlook and then finally the Chimney Top are truly spectacular!! All the pictures in the world can't come close to what it's like. The trail itself is nice with only a few rocky sections. This is one of my favorite hikes I have ever done and is really a hidden gem. Go there and you will not be disappointed!! And the area is under 2.5 hours from DC. The local hotels are cheap too (Fort Hill Motel was clean and $60 a night!)... and Seneca Rocks is a great sister hike. We loved it so much I made a Rockumentary of our trip.

Name:  Dan Riffle
Date(s) of Hike: 09/06-7/2015
Hike Name: Overall Run/Beecher Ridge
Ranking: 3
Photo

Outing Critique: I recommend this one in spring or early summer. We went late summer--Labor Day weekend--and despite a decent rainstorm on Thursday night, there was very little water on the trail. You could hear water, but couldn't see any at the falls. The only significant source of water was near the Thompson Hollow connecter at the cascades. The water pooled there enough for a small swimming hole. If you go at this time, bring plenty of water and stock up when you find it.
The views at and shortly after the waterfall were spectacular. We started at Matthew's Arm, camped near the cascades, and came up Beecher Ridge the next day. The climb up Beecher Ridge was tough, and not particularly rewarding with little-to-no great views. We did spot a mamma bear and her two cubs dart across the trail about 125 yards in front of us (store food carefully--there are lots of black bears here). I can see how the Overall Run trail can be very rewarding in the summer.

 

Name:   John S.
Date(s) of Hike: 9/7/2015
Hike Name: Pinnacles Picnic Area to Mary's Rock
Ranking: 4
photo 

Outing Critique: This was a nice hike -- not too difficult, but strenuous enough to give two experienced, middle-aged hikers a pleasant workout. Several great views along the way, and the one from Mary's Rock was spectacular. The photo shows the Thornton Gap entrance to Shenandoah NP as seen from up there. Labor Day weekend is probably not the best time to do this hike if you're looking for solitude.

Name:   Dirk
Date(s) of Hike: 08/21/2015
Hike Name:  Kelly's Run-Pinnacle Overlook
Ranking: 5


Outing Critique: I went on a Friday in late August, and did not meet a single person (except for 3 car travelers at the Pinnacle). The description is very good and I enjoyed the hike very much. Thanks very much for putting this information together.

 

 

Galiwalker

Date of Hike: 08/24/2015

Hike Name: Ketchum Ron-Scar Run Circuit

Rating: 3.5

 

I found the old logging road for the longer part of the hike - i.e. the Scar Run takeoff point - and followed it for about a hundred yards or so. It was non-obvious, overgrown, covered with light dead-fall and did not seem to see much traffic, if at all. I would have enjoyed tackling it, but did not do so due to time constraints. The Ketchum Run part was worth it, even though the return leg along the Loyalsock Trail suffered by comparison.

Name:   Matthew
Date(s) of Hike:  08/29/15-08/30/15
Hike Name: Chuck Keiper Trail-East Loop
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: This was a great hike. My wife and I left the parking area and hiked counter clockwise. We saw many bear scats, but no bears. Somehow we missed the Cranberry Swamp trail, and ended up hiking all the way to the Boggs Run area on day one. The trail was well maintained, with the exception of some blowdown which is to be expected in this area. If you do this hike, wear pants! There are a lot of nettles in the Boggs Run area and a few other places as well. Lots of uphill jaunts, and very steep downhills. We didn't see many proper views, but what this hike lacked in views, it make up for in extremely pretty tall tree canopies, and solitude. We saw two hikers over our two days in the woods. Please watch out for yellow jackets in the Boggs Run area though! They are very prevalent. The campsite(s) in Boggs Run were nice, albeit damp. Very nice hike though. Can't wait to finish up the West Loop!

Name:   JR
Date(s) of Hike: 08/28/15 - 08/30/15
Hike Name: Loyalsock Link loop
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique: Four of us hiked this loop exactly as depicted in the trail notes in late august of 2015. One thing to note is the trail starts BEHIND the visitor center.  We went across the wrong bridge (near the snack bar) and went up the high rocks trail instead of the LT portion, but rejoined at the vista.  Of note, all the streams were dry and there was very little water until we got to Sone's pond the first night. The 2nd day we dropped our packs near the bridge and did a slack pack out and in to the haystacks.  After recovering the packs we camped along the creek near the hunter's cabin. No cell coverage there but if you hike up to the road you can get a signal.  Third day we kept on the link trail with no problems.  You can drop the packs at the canyon vista if desired and then return via car to recover them. All in all a really nice hike.  Did not see much wild life, and there were plenty of day hikers and swimmers on the creek.

Name:   Jeff
Date(s) of Hike: 08/28/2015
Hike Name: Colonel Denning SP-Flat Rock Circuit
Ranking: 5

Photo

Outing Critique: This is an excellent hike with what might be the best vista in PA. The ranger at the park office tried to warn me off this route as there are some rough spots now.

The trail leading up out of the park has had a short section of rock stairway put in, and some volunteers looked to be putting in another trail off to the left about a third of the way up the hill. The DCNR activity report for 2015 mentions that this is an erosion control project.

Flat rock vista is incredible and highly recommended even if you just hike up and back.

The section through Wildcat Hollow is beautiful old growth timber, however the hemlock have suffered from the wooly adelgid. I could only see one old giant left standing among the skeletons of it's companions. Very sad.

As noted in the original writeup, the wildcat trail is now marked as the "Warner Loop". Soon the trouble begins.

At the top of the hill there is a deer exclosure. At first things are fine, then you come to a sign that says "Cider Path State Park" the only obvious path is straight, but the Warner Trail is to the left, through a very overgrown and not so obvious path. I will try to include a photo. After what amounts to a short bushwack, you exit the exclosure and soon encounter a boggy area. The trail is not well marked here either.

I did not see the second exclosure mentioned in the original writeup, but the trail is well marked for the rest of the way back to the wagon wheel area.

Two recommendations: 1. Be in shape. 2. Don't be out of shape.

Name:   Pete S
Date(s) of Hike:  06/26/2015
Hike Name: Otter Creek - SW
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: I used to visit the Otter Creek Wilderness frequently in the 90's.  I always enjoyed the area, even if it was sometimes over used and crowded. I wanted to introduce some fellow backpackers to this wonderful wilderness, which I hadn't visited in 15 years.

Six of us planned to hike this route, as described, and then set up a base camp at Possession Camp and do the day hike on Saturday. I was very surprised at the condition of some of the trails. We encountered a few other hikers who told us that Yellow Creek Trail was impassable. The Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel are very thick and have almost fenced off the trail in some spots. There are also a few blow downs blocking parts of the route. We did manage to push, duck, and climb our way through to McGowan Mt Trail, which was more of the same. The trail down Moore Run becomes very muddy going through the bog and then is overgrown and littered with blow downs after it enters the woods.  All of the old campsites on the Moore Run side of Otter Creek are buried under blow downs and completely inaccessible.  Possession Camp is mostly overgrown with tall plants but still a nice campsite, with a pretty good swimming hole.

The first night it rained and by morning the Otter Creek had risen a couple feet and was moving like a freight train - quite an awesome sight!  We attempted the day hike up Possession Camp Trail, but either the trail is gone, about 1/2 mile up where it reaches an unnamed creek/runoff, or it has been re-routed and crosses the runoff earlier than the maps show. That runoff was swollen by rain and had become a good size waterfall that we could not cross, so we could not even attempt to complete the day hike in that direction.  We went back to the Otter Creek Trail, but it crosses the creek just north of Possession Camp and none of us were willing to risk taking that train ride.

On Sunday we hiked out following the Otter Creek Trail and only had to cross it once.  The trail was in very poor eroded condition in some places because it has been allowed to become a stream whenever it rains.

I was told that the trail system in the Otter Creek Wilderness has not been maintained by the forest service since 2008.  Volunteers are needed to clear, repair, and maintain these trails or they will be gone, soon.

Name:   Mountain Stream Flood
Date(s) of Hike: 8/22/15
Hike Name: Coopers Rock State Forest Loop-1
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: We did an abbreviated version of this hike starting from the Raven Rock Trail parking and returning via the Rock City and Roadside Trail from the C.C.C. shelter, for a total of 6.5 mi.  Overall it was an outstanding hike and we particularly enjoyed the unofficial Sunset Wall Trail; it was so much fun making our way through the maze of towering sandstone and exploring the many talus caves and passages.  It must be truly magical in early July when the rhodos are in full bloom.  We were a little upset to find the main overlook chocked with WVU students fresh off a bus (but this was to be expected as it was the first week of classes), still we had the Raven Rock overlook mostly to ourselves, which I found to be a better view anyhow.   One note about the route description: cairns no longer appear to mark unofficial paths and the unsigned trail formerly marked by a cairn off of Raven Rock Trail is not easily passable due to a thicket of saplings growing along the edge of the power line cut.  Instead one must backtrack to the McCollum Trail, bear left and follow it to the logging road. From that junction it is ca. 0.1 mi to the right to an obvious old road on the left, which in turn leads to an obvious footpath descending into the Sunset Wall area.

Name:   Jeremy
Date(s) of Hike: 08/12/2015
Hike Name: Roaring Plains Circuit
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique: The trails are pretty well marked with cairns these days, only had to pull out the GPS a few times. Lots of the trails were small streams, some water proof footwear would have been appreciated. Pants and long sleeves are pretty much a must at this time of year as the path is very overgrown.

  One thing to note on this hike, if you click the map picture you'll get a different map than if you click the link under it that says Printable/Downloadable map.
(M.R. Hyker Note: Actually they are for the same route but of different vintage. To prevent any confusion they are now both the same.) The linked map shows a campground near the end of the Roaring Plains Trail, but I couldn't find it.  There is a tiny clearing near the water that might be ok for a hammock or 1 man tent, but I wouldn't want to camp there personally.

  Got a bit of a late start and camped the first night at the campground at the South Prong and Hidden Passage Trails junction. It was a beautiful site with a large fire ring and stream. The jeep trail and lots of blueberries and raspberries to snack on. Hiked the next day around the rim and managed to scare up a large rattler in one of boulder fields.  Made it through Tee-Pee with some fuss, it's a really wet trail, but decently easy to follow. Planned to camp at the site mentioned above, but couldn't find it, which made for a very long day and a nigh time hike down Boar's Nest and over the creek to get back to the car.

  Overall, the views and variety of environments make this one of the best backpacking trips I've ever been on.

  I found a small stuff stack with gear along the trail, if you lost one, contact a mod to contact me, tell me what's in it, and I'll mail it to you.

Name: Hikermel
Date(s) of Hike:08/17/15
Hike Name: Rocky Top~ Big Run Loop
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique: A beautiful August day in Virginia, hot, but not as hot as it could have been. We were three women in our 50s, experienced and avid hikers. Still, I was a little nervous when I had a hard time finding anyone writing of doing the trail in a day! We set out from Brown Gap at 9:44 am returned at 3:41 pm. So six hours altogether including half an hour for lunch under the bridge on the lower portion of Big Run Portal Trail. Overall it was an awesome hike! Rocky Top trail was quite overgrown with weeds and seedling trees, and the water bars had suffered much damage from bears. We did see one young bear on Big Run Portal Trail. I would definitely do this loop again as a day hike. We found it to be easier than Three Ridges (AT- Mar Har Trail starting at Reed's Gap) which is about the same distance.

Name: Tom
Date(s) of Hike: 07/31/15
Hike Name: SNP-Rockytop-Big Run Loop
Ranking: 5

Outing Critique:Beautiful area of SNP, among the best in the park.  Relatively underused trails; during the three day weekend I saw seven people.

Hiked down the Big Run Loop Trail and the Big Run Portal Trail, past the intersections with Big Run Loop, Patterson Ridge, and Rocky Mountain Run Trail; set up camp approximately a quarter mile upstream from the Brown Mountain Trail.  Day hiking from base camp on Saturday; returned on Sunday.

Many of the campsites near the trail intersections are closed for overuse.  Still there are at least 15 established campsites open on Big Run Portal Trail  between Brown Mountain Trail and Big Run Loop Trail.  Some are well hidden, so keep your eyes open.  You should be able to find the seclusion you want.  Also, there are campsites of varying sizes, and if you are hiking alone you have a choice of a number of nice places.

You should be able to find an established campsite within 50 yards of every place the trail crosses the stream.  The four campsites at the intersection of Brown Mountain Trail and Big Run Portal Trail, near the bridge, are very nice, but overused.  Some of the campsites upstream are more secluded and less used.

Water is down a little but there is plenty for cooling off after a day hike.

Beware the hike back up to Skyline Drive on Big Run Loop Trail.  One of the more challenging short hikes in SNP on established trails, similar to Big Devil Stairs.  The
1.2 miles on Big Run Loop between the Portal Trail and Rockytop Trail is simply three long switchbacks.  On a warm day start early.  I maintained a steady pace, but it took three hours to get from Brown Mountain Trail to Skyline Drive via Big Run Loop Trail.

Name:   Fmatt
Date(s) of Hike: 08/08/2015
Hike Name: Seneca Creek/Spruce Knob
Ranking: 4.5

Outing Critique: Great hike with diverse scenery! The only strenuous part was the descent starting at High Meadows - it's the last leg of the first day and was difficult.  The directions, as stated in other comments, are a bit off, though it's pretty straightforward.. Once you hit High Meadows Trail (which was our favorite part), you'll keep going through three large meadows. After the third meadow, you'll come to a creek crossing - it's a small waterfall with water running over smooth rocks and then falls down some small levels. Be careful crossing - it's an easy one to slip on and seriously hurt yourself.  After this crossing, the trail winds for a half mile down hill, with campsites on your right as you defend. There's no clear signs, but once you get to the bottom and the creek is right in front of you, you have two options. Go left, you'll immediately come to a creek crossing that's at least 20 feet long. Go right, and you'll follow the creek and pass by the falls and a lot of camp sites. If you camp, you'll need to cross the stream (this is the start of the Seneca Creek trail). There's also a few campsites on this side of the stream.  We came out on the Seneca creek trail as we didn't want to do all the uphill and re-hike the huckleberry (but also had a car parked there...you wouldn't be able to walk back to your car at Huckleberry trailhead from Seneca trailhead without a ride). There are at least 4 creek crossings on the full Seneca Trail which vary, but you should be ready to take off your boots at least once or twice.

Name:   Christopher Robin
Date(s) of Hike: 8/1-3/15
Hike Name: Spruce Knob-Seneca Creek
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: We did most of this hike last weekend, just did it a bit differently. We started out at Spruce Knob on Saturday morning in beautiful clear weather with temps in the 70's. Hiked down Huckleberry Trail and took Horton Trail after the 4-way with Lumberjack Trail. Huckleberry is a very nice trail, mostly in spruce, but with a few clearings that probably had great views 10-15 years ago. Took a quick left off Horton onto Judy Springs Trail, which opens up to some awesome meadow views. Soon you are back in the woods and cross the bridge at the intersection with Seneca Creek Trail. Seneca Creek is a very nice trail along the creek, with many great campsites. We found one we liked and spent our first night there. Sunday we headed to the falls and then up Horton to High Meadows trail. I would suggest watering up at the creek at the start of High Meadows, its the best on that trail and for the rest of the day the way we went. High Meadows is a nice trail through the meadows up to the top of the ridge, it does get steeper as you go though. We found Lost Meadows at the top of High Meadows, then took Lumberjack Trail back to Huckleberry Trail. Our last push was Huckleberry to the closest nice campsite near Spruce Knob. There we set up our camp, got water for dinner that we had stashed in the car and relaxed and watched the beautiful sunset. Since we had no walk out on Monday,we had time to visit Seneca Rocks! This is a great hike!

Name:   Peter Gebhard
Date(s) of Hike:11/10/14
Hike Name: Hall of the Hemlocks-Cherry Run Circuit
Ranking: 4


Outing Critique: We really enjoyed this hike, especially the "secret" part. The scenery was so beautiful after having just snowed a light dusting. Everything looked just a bit more enchanting. We saw a good number of people heading to the falls, but once we left that area near the parking lot, we saw nobody else.

The "secret" part was especially fun, though the markings were very hard to see. We luckily spotted some spray paint marking the entrance off the main trail, but it was so hard to spot the hatchet marks on the trees, and the trail was lost in the light snow. We somehow managed to not get too lost, though. We camped overnight in this section.

On our return the next day to the car, we hiked by the falls and enjoyed greatly.

Our big mistake was that we assumed we could backcountry camp overnight, and we returned to an upset ranger who let us know that the park closed at sunset and that overnight camping was only allowed in the designated campground (which was closed at that time of the year - winter). We ended up getting off with just having to pay for the equivalent of a night's stay at the campground.

 

 

Name:   Jeremy
Date(s) of Hike: 06/26/15
Hike Name:  Little Devil's Stairs
Ranking: 4
Photo


Outing Critique: Hike of Little Devil Stairs in Shenandoah National Park.  I extended the hike and also did the Piney Branch Trail to make it an ~9 mile loop.  Only saw one other person in the 6 hours that I was hiking and that was within 0.25 miles of returning to the parking lot on the fire road.

The initial 2 miles of Little Devil Stairs was rough but I would not consider it to be scrambling. The stream was ever present with cascades the length of the hike.  Nice waterfall at the very end but no vistas.

I had planned to do take the fire road back to the parking lot but felt like adding a few miles so took the longer Piney Branch Trail.  The trail was nice but lacked any major features.  From about the midpoint the trail begins to follow a stream but stay maining above and a couple hundred yards away from it.  I found the trail posts confusing with some indicating Piney Branch Trail in all directions.  Since I had not planned to do this as part of the hike I had not brought directions and was off the edge of the map I had brought.  Ultimately you just keep turning left and will end up back on the fire road at the cemetery.

Watch a video of the hike.

Name:   Elizabeth
Date(s) of Hike: 7/24/2015
Hike Name: Billy Goat Trail - Section A
Ranking: 3

Outing Critique:  For the past year or so I have been coming to this trail and running it a couple times a week, all 4 seasons.  It is great exercise and makes trail running more interesting/fun with the intermittent rock scrambles.  During the summer remember your Camelbak, etc.  Also, the trail is nearly always busy (unless you're running it at 7AM in January!!), but folks are pretty relaxed when you politely say "excuse me" and pass them.  One thing I will say is that the trail is not nearly as "difficult" as the NPS warning, so even if you're nervous about going or haven't done any hiking, don't let it stop you.  Just go for it!  It is really beautiful and fun, whether you're taking it slowly as a beginner or running it regularly.  Wear trail shoes or athletic shoes with good grip and you will be totally fine!

 

 

Name:   Donna
Date(s) of Hike: 07/17/15-07/22/15
Hike Name: Otter Creek Backpack
Ranking: 2


Outing Critique: Did this loop, intended to make it a bit longer (with day hikes on McGowan, Possession Camp, and Moore's Run), but after Green Mountain Trail and the piece of Otter Creek Trail in between Moore Run and the Green Mountain trail, we ....gave up.   Mylius Trail is fine.  So is Shavers Mountain.  Green Mountain Trail is horrible and miserable, or as another backpacker we ran into said: "Abysmal".  It's one big seemingly never-ending mucky bog.  Couple that with being constantly smacked by or crawling through rhododendron and briars, add in the inevitable blow-downs (though nothing like others encountered two years ago), and a slippery rocky trail down Green Mountain (with water flowing on the trail at multiple portions)---err.  No fun.   The piece of Otter Creek Trail from Green Mountain to Moore's Run is no fun, either.  In several areas the very narrow poorly constructed trail clings to the side of a steep mountain, with an occasional portion of the trail washed out and dangerously muddy/slippery.  In two areas along Otter Creek Trail from Green Mountain Trail heading south there are re-routes around blow-downs--make sure that you take the re-routes (which go UP); don't try to plow through and go straight ahead.  While Otter Creek was very pretty when we could see it (most of the time it is hidden in rhododendron and blow-downs), the effort put into the hike made it not worth it.  Nicest campsite was by Moore Run.  Sitting there on the rocks in the middle of Otter Creek looking at a small but beautiful waterfall was very, very sweet.  But again...not worth it, given the horrible shape of Green Mountain Trail and the piece of Otter Creek Trail from Green Mountain Trail down to Moore's Run.  And yes, I get that it's wilderness.
(M.R.Hyker Note: All who are contemplating exploring wilderness areas should read this government link and any other links found within before going on the trip. The wilderness may not be for you!)  But one would think that there'd be at least some *minimum standards* for trails in wilderness areas.   We didn't see it.  Don't expect to make normal hiking time and don't expect even minimally maintained trails--they're *a mess*.  Perhaps then you won't be as disappointed as we were.

 

 

Name:   Chuck
Date(s) of Hike: 7/18/15
Hike Name: Kelly's Run/Pinnacle
Ranking: 4


Outing Critique:  Great hike! Two buddies from church and I, ages range from 30s to late 40s, did the loop in about five hours, going the "reverse" direction, first through the cornfield and woods to the maintenance road, then to the Pinnacle and coming back up Kelly's Run. Directions were pretty good, though it did take some interpretation and guesstimating to make sure we were on the right track. The hike starts out on what looks like a fire or forest road next to the baseball field, versus a trail. There aren't any signs or clear markings for where to start, so that made us a little nervous at the outset, but it all worked out. Enjoyed the bit of steep climbing, just enough to make us feel like we were being adventurous, and the view from the Pinnacle was terrific--we ate lunch on the rock outcrop just down the Conestoga Trail from the picnic area and had the place all to ourselves, watching kayakers on Lake Aldred. We missed the turn off to the base of Kelly's Run on the way back, ended up going to the intersection with the Conestoga and Kelly's Run trails and then working our way down the run, then backtracking and coming back up. Saw a dad with two kids, around ages 9-11, playing in the stream so it's a good trip for those with young legs (unlike us!).

 

 

Name:   Donna
Date(s) of Hike:07/19/15
Hike Name: Oregon Ridge
Ranking: 4
Outing Critique: We were pleased nearly all of this hike was wooded (except for the pipeline swaths) since the temperature was in the 90s. The heat may have been the reason there weren't more people out. The 'pond' wasn't much, but still a nice place for lunch with plenty of flat seating. The path is wide enough for several friends to walk and talk together. But interesting enough with rocks, roots, stream crossings and elevation changes. I think this would probably be awesome for trail running.

There is one point I would like to clarify that the person from '07 wrote about, but I missed reading. You do walk a short distance to find the Orange blazed trail, but you find the Red one first. The red one puts you on the wrong side of the lake. Interesting, but we had to back track to catch the orange trail.

Including our backtracking we did 5 miles in 2.5 hours. This is a very nice hike!

 

 

Name:   Troop 115, Schoeneck PA
Date(s) of Hike:07/18/2015-07/19/2015
Hike Name: Pinchot Trail - South Loop
Ranking: 4
Photo

 

Outing Critique:  We brought our youngest group of Boy Scouts for a one-night introduction to backpacking.  Properly fitting packs are difficult to find for 60-70 pound 11-12 year olds!  I know good ones in youth sizes are out there, but it is difficult to justify the expense for a pack that could be 6 months and a good growth spurt away from being too small.  Nevertheless, the trails are easy and ideal for youth.

We started our hike at 11:30 taking the South Loop in reverse, or counterclockwise.  Within a mile or so, before the Rock Lookout, we hit the most amazing patch of blueberries.  After everyone stocked up on blueberries for the evening snack and morning breakfast, we continued down the yellow shortcut trail because of gear issues and inexperience.  This yellow blazed path south of Tannery Road basically is a jeep trail for half its length.  The path diverts back into the forest about a mile before rejoining the orange blaze Pinchot Trail.

Most of the southern campsites were taken by the time we arrived around 5:00.  We found the one on the "island" adjacent to two other campsites that was still open.  It was perfect for us and we were able to set up and eat before a thunderstorm hit.  Nice rock chairs for the adults!

The next morning hiking out was a little sloppy, and moderately challenging for 11-12 year olds.  The trails are well marked and with very little elevation change, so no big deal.  Started out at 8:00 and made it to the parking area, hiking partway on Tannery Road, by 12:00 on a very hot and muggy day.  Again, ideal hike for youth.

They already planned to come back next year for the North Loop.

Jeff

 

 

Name:   Meghan
Date(s) of Hike: 7/18/15-7/19/15
Hike Name: Torry Ridge-Mills Creek Loop
Ranking: 5


Outing Critique:  What a great hike! In mid-July, there were lots of blueberries and a few blackberries along the side of the trail above 2500 feet or so-- and they were delicious. Based on the bear scat we saw in the trail, the bears think the berries are delicious, too. We didn't see any bears in the flesh, but did encounter a timber rattlesnake on the second day (we gave her and her rattles wide berth).

The first campsite, near Orebank Creek, seemed fine to us (no obvious beer cans or anything) but it is well worth pressing on to the second site, which was lovely and quiet with soft mossy ground to sleep on.

We barely encountered any other people during two days on the trail. Highly recommend!

Name:   Dave
Date(s) of Hike: 07/16/15
Hike Name: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique:  My daughter and I just finished this hike, exactly as described, and loved it.  We have very little experience and found these detailed descriptions extremely useful and accurate.  It was very challenging for us, but very rewarding.  We did encounter a rattlesnake near Half Moon.  The thistles/thorns were very thick a little north of Big Schloss and we sort of wished we were wearing long pants on that day.  Also, it rained very hard the morning of the third day, so as we climbed away from Trout Pond up Devils Hole the trail pretty much became a stream carrying all the rainwater down the hill.

Name:   Robert McPeak
Date(s) of Hike: 07/14-15/15
Hike Name:  Mount Rogers Backpack
Ranking: 4.5
Photo

Outing Critique: Excellent hike!  Here's what I'd like to share:

We did it in two days.  Day one we did as prescribed, day two 13 miles. The terrain was quite rocky and very wet.  Good hiking boots seemed like a must-have for me.  The only "brutal" stretch for us was the .65 mile decent down the Cliffside Trail.  Very steep and hard on the calves.

James Leo's PDF trail notes were very helpful, thanks!  Despite many connector trails, etc., this hike was pretty easy to follow.  I only checked location on GPS two or three times.

Parking at Grindstone was excellent and easy.  The campground manager was very nice.  The shower there after hike was also excellent!

It was nice to do most of the climbing on day one and get it out of the way.  As we departed I met a group who did basically the same hike but in opposite direction and I kept thinking that I was glad we climbed quickly first, and then descended.

Thomas Knob Shelter was full when we got there so after visiting for a few minutes we walked to the first campsite on the right side of the trail and pitched tent.  This proved to be way too windy so I moved tent to more sheltered area across trail.  It was a VERY, VERY windy night with a thunderstorm.  Be careful not to get seduced into a campsite with a "great view" if it is windy.  There are MANY excellent campsites a little farther down trail from shelter (like 500-1000 yards).  Lots of nice sites tucked in the woods.

The spring water at Thomas Knob is a good 500 yards below shelter but not too terribly hard to find.  It's really there!

The view at Thomas Knob and on the way up there was fabulous, however it didn't last very long for us.  As the day grew long, the fog/clouds rolled in and we were pretty much socked in for rest of hike.

Day two we got up and got moving fast and early because we were wet and cold.  The hike through Grayson Highlands was very nice (see photo).  It felt mysterious and Scottish, for sure.

We made it to the Scales by mid-morning.  The spring there was running but the black pipe into the corral was clogged (look for yellow "Water not tested" sign on inside of corral fence).  I ended up getting water from the "spring" at a trail junction later on hike.  There was water running everywhere -- it's been very rainy this year.

We got to Old Orchard shelter by mid-day, where we had a nice visit with some other hikers while we dried out a little bit and cooked lunch and made coffee.  It was only about 2 pm and so we decided to go ahead and hike the last 5 miles and make it a 2 day hike instead of a three day.  We hike fast, I guess!

We looked for a place for dinner in Damascus but didn't see anything open that looked good.  We ended up at Los Arcos near second (southermost?) I-81 exit in Abington.  Excellent Mexican food!

Name:   Steve
Date(s) of Hike: 07/03 - 07/04/2015
Hike Name: Black Forest Trail - North
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: This was mine and my wife's first backpacking trip.  We decided to make it a two day trip instead of a 3 day.  Day one we went from 44 down to Slate Run. We ate lunch at the suggested first nights campsite.  We made our way all the way down to Slate Run curious if there was a usable bridge there.  THERE IS A NEW HIKING BRIDGE THAT CROSSES SLATE RUN NEAR THE HOTEL.  It is very nice, no need to worry about fording the run.  I used this webpage as our guide for the trail, and it was spot on (thank you!!) It started raining @ 12:30 at night, and it rained for almost 12 hours (supposedly 3" that night!).  The streams were so high and fast, we felt they we not safe to cross, so, we cut the trail short and walked the roads back to the car on 44.  One other thing worth noting, there is another parking area on 44 (looks newer).  Coming from the south, it's just before the "God's Country" sign on the right.  Other then the rain cutting our hike short, our first 13ish miles were awesome!

Name:   Ruthie Franczek
Date(s) of Hike:07/05/15
Hike Name: Kelly's Run Loop
Ranking: 5


Outing Critique: For a 59 year old novice hiker this was a challenge...but worth the two hour drive to get there.  It took me 4 1/2 hours to do 6.3 miles because I stop a lot and took an hour lunch.  There is one uphill rocky part that is a 170 foot rise.  Good hiking boots and trekking sticks a must (unless you are young and foolish...I did see a couple in flipflops)  The creek is wonderful! Next time I will wear my bathing suit...there were two places deeper than my trekking stick.  I would put this ahead of the hikes I have done in the New England mountains and that's saying something!  Afterwards, I hope you packed your kayak on your truck...I paddled the Susquehanna below the Holtwood Dam.  Excellent way to cool off those tired feet.

Name:   Paul Fofonoff
Date(s) of Hike: 07/04/15
Hike Name: Otter Creek - SE Loop
Ranking (1 to 5 with 5 being the best): 4


Outing Critique:  On Jul 4-6, we did a 23-mile, 2 1/2 day backpack including the Otter Creek, Possession Camp, Otter Creek, Moore Run Trail, (by a lucky boob-boo McGowan Mtn Rd), Yellow Creek Trail, with a final stretch on Otter Creek.  This was my 7th backpack in Otter Creek.  It was beautiful, but unexpectedly challenging.  Compared to my early hikes (1996-2012), the trails were much more overgrown, with dripping rhododendrons, strewn with fallen trees, and more eroded. We were surprised to find no other hikers in the Wilderness during our trip.

The weather was close to average for summer. with a couple of long stretches of rain Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.  Flooding and stream crossings were not difficult, but the Moore Run Bog crossing was wetter and more difficult than in 2 previous crossings, with no signs of a footway on the west side.  I sank to my knees a couple of times.  About midway across (W to E, we encountered some stones marking the path, but it was still wet.

On Monday, we missed the cairn at the McGowan Mtn junction, and wound up on the road, which was OK in the pouring rain.  The road ends at Yellow Creek Trail.  Here the sun came out, so the rest of the walk was pleasant.

My main point here is to point out that the Wilderness is still beautiful, but much more difficult than in earlier years.  there seems to have been little recent foot traffic, and even less maintenance.  One exception, is that some of the dangerous eroded sections along Otter Creek have been relocated.  Overall, though hikers have to be prepared to navigate through dense rhododendrons, step over lots of logs.  This should not scare everybody away, but you allow yourselves plenty of time, and prepare the people in your group.

My pictures are at
http://www.meetup.com/AMC-DC/events/223342354/

Name:   Rick
Date(s) of Hike: 7/5/2015
Hike Name: Pocosin-South River Falls Circuit
Ranking: 3

Outing Critique: In mid summer the forest roads were very overgrown.  We missed the sharp right turn following the Pocosin cabin - the weeds were so tall it didn't look like a road, and we had to wade through several hundred meters of knee high weeds to continue - I would not call the roads a pleasure to walk on this time of year.  Also, we could barely see the cemeteries through the growth.  The falls were nice but the "sketchy" trail from the river to the base of the falls was wet and slick so care must be taken.  Regarding the climb at the end of the circuit, we thought it was not as hard as it sounds from the description.  In the end, had we known the conditions of the trails we probably would not have done the entire loop.

Name:   Adam
Date(s) of Hike: 07/03/15 - 07/05/15
Hike Name: Pinchot Trail
Ranking: 3
Photo:
 http://fs24.formsite.com/mrhyker/files/f-0-7-8714763_PkaBxLr5_Ferns.JPG

 

Outing Critique: Hiked the trail counter-clockwise beginning with the southern loop. We found the hiking to be easy and we were able to complete the entire 26 miles in two nights at a leisurely pace. It's not challenging and has no great views, but this trail makes for a nice weekend backpacking excursion.

We embarked at 3:30pm and after about 3.5 hours of pleasant hiking pitched camp at the first site after Phelps road. The camp sites on the southern loop are amazing. They're along beautiful gushing streams which provide a serene setting and convenience for re-upping water supplies and washing dishes.

The next morning it began to rain and we trudged through swampy, flooded trails, often having to slog through brush to avoid standing water.  By mid day we had reached Tannery Road and we're muddy, soaked and cold. The hiking got easier (but no less swampy) as we reached the northern loop, enabling us to make good progress through the Behler Swamp and White Line trails.

By about 5:00pm we reached the most enchanting and memorable part of the hike: Painters Creek. The trail descends into a dense, shady pine grove through which the creek rushes beautifully.  It is a magical place and it lifted our dampened spirits immeasurably. We proceeded up a steep rocky embankment and made camp at the northern-most site on the trail.

The next morning we hiked along more swampy trails which became steamy as the sun speared through the clouds. We mistakenly turned right from the trail onto Pittson Road and walked the whole way to Big Pine Road before realizing our mistake.  After backtracking and rejoining the trail (WHICH IS TO THE LEFT!) we had an easy hike back to the car, completing the trail at 1:00pm

Name:   Alex
Date(s) of Hike::  07/05/15
Hike Name: Cowans Gap SP - Tuscarora Tr
Ranking : 4

Outing Critique:        The Tuscarora trail was very overgrown, like the last few people have mentioned.  Up to Geyer Trail you're in the forest, and at times it there was so much cover it was difficult to follow the trail.  At Geyer it opens up into the jeep road, which isn't much better - easier to navigate, but covered in knee-high grass.  I went while there was still dew on the ground and my boots were soaked in minutes.  Poles and long pants are an absolute must.

I made my way down to the road on Richmond, which was fine but isn't cleared at all for the last ~50m.  At the bottom there was a sign that said it's closed for erosion control (at the top there's nothing to indicate this).  I didn't see anything at the bottom of Geyer to indicate it's still closed, so maybe check at the part office to see if it's open again.

The view at Big Mountain was spectacular, just don't expect an easy trail up.

Didn't do Knobsville or Horseshoe, kind of wished I did.  There's plenty of spigots around the lake if you want to refill water between Plessinger and Knobsville.

M.R. Hyker Note: The Geyer Tr is now open.

Name:   DanB
Date(s) of Hike: 06/29/15
Hike Name:  Lost Pond Circuit
Ranking: 4

Outing Critique: Overall a nice, not too strenuous hike.  I did this one earlier today, according to the map on this web site.

Starting from the parking lot, the trail is well-defined and pretty heavily trafficked on the route to Pot Rocks.  Passed by several groups of folks over this first half-mile.  However, once I reached the fork and took the left to head up towards the Overlook/Lost Pond, I was on my own.  This section of trail is still fairly well marked and open up to Lost Pond.  Once you get around Lost Pond, the blazing is a little more sparse, but the trail is still fairly well-defined as you decline back towards the Gunpowder.

Pay close attention at this point.  I missed the "sharp right turn" described in the description above and apparently ended up off the trail or on an older version of the trail.  I ended up walking a quarter mile or so upstream of a stream that isn't really described on this site, but apparently is "No Name Stream" according to the map on the DNR website:


http://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/pdfs/GFSP_big1.pdf

Realized I was headed off trail and turned back around following "No Name Stream" to where it outlet into the Gunpowder.

This next mile was a little rough, the trail is not well defined or blazed as it runs along the water.  Maybe I was still off the trail, it was pretty overgrown...  At one point there was a crossing where I'm assuming there used to be a trail bridge or something, as the water is several feet deep and the bank is very steep where the trail takes you.  Headed a little upstream to find a place to cross and still had a tough time getting up the opposite bank.  From there on it as you follow along the Gunpowder, the trail is quite overgrown, lots of spider webs to run face first into :)

As you continue, you eventually reach Pot Rocks from the North, and back to 'civilization'.  The trail is again well-defined and you are backtracking the way you came.  The Sawmill Trail was a worthwhile diversion, getting a little bit of elevation and some more forest trail.

Personally I enjoyed the Lost Pond Circuit, but bear in mind the trail from the parking lot to Pot Rocks is one thing, but the Lost Pond Circuit is a couple degrees of additional challenge.  Still worth it to reach the mouth of "No Name Stream".

Name:   Chris
Date(s) of Hike: 06/23/15 - 06/25/15
Hike Name:MNE- Big Run - Seneca Creek - - "Lost Meadows" Backpack
Ranking: 3

Outing Critique:  Without this site, my backpacking exploration would be limited to state parks and the ever popular well known local trails in Pennsylvania so thank you for having this site.

Bottom line of this critique is wear knee high gators, long pants, and bring a dry set of camp shoes.The trails are very well marked with newer signs labeling the trail names but not distances.

We explored the Big Run - Seneca Creek trail in late June to find that most of the side trails other than Seneca Creek Trail are very overgrown and made for more difficult than traditional trails that are well maintained. I am not sure if the overgrown trails (some areas have grasses up to our shoulders in height, 5 feet high) are normal or abnormal here.  One horseback rider mentioned briefly that the trails may be overgrown due to a limited state budget. I am not sure if that is true though. The other issue was there was continuous mucky/boggy areas that never seem to dry.  Our feet were sinking constantly and made for unsure footing as if were were walking through wet horse poo.

As we came down the beginning of Big Run, it was a nice but steep gravel trail.  As we approached the meadows, the trail got progressively overgrown and we found ourselves getting cut on our exposed lower legs with briers or stickers and worrying about gathering many ticks.  The tick situation ended up only being a few during our travels, but they were present. My yellow lab dog was leading the way down the trail by burrowing her head into the grasses and hoping for the best. We were thankful to find the north prong trail sign and gathered our breath by taking a break at the campsite just before North Prong.

North Prong trail was a bit better but the stream crossings were plentiful and higher than normal due to recent heavy rain.  Our boots and feet were soaked due to not having gaitors and the water being higher than our boot tops.  I don't think the trail is used enough to be able to rock hop and it would be absurd to take your boots off for every creek crossing. I was grateful for the uphill climb up to allegheny mtn. trail after the old wooden footbridge at the Elza Trail.  The meadow that we passed shortly after that was the biggest and best one we saw. A few deer were seen along the North Prong.

The Allegheny Mtn. Trail was flat and easier to make some miles but there is much debris and the mucky trails continued.

We cut our mileage short due to tiredness and cut down Swallow rock trail.  The campsite at this intersection was full of high grass as well and ticks would be my concern if staying there.  Swallow rock trail was just barely a trail, but was just a muddy/mucky downhill mess with no sure footing.

Once we arrived at Seneca Creek trail things got much better.  The trail was well defined and flat.  We made our way to Judy Springs campsites across the footbridge.

Day 2

We day hiked down to the main waterfalls which you suggested camping by.  We had plenty of time, but chose not to explore the high meadows area.  Looking back at it, that was a dumb decision, but I was so concerned that the trail conditions would have been just as bad as the other day. There are 3 fairly big sites down at the base of the falls. The one above the falls looks a little tight and maybe has room for one small tent.

Day 3

We took the Seneca trail back and enjoyed the creek crossing and the more well groomed trail.  We were debating to go up the Tom Lick trail and finish our trip on the Allegheny trail or just continue on the Seneca trail and just walk the road the 1.1 mile to the Big Run trailhead. We chose the Tom Lick/Allegheny route.  The Tom Lick was a fairly easy climb for a mile and we passed a campsite on the left that is an option if absolutely need be.  The rest of the Allegheny was mucky and had at least 3 down trees that crossed the trail completely.

All in all, we had a great time, but for anyone looking for a basic backpacking trip and not a high grass, mucky adventure, I would suggest simply doing an out and back backpack from the Seneca Creek trailhead.

I would love to know if these trail conditions are normal or if we just hit it at a worse time.

Name:   Ed
Date(s) of Hike: 6/20/2015
Hike Name: Reddish Knob Summit
Ranking: 3

Outing Critique:  The Reddish Knob Summit is a really remote hike that all the animal life. We saw eagles, signs of bear, 7' rattlesnake, and much more. The bear markings where intense around the mile 5-8 and also one the way down. There was a den of bears somewhere at mile 6-7 in the rocks. The trees were marked by claw marks at 6' up. Trees were pushed over, and the brush was thick you were walking through. If you were doing this alone without making noise this is not a good idea. The camp sites were remote and the only one that looked like you could somewhat pitch tent was the car camp site off the dirt road near the top. (See trail notes) The trail is marked yellow until you hit jeep road, dirt roads, and follow the trail notes with map. About two miles going down the mountain the trail is nearly impossible to go through. We were wearing gaters to our knees and hiking boots. Our arms and knees had some major scratches. The trail is so thick you think you lost it, and then you see yellow. You will go 15 minutes to 30 minutes until you see another yellow marking. The trail notes refer to open field for camping the grass is about 2-3 feet tall. Rattlesnakes we saw were in it. We saw a 7' rattlesnake, that would not leave us alone when we stopped for lunch. We moved one. He was too friendly. You will need to drop water at the top. The best idea ever from the trail notes and website. Oh have fun driving up the mountain road to the top. You will learn to pray very quickly. Amazing views, and they are so worth it when you hike to the top. We hiked the whole loop in one day 12 hours with 40 lbs in the backpack. We were planning on camping on the mountain. We did not find any camp sites that we want to camp at, and the bear activity made us rethink it. I enjoyed the hike, my wife did not like the bear activity and rattlesnake.

Name:   Bob Handelsman
Date(s) of Hike: June 7-10, 2015
Hike  Otter creek SW
Ranking : 3.5


Outing Critique: Hiked from south entrance of Otter Creek Wilderness to the campsite just before the second crossing of the Creek.

I'm 67 years old with COPD and a bad back and I often hike by myself. Therefore, I hike in 4-5 miles and set up a base camp for 2-3 days.
This trip I stayed 3 days. Can't carry any more food.

One day, I hiked up the Moore Run Trail to the junction with the Turkey Run Trail. I didn't go further because the rhododendron was very thick and the scenery was very unimpressive. The second day I hiked up to where the Otter Creek Trail crosses Moore Run. I didn't go further because Moore Run was deep enough to require me to change to water shoes which I didn't feel like doing again. The best views of Otter Creek are north of the second crossing.

Otter Creek Trail in from the south entrance was unimpressive. It was primarily one big jungle of rhododendron. There are few views of Otter Creek between the south entrance and the first crossing of Otter Creek.

There are 4 campsites with water access between the first and second crossings of Otter Creek. Two are on either side of the Creek at the first crossing and have easy access to water. The third is several hundred yards north of the first crossing and access to water may be difficult. The fourth is just south of the second crossing and has easy access to water. This is the campsite I was at for the 3 nights. I hiked in on a Sunday and saw 12-15 people hiking out. I did not see another hiker for the 3 days I was in.

There is a very nice campsite with easy access to water where the Otter Creek Trail crosses Moore Run. This site should be approximately half way between the north and south entrances.

The day before I hiked in, I hiked about a mile of the trail from the south entrance and was underwhelmed by the scenery. I decided to look for the north entrance on W Va 72. It is about 4 miles south of the junction of W Va 72 and U.S. 219. Watch carefully for the parking area because its easy to miss.

To find the south access, drive east of Elkins on U.S. 33 for about 10 miles. FR 91 is at the top of a hill opposite a sign saying "Shavers Mountain Elevation 3026 feet." There are 2 roads taking off from here so be sure you're on FR 91. It is the one to the west.

I didn't bring fishing tackle. About halfway between the first and second crossing is a deep pool which should harbor some nice brook trout. There are other deep pools downstream of the second crossing but access for casting is difficult.

Name:   Ed D.
Date(s) of Hike:6/17/2015
Hike Name : Dolly Sods Circumnavigation
Ranking : 3

Outing Critique: The Dolly Sods has nice over night camping sites for backpackers. You will need to make sure to follow the trail notes, as there are no trail makers. There are trail signs at intersections. There are enough people hiking the trail that you should be able to follow tracks. We ran into a deer (eight feet away), which was not afraid of people. The trails were wet and had multiple stream crossings. The mud is at times up to you ankles. This was one of the muddiest hikes we have completed. The trails were cleared. Our gators that go up to our knees were covered in mud the both days we hiked.

Name:   Fy
Date(s) of Hike: 06/12/2015
Hike Name :   tuscarora trail
Ranking : 2

Outing Critique:  My wife an I took a hike on Friday 06/12/2015. The first part of the trail was ok, you need to be in good shape to climb the trail to the top.  It has twists and turns and is very rocky.  Once at the top we took a brief rest on one of the overlook areas. As we continued the trail was rather dangerous as the path was overgrown with greenery and foliage  we almost fell several times twisted our ankle on a rock and cut my leg on a tree stump sticking out. The  reason for this is because it was so overgrown we could not see our feet and where we were stepping. It felt like we were in the middle of a jungle. We did not want to get lost so we had to turn around and come back. never made it to the Geyser trail, because we could not find it .

Name:   Greg S
Date(s) of Hike: 6/9-6/10/15
Hike Name: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Ranking (1 to 5 with 5 being the best): 4+
Photo:
8672739_wLi6tu4Z_18504713429_98074ee3a1_z.jpg


Outing Critique: I did a slight twist on this trip, parking at Trout Pond Recreation Area in West Virginia. The idea was that by coming at it from this corner I could hike counterclockwise halfway and camp at the intersection of Tuscarora Trail and Pond Run Trail with guaranteed water. Because I got out there late though I went clockwise instead with the first day being my short day, and I ended up camping at the spring below Sugar Knob. The next morning I hiked down to Big Schloss, over to Tibbet Knob and completed the loop using 691 and Long Mt Trail. You can connect back to Trout Pond using their Purple and then Orange-blazed Trails.

All in all this was a pleasant trip. I knew it would be hot, but the coolness of the evening helped to balance that. Every spring and creek described in Mr. Hyker's description was flowing well, and all tasted great (Sandstone wasn't chalky by my reckoning). If you go anytime in early June, it's probably safe to assume abundant water. From the time I left Trout Pond until I got to Big Schloss (about 24 hours) I didn't see another person - helps to do trips in the middle of the week! I only got turned around once...as I headed in from the loop and connected to the Trout Pond trails I turned off the Purple too soon, missing the Orange and catching a short White/Blue tape-blazed trail that dumped me back on to the Long Mt Trail. I realized my mistake when I hit the campsite below Ben's Ridge - luckily only slowed me down by a few minutes. For what it's worth, I was focused on hitting my goal and getting home by a certain time so I skipped a few overlooks. If I was doing this slower, or with other people, I may have hit every single one.

My only reason for not giving a 5/5 is that I found 3 sections to be quite boring - the Long Mt Trail, the Middle Mountain Trail above Big Schloss and 691. Long Mt Trail was at least shaded, the other two were pretty hot and Middle Mountain Trail was lined with awful thistles.

My chief goal in doing this trip was to see if I could do the loop over one night, and accomplishing that felt really good. 28 miles, 28 hours. Despite the 4/5 I still HIGHLY recommend this trip, it's one of the few areas within 2 hours of DC that allows you to hike a loop and feel a bit removed from civilization. Also, of course, Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob are two of my favorite overlooks in the GWNF.

Thanks to Mr. Hiker for these excellent directions!

Name:   GB                                                                                                                Hike: Cowans Gap SP - Tuscarora Tr
Date(s) of Hike: 05/28/15                                                                                     Ranking: 4

Outing Critique:        Very good hike.  Had to cut it short so I didn't do the second climb and descent.

IMPORTANT:  As of hike date, the Geyer Trail is closed.  You would only know this from a sign on the bottom of the trail - no marking at the top.  Fortunately, my instinct told me not to go down the trail at the top, as it looked quite overgrown.  Take the Log Roll Tr instead and walk a half mile or so on the street to the next trail.

The overgrowth situation on the Tuscarora ridge (as mentioned in previous review) has not improved. There were several portions of the ridge trail that required bushwhacking through nearly completely filled in forest.  I would say it has progressed beyond nuisance to mild danger in a few short spots.  Still passable, but you are guaranteed to pick up a few ticks and scratches plus an increased risk of twisted ankles from stepping on rocks that are difficult to see.

Name:   Sean Morrison                                                                                            Hike: Brown Mountain - Rockytop Loop
Date(s) of Hike: 5/23/15 - 5/24/15                                                                    Ranking: 5

Critique: This was a great loop trail. I did the trip easily in two days by camping along the Big Portal Trail. I went over Memorial Day weekend and didn't see too many people.

The first day I added on a 1.2 mile spur to the peak of Lewis Mountain, about a half mile after Rockytop. It gave a great view of what I had been hiking so far that day.

This is a highly recommended trip to avoid some of the larger crowds.

Name:   Nole                                                                                                             Hike  Billy Goat Trail - Section A
Date(s) of Hike:05/25/2015                                                                                 Ranking : 5

Critique:  I love this trail. The views are beautiful along the Potomac river, especially early in the season when the meltwater still has the river running high and fast. The best times to go are weekdays or late afternoon on a weekend, provided you know how much time you take on the trail and how much daylight you have left. There are many places where the rocks are intimidating, especially if you are afraid of heights (like I am). In most instances though, it's easier to jump from rock to rock than it is try to climb around them. Wear good boots and it's no problem. I regularly complete this trail in less than an hour, a little more if I stop to look at everything. It's pretty much my favorite place in the entire DC area and worth the effort.

Name:   Terri V                                                                                                          Hike: Chimney Rocks (Michaux State Forest) Loop
Date(s): 05/29/15                                                                                                  Ranking: 4

Critique: There haven't been any recent reviews of this hike, so I wanted to put in my two cents.  I went on this hike today, and I really enjoyed it.  The climb up to Chimney Rocks was quite a workout, but the view was really nice.  I ended up going another couple of miles past Chimney Rocks on the AT -- relatively level ground -- and then turned around and came back via the AT instead of doing the loop hike.  I was hiking by myself and wasn't 100% confident of the trail that I was supposed to take to get over to the return route and I didn't want to walk through the (very long) grass at the pipeline throughway.  But it was a really nice out and back hike.  But the most important thing I wanted to share is that THERE IS NO BASEBALL FIELD at the Old Forge picnic area anymore!!  I was very confused about where to find the trailhead, but fortunately there were a couple of AT through hikers who came into the picnic area as I was looking around and they directed me to the trailhead.  For reference, if you are looking at the big open grassy area from where you park your car, the trailhead is to the far right hand side right near a small building that stores fresh drinking water.  Aside from that initial hiccup, it was a very enjoyable hike.

 

Name: Person                                                                                                            Hike: Red Creek/Dunkenbarger Loop
Date(s): 06/06/15                                                                                                           Ranking: 4

Outing Critique:  Good Hike.  Great hike for waterfalls. We did it in the direction of Mr. Hyker's review. Since no one has written a critique of this one in for a year or two, here's a little update.

Please please follow Mr. Hyker's directions to the letter when it comes to the first crossing/Red Creek backwater about a 1/2 mile in.  From where you approach, there is a visible carin to the right on the other side of the backwater.  However, it is not as visible as the wrong trail directly across from you. The carin is partially obscured by vegetation.  If you go straight across, as we did, you end up in a honeycomb of campsites and false trails.  We bushwhacked through, and wound up on back on red creek trail somewhere above the Little Stone Coal Trail junction.

From there, Red Creek was mostly easy to follow.  There were a few rock gardens that required some careful carin hunting,  across to the junction of Big Stone Coal and Red Creek trails.

Then three beautiful waterfalls within about 2 miles before dropping down to the red creek crossing. A right and up the creek bank about 30-50 yards and the carins on the other side are easily visible.

Rocky Point trail is loose softball to football sized ballast for about a mile in the middle.  Its annoying footing. On the red creek side there is mostly clear footpath on the right for a while. We didn't find the lion's head spur, though we did find a large carin by a log in the area described by Mr. Hyker.  When we followed that trail up we lost it in a Rhody thicket.  No matter, there is great vista from earlier on Rocky point.

The Big Stone Coal water fall is worth the trip by itself.
Dunkenbarger is mostly typical "spruce bog" similar to what you'd find on Canaan Mountain - two to four inch deep black mud with hop rocks. But it was a nice change from the hardwood forests of the lower elevations.  I think the mileage may be a little farther then described from Big Stone Coal to Dunkenbarger Run and from Dunkenbarger Run to Little Stone Coal trail.

I have a guide book that describes the little stone coal canyon as "precipitous."  That description is dead on about half-way down.  Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the bench cut has partially washed out in a few of the really steep spots.  Use caution.  It wasn't impassable by any means, just a little nerve-wracking.

There are no carins, that I saw, on either side of the red creek crossing. We headed upstream about 15 yards and crossed on the down stream end of a nice pool.  After getting across we took a dip in the hole there which I highly recommend, if the water isn't dangerous, and the day is hot.  Little stone coal continues through a camp ground to the right.

We saw about 15 people total, most of them on Red Creek trail.  All trail junctions had in tact signage.  It took us about 7 hours, but we were in no rush and stopped several times. Thanks Mr. Hyker. Sorry if this critique is too long.

 

 

Name: Sara                                                                                                                Hike: Jones Mt-Staunton River Loop

Date(s): 05/11/15                                                                                                    Rating: 5

 

Critique: My boyfriend and I completed this outing over two days in early May.  We entered the park from Skyline Drive (warning, there's a $20 fee to enter Skyline Drive). Once you park at the Booten Gap lot, you veer left onto the AT (white blazed trail).  It's a slight uphill journey until you quickly reach a trail marker that is a concrete post and very easy to read (they are available throughout the hike, you will have no problems staying on the trail or getting lost on this hike). Here, you veer right onto the Laurel Prong Trail which is for the most part downhill on the side of the mountain, crossing various neat rocks until you reach the very bottom of the mountain and another trail marker to turn right onto Cat's Knob Trail.  This is probably one of the steepest inclines of the trip, but it doesn't last for too long and it is beautiful toward the top.  You climb beautiful rocks and level out at the top. There isn't a "view" up here, but you can see mountains all around you in the distance.  Continuing from here, you reach the Jones Mountain Trail.  From here it is up and down, nothing too steep. You pass through rock gardens and woods, and there are no good spots to camp until you reach the very tip of the mountain.  Here you will find a premade campsite on the left hand side.  There are two large rock formations on either side, a fire ring in the middle, and behind are the strange swirly trees you have seen throughout the Jones Mountain Trail.  It felt like a very safe spot to camp because it was enclosed on two sides, but it does get very windy, so be sure to secure your tent and rain fly.  After spending the night, we began to climb down, only moments after leaving our campsite ran into a little side trail that opens up to a rock facing 5 layers of mountains.  It's the most beautiful viewpoint on the trip.  Continuing down, we eventually made it to another trail marker that included the Jones Mountain Cabin, which we opted to see.  It was a downhill journey which led to a fresh spring and some log seating.  After filling up on water, we climbed back up and onto the Staunton River Trail. One of the more beautiful trails, for the most part it follows and crosses the river, plus there were more than a few spots to hop into the water to cool off.  Once you veer away from the river it is a longer trek uphill, and one of the toughest for me the entire trip.  Eventually, you reach a gravel road that leads you back to the Jones Mountain trail, through cats knob, and back up the laurel prong to the AT.  I rated this hike a 5 star because of its balance of beauty and difficulty.  It was the perfect two day hike and the campsite was beautiful in the morning (we watched the sunrise).  I might even suggest if you make it to camp soon enough, watching the sunset from the view point I mentioned that is just after the campsite, it is truly breathtaking, and if we knew about it beforehand we certainly would have watched the sunset there.  The hike was amazing and I can't wait to try another trail like this soon!

 

 

Name: Sushant                                                                                                         Hike: Conestoga Trail

Date: 05/02/15                                                                                                        Rating: 3.5

 

Critique: We parked our car near Pinnacle Overlook and went all the way to Martie Forge and then all the way back to Pinnacle Overlook.

The trail is strenuous only upto Pequea. After that the way to Martie Forge did not even feel like hiking. We were simply walking on roads for a very long time. While returning back, the last segment climbing upto Pinnacle Overlook is soul destroying. You just keep climbing up seeing that every blaze is higher than the previous one. Since this was at the end of the day, I guess I was physically battered as well making the task all the more challenging. As soon as I crossed the finish line and entered the grassy picnic spot of Pinnacle Overlook my legs gave way and I fell down with horrible cramps. Luckily that did not happen on the trail. Sat on the grass enjoying the view in pain for about 10 mins then went to the car and left.

As this is my first hiking experience I would say keeping my water salt balance was the biggest lesson. I got 2 litres water with me which was not enough by any means but luckily the other person hiking with me had a UV water filter so we were able to get ample water from the streams and drink. The real problem was that I did not eat enough. In all the sweat and grime I was in, I did not feel like eating, even though I had enough food, which was a mistake.

The blazes are quite well maintained and easy to follow. Overall it was a great first hike experience.

 

 

Name: Pete Lynch                                                                                                      Hike: Ricketts Glen Falls Hike

Date: 05/03/15                                                                                                          Rating: 5

 

Critique: I got there on a Sunday and took a look around the park. I hiked the Bear Walk/Highland/Cherry Run loop to get a feel for the place. Very crowded so I decided to come back early the next day and hike the entire Falls Trail, starting at the rt-118 trailhead.
Very nice cool temps and easy hiking for the first mile or so. When you reach the upper/lower trail split you must decide if you want to go with the easier "Moderate" upper trail or the "More Difficult" lower trail. I took the lower trail figuring I would take the easier way on my return. Turns out the difficulty is mainly from a few short sections where you need to grab the rock wall or a tree root to pass by. Plus you may need to do a small bit of scrambling to avoid getting your boots wet. Other than that, it was a bit shorter that way.
 After the first few waterfalls you reach Waters Meet where you make your second decision: to hike up the Glen Leigh trail or the Canoga Glen trail. The Canoga Glen side is the steeper of the two so I decided to take Glen Leigh trail going up so I would have an easier way up *and* down.
I took the short cut to the Highland trail and missed one fall. I passed through the rock formation known as Midway Crevasse and went up to the Lake Rose trailhead parking lot to rest a bit and refill my water bottle.
I took the Canoga Glen trail back down to Waters Meet, retracing my steps to the first waterfall where I took the afore mentioned "Upper Trail" back to my ride at the rt-118 trailhead.
The waterfalls are great but hiking trail and steps were what I liked the most.

 

 

Name: Travisw                                                                                                           Hike: Big Mountain/Pine Tree Vista

Date: 05/02/15                                                                                                         Rating: 4.4

 

Critique: Started on map off tower road at the top of Big Mtn so I can understand how starting down on Aughwick road and climbing 900' would definitely get the ole lungs and heart working. I am surprised to see this trail, as steep as it is, is very well maintained and little to no wash out all things considered. I took my 19 yr old son this day as we had to sort some stuff out. We saw porcupine, turkey, deer and hawks. Big moutain overlook well worth it despite the element of graffiti. This overlook is most likely beautiful in any season. Only have a few items to watch out for. The old logging road, easy to follow but once it's ready to enter back into forest.....super marshy!!  Need to walk up in woods to avoid sinking in 6 or more inches at spots. The sign at the fork for Fore trail appears to have dry rotted off tree and is is wedged between two trees pointed wrong direction. Unfortunately my son and I chose the wrong trail, which was Fore trail. This trail gets to be very interpretive at spots as seems to follow a temporary creek bed and it is super steep. The 500' climb up Klines (Kings?) trail was not as rewarding as I thought it would be..maybe best viewed when all leaves are off trees...this trail as well was straight up and a heart and lung metiator. All in all I have done all three hikes in this area listed and absolutely loved it. Well worth it!

 

 

Name: Kurt                                                                                                                 Hike: Pinchot Trail-South

Date9s): 05/09-10/15                                                                                            Rating: 4

 

Critique: Friend and I did the south loop counter-clockwise, 5 miles on Saturday (3hr) and about 9 on Sunday (5hr). Very well-marked and easy on day 1, camped near the second-to-last of the 6 watered sites -- there's an unmarked adjacent site, very well-established, on a small island right next to the marked one. Requires hopping across a small stream, but has much much better tent spots, a row of stone chairs(!!!), and a nice firepit (which we sadly didn't get to use because of seasonal burn bans). Look just upstream from #5 out of 6 and you'll see it. #4 looked nice as well but was occupied. Day 2 was MUCH rockier but very peaceful, no people in sight the entire time, very varied surroundings that passes through lots of different areas. The trail was quite overgrown and blocked by deadfall in many places. We went up and down Stone Lookout at high noon, there was no shade and it was pretty brutal! Make sure you stock up on water for the last stretch, we didn't see any at all past the end of Birch Still Tr. and it's easily the toughest part. Excellent trail guide overall, much better than the printed DCNR one!

 

 

Name: Ber                                                                                                                  Hike; Roaring Creek Tract

Date: 04/18/15                                                                                                        Rating: 4

 

Critique: Good hike. We started around 9:45. First hill is no joke but ounce your up you can cover ground fairly quickly and youríe going to want to. There wasn't much going on along the big mountain ridge line a couple of coal pits but very lacking in vistas. Wildlife was quite plentiful; owls, salamander, snails, chipmunks, snake, butterflies, deer, coyotes, hawks, turkeys, ducks and geese that love to wake you up in the middle of the night. Being one of the first warm weekends this year it was quite busy, people riding 4 wheelers on the big mountain trail as well as mountain bikers and lots of folks of the main rd. maps or gps comes in handy for the fact that all trails are marked in red can get you turned around a little bit. Sign at entrance says closed for camping however all other resources we check said "primitive camping" was aloud with a open fire ban march 1- May 25 so we used a tiny stove. We ended up putting in 14 miles the first day due to the fact that good camp sites along the south branch roaring creek trail can be tough to find but if you keep going there is a great one. Terrain is rocky have ankle support. Overall if you put in some tough work the first couple of hours you can be at camp and relaxed next to the beautiful lake by 4pm with only a 4 mile walk out the next morning.

 

Roaring Creek Road

 

 

Name: Trailbuzzer                                                                                                   Hike: Gunpowder-East Circuit

Date: 04/15/15                                                                                                        Rating: 4

 

Ccritique: The trail notes are a little bit dated but they are more than sufficient to follow the intended trail. This is a nice hike with some great scenery along the river. Very little contact with others along the way except for a few fly fishermen. The trail is mostly flat along the river but there is enough up and down in other places for a some cardio challenge. The scenery along the Panther Branch gorge (around 5.5 miles) is especially magnificent.

 

 

Name: Steve                                                                                                              Hike: Otter Creek Backpack

Date: 04/14/15                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: Awesome hike. The first two miles on Mylius are "straight up" (as told to us by a local that built the trail in 1969) and a good test to determine if your pack weighs too much. The Possession Camp Trail has several large fallen trees that will slow you down as you look for routes that will allow you to pass. In one case the only path was to climb the log and jump down. Crossing Otter Creek at Mylius can be a bit technical if it's rained recently. It was a gorgeous visit and I look forward to seeing more of the Otter Creek Wilderness. Thanks for the report.

 

Fording Otter Creek

 

 

Name: Doug McKenzie                                                                                              Hike: Fallen Timber-MST Loop

Date: 04/12/15                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: Nice long loop. Took 5 hrs. A bit rocky walking, especially on the first half of the Mid-State on the way back. Not sure of the directions at very end, i.e. LT onto Brush Hollow Tr.   I followed the MST and came out at the dam. All in all, a very nice outing, all the trails in good condition with plenty of blazes.
Thanks.

 

 

Name: SL                                                                                                                    Hike: Kelly's Run-Pinnacle Overlook

Date: 04/12/15                                                                                                        Rating: 4

 

Critque: We hiked this on a beautiful April day with our 8, 11, and 13 year olds. Everyone had a blast. I definitely recommend hiking it the way it was laid out in the description. Everyone we saw was heading the opposite way. We had a tiny miscue where we were supposed to leave the Pinnacle trail down the woods road to join the Conestoga for the hike up Kelly's Run. The second "woods road" is only road-like above the junction and below it is narrow and a bit grown over. We thought we had made a mistake and backtracked only to end up staying on the Pinnacle Trail. In any case this is a great hike with just enough physical challenge to make it fun. I highly recommend it.

 

 

Name: Chris                                                                                                               Hike: Quebec Run Backpack

Date: 03/21/15                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: Did this hike as a early season warm-up, gotta get out again starter hike. I packed up for an over-nighter, but ended up just doing it as a day hike for various reasons.
The trail head is easy to find, look to the right when you see the wind turbine ahead of you! There were no maps at the trailhead though, it is probably too early in the season.
The trails were very well marked and easy to follow. Mike's notes are spot on. There was a bit of water on the trails, but not too bad.
The campsites under the hemlocks at Mill Run trail and Grist Mill trail are gorgeous. I will definitely go back to stay the night there. Right by the stream, very flat and soft, and big! I thought about staying but I got there about 1pm and it was too early to stop. I am thinking next time it would be good to set up camp there then hike Mill Run to Tebolt then back to the site on one of the cross trails to make a whole day of it.
Beautiful place, well maintained, and not overly strenuous. Great hike for getting in shape and for new backpackers.

Name: lwtrekpa                                                                                                         Hike: AT-Old Horse-shoe Trail Loop

Date: 12/24/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4.5

 

Critique: The is long hike, but not a majorly difficult one. Please plan time wise for this hike. I would venture to say at least 5 hrs if your going to take in glimpses of DeHart's Reservoir along AT, sign register at northern terminus on Horshoe, stop at Devil's Race Course, Water Tank, Stony  Mtn Fire tower,  lunch and water breaks and any other small venture you may encounter along way(i.e. Snakes, Deer, grouse, frogs, etc). I've done this hike the way described, backwards, used both the blue and H. Knauber trail to ascend and descend. Note, if you want more of a vigorous challenge,  do this hike in reverse or use the H.Knauber to ascend up to Old Horshoe Trail. Either pink connector or H Kauber are real good climbs up Stony Mtn. If one wants to shorten this hike slightly and still see all the sights but the actual water tank, I have an alternate route. When ascending Old Horshoe Trail and you see the start of the red blazed H.Knauber trail..turn right onto it and take it. this takes you thru a bit of a marshy area depending on time of year but climbs to the crest of Stony Mtn. Once there you will see a rock cairn where you can turn right onto red blazed H. Knauber and continue down Mtn or go straight onto a blue blazed trail. Follow blue hashes along a trail that takes you along ridge of Stony Mtn and winds up at Stony Mtn Fire tower. After spending time at tower continue on regular road that takes you back to Old Horshoe trail(people also refer to this as Ellendale road). I absolutely love this trail for the variety and time away from "it all"!  During hunting seasons please wear at least some orange.

 

 

Name: lwtrekpa                                                                      Hike: Stone Tower 

Date: 11/15/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4.3

 

Critique: Directions are pretty spot on. As far as trailhead goes, your are more apt to see blue spots on tree off 325 heading east away from Deharts reservoir then you will be coming west. A good guesstimate would be that the trailhead is 1.5 miles away from inlet side of reservoir. Parking is best on opposing side of trailhead about 50 yards past (going east) the trailhead.
     This is definitely one of those circuit hikes that makes you feel like your in the middle of nowhere. Once on pink connector trail I did not hear any traffic at all from 325 the rest of the day. The climb and descent from Stony Mountain were both lung and knee testers. I would not recommend this hike for beginner hikers or for low cut/sneaker style boots.
     Was witness to grazing flock of turkeys as I reached the top of Stony mtn just before Stony Tower. I was amazed I could get my trusty four legged friend to sit still long enough to observe this spectacle. Stone Tower and village of Yellow Springs are a testament to the will of man to succeed and overcome any obstacles be it elevation, terrain or inclement conditions. Ran into some weekend warrior AT hikers at Stone Tower and their 4 legged friend. The kids had a good romp thru the woods. Thanks to these guys I got an education on merino wool (check it out!!!) Its well worth the price even if it's not 100%).
      This was the prettiest and most manicured section of the AT that I have hiked on thus far. I embellished the serenity that this section of the trail lent me.
      Had lunch with the "General" as there was makeshift fire pit and logs surrounding it that made it an ideal place to stop and try regain some energy before the ascent back up Sharp Mtn.  The vista from the yellow blazed trail is "ok". One has to be a bit of a mountain goat to get out onto rock and stay on the rock to get most from the vista.
      If you have done any of the other SGL 211 loop hikes this one has to be on your bucket list for sure.

 

 

Name: iwtrekpa                                                                                                         Hike: Lebanon Reservoir - Sharp Mt

Date: 05/25/13                                                                                                         Rating: 4.6

 

Critique: This hike was posted previously about 2 years ago as a new hike but has been changed slightly since that time. The now posted red blazed Black Spring trail that you pick up off the end of the state game land road(where box car rocks/chinese wall branches off) used to follow the gas line the whole way down to Evening Branch creek. I haven't tried to find this trail but I can tell you following the previously posted gas line down sharp mountain was super wet and sloppy and the trail was like a deer trail that at times I literally was crawling on my hands and knees to navigate thru. Whether navigating the gas line or following Black Spring trail, the challenge at the bottom is finding a way to cross Evening Branch without getting soaked (you will get soaked).
    If starting at the reservoir, the hike as described is as beautiful as it gets. Stunning views of the reservoir and across the reservoir can be seen from many spots. I have spotted several bald eagles roosting and flying across reservoir in past 2 years.  Foliage no matter what time of year really is stunning. The view from rock piles as described over to Broad Mtn. are really beautiful. The rock formations along state game land road as result of mining operations are really something to see...I would venture to guess there isn't many times hikers can see these types of formations.
     Another secret about the reservoir is there are several locations along the main trail where smaller trails jut off in the direction of the reservoir and/or feeder streams such as Evening Branch or Fishing Creek that have steel cable crossings that allow hikers to cross over streams that are too wide to cross by foot.  There are times in spring or after periods of rain that your attempt to ford across Fishing Creek is next to impossible to pick trail up again. If you back track towards reservoir about 1/4 mile and keep your eyes peeled to creek you will see a cable crossing. Once across , just bushwhack upstream until it runs into trail again.
   The 3rd caveat is not all true (in the description).  If doing the full loop and you find yourself on the path above the dam, the trail continues on in a slight upward path back into woods on a defined path down thru woods and brings you out on the back side of one of the municipal buildings that you passed on your trek up to the dam at the start of hike. I'm most certain the municipality of Lebanon would not want people hanging on their chain link fence in an attempt to descend the hill and then have people try and rock hop across what would considered a spillway to the dam.

 

 

Name: Merv                                                                                                                Hike: Middle Creek WMA

Date: 12/27/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: Like many PA trails, major portions of this trail go through active hunting areas.  It is highly recommended that all hikers wear orange just like hunters in order to be highly visible.  Unfortunately, our group did not anticipate this, and when we could clearly hear shots being fired, decided not forgo taking the full circuit.

We did, however, still take the conservation trail and then walked along the lake via the road.  There were dozens of swans and a couple thousand snow geese in the lake which made up for the fact that we had more of a long walk than a hike.

I look forward to going back with the proper attire and/or out of hunting season.

 

 

Name: Jason Dashbach                                                                                           Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike

Date(s): 10/4-5/14                                                                                                 Rating: 5

 

Critique: Four of us did this hike the first weekend of October 2014. It is a really wonderful walk with amazing views at many points along the canyon rim. We found ourselves staring the hike with snow flurries at the trail head but no real snow ever came. The temps stayed seasonably low both days but we didnít see much precipitation after that.
The trail can be difficult to follow in places and we took a couple of wrong turns, most notably while looking for the tee pee trail at the end of day 1. We took a trail that was marked with a cairn about where we thought it should be but we had turned off the rim a little too early and had to back track once we realized we were walking on the wrong heading. The tee pee trailhead is at the opposite end of a well-used campsite, so if you are looking for it and are not at a camp site you havenít found it. Even once you are within the camp site it is not obvious and it is concealed with some small pines and brush. The canyon rim trail just passed that same campsite is also the most difficult to follow section of the overall trail, at least it was for us. Prior to that section it was fairly straightforward and we didnít have any major issues finding the way. I would also recommend that you fill up on water at the streams when you pass them. The whole reason we were looking for the tee-pee trail was because the rest of the campsites along the rim were dry and we didnít have enough water left for dinner and breakfast so we were going to cut off the last horn on the rim and camp closer to water.
Our original plan for the hike had been to camp at the big site about 2 miles from the trailhead per the trail notes and then do the rim as a day hike without packs but there was a HUGE group (no joke 30-40 people doing trail maintenance) there already so we figured we would just use one of the other sites along the way and we kept pushing on to the next one and the next one and then got to a point where everything left was dry and a good ways from any water. It didnít help that we walked on what we thought was the tee pee for a good 20 minutes before realizing the mistake.
We definitely could have done a few things differently on this hike to make it a more comfortable experience but we still had a great time and the views were beautiful. We also ended up sharing the site with another group of super nice people who got a great fire going so things worked out even with some wrong turns, more weight and less water than planned. I will definitely go back as it will be much easier the second time around having some actual experience with the route.

 

 

Name: Jason Dashbach                                                                                           Hike: Allegheny Front trail -West

Date(s): 11/22-23/14                                                                                             Rating: 4

 

Critique: A friend and I completed this hike the weekend of 11/22/2014. We started Saturday morning and finished up Sunday. We followed the trail notes and went counter clockwise as recommended. The notes were, as always, spot on and the trail is very well maintained with wooden signs/posts at all the intersections. Navigation is definitely not an issue on the AFT with how well it is currently being maintained.
We had pretty questionable weather on Saturday with temps in the 30ís and on and off light rain. The rain put a coating of ice on a lot of the rocks that made the going slower than planned along the northern section. Due to the somewhat slow going and full darkness by 5:30 our first day mileage was lower than hoped by about 3-4 miles. To make up time on Sunday we cut off some of the Southern section of the trail by taking Clay Mine and Shirks roads instead. The detour probably cut off about 4-5 miles of the 31 miles trial and was a nice option to keep us on track. Walking along a road instead of in the woods kind of stinks but we didnít have enough time on Sunday to make up the lost time. The campsites were plentiful all along the trail and we ended up in a nice one on that wasnít listed in the trail notes but still had a fire ring and a reasonably flat spot for the tent. I believe it was about 13 miles or so from the start and probably 0.25 mile past route 504.
I wish we would have had nicer weather on Saturday but even with that the hike was great

 

 

Name: WV Backpacker                                                                                             Hike: AT-Mauhar Trail Loop

Date: 11/10/14                                                                                                         Rating: 5

 

Critique: This loop was hiked over two nights, and three days as a low mileage, fun early start to the week. Approaching the AT trailhead close to sunset, day one was an approach to the Maupin Field Shelter. Nice easy beginning hike in. Being Veterans Day weekend, there were plenty of campers, surprising for a 40įF day.  

Day 2 began ascending to Bee Mountain, and on to the first ridge. I feel this is the best overlook over the entire trip, primarily overlooking the Priest Wilderness to the south. The trail continues along the Appalachian Trail, shortly ascending to the second ridge, the highest elevation of the journey. This ridge has little exposed areas for viewing. Following the ridge line, it is another easy reach to the third ridge. I found two separate areas with stunning viewpoints, both peaceful and powerful. Note: both the second and third ridges have primitive camp areas, but with NO WATER. Next comes a long descent. This time of year makes this easily the most challenging part of the hike. I highly recommend close supervision of new hikers, especially those backpacking with weight on their shoulders. Considerable amounts of leaves hide EVERY nasty rock on the trail. Lots of Oak trees here drop their acorns, and it happens to be a very sheltered, quiet area for bears to dine. Harpers Creek Shelter is also sheltered well, both from the wind and the sunshine.  

The hike out is easy going southbound on the AT, as well as the beginning of the northbound Mau-Har hike. Beyond the waterfall/swimming hole area, it becomes a hike that requires patience, and several short breaks. All uphill. Once you start seeing a few firs, you will find yourself approaching the Maupin Field shelter.

 

Name: Jake                                                                                                                Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation

Date(s): 10/17-19/14                                                                                             Rating: 5

 

Outing Critique: Great hike, many beautiful views.  The trail notes are spot on, and easily followed the trial.  One thing to note is that the white-blazed short trial down to the vista at the first night campsite is not really blazed anymore, and we actually couldn't find the trail at first.  From the intersection with the sign, turn left and pass between the two fire rings.  Head straight  down over the hill and you will start to see a small trail.  I would also mention that there are not many good campsites on the Long Mountain Trail, other than the large field that was noted here (I couldn't find the spring it mentioned).  There are spots that could work, but didn't really see any additional developed sites.

 

 

Name: Andrew                                                                                                           Hike: Otter Creek-SE

10/24-26/14                                                                                                             Rating: 4

Critique: I organized this for the Mid-Atlantic Bacpackers meetup, and we turned it into a basecamp utlizing the big campsite 1.1 miles north of the Condon Run trailhead.  It was a big flat site next to the creek that could accomodate all 8 tents.  On Saturday we conducted as described on MrHyker's site, and it was gorgeous to say the least.  Although foliage was a little past it's peak, there was some marvelous stream scenery and beautiful mature hardwood forest.  My only warning would be that the Shaver's trail south of Mylius is a little hard to detect at times.  My guess is this section of trail is a little less trodded.  Although the wilderness area is not signed or blazed (I saw one sign at Hedrick camp, signage for Otter Creek trail at Condon has broken off) cairns still clearly mark intersections and change of direction.  Enjoy this wonderful place.

 

Name: .Com                                                                                                               Hike: White Oak Canyon-Cedar Run

Date: 01/226/14                                                                                                      Rating: 5

 

Critique: Ol' rusty bucket & i had a free day together & chose white oak canyon loop for our hike.  weather was magnificent, although that brought out the crowds.  we started at the base of the canyon, hiking up white oak trail & taking in the great views of the many waterfalls.  we decided to extend out hike a bit, so we hiked up to skyline drive, and walked about 1/4 mile south to the next overlook where we could access the AT.  we took the AT SOBO for about 1/2 mile or maybe a bit longer, to the next parking lot on skyline drive.  we crossed the road and started down cedar run trail.  less crowded than white oak trail, a bit steeper as we descended.  all in all, we think our hike was about an 11 mile loop.  it was helpful to follow the map from www.midatlantichikes.com, as well as a good map of the shenandoah park.

 

 

Name: JNK556                                                                                                            Hike: Laurel Fork Backpack

Date(s): 10/17-18/14                                                                                             Rating: 4

 

Critique: Did this hike as posted with Arfcomhkr, and one other friend.  Trails were clearly marked, and for the most part in good shape except for parts of the Bearwallow trail, which is poorly marked in spots, and narrow and rough. The small connector trail where the Locust Springs Spur, cuts from the RR grade, and connects to the forest road is hard to find, we ended up missing it, and just bushwacked the 100yds up the hill to the road.  Rest of the hike was nice, except for the high winds that kicked up our night on the fork.  Laurel Fork trail looked to have been recently blazed, and had zero trouble following it.  Two tough spots where the RR grade has been washed away, and you're trying to tiptoe through were pretty tough, but not impossible.  Crossings weren't too bad, water was up just a bit, and running fast, but nothing over knee high.  Hike out on Buck Run was long, and in some places pretty strenuous, but we've hiked worse.  All in all good trip, the bad spots on the fork give it a 4 out of 5 rating.

*No signs of rattlesnakes on this trip, this late in October, they have probably hid for the winter!*

 

 

Name: Ted E. Bear, Shortstack, Wooly Bully, .com                                            Hike: Iron Stone Loop

Date(s): 10/11-13/14                                                                                             Rating: 4.5

 

Critique:

After watching the weather reports all week, it looked as if Accuweather was giving us a window of opportunity for this Columbus Day weekend hike to happen.  Leaving from two locations in fairly heavy rain (Frederick and Timonium) at 8 AM we arrived at the "Day Use" parking area about within 5 minutes of each other at 11:15 to clearing skies.   Finding our way around the lake without too much difficulty we arrived at the environmental center to screaming children having fun at a early Halloween party and were befuddled as to which way to go.  After a ranger/employee pointed out the obvious retaining wall,  we were on our way again only to miss the hard unmarked right before a residence and road.  Back tracking and making an early turn, we had to backtrack some more before we found the missed unmarked start of the trail.  (There were blue/yellow marks once you made the turn but not before.)  All in all we lost about a half hour.  The rest of day one was an uneventful nice walk in the woods with the exception of Ted E. Bear's realization that he left his much talked about (on the way up) Turkey sandwich in the car!  Making do with an energy bar and knowing it was only 5 miles to the campsite no one perished that afternoon.  As the 1st site mentioned was occupied by 6 college age folks we decided to go on and stayed at a somewhat abandoned campsite just off trail and across the stream from the hunters cabin about 3 PM.  After setting up tents, and filtering water, the gathering of loose wood from around the site and rebuilding of the fire ring really spiffyed up the site.  Other than the rocks the site was flat and soft.  A blazing campfire and s'mores with good company made a cold night warm.

Day two started by breaking camp at 8:45.  Despite the cold and "sleeping in" til about 7 we all moved pretty fast after breakfast.  The warm up mile and a half or so before the "big climb" of the day was appreciated.   Up until then, the "PA rocks" weren't too bad.  Steep as it was we all made it up without the use of ropes and after getting to the top and taking a needed break we took the hard left to the rocky and view filled Jackson trail.  (Note: the color coding of the map to the trail color changes was helpful.)  Several great vistas and two small rattlesnakes occupying our path (One rudely removed by Ted E.) later we came upon the crowds of Jo Hay's vista at Rt. 26.  We were still one week prime of autumn foliage.  (Note: none of us felt the trail was a "jeep road" prior to the obvious communication tower access road on both sides of 26.)  We didn't count but there were over a half dozen of the ugly sky scratchers.  The trail did get slightly less rocky (as advertised) as it turned back into the MST.  As we got to Indian Steps and took a break before the long decent there was a group of about 20 just starting to come to the top from a hiking club out of Altoona.  They were doing some kind of loop or shuttle thing which didn't seem well planned based on the conversation with the individual we talked to, but he was not the one in charge.  The one in charged seemed to be wanting to "hurry" the folks up the hill.  (Ha Ha)  After breaking for over 20 minutes we decided to pass the rest of this group "on the fly" as we descended the bugger.   Everyone had aches in either toes, calves, or thighs or some combination, but no one fell!  We chose the 2nd campsite on the left after the decent and road just before our nicely flowing stream water source.  Another nice evening with fire and the last of the s'mores and not quite as cold.

Day 3 started overcast with low lying clouds making it dark, but for the second morning no dew as well surprisingly.  We were on our way by 8:45 again and refreshed by the night's sleep and good breakfasts we all made it up the steep hill in 10 minutes!  The rest of the morning was pleasant with clouds getting darker but this seemed to bring out the fall colors more especially on this "jeep road" section.  All trail intersections were obvious or clearly marked and color coded.  We arrived at our cars before noon, cleaned up or took advantage of the $1.00 shower and headed to a ranger recommended BQ place not far from the park.  Unfortunately we found it was closed on Mondays.  Splitting back into the East and West group, the West group found a good lunch at Boxer's Cafe in Huntingdon, PA and the East group found lunch at a local grocery store/sandwhich shop with indoor seating about 5 minutes from the BQ on 26. (Sorry we forgot the name.) Leaving our lunch spots the rain started which bookended our near perfect trip.

All had a great time.

 

Name: Joel                                                                                                                  Hike: Loyalsock-Link Loop

Date(s): 10/04-06/14                                                                                             Rating: 5

 

Critique: Great Hike! this is the second time I have done this with my sons, and we love it here.  The directions are great. My only changes would be to note that there are plenty more campgrounds that are not shown on the map (particularly along the loyalosock creek after the bridge, and also between High Rocks and Ken's Window.  Also the point at which you leave the Loyalosock creek to go to rt 154 is a bit unclear.  If you chose to not ford the first stream crossing, you must cross two bridges on 154.  Ignore the various un-blazed paths that try to leave the road to the left.

 

 

Name: John Yancey                                                                                                  Hike: Rocky Top-Big Run

Date(s): 10/03-05/14                                                                                             Rating: 3.7

 

Critique: I just finished hiking the Rocky Top/Big Run loop with another father and our 11 year old sons and let me start by saying it was a great trip.  Your map and trail notes were spot on and very helpful.  I printed the map and notes and gave them to the boys and let them guide us along the trip.  It improved their map reading skills and gave them a sense of where we were and where we needed to go throughout the trip.  We made the trip a three day/two night back country experience.  We camped the first night at the bottom of the Rocky Top ridge at the junction where it meets the Big Run loop at the campsite you listed to the left after the steel bridge.  It was one of the best campsites I have used in a very long time.

Day one:  We started our hike at about 1030 on Friday October 3rd and arrived at the campsite at about 1800.  The trail was quite strenuous with regards to the terrain.  While mostly downhill the rockiness of the last half of the trail made for slow hiking and some fear of twisted ankles but, the reward of the campsite by the water was worth every grueling step.  The temperature during the day was a perfect 67 degrees and a little overcast which provided ample protection from hiking all day in the sun.  We did not encounter another hiker the entire day.  We made camp and bathed in a small wading pool and had a great supper.  Then made sure all our gear was put away and off the ground as the threat of a cold front was clearly going to make for a stormy night.  Throughout the hike there were numerous signs of bear activity as well as scat, so we were a little concerned about making sure our food was hung properly.  This proved to be the most difficult part of my day trying to find a decent tree in the dark but finally found a decent enough place and hung the food just as the rains began.
Day one:  Strenuous = 4.  Views = 4, Privacy = 5, Wildlife = 2, Campsite = 5.  Overall day one = 4

Day two:  We broke camp after a relaxing breakfast at 1030 and started up the Big Run trail at an easy pace.  We stopped for lunch at one of the pools that was full of small Brooke trout and let the boys fish for about two hours.  They caught several hungry little trout and had a great time.  We then made our way towards the "best campsite" you listed but it was already taken so we continued to the trail junction and camped just past where our climb out would start the next day.  The hike was fairly easy and absolutely beautiful.  We saw more and more bear sign but no bears.  This might have been because our boys were talking, laughing and singing while they hiked and to be honest were somewhat loud.  At any rate the temperature was in the low 60's and the sun was shining and we had a great time hiking and taking in the scenery.  We saw only 8 people the entire day with one of them being the person in the "best campsite" and a group of three making camp about .2 miles to the north of  our campsite.  The campsite we used was just south of the Big Run Loop trail junction and while it was flat and would have been really nice it was completely overrun with poison ivy.  I have hiked the AT from Georgia to West Virginia and numerous other trails and parks throughout the United States and Europe and have never seen so much poison ivy in my life.  Luckily, we spotted the danger and maintained vigilance and nobody got exposed.  Again, I had some issue trying to find a decent place to hang our food but managed.  During the night the cold front moved in with gusto and the temperature dropped to a chilly and breezy 45 degrees.
Day two:  Strenuous = 2.  Views = 4, Privacy = 4, Wildlife = 3, Campsite = 3.  Overall day two = 3.5

Day three:  We broke camp and started our accent at 1045 and made it to the 4X crossing we passed on the first day in just under two hours and then made it back to the parking area with ease.  On the way up the views were incredible as the cold front cleared the skies and really showed off the beauty of this area of the park.  We encountered 17 people during our climb and everyone was, as has always been my experience, very friendly and did not detract from the beauty of the hike.
Day three:  Strenuous = 4.  Views = 5, Privacy = 3, Wildlife = 2, Campsite = n/a.  Overall day three = 3.33

Summary:  All and all this was a great trip although maybe a little tough for a couple of 11 year old city boys on their first ever back country hiking/camping trip.  I plan on doing this one as a two day/one night trip for myself and hope to see more wildlife.  Your notes and map truly were some of the best notes I have used and I want to thank you for putting in the work and making our hiking/camping trip easy to navigate and worry free.

 

 

Name: Bill                                                                                                                    Hike: Hemlock Natural Area

Date: 09/27/14                                                                                                         Rating: 3

 

Critique: Me and my friend Don hiked the Bowman Hollow trail looking for the homestead ruins, we did eventually find them, but the trail was very hard to identify and follow. Some of the trees were marked just fine and then you go a bit further and could not tell if you were still on the trail or not. Anyway, the ruins turned out to be an old spring house. We tried to find any remains of other structures but the areas on all sides were overgrown, I am sure there is a site there somewhere. We also came across something else interesting, about 100 yards from the spring house, along the small stream to the NW there is a strange man made retention wall along the creek. This makes me think at one time there was a mill or steam tannery there at one time.
Here are some pics and GPS coordinates for the location.

N  40į19.575'  W 77į 34.776'   ruins

N  40į 16.800   W  77į35.885   Wall

 

 

Name: Emily                                                                                                               Hike: Tuscarora-Standing Stone Loop

Date(s): 09/27-28/14                                                                                             Rating: 5

 

Critique: We started this hike in the early afternoon, clockwise from Cowans Gap State Park, intending to camp in the Narrows, as mentioned by Ben in a review above from January 2012. Departing the State Park around the southern side of the lake, we found the Standing Stone Trail and began our ascent to a rocky ridge top trail that gave way to vista after vista. After 4-5 miles we came to the end of the ridge and followed the Standing Stone Trail west down a switch back to the Narrows (as seen on the map) instead of heading east to the Tuscarora Trail as the hike notes suggest.

We found the campsite opportunities in the Narrows to be unwelcoming, with no source of water. Running short on daylight, we made a decision to follow the Loop Trail shown on our PATC map (Map K) east along the property line of the Buchanan State Forest, up and over Cove Mountain and down to Aughwick Rd. We intended to walk the road north from there to access the Tuscarora Trail and head to the Burd Run Shelter (also seen on the PATC map).

The main point of this post is to share a review of The Loop Trail. Obviously someone thought it traversable enough to blaze and map it and we did make it, but this was one of the most difficult ups and downs I've ever hiked in PA. It was blazed white and ran the property line as we thought; evident by the ďPrivate PropertyĒ signs lining the SF boundary. The ascent was an intense aerobic workout to say the least and the decent was so steep that at certain points it looked like the hillside might just drop away beneath us. It was a rugged and rocky challenge. We had 2 dogs with us that required constant coaching to keep them climbing down.

Eventually, the steep rocks gave way to an identifiable trail that brought us to a tree marked with 5 vertically placed white blazes and a left turn in the trail. This was the Forbes Road Trail. We knew we needed to go straight however to get to Aughwick road. A bushwhack through a hearty stand of young trees began which eventually opened into a clearing on State Forest land, from which we could hear Aughwick Road. We returned to the clearing to camp after meandering down a path to the road and across it to access Aughwick Creek for water. It was an adventure rewarded with some of the best star gazing at our campsite in the clearing that I've seen in a long time.

The next day we walked south on Aughwick road for a short time, to reach the Tuscarora Trail and head back to Cowans Gap SP.  It was a great hike that could be made less audacious by sticking strictly to the suggested route.

 

 

Name: Steve E.                                                                                                          Hike: Roaring Creek Tract

Date: 09/13/14                                                                                                         Rating: 2.5

 

Critique:  I did not heed the advice of an earlier reviewer and failed to call ahead to check the camping status. I arrived in the morning to discover the area is currently closed to camping. I had intending to stay one night, however decided to hike the loop in one day and substituted the Roaring Creek Trail for the South Branch Trail. Blazes are not the most obvious on Big Mountain Trail and there are numerous other paths leading in other directions. I went on a rainy day with low visibility and had a difficult time keeping the trail. There are some nice views of the reservoir, but make sure to call ahead!

 

 

Name: k8tlevy                                                                                                           Hike: Old Loggers Path

Date(s): 08/30-31/14                                                                                             Rating: 4

 

Critique:  We did this as a two day fast and light backpacking trip over Labor Day Weekend - loved it, even though it rained like crazy one of the days! Didn't see the road to Masten was out until we tried to drive in on it Friday night. Luckily, the detour was easy to follow.

We went counter-clockwise, tackling 17 miles on the first day and the rest the second day. The trail was super easy to follow; the orange blazes were impossible to miss, as were the arrows when the trail turned. So many snakes, though! We saw four rattlers on rock outcroppings. Definitely keep your eyes open. Pleasant Stream campsites were amazing! Saw two other parties camping there, but sites are far enough apart that it felt private.

No views at the vistas on the second day because of the clouds/rain; guess I'll have to come back! Trail was wet, definitely recommend waterproof shoes/boots. Also, watch for salamanders!

Full trip report available at
http://www.adventure-inspired.com/2014/09/old-loggers-path-backpacking-trip-report.html.

 

 

Name: Wooly Bully, Shortstack, Christopher Robins                                         Hike: Otter Creek Backpack (modified)

Date(s): 08/16-18/14                                                                                             Rating: 4

 

Critique: Having a base camp in mind we changed this hike to proceed directly to the waterfall area.  We originally planned to camp at the Otter Creek / Moore Run / Possession Camp Trail junction, but ended up proceeding further north to find an open site.  Busy day, lots of campers.  But easy to why so many come here, the falls and deep pools of Otter Creek make for great swimming in about as scenic a place as can be.  At this point we decided to ditch the base camp and proceed with a regular backpack.  We stopped at a really nice site, where Moore Run joins Otter Creek.  We spend most of our time hanging out on the large flat rock, real nice views upstream, downstream, and to the side with Moore run flowing toward us.  Pretty cool having dinner practically in the middle of the creek!  Chris made a great campfire, and we hung out real late to 9:30 or so.
Saturday night and Sunday morning brought lots of rain.  Very heavy at times.  Fortunately the rain tapered off at 7am, but the wet conditions scuttled any plans for breakfast on the rock.  Continuing north on the Otter Creek Trail took us thru some large areas of fallen trees, most probably from the 2012 storm.  Re-routes bypassed the harder hit areas, with the trail running farther up the slope.  We also had to navigate over and around quite a few fresh blow downs, in wet and slippery conditions, with the trail very narrow and VERY close to the edge, making for a much more difficult hike than on Saturday's wide open trails.  But the fantastic scenery really made up for the extra work.  Conditions improved after the ford and on to the Green Mountain Trail.  After a steep climb, we leveled out and eventually turned on to the Possession Camp Trail.  After only few blow downs on the Green Mountain Trial, we ran into a bunch more on the Possession Camp Trail.  Nice gentle downward grade, passing a deep crevasse (must be a better geological term) in the rocks, two creeks with pretty waterfalls, and some really cool overhanging rocks.  After reaching the Otter Creek Trail we retraced our route and set up camp at the Mylius Trail junction, at the nice site under the hemlocks beside Otter Creek.  Chris the "firemaker" came thru again, creating a nice blaze from soaking wet fuel.
No rain on Sunday night, and dry on Monday Morning!  We continued on the Mylius Trail back to the car, meeting two young men employed by Trout Unlimited for the purposes of monitoring hemlock trees (applying insecticide if necessary) and also monitoring nest boxes for flying squirrels.  On the drive back we stopped to get pictures of Seneca Rocks, made another stop at the USFS Potomac Ranger office to pick up a bunch of maps as well as a lot of info from the friendly ranger, and then for a good lunch at Family Traditions in Petersburg.
Overall the routing worked out well, with distances of 5 / 10 / 2.5.  No problems navigating, only advice to GPS users is that the Possession Camp Trail is not on the .gpx listed for this hike.  The scenery was about as nice as it gets; Otter Creek is truly "waterfall central"!  But the blow downs and wet conditions made for tough going on day #2.  Had we encountered those conditions on day #1 we may had turned back.  Also very little wildlife, we saw just a few toads, a snake, very few birds, and no fish.  Thankfully no mosquitoes!

 

 

Name: Eric                                                                                                                  Hike: Pulpit Rock-Pinnacle Loop

Dates: 08/31/14                                                                                                       Rating: 4

 

Critique: Long rocky hike with good views as the payoff. Took much longer than anticipated due to rocky terrain. Bring plenty of water and watch for snakes... we saw two timber rattlers (a first for us in PA!) at the Pinnacle and some other hikers saw copperheads at Pulpit Rock. I would not recommend it for kids less than 8 or 9 years old unless they are accomplished hikers.

 

 

Name: Navig8tr                                                                                                         Hike: Green Ridge North Circuit

Date: 08/16/14                                                                                                         Rating: 3

 

Critique: I took this circuit as an overnighter to test some new gear. I started near campsite 1. I was glad to find that the blazes were recently painted, and Pine Lick in blue, Twin Oaks in purple, unlike the description above. I ended up doing most of the circuit the first day, and camped in campsite 11. I was surprised to find all the small streams dry, and 15 Mile Creek was an occasional stagnant, muddy , shallow puddle. I took 2 liters of water and took the last gulp when I reached the car. Overall a nice walk in the woods, but maybe better for late spring when the water might still be flowing.

 

 

Name: Tim                                                                                                                  Hike: Morgan Run Loop

Date: 06/17/14                                                                                                         Rating: 5

 

Critique: What day is it? Work it, work it...

 Kudo's, hat's off, a BIG right hand salute to the unknown folks that have been maintaining the Morgan Run Loop. Every weekend I am seeing something new. From bridges placed over streams to cut grass and maintained trails. If you know who these unknown folks are please pass this along.

 It has been almost a year now (4 seasons) that I have been walking the loop on the weekends and I invite anyone to join me. You'll be happy you did. Sometimes I do a repeat to max out my outing. And it is interesting to do it in reverse order as well.

 Visit Morgan Run and let me know. It's been a great asset to me as I am prepping for the BIG HIKE beginning March 2015.

 

 

Name: Ed S.                                                                                                                Hike: Pond Run-White Rocks

Date: 05/18/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: This was a good long hike, worthy for its good views and cascading runs.  I think the Tuscarora/Pond Run summit vista is the best vista along the loop, though White Rocks itself also gives an expansive view of the Shenandoah Valley, Massanuttens, and Blue Ridge.  Due to recent rain, the Pond Run section creek crossings were easy cold fords, with other areas of the trail becoming flood channels.  The long climb up Pond Run gave me a good workout.  The logging road section of the Tuscarora was basically a stream until the Racer Camp Hollow Trail, where the stream became a broad alluvial fan.  Pink ladyslippers were prevalent throughout the highland parts of the hike.  Waites Run was flowing very well, allowing good photographic opportunities, and it was very good the plank crossing along the Old Mail Trail was there, as fording there would be through thigh deep fast flowing water.

 

Fast flowing stream.

 

 

Name: Ed S.                                                                                                                Hike: Kings Gap

Date: 06/01/14                                                                                                         Rating: 3.8

 

Critique: I made a variant starting from the pine plantation, perhaps a mistake as that area was rather buggy.  It's a nice area, but there are plenty of better hikes in the greater Michaux area, and thus the lower rating.  Most of the overlooks, except for at the mansion and Ridge, are all somewhat grown over.  The mountain laurel was starting to bloom, and the ornamental Catawba Rhododendrons around the mansion were in full bloom; as were assorted flowers in the garden.  Its lily pond had plenty of frogs plus some blooming lilies.  The mansion was open, so I took a quick trek inside.  (The photo is the fireplace mantle.)  A bluegrass band was performing on the lawn outside, mostly Stanley Brothers covers.  With the exceptions of the mansion area and the Scenic Vista Trail, few people were out on the trails.

 

 

Name: Shortstack and Wooly Bully                                                                       Hike: Alleghenny Front trail-West

Date: 08/02-04/14                                                                                                  Rating: 4

 

Outing Critique: DAY 1: After checking in at the park office, we parked at the "upper lake lot", and proceeded north on the Shingle Mill Trail. The trail follows the Black Moshannon Creek. Even with the dark tea-colored water this creek provides for a great walk, with lots of twist and turns, some deep pools, and lots of rhododendron, Cardinal Flowers, and Joe Pye Weed along the banks. The large flat rock at around 3 miles makes for a great lunch spot. Farther along the trail we saw a dark, mucky spring with a few spots of contrasting white sand jetting out from the bottom. Moving sand this fast requires a substantial flow of water. At the end of the Shingle Mill Trail the AFT heads west, thru an active logging zone, past some overlooks of the I-80 viaduct, and then down to the bank of the Red Moshannon. We continued along the "Red Mo" to Sawdust Run, but couldn't locate the "DAY 1 campsite". No evidence of a road to the right leading down to the Red Mo. We found a pretty good tenting area around 0.1 miles past the run, on the left side of the trail, complete with a big flat rock for cooking and a conveniently located fallen log. 10.1 miles for the day. DAY 2: The day started with steady rain. At 6:30 the rain tapered off enough to let us cook breakfast and enjoy the wood thrush song , but then picked back up before we could break camp. We took advantage of the next lull to pack up our wet gear and head out along the AFT, in heavy rain at times. Six Mile Run made for a scenic section of the trail. The relatively consistent width and slope of the creek bed make it appear man-made in places, but the deep pools and fast flowing water made it very scenic. Lots of wood thrush song in the background, and some high pitched ďscreamsĒ from the treetops. Possibly porcupine calls? The trail veers away from the creek, thru some pine plantations, and past Wolf Rocks. Aside from a geologist's dream of impressive scale, rounded edges, layers, slots, and overhangs at Wolf Rocks, there was an equally impressive mound of porcupine scat under one of the rocks. Upwards of 1/2 cubic yard, enough to demonstrate the angle of repose! At 13.5 miles for the day we stopped at a campsite under the hemlocks. Set up camp, waited out some more heavy rain, and turned in at 8:30. Lots of mourning doves, and a brief appearance by a whippoorwill. DAY 3: No rain! A few miles on the AFT, and then on to the Moss Hanne Trail. Great views from the extensive network of boardwalks over the marsh. Water lilies, cat tails, and blueberries! Lots of grazing along this section. Also saw some bushes that looked like blueberries but had red fruit. More wood thrush song, that same bird must be following us around the loop. Continued northward, thru more pine plantations, over a drier marsh area with expansive views, and then along the lakeshore back to the car. Blazing and signage made it pretty easy to stay on track. Over three days we saw no other backpackers on the trail. Just one trail runner, and then one family along the boardwalks. Even after factoring out the rain, the AFT-West was OK but not as nice as the other side of the loop, the AFT-East.

 

 

 

Name: Peter Fleszar                                                                                                   Hike: Mid State Trail-Little Pine State Par

Date: 02/01/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: I hiked part of this loop after completing my quest to hike the entire Tiadaghton Trail. When referring this hike to someone in a Facebook group I noticed a couple of things. First and perhaps most important, Happy Acres Restaurant has been tested and found excellent several times since I submitted the 2011 critique. Second, Spike Buck Hollow Tr south of MST does NOT continue straight west of MST, instead it quickly turns left/south heading down the drainage almost parallel to the narrow ridge, turning again at the bottom of the intermittent stream hollow to follow along left bank of Boone Run for a bit. The trail comes out on Boone Rd at an I-beam bridge over Boone Run, about at the 820' contour.

 

 

Name: Boondoggle                                                                                                   Hike: Jeff Mitchell's Waterfall Wonderland

Date: 08/02/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4.75

 

Critique: A Great hike, very slippery, very demanding. The faster you try to go the more you get hurt... so just take your time. The bridge that had washed away has been replaced so it's much easier to get to. This is the 2nd time I've done the hike. The first time we got caught in a thunderstorm and had to take the haul road for the 2nd half of the hike all the way down. This last trip we were able to complete the entire trip. It took 7 hours total, but we did stop to look for a few geo caches and took 2 other breaks for eating and a 10 minute "let the feet dry out a little bit" break. The bugs were somewhat bad, and the plateau walk had some incredible mud pits, one which consumed my leg up to my knee...

 

 

Name: Reese Salen                                                                                                   Hike: Pinchot trail

Date(s): 07/30-31/14                                                                                             Rating: 3

 

Critique: Trail notes very helpful for the most part. It may be good to note that the trail does not follow alongside Sand Spring Creek, it parallels it but never descends to it. Water in Choke Creek and Butler Run in late July was slow moving and I didn't trust it enough to drink from the looks of the water. The footpath as you turn off Tannery Road toward Choke Creek is now signed with "Choke Creek Nature Trail"

 

 

Name: Mike G.                                                                                                            Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation

Date(s): 07/18-20/14                                                                                             Rating: 4

 

Critique: We did this hike in the direction laid out in the narrative. Our first day, we left Wolf Gap at 9 am, and headed north. Be forewarned that the well pump at Wolf Gap is broken, and has been since last fall. After a steady, but not too grueling climb, we reached the side trail where the vista was awesome from Big Schloss overlook. Back on the main trail, we reached the Sand Spring area, which was the first water we spotted that day. The water was flowing well, but had an odd chalky taste despite being filtered. We then reached the Tuscarora trail intersection, where there was no sign pointing out the TT, but it was obvious to go straight since the blue blazes were easily spotted. There was a confusing intersection where a steep jeep trail comes down from the left. Do not go that way. Just a little ways past that jeep trail (perhaps a half mile tops), we arrived at Day 1 camping at the intersection of Half Moon and TT. Good campsite, and as noted below in another critique, plentiful water flowing just before the bridge you cross before getting to the camp. Day 2, we went on down the Half Moon Trail and a couple of us hung up our packs on nails in the tree at the intersection and went off on the Half Moon overlook trail, which was an easy mile each way...there was some sort of small outlook structure up there built of stone, and the view was nice, although not as good as the Big Schloss view. Continuing on, generally downhill, we reached a really nice campsite with a creek..this was the intersection of the Bucktail Connector Trail. I think this would be a great alternative Day 1 campsite if you wanted to push on a little further than where we camped. We followed the directions given, and reached the end of the Bucktail Connector. The left onto the orange blazed Bucktail trail is more like a merge, and that trail is a very wide grassy fire road. Go down just a quarter mile or so, and reach a nice set of benches and take a break! Once we got across Trout Run Road, we began a big ascent up Long Mountain Trail. Much of this trail is an old fire road, and there are lots of grassy clearings, as described...the rock field is pretty daunting, yet lots of fun. Eventually you will reach a creek (I believe the one MR Hyker says is the last creek .64 miles before the Ben's Ridge site). There is a really nice site on the right just after that creek, back in the woods a ways, with a big fire ring. It would be a great Day 2 site if you are too weary to make it to his Day 2 site at Ben's Ridge. We went on to Ben's Ridge, which was pretty decent. A big clearing, but definitely slanted slightly, with a fire ring to the right. No sign of a spring anywhere, but a nicely flowing creek is just south of the clearing. Not obvious, but as you walk south, you will see the creek getting a little closer to the trail (it never crosses the trail). Day 3...from the Ben's Ridge site, it's a pretty steady and long climb, but eventually we came to a forest road and turned left...there is a nice campsite at this junction, but no water. Hike about 2 miles on this gravel road, and you will come to a very unceremonious trail head for the Tibbet's Knob trail on your left. A trash filled fire ring, and space for tent are there. The trail is pretty rocky and gets sketchy, but it is well blazed...eventually you reach the Knob, and it is one of the best views I can remember. You then descend, very steeply for a while, then the trail becomes more gradual. Just when you think you are about to reach Wolf Gap, you have to make one more pretty steep climb up a hillock, with great views as your reward. Then a short downhill hike afterwards puts you back at Wolf Gap. A great hike overall, and I think going in the Fall for color, or in the early winter or late winter before the trees leaf out would make it even better as you would have great views from the ridges.

 

 

Name: MSF                                                                                                                 Hike: Volkswagen Circuit

Date: 07/20/14                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: Overall a very enjoyable hike. The highlight has to be the cascading stream in Clifford hollow, whose trail crossing make for good lunch spots. The abundant mountain laurel suggest late May/early June would be the best time to hike. Although the weather was beautiful for late July, we only saw 3 mountain bikers the whole hike. One note, the sunken jeep road is severely washed out and a few bad blowdowns significantly impeded the path. Mountain bikers have cut a parallel path to the south and west of the road that would be advisable to follow instead (can be picked up by following single track path to left of Catoctin Trail on the south bank of the sunken road crossing).

 

 

Name: Diane and Dave                                                                                             Hike: Hammersely Wild Area

Daye(s): 07/04-05/14                                                                                            Rating: 4+

 

Critique: My wife and I did this backpack and dayhike over the July 4th weekend. We followed Mikeís directions completely. I even downloaded his GPX route onto my GPS. It made finding the start of the bushwack real easy. Being the holiday weekend we did encounter 7 other backpackers, 2 dayhikers, and a trail maintenance volunteer. The pool was beautiful, deep, and cold. The gas pipeline was rather steep at times. The views from the wild fire meadow were great. The ferns in the meadow were hip high. The blazes along the Twin Sister trail were a mixture of rectangles and circles, either orange or yellow or both (one on top of the other). Finding the start of the bushwack was made easy as the 3 rock cairn is now a 5 rock cairn and itís right in the middle of the trail. The bushwack down the Dry Run was trying at times since the valley was chock full of Stinging Nettles. We tried hiking along the side of the run and at times down the middle of the creek. Whichever route had less nettles. There were also a lot of blowdowns which made the going more difficult. After the backpack we enjoyed the bubba burger at Debís Cross Fork Inn and ice cream at the general store across the street. Iíve attached photos of the parking area in front of the DCNR garage, the start of the trail along Rte 144, the start of the gas pipeline, the end of the pipeline at the gravel road, the 5 rock cairn signifying the start of the bushwack, the bushwack down Dry Run, and the humongous bubba burger.

 

 

Name: Michael                                                                                                           Hike: Mid State Trail-Old Tram Trail Loop

Date: 07/05/14                                                                                                         Rating: 3

 

Critique: This is a fairly nice hike, exhibiting typical central Pennsylvania terrain (ridge and valley, mountain laurel). Probably best done in early June when the mountain laurel is in bloom. We did the loop as a quick backpacking trip to try out some new gear and found that the trails (other than MST) are somewhat poorly maintained, though all trails described here were easily passable as of hike date. One MAJOR inaccuracy of this hike description is the absence of the described campsite at the junction of Old Tram and Cracker Bridge trails. We had planned on camping there, but when we reached the trail junction (no sign), we found that it was impossible to turn right onto the trail, as described. I took off my pack and bushwhacked in a ways finding a bridge, as though there had once been a path there, but it has truly and utterly disappeared. Continuing on along Old Tram trail, we did find a small campsite on the left after a short distance, as described. This site was basically "carved out" of the laurel and offered space for maybe one tent, but was a bit claustrophobic feeling with little available wood for a campfire (you'll need one to deter mosquitoes if nothing else). We passed up this site and found the grassy clearing on the right a little further along. You'll have to keep your eye out and walk off of the trail a few steps to the right before it opens up, but this is the largest laurel free and relatively rock-free space you will find on the hike. It is actually a beautiful grassy area with some tall trees, downed trees, and scattered rocks. There is a good space for one two person tent near the fire ring, which we rebuilt from an old one. There is probably space for one to two more tents, as well. Best of all, there is actually a bit of decent firewood in this clearing (otherwise hard to find in this hardwood/laurel/wet terrain). We left a few pieces stacked so as to stay dry near the fire ring ;) It is a decent, quick, overnight with an ok campsite (grassy area) if you want the trail to yourself... Plus, you can swim when you get back to the park!

 

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