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Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Clubserving Bedford, Blair, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Huntingdon, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, and Mifflin counties
|Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet|
by Gary Thornbloom
The cliffs and talus slopes of the Kettle Creek Gorge Natural Area in Sullivan County, home to the rarely encountered timber rattlesnake, offer the promise of an aspect of wildness that often draws me to areas where I hike and canoe. But on a recent fall day beech tree leaves colored from brown to rust to gold to green, and waterfalls of many sizes were the themes of the day. Beech trees are consistent companions as you follow the section of the Loyalsock Trail that samples the Kettle Creek Natural and Wild Areas. Most of this hike is within these two areas and the short section that is not takes you near Angel Falls, a nearly vertical 100 foot falls that some say was named after seeing the world’s highest waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela.
Begin this 6-7 mile hike where the Loyalsock Trail crosses Dry Run Road and hike south. The Loyalsock Trail is a well maintained, clearly blazed trail. There are two types of blazes: red metal discs with the yellow letters “LT” in the center, and 2x6-inch yellow rectangles bisected by a red horizontal line.
The ribbon fence you see along this section is protecting an area that was timbered six or seven years ago from overbrowsing by deer. This allows the forest to regenerate. After about ½ mile take a moment to sign in at the trail register — this is always a good idea as it lets trail overseers and maintainers see where problems are, and how the trail is being used. The register also lets trail users read what others have been seeing while on the trail. Mary’s View is also here and offers a view of Smiths and High Knob’s. The moss lined trail follows the mountain edge through mountain laurel above Dry Run. Great views will be present along several sections of this trail in late fall after the leaves have fallen.
As the trail drops into Dutter Run it goes through an area that was burned in a 1930 forest fire. The trail parallels Dutter Run upstream and crosses back and forth seven times which necessitates some easy rock hopping. The hollow is open and the stream is punctuated by numerous pools and several waterfalls up to about ten feet high. These falls would be the highlight of hikes in many places.
After climbing out of Dutter Run the Loyalsock Trail drops down to Kettle Creek. Along the creek the trail is following the Susquehanna and Eagles Mere Railroad bed, a narrow gauge railroad that operated here from 1906-1922. A piece of rail can be seen lying along the trail. Marsha Bonta’s book More Outbound Journey’s in Pennsylvania describes a waterfall that is probably upstream of where the trail crosses Kettle Creek. We mistakenly searched downstream but were rewarded by a glimpse of a nice buck that led us toward an impressive wall of rock that Kettle Creek flows over in a falls. A stand of hemlocks next to this falls added to the beauty of the setting.
The steep — nearly 700 feet — climb out of Kettle Creek Gorge winds past moss-covered boulders, through hemlock groves, and past the consistently present beech trees with their nursery groves. About ½ mile from Kettle Creek there is a blue marking on the trail — a sign for Kettle Creek Vista is on the other side of this tree — and this directs you to a large rock outcropping where there is a great view of the Kettle Creek Gorge Natural Area. The sound of the stream far below and the sight of mountain ridges outlined in gold receding ridge after ridge into the distance is a part of what is special about Wild and Natural Areas. After you have enjoyed the vista take some time to explore the fissures and small fern and moss gardens of this rock outcropping.
A ½ mile climb away from the vista brings you to the highest elevation of this hike, 1,900 feet. There the trail begins dropping and in another ½ mile it crosses Falls Run. This stream provides the water for Angel Falls. Three-tenths of a mile after this stream crossing you will see a blue marked trail to the right that will take you to Angel Falls. The Bureau of Forestry has posted some restrictions on the area around the falls because of overuse. Care should be taken to minimize your impacts to this area. Angel Falls can be viewed from Springs Window (a rock outcropping) a little below the top of the falls, but equally impressive is the view after the hike to the bottom of the falls. There is also a lower falls further down Falls Run. Loyalsock Trail used to continue down Falls Run, but has been relocated to minimize impacts to the area, so the current recommendation is to hike back the blue-blazed trail and to continue hiking on the current Loyalsock Trail. In the next ½ mile the trail descends to Ogdonia Creek and then follows the creek, crosses the creek, and comes to Brunnerdale Road and your shuttle vehicle.
Beech trees are the most obvious trees throughout this hike, but the attentive hiker will also be able to see tulip, basswood, and black cherry trees. There is also an occasional yellow birch. The trail passes through hemlock groves. The forest floor is carpeted in many areas with several mosses, including shining clubmoss, staghorn clubmoss, and ground cedar.
It does not get any better than a day hike through Kettle Creek Natural and Wild Areas via the Loyalsock Trail with mountain vistas and waterfalls on three different streams.
More Outbound Journeys In Pennsylvania by Marcia Bonta and Natural
Pennsylvania by Charles Fergus have chapters on this area. Natural Pennsylvania will inform you about all of Pennsylvania’s Natural Areas. More Outbound Journeys describes hiking this area in a loop, but you will miss Dutter Run.
The Public Use Map for Wyoming State Forest is available free from the Bureau of Forestry (stop at the Forest Headquarters on Dry Run Road just off of Route 87) and provides an overview of the area.
The Alpine Club of Williamsport (PO Box 501, Williamsport, PA 17703) publishes a Guide to the Loyalsock Trail And Side Trails which provides information about the trail as well as detailed topographic maps. The Guide is available locally at Appalachian Ski & Outdoors in downtown State College.
If You Go: From Montoursville at the intersection of Route 220 and Route 87 drive north 21.6 miles on Route 87 and turn right onto Ogdonia Road (a gravel road). Drive about 3.3 miles on Ogdonia Road and bear left onto Brunnerdale Road where in about 1/10 mile there is a parking area to leave a vehicle at the end point of the hike. It takes less than two hours to get to here from State College.
Drive your other vehicle back to Route 87 and continue north for less than a mile and turn right onto Dry Run Road (there is a sign there for the Wyoming Forest Headquarters). Continue on Dry Run Road about 3.2 miles to where the Loyalsock Trail crosses Dry Run Road. Park here and begin hiking south on the Loyalsock Trail.
Gary Thornbloom is the Outings Chair for the Moshannon Group of the Sierra Club and can be reached at email@example.com