Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Allegheny Front Trail: Five Days Hiking the AFT

The Allegheny Front Trail, or the AFT as it is commonly called, encircles Black Moshannon State Park and offers a number of vistas as well as excursions down off of the Allegheny Plateau along some very scenic mountain streams. Being nearly 42 miles in length, it is a nice trail for backpacking that could be done in as little as three days but more typically done in four or five. Looking to hike the entire AFT, Mark and I began our hike at the intersection of route PA504 and Six Mile Run Road. The hike was planned such that we would do 5 miles of hiking the first day. The second day would be our longest day of hiking, taking us 12 miles from the banks of the Red Moshannon to the Rock Run Valley. Day 3 had us hiking 8 miles followed by another 8 mile hike on the fourth day. Our last day of hiking, which would complete the loop and bring us back to our car was to be just a little over 7 miles.

Trailhead: N 40° 54.55'
W 78°06.29'
Total Elevation: 10900'
Trail Length: 40.2 miles
Hike Time: 30 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 124
Near: Black Moshannon State Park.

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There are many points to start your journey on the AFT. For this hike, Mark and I decided to begin our hike at the intersection of route PA504 and Six Mile Run Road. The hike was planned such that we would do 5 miles of hiking the first day, since we would be getting a late start. The second day would be our longest day of hiking, taking us 12 miles from the banks of the Red Moshannon to the Rock Run Valley. Day 3 had us hiking 8 miles followed by another 8 mile hike on the fourth day. Our last day of hiking, which would complete the loop and bring us back to our car was to be just a little over 7 miles.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of places that you could call the "trailhead" for the Allegheny Front Trail. The trailhead for this hike is found along route PA504 in the parking area just past the bridge that crosses Six Mile Run. To reach the trailhead you will need to make your way to route PA504, also known as Rattlesnake Pike, which is off of alternate route US220. If you live locally, you can probably find your way to PA504. If you don't live locally, the best way to get here is to get on route I80. Regardless if you are traveling east or west on route I80, you will want to get off at exit 158. Once you exit, head south on alternate route US220/PA150. Route PA150 will leave to your right as the road then merges with route PA144. Continue on, heading south, and in a short while route PA144 will leave to your right as well. Keep on driving straight until you have traveled 6.8 miles since you exit I80 and bear right onto route PA504. Continue on PA504 for another 11.7 miles (18.5 miles from I80) and you will cross a bridge as you enter the Black Moshannon State Park. After crossing the bridge continue straight on route PA504 for another 2.5 miles. You will again cross another bridge, this one spanning Six Mile Run. Just on your right is the dirt Six Mile Run Road. As you turn right onto this road you will see ample parking space on your right. Park your car here and get ready to hike.

Day 1

Waxman and I were the only ones doing the entire 40 mile hike of the AFT. WaterMan and Merf would meet up with us on Friday night and hike the last 15 miles with us. After getting to the trailhead Waxman and I put on our packs, hiked back across the Six Mile Run bridge, and turned left off route PA504 to begin our hike on the orange blazed AFT.

The first three miles of hiking found us along the eastern banks of Six Mile Run. As I had previously done this hike earlier in the year, and gave a trip report of that hike here, I won't go into great detail of this section of the hike. The water level in the stream seamed a little lower, but nothing noticeable. The trail was well maintained and free of obstacles. After an hour and a half, Waxman and I found ourselves along Munson Road where the AFT crosses and heads down to the shores of the Red Moshannon.

After crossing PA504, we followed the Red Moshannon stream for the next 0.7 miles. The trail along this stretch was on an old lumber road, so the incline was gentle and the trail was wide. At 3.7 miles into our hike we began our first major climb. We had some smaller climbs along Six Mile Run, but this was the longest and steepest so far in the hike. After climbing about 300 feet in less than a quarter mile, we reached the end of our climb as the trail turned left and slowly descended once again towards the Red Mo.

Along our descent to the Red Mo we were treated to a nice vista, looking to the west and up the Red Mo valley, just a 100 feet or so off to the left of the trail. The sun was still somewhat high in the evening sky. I'm sure the sunset from this vantage point would have been amazing, but we still had about 1.5 miles to go and we didn't want to be hiking in the dark.

At 4.3 miles into our hike we were back along the banks of the Red Mo, crossing a small stream that flowed out of Sawdust Hollow. We came across a nice campsite at four and three quarter miles, but there wasn't a source of water nearby, except the Red Mo. Waxman and I weren't looking forward to drinking from the Red Mo, so we continued hiking for another a quarter mile where we crossed Tark Hill Run. Just past Tark Hill Run we set up camp for the night.

The sun was below the horizon and it was getting dark quickly. The campsite we had chosen was level and located just off of the trail. There wasn't a fire ring here, so as Waxman set up the tent, I began building a fire ring and gathering firewood. Before long we had a nice fire going. We had eaten before we hit the trail, so Waxman and I put on some comfortable camp clothes and spent the evening sitting around the fire. The temperatures were relatively mild and the skies were clear. We sat by the fire until a little after 10:00 when we finally decided to call it a night. We headed off to bed to get some rest for our next day of hiking, which would include over twelve miles of trail and the longest climb of the entire hike.

Day 2

The second day of our hike began with us rising a little after 8:00 in the morning. The sky was partly cloudy with the morning sun shining through the breaks in the clouds and with plenty of blue sky overhead. Little did we know that this was going to be short lived. As a matter of fact, after spending an hour making some coffee and tearing down camp, the skies were already mostly cloudy with very little sun shining as we headed out of camp on that day's hike.

Our first 1.8 miles of hiking this day was relatively easy as we stayed right along the banks of the Red Mo. At 7.8 miles into our hike we began what was to be our longest climb of the entire hike. Just prior to beginning our climb Waxman and I stopped for a bit to energize ourselves with a small snack. After ten minutes of sitting on a large outcropping about 50 feet above the Red Mo, Waxman and I donned our packs and began our ascent.

It's funny how things that look intimidating on a map turn out not to be all that bad, and those things that look insignificant on a map can turn out to be quite a challenge. This was one of those times where what looked bad on the map wasn't all that bad live and in living color.

Our steep ascend wasn't at all that steep and the trail was an old forest road. The grade was easy and gentle and the trail was very wide. After 2 miles of hiking we had ascended almost 700 feet. At this point the trail came out beside an old stone camp. We paused here to rehydrate. We were somewhat sweaty from the climb, and with a stiff breeze, we chilled quickly as we sat taking our break. We were soon up and moving about again, hiking back down the trail as it merged with the forest road that led back to the stone camp where we just took our break.

We missed a turn off from this road, as we reached a more heavily traveled dirt road. We couldn't find any orange blazes, but a quick glance at the map showed that we only need to follow this road north about 0.1 miles until we came back onto the AFT. We were now 9 miles into our hike as we began our descent into the Black Moshannon Stream valley.

After 0.4 miles we reached the intersection of the AFT and the Shingle Mill Trail, which headed off to our right back to the Black Moshannon Park. There was a trail register here and we stopped to pen our John Hancocks. After signing the register we contained north along the banks of the Black Mo. It was about this time that the rains began.

The rain first started as a light sprinkle and wasn't at all that noticeable. We continued hiking along the Black Mo and reached a bridge that crossed the stream where Benner Run flows into the Black Moshannon. Once we crossed the Black Mo, and then immediately crossed over to the south bank of Benner Run, we hiked for another 0.2 miles before stopping amidst some pines to filter some water and take a short break.

During this break the rains came harder and I took the opportunity to put on my rain jacket, gaiters, and put my pack cover on my pack. As we hiked along Benner Run for the next 1.5 miles, the rain came in spurts. However, the low shrubs that we were hiking through were soaked from the previous rains, and even with the gaiters, my pants were soon getting very wet.

At 11.5 miles into our hike we took a left to follow a small tributary of Benner Pike. We began to ascend once again and as we climbed the rain fell harder and faster. I looked for a pine tree to take shelter under but none could be found. With the rain and the exertion of the climb, both Waxman and I were soaked by the time we made our way up out of the hollow and onto the top of the Allegheny plateau.

At 12.4 miles we began another gradual descent to Hall Run. We would follow Hall Run through a dense part of the forest as we climbed once again to the top of the Allegheny plateau. As we reached the top of a small ridge, around 14.2 miles into our hike, we noticed the rain had stopped and that the sun was trying to shine through the clouds. We continued to hike descending from the small ridge to cross Tram Road and meet up with the Rock Run Trails at 14.8 miles.

I had hiked this section of the Rock Run Trails, Ridge Trail to be precise, about a month ago. I was scouting for campsites for this trip. Our original plans were to make a camp site where Ridge Trail meets up with Junction Trail and Headwater Trail. However, once we reached this spot, both Waxman and I felt pretty good and decided to push on for another mile. Our goal was the camp site where Tumbleweed and I had stayed just that past July. It was a nice look spot, along the headwaters of Rock Run, and hidden back off the trail under some pine trees.

Finally, after 11.9 miles of hiking, and a total of 16.9 miles into our hike, we reached that night's campsite around 5:00 in the late afternoon. Even though it had rained for most of our hike that day, both Waxman and I were beginning to dry out; except for our boots. As I gathered fire wood and tried to get a fire going, Waxman changed his socks and boots and began to set up the tent. Just as he was getting the tent set up I could here the heavy rains coming. We quickly got the rain fly on the tent, tossed our gear inside, and climbed in out of the rain.

For the next one and a half hours we laid in the tent listening to the rain fall outside. Finally the rain stopped and Waxman got another fire going. We had a meal of ham and mashed potatoes and sat around the fire for a short period of time. Since all the wood was very wet, we didn't have a large fire that evening. Shortly after 9:00 we were in bed, getting some rest after today's long hike and preparing for tomorrows shorter hike.

Day 3

After a cold and damp start to the day Friday, Waxman and I were greeted with ample sunshine as we finished breaking down camp. Soon we were on our way beginning our third day of hiking. Today we had 8 miles of hiking before us and compared to the previous day hike of 12 miles, this hike was going to be a piece of cake. A half mile from camp we came across our second trail register of the hike. This is the same trail register that Dude and I signed back in May and Tumbleweed and I filled in back in July. We took a moment to glance back over those entries and some of the more recent ones. The trail register was almost completely full and we had to put our entry at a spot that wasn't in chronological order as the rest.

Turning right at the register we left the Rock Run Trails and headed towards route PA504. Waxman's wife, Cathey, was to meet us at the intersection of the trail and route PA504. At 19.3 miles, about 0.2 miles from PA504 there was a nice vista that looked back towards the State Park and down the Benner Run valley. We paused a moment in the sunshine to enjoy the view and then continued on to our meeting with Cathey.

We spent about an hour along PA504, eating, drinking, and hanging out with Cathey, Tira, and Storm. It was a shame that Waxman and I hadn't ran low on supplies because Cathey brought enough food and supplies for another three days of hiking. We did take some crackers, cheese, and beef sticks so that we didn't hurt Cathey's feelings. Shortly after noon we were off, heading towards the Allegheny Front. Just a quarter mile past route PA504 we reached the half way point of our hike, logging just a little over 20 miles.

For the next 3 miles we hiked along the Allegheny Front and got a chance to take in quite a few nice vistas. We also had a good bit of elevation change on this section of the trail. This was one of those instances that it didn't look all that bad on the map but turned out to be somewhat of a challenge when you actually hiked it. Waxman and I took a number of breaks, usually at the vistas, and made the traversal of the Allegheny Front without much of a problem. I thought the second to the last vista, called Ralph's Pretty Good View, was the best on this section and I would recommend hiking out to it if you have the chance.

At 22.5 miles we left Ralph's Majestic Vista and the Allegheny Front, and hiked through a rock outcropping and crossed Underwood Road at 23.1 miles. The next 1.8 miles took us through a stand of mixed hardwood trees as we followed old haul roads to the top of a small ridge and then back town to Smays Run. At 24.9 miles we reached the end of the day's hike as we entered a large clearing just off of Smay's Run Trail. A short distance past this clearing is a stand of pines where we decided to set up camp for the evening.

After setting up camp Waxman and I had a nice fire going and munched down on the food that Cathey had given us earlier. We had camp set up around 4:00PM and we relaxed around the fire for about 8 hours as we waited for Merf and WaterMan to show up. At midnight we decided that they weren't going to make it on the hike so we headed off to bed. Not more than 20 minutes later we heard WaterMan yelling in the distance. We walked out to Smay's Run Trail to meet them. When we got back to the campsite, Merf and WaterMan set up their tent and we got another fire going. After another 2 hours of sitting around the camp fire and drinking the beer that Merf and WaterMan hauled in, we went back to bed around 3:00AM. I figured it was going to be a long 8 mile hike tomorrow.

Day 4

We had a late start to our hike on Saturday morning. It was almost 11:00AM by the time we had our backpacks packed and ready to start our hike. We had some light rain the night before and it looked like today's hike was going to start out with light rain as well. After 0.8 miles of hiking we reached Beaver Road, or more commonly known as Julian Pike. We dropped our empty beer cans here along the road to pick up on our way back to Merf' car on Sunday since we didn't want to carry them for the remaining 15 miles of the hike.

Once crossing Beaver Road the AFT followed the Moss Hanne Trail along the south side of the lake. There were wooden plank walkways all along this section of the trail in an attempt to keep your feet dry as it was quite marshy. In most cases the walkways worked but there were a few areas where they could have used more.

The hiking on the Moss Hanne Trail was easy with only a few rough spots because of how wet it was. At 28.4 miles the AFT leaves the Moss Hanne Trail and continues on for another 0.5 miles before it meets with and then crosses Shirks Road. Shortly after crossing Shirks Road we took a short break. The next 1.3 miles were, in my opinion, the worse part of the hike. The trail followed along the shores of a marshy area and even in the woods there was shrubs and weeds growing up everywhere. Even though it had not been raining for a while, my pants were again soaked from the wet underbrush.

At 30.7 miles we crossed Clay Mine Road. After a short descent we crossed a small stream and began our last climb of the day. After reaching the top of a small ridge we hiked for another quarter mile and then met up with Wolf Run Road at 31.7 miles. Wolf Run Road at this point was a nice road for hiking, with moss and grass in the center of the road which provided nice cushioning to walk on. We hike along the road for 0.3 miles before we turned right off the road, and after 0.1 miles of hiking through the woods, we emerged on an old pipeline clearing. We followed this clearing for another 0.5 miles, crossing a small stream on a well constructed bridge. Just past the bridge the trail beared to the right, and after another 0.4 miles of hiking we reached our campsite for that evening.

I must admit that all the campsites on this trail, though few and far between, were top notch. This campsite was nestled in amongst some trees, with many flat areas to set up a number of tents. Less than 300 feet from the campsite was a spring where we filtered our water for the evening. There was plenty of dry wood around, even after the past few days of rain, and we had a nice warm fire going before long. After a few Irish Coffees to warm us up, we had dinner and I ended heading off to bed quite early that night. It was around 8:00PM when I made it to bed and slept the best night's sleep that I ever had outdoors. It rained quite hard that night, and I was awaken a few times by thunder and by the rain falling on the tent, but I was soon back to sleep. I woke the next morning around 7:00AM, after 11 hours of sleep.

Day 5

Our last day of hiking had us traveling a little over 7 miles to reach the trailhead and finish up our 40 plus mile hike of the AFT. As we left our campsite that morning the sun was shining and with the leaves beginning to change, the forest canopy glowed with color. After 0.5 miles from our campsite we came upon the Wolf Rocks. This was, to say the least, an interesting place. The rock outcroppings were amazing to view, as they towered above and hung over the trail in places. But the most interesting aspect of Wolf Rocks was the piles and piles of animal droppings. We weren't sure what kind of animal made all those droppings; they looked like they may have been from some sort of rodent. Regardless of what animal made these droppings, there must have been a lot of them. After standing there for a moment pondering what animal made this mess, we were then on our way, leaving Wolf Rocks behind.

We followed Six Mile Run for a short distance and at 34.1 miles we left it's banks and followed a small tributary that flowed in from the west. As we slowly ascended along this run we soon found ourselves back on top of the plateau. With some small undulations in the landscape, the next 1.5 miles of hiking was quite easy and enjoyable. At 37.1 miles we found ourselves back along Six Mile Run. We paused for a moment on the bridge crossing as WaterMan and I looked for fish swimming in the stream below.

After crossing Six Mile Run we followed an old logging road as we slowly ascended the ridge side on the eastern edge of Six Mile Run. At 38 miles into our hike the trail switch backed to our right and we had a steeper climb to the ridge top as we left Six Mile Run behind. AFter 0.1 miles of climbing we walked across the last ridge top of the hike and started our descent along a small stream.

At 39.4 miles we reached Six Mile Run again. At times the bank became quite steep and we had to climb up the side of the ridge at least three times. The last time put us on an old railroad grade. We followed this grade for about 0.5 miles before we left it, switch backing to our left, and descending to route PA504. At 40.2 miles we had finally reached the end of our hike and the completion of the Allegheny Front Trail.

The trailead for this hike, at the intersection of Six Mile Run Road and route PA504.

I enjoyed our first vista of the hike, looking west up the Red Moshannon Creek.

Mark decides what to put in his pack next as we tear down our first night's campsite.

Mark poses for a picture along the Red Moshannon.

The Allegheny Front Trail follows the west bank of the Black Moshannon Creek.

Mark makes his way across a bridge where Benner Run flows into the Black Moshannon.

Where we called home Thursday night.

Mark takes this photo of me as I sign the trail register at the intersection of the AFT and the Rock Run Trails.

Hiking through a mountain meadow as the AFT approaches route PA504.

Mark and I standing by the AFT trail sign at the parking area along route PA504.

As we approached this vista, the sign says that we should have a pretty good view from here.

I'd say the sign was right as this is a pretty good view.

Our last view on the Allegheny Front, this one is called Ralph's Majestic Vista. I thought his Pretty Good View was nicer.

Friday nights campsite along Smay's Run. This is probably the nicest campsite on the entire trail.

Chris, Mark, and Jody stop for a picture as we cross Beaver Road (also known as Julian Pike).

Hiking on the wooden plank walkways of the Moss Hanne Trail.

Looking from the trail across the lake. The fall foliage may have not been at its peak, but it was well on its way.

Taking a break for lunch on a cold, rainy, autumn day.

Saturday night's campsite about 0.5 miles upstream from Wolf Rocks.

Mark, Chris, and Jody sit around the campfire on Saturday night.

Sunday was a beautiful day to be hiking in the woods as the sun shined down through the trees.

Wolf Rocks and animal dung . . . need I say more?

Jody peers down into Six Mile Run looking for trout.

About a mile from the end of our hike we find ourselves once again on the banks of Six Mile Run.

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