Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Allegheny Front Trail: Hiking Along the Front

Encircling the Black Moshannon State Park is the Allegheny Front Trail, or the AFT as it is commonly called; a relatively new addition to the trails of Pennsylvania. The AFT is nearly 42 miles in length and offers opportunities for overnight backpacking trips as well as day hikes. There is one section of the trail that has the most elevation change; where the trails follows along the Allegheny Front. This is also where you'll find most of the vistas. It was this section of the trail that we decided to hike on a nice spring afternoon.

Trailhead: N 40° 55.02'
W 77° 58.62'
Total Elevation: 2826'
Trail Length: 6.3 miles
Hike Time: 4.5 hours
Hike Type: Shuttle
Difficulty Rating: 119
Near: Black Moshannon State Park

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To reach the trailhead for this hike, 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 7.2 miles (14 miles from I80) and you will see a parking area on your right. This is where the Allegheny Front Trail crossed route PA504 and you'll also see the AFT trail sign here as well. Park the car and get ready to start your hike.

This hike was to be a shuttle hike. Be parked two cars at the intersection of Underwood Road and Julian Pike. We then hopped in my car and drove down Underwood Road to Rattlesnake Pike where we hung a right and parked at the trail head parking area, just a bit further down the road on our left.

I had previously hiked this section of the AFT before whenever I did my backpacking trip in 2006. Tom and Tim had hiked smaller sections of this part of the trail, but they were interested in hiking the entire length of the front. We started our hike at about 4:40PM and I knew we would have to keep up a good pace to complete it before the sun set.

After getting our gear on and making sure we had our water bottles with us, we crossed route PA504 and started our hike. The AFT along this section was blazed orange. We would follow these orange blazes for the majority of the hike, except for about a mile near the end of the hike where the AFT is now blazed red.

We followed the orange-blazed AFT as we slowly descended along an old forest road. At 0.3 miles the trail beared to our right as we left the old road behind and began a short ascent out of the ravine in which we had been hiking. At 0.5 miles we were out of the ravine and we made a sharp right back away from the front.

At 0.6 miles we turned left on another old forest road. The road continued to the right as well, and this could be followed back to where it intersects again with the AFT, just prior to our descent into the previous ravine. We began a gradual descent that quickened in pace at a switchback on the trail at 0.9 miles. The descent through this ravine was on a rocky trail and we took our time until we reached the bottom at 1.2 miles. There was a small stream here, the head waters of Whetstone Run, and we paused here a moment to take some pictures as well as hydrate ourselves.

For the next two tenths of a mile we hiked across the face of the front. At 1.4 miles we began an ascent, steep at first, that continued for another 0.3 miles. At the top of this ascent we were presented with our fist vista on this hike. We took a moment to rest and enjoy the view before we continued on.

For the next mile of hiking we basically followed the edge of the front. There were times that we dipped down into a hollow or two, but it was mostly a flat hike with gradual ascents and descents. At 2.9 miles into the hike we reached one of our destinations: Ralph's Pretty Good View. From this vantage point you get a great view of the Bald Eagle Valley, including the many mountains in the distance. We stayed here for awhile, enjoying the view and taking photos.

Just a short distance beyond Ralph's Pretty Good View we came across Ralph's Majestic Vista. This vista is easily accessible from Underwood Road, which we would soon be coming upon. Personally, I think the Pretty Good View is a nicer vista, and if you do make the trek out to Ralph's Majestic Vista, I highly recommend doing the extra quarter mile hike to see this other view as well.

From Ralph's Majestic Vista, the Allegheny Front Trail leaves the front behind and heads due north towards Underwood Road. At 3.3 miles into the hike we came across a rock outcropping that we had to meander through along with a couple boulders that we had to climb over. After our little climbing adventure, we had a short hike of about 0.4 miles, following the gradual descent of the AFT back to Underwood Road.

Our first intentions were to leave the cars parked at the intersection of the AFT and Underwood Road, but that would have been a rather short hike of a little under 4 miles. With our cars parked where they were, we still had a hike of a little over 2 miles ahead of us.

Once crossing Underwood Road, the Allegheny Front Trail was now blazed red. Red blazes indicate a multi-use trail; a trail that can be used by hikers, mountain bikers, and horse-back riders alike. We soon discovered that it was indeed a multi-use trail as I almost stepped in the droppings of a recently passing horse.

The trail followed old forest roads for the most part along this section of the AFT. At 4.1 miles we made a sharp left on another old road and then a sharp right at 4.4 miles onto a section of trail that looked more trail like and less road like.

At 4.5 miles we topped the last of our climbs on the AFT proper, and began a nice gradual descent towards the Smay's Run Trail. For the next mile we had a nice, easy stroll in the woods, finally emerging at the intersection of the AFT and Smay's Run Trail at 5.5 miles into our hike.

From here we left the Allegheny Front Trail behind and did the short hike of 0.8 miles back Smay's Run Trail to the area where we had originally parked our cars. Smay's Run Trail is an old forest road that looked like it was getting some heavy use recently. As we followed the trail we did notice areas of some recent logging. As we viewed on this hike, it seems like there were large areas of forest being harvested for lumber. My guess is that this is a result of the recent gypsy moth outbreaks that we've seen in this area over the past few years.

We emerged at the parking area as the sun was just a little above the horizon. We were able to complete our hike in good time, a little under 3 hours, and made it out of the woods in time to see the sunset.

The start of our hike just off route PA504.

One of the many views that we got to enjoy while hiking along the Allegheny Front.

We take the short side trail out to look at Ralph's Pretty Good View.

Tom takes in the view at Ralph's Majestic Vista.

Tim climbs up over some rocks as we leave the Allegheny Front behind.

Just after crossing Underwood Road, the trail got very easy to follow.

At the end of our hike we got to enjoy this nice view of the sun setting.

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