Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Rock Run Trails South Loop: A Birthday Hike

Shari and I had decided to celebrate my birthday by heading out on the Rock Run trails and set up camp. Our intentions were to camp near the cross connector of the south and north loops. We would then use this as a base camp and hike the north loop the following day. However, there are times when things don't go as planned.

Trailhead: N 40° 57.12'
W 77° 58.24'
Total Elevation: 950'
Trail Length: 5.2 miles
Hike Time: 3 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 35
Near: Off route PA504 near
Black Moshannon State Park.

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Using a number of forest roads and side trails, the AFT lends it self to circuit hikes that can be done as a dayhike. One such circuit hike is the Rock Run Trail. This trail is located along the northeast section of the AFT and is arranged in a figure eight double loop. With a number of options for different trailheads and the two loops, dayhikes can range anywhere from five miles to thirteen miles in length.

Shari and I had decided to head out on the Rock Run trails and set up camp. Our intentions were to camp near the cross connector of the south and north loops. We would then use this as a base camp and hike the north loop the following day. However, there are times when things don't go as planned.

The trailhead for this hike is definitely off of the beaten path. 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 6.3 miles (13.1 miles from I80) and you will see a dirt forest road on your right. This road is called Governor's Road or Snow Shoe Road, depending on the map you are looking at. Drive down Governor's/Snow Shoe Road for 1.35 miles where you will notice another dirt road on your left. You will turn left here and continue down this road until you come to a large clear cut area, 2.1 miles from route PA504. The road will be blocked by large boulders, which is fine, because this is where you need to park your car and start the hike.

We put our packs on our back and headed down the trail. After hiking down the Woodcutter's trail we turned right and continued to hike until we reached the cross connector. Turning left we continued on until we crossed Rock Run. I was under the impression that there was a campsite at this intersection and this was where we wanted to set up camp. However, after hiking about a quarter mile back the Ridge Trail, I couldn't find a campsite. I decided that we would hike down Headwater Trail thinking that the campsite wouldn't be too far down the trail.

We had hiked about a half mile after crossing Middle Branch Rock Run and came across the beaver dam and pond that Dude and I had saw a few months ago. The beaver pond was very low, apparently because the dam had been damaged during one of our recent storms. At this point I decided that we had hiked too far to turn around. In hindsight I would have rather hiked further along the north loop of the Rock Run trails so that we could hike the rest of the trail the following day.

I knew of a campsite a little further along, in about another 0.5 miles, a total of 2 miles from the trailhead. I had spied this campsite, about 100 feet off of the trail and along Rock Run, back when Dude and I first hiked this trail. We reached the campsite about one and a half hours before dark and began to sit up our tents.

Soon we had our camp set up as well as having gathered firewood for that evening. Once we had a nice bed of coals we cooked dinner. Dinner consisted of a variety of seasoned vegetables as well as strips of steak. All of this was mixed together in a foil bag and allowed to cook on the hot coals. We also brought some beer along with us that we enjoyed as we waited for dinner to cook.

We stayed up till sometime past 10:00 and went to bed with full stomachs. The night passed by uneventfully. At around 6:00AM I did hear some sort of animal just outside our tent. It sounded like a fox, coyote, or dog, because I could hear it trotting through the dry leaves and stopping just outside our tent. I heard it begin to sniff around and I sat up to try and grab my camera. I must have made too much noise because the animal leaped and then took off in a hurry. I did climb out of the tent and looked around but couldn't see anything.

The next morning we had to make our coffee over an open fire because I had forgotten to pack the stove. It took a little while for water to boil and we had to tend the fire the whole time, but we succeeded and had some hot coffee for breakfast. After breaking down the tent and packing our packs, Tumbleweed and I were back on the trail.

We decided to continue on the trail instead of back tracking. After hiking the trail for about another mile we came across an intersection with a dirt forest road. It was starting to get hot so we opted to hike the road back to the trailhead so that we could make better time. At 3.95 miles into our hike we came upon Governor's Road. Turning left here we hiked for another 1.3 miles and found ourselves back at the trailhead and our car.

I would have like to have hiked the north loop of the Rock Run Trails, but this was a nice weekend get-a-way. Both Tumbleweed and I had a nice evening by the camp fire and it was very relaxing to just get out and sleep in the great outdoors. The rest of the Rock Run trail is still on my to-do list, and I hope to get out sometime before our hike of the entire AFT later this fall.

This was the site where we set up camp, just along Rock Run, close to its source.

I forgot to pack the stove so we had to boil our water for our coffee over an open fire. Yes, those are Miller Lite cans (empty of course) in the middle of the fire: they are supporting our pot.

Shari and I left the trail, where the Rock Run trail crosses an old forest road that heads back to some camps, and hiked the dirt roads back to the car.

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