Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Baker Trail: A Disappointing Outing

June 2nd, 2012 was National Trails Day. An opportunity to raise awareness of hiking and hiking trails and a chance to get out and hike. This year I wanted to take Shari out to the Baker Trail and show her this trail that was near to where she grew up. I had did a hike here earlier in the year, near Crooked Creek Lake Park, and I decided that Shari and I would continue hiking the trail where I left off. The hike started off well and looked promising with some nice views over the Crooked Creek Lake but we were soon disappointed with what we found. The Baker Trail, at least the section that we decided to hike, was not the ideal trail to be exploring on National Trails Day.

Trailhead: N 40° 40.42'
W 79° 27.49'
Total Elevation: 658'
Trail Length: 2.6 miles
Hike Time: 1.5 hours
Hike Type: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 35
Near: Crooked Creek Lake
Park, Armstrong County.

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The Baker Trail extends from its southern terminus near Freeport on the Allegheny River to the northern terminus just outside the Allegheny National Forest. It is a hiking trail in places and in other places it follows dirt roads as it meanders through woods and fields. In Armstrong County, the trail follows the banks of streams and lakes, and meanders through the woods within Crooked Creek Lake Park.

The trailhead for this hike is along route PA359. To get to this trailhead you will need to get on route US422, heading west. You'll drive past Indiana, Pennsylvania and once you cross the Indiana / Armstrong County line, the next town you will enter is called Elderton. There are two traffic lights in Elderton. After you pass through the second light drive for 3.25 miles. The road crosses Cherry Run at this point and you will want to turn left here. From route US422 drive 1.2 miles and make a left at this intersection. Continue straight as the road parallels Cherry Run. At 3.7 miles you cross a bridge as the road then begins to climb. Continue on another 0.9 miles and you will come to an intersection of sorts, with the main road branching to the left. Continue on this main road for another mile when you enter the very small village of Brick Church. There is a brick church here, and my guess is that is how the name was derived. This is the intersection with route PA359. Turn left here and drive for a bit over 0.8 miles. You will see a bridge ahead of you as the road crosses over the upper reaches of Crooked Creek. Just prior to the bridge the Baker Trail crosses route PA359. You will see ample parking on the left side of the road at the point where the trail crosses. Park here as this is the trailhead for this hike.

As I mentioned earlier, this was the turn about point of my hike back in February and at that time I thought this would be a good point to continue the hike on the Baker Trail near Crooked Creek Lake Park. From the trailhead, Shari and I headed north with a gentle climb as we followed an old road bed. Soon the road bed became narrow and more typical of a single track trail.

At about a quarter of a mile we came upon a spring emerging from the bank along the north side of the trail. The spring was labeled the Coal Mine Spring, which was understandable from the amount of acid mine drainage in the region. Just a few hundred feet past this spring we came upon the one and only vista of the entire hike. It was a nice view, looking over Crooked Creek, but it was the only view of the hike, and I was a bit disappointed in that.

At 0.4 miles the trail scrambled up a small hill as it turned away from the creek. We were now hiking on what looked to be an old access road. Off to our left was a field that looked like it may have been farmed at one point in time. A short hike across this small ridge top had us hooking up with a gravel road at 0.6 miles. We turned left here and followed the gravel road north-west.

We followed the gravel road for about a half mile. It was relatively flat hiking. We did pass one house, located off the road quite a bit to our left. It looked to be a farm at one point in time as the barn was still standing but the looks of the land around the house and barn indicated that it was no longer an active farm.

At 1.1 miles we beared left off the gravel road onto an old gas well access road. We had to step over a chain stretched across this road as we gradually descended into a wooded area. At 1.2 miles the blazed trail head to the right, off the access road, and on a traditional hiking trail. I was happy to see this and began to feel good about the decision to hike this trail on National Trail Day. We were now hiking in a single track in the middle of the woods without the presence of gravel roads or farm land.

Almost a quarter of mile along, at 1.4 miles, we came across an impediment in our hike. The trail was following east bank of Pine Run, which was running swiftly and was wide and deep in places. There was a large tree between to trail and the creek that fell across the trail. As we approached the tree I could hear and see the large number of honey bees that apparently had a hive in the fallen tree. The trail was in the middle of a thicket and we couldn't make our way to the left around the tree and the stream was on the right.

We spent a number of minutes trying to find a way across the stream. There was a place we could cross but we were going to get wet. Before making the decision to cross I wanted to see where the trail went on the other side of the stream. That was when I noticed that there weren't any blazes on the far side of the stream. Perhaps the trail didn't cross the stream, so we followed the bank downstream for a short distance, but we couldn't find any yellow blazes here.

After a good 20 minutes of searching for the trail we decided to give up, turn around, and head back the way we came. I was disappointed that Shari and I spent National Trails Day hiking this section of the Baker Trail. I hope that someone clears out the fallen tree or reroutes the trail around it. And if there is a stream crossing here, it would also be nice if the trail on the far side of the stream was blazed well enough so that you could tell that the trail continues on the far side. I will probably try another hike on the Baker Trail sometime in the future, but I think I am done hiking it in the Crooked Creek Lake Park area.

The start of our hike.

Not sure I would drink from the Coal Mine Spring.

Our only view on the entire hike.

About equal parts road walking and trail walking on this hike.

The Baker Trail sign at an intersection.

We turned around at the downed tree because of bees, deep stream crossing, and no more blazes.

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