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. This was my first hike on the Baker Trail and I decided to hike a section of the trail as it followed Cherry Run through the woods within Crooked Creek Lake Park in Armstrong County. On what turned out to be a very nice and relatively warm late February Sunday, I headed off to find Crooked Creek Lake Park and discover the Baker Trail.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 40.85'
W 79° 25.74'
|Trail Length:||3.9 miles|
|Hike Time:||2 hours|
|Hike Type:||Out and Back|
|Near:||Crooked Creek Lake
Park, Armstrong County.
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The trailhead that I used for this hike is found on a dirt road along Cherry Run. However there is an alternate trailhead that I would suggest using. It is along route PA359 where I turned around on my out-and-back hike. I plan on using this spot as a trailhead for my next hike on the Baker Trail as I continue west exploring more of the trail. For this hike's trailhead I found my way to 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 from the turn off of route US422 you will see a road on your left, just prior to a bridge. Turn left here and you will now be on a dirt road and will enter the Crooked Creek Lake Park property. Drive for a half mile and as the dirt road turns to the left and begins an ascent you will see a parking area on your right. Park here as this is the trailhead for this hike.
After parking the car I got me gear together and started down a gated dirt road. The gate didn't look like it was doing the job it was intended as there was a wide ATV trail that by-passed the gate to the left. At less than a tenth of a mile the road turned to the left as it followed a small feeder stream. Hiking along this small stream for about 200 feet I then crossed over and began a gradual ascent on a dirt road.
About 0.3 miles into the hike the trail began a descent back towards the banks of Cherry Run. As I approached the stream I took notice to the width of it. I was wondering how the trail crossed this stream and was hoping that I wasn't going to get wet doing a ford. My questioned was answered as I came across the suspension bridge almost a half mile into the hike. The suspension bridge was well made, and aside for a bit of snow on the steps and the bridge itself, it was quite easy to cross with very little bouncing or swaying.
It was a short distance past the bridge that I noticed the heavy ATV use on the trail. The trail here was quite muddy and torn up by the passing of the ATVs. Luckily the ATV trail and the Baker Trail parted here and the Baker Trail made for a nice path to hike.
At about 0.9 miles into the hike the ATV trail which had been off to the left of the Baker Trail merged as Cherry Run approached the trail from the left. This section of the trail was the most disappointing part of the hike. The trail was torn up by the ATVs and quite muddy, with standing pools of muddy water. The going was slow on this section as I tried to keep out of the mud as I slipped once and almost fell into a brown pool of water. The only pleasurable thing about hiking on this muddy section of the trail was that I got to see my first fox on a hike. It was a red fox and his coat was very full and dark red. He crawled out of a den as I passed and ran off into the woods. I tried to get a picture of him but until I got my camera out and powered on he was a small speck bounding across the forest floor.
At about 1.2 miles the trail pulled up and away from Cherry Run. Even though the ATVs were still using this section of the trail, it was much drier and as such less muddy as well. At 1.5 miles into the hike I heard the sound of cars driving past. I was a little confused as I couldn't see any bridges or roads up ahead. After another tenth a mile of hiking I spied the road above me on the hillside to my right. This was router PA359 which the trail would soon cross.
At 1.9 miles the trail switchbacks on itself as it climbs the small hill to the road that I had been paralleling for the past quarter mile. I quick scamper up the steep hill and I found myself along the road. There was a bridge here at the intersection of Cherry Run and Crooked Creek. The Baker Trail crossed the road and climbed a bit as it followed the banks of Crooked Creek. I decided that I would turn around at this point and explore more of the Baker Trail on another outing. After a quick drink and a snack on one of the granola bars I had in my pack, I turned around and retraced my steps back to the trailhead.
Retracing my steps back to the trailhead had me crossing the muddy section of the trail once again. Just a short distance past this point, after the ATV and Baker Trail split, I heard the sound of falling water off to my right. I had not heard this on my hike past this point about an hour ago, but now it had piqued my interest. I had to brush whack through some thickets and then crossed the ATV trail before I reached the banks of Cherry Run. Directly across from me was a small stream that fell about 10 feet before it merged with Cherry Run. Not an impressive waterfall when compared to those found in North Central Pennsylvania or down around Ohiopyle in western PA, but it was an unexpected surprise. I enjoyed the view and sounds for a couple minutes and took a few snapshots of waterfall. I left the falls and was going to hike the ATV trail back to the intersection with the Baker Trail but after seeing how muddy it was I opted to walk back through the thick brush. Once back on the Baker Trail I followed it back to the trailhead and my waiting car.
I took a few minutes to wash off my muddy boots in a nearby small stream at the trailhead before I left. I decided that I wanted to come back and hike more of the Baker Trail, figuring on continuing from the crossing of route PA359. I was a bit disappointed with the shape of the trail where the ATVs had torn it up. I hope that when I come back to explore more of the Baker Trail that the trail will not be nearly as muddy. Another experience like this outing and I may be hesitant to do any additional hikes on this trail, at least not during a wet spring.