With temperature reaching the lower 70s in the middle of March it seemed that spring was arriving early in Central PA. What better way to spend an early spring day than hiking in the great outdoors. My son had never seen the old railroad tunnels located near Poe Paddy State Park and I figured today would be a great time to show them to him. So we packed a small lunch, hopped in the car, and drove over to Poe Paddy State Park to enjoy the great weather and explore the Paddy Mountain tunnel.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 50.06'
W 77° 25.05'
|Trail Length:||1.6 miles|
|Hike Time:||1.0 hour|
|Near:||Poe Paddy State Park,
south of Coburn, PA.
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This hike is ideal for kids. When hiking with kids, you need something on the hike to keep them interested. The Alan Seeger Area in Rothrock State Forest is a great place to hike with kids and this hike is as well. What kid could resist hiking on an old railroad bridge 50 feet above a wide and swift stream. And then the highlight of the hike, the damp and dark tunnel that extends under Paddy Mountain. The hike back along the stream will make sure the kids are still engaged even as they leave the tunnel behind them.
The trailhead for this hike is located within Poe Paddy State Park. To get to Poe Paddy State Park you will have to drive on some dirt mountain roads. We reached Poe Paddy via route PA45 and the Siglerville - Millheim pike. However, if you aren't familiar with the area, you can also reach the park from route US322. On top of seven mountains, you will see signs along route US322 indicating a turn off for the Boy Scout Camp or Poe Valley State Park. If heading west on route US322, this turn off will be on your right. Heading east, it is on your left. Once you turn off route US322, you will soon be on a dirt mountain road. This road is called Sand Mountain Road, but I don't believe you will see any road signs calling it such. Continue on Sand Mountain Road, bearing right at the first "confusing" intersection at about 3.6 miles, bearing left onto Siglerville - Millheim Pike at 6.1 miles, and continuing straight on Poe Valley Road at 7.1 miles. You'll be on paved road for a bit, as you pass by Poe Valley State Park, but the road soon turns once again to dirt. At about 12.9 miles from route US322, you will enter Poe Paddy State Park. Turn left to enter the Park, and then park your car at the parking area on your left, just shy of the bridge crossing Big Poe Creek. This is where this hike begins.
The hike starts by following the orange-blazed Mid State Trail as it passes through the state park. This is the boring part of the hike as you will be hiking on a gravel road, but best to get this section out of the way first if hiking with kids: it will help to build the suspense.
The hike on the gravel road was rather easy going and we soon covered a half mile of hiking not even aware that we had hiked that far. At 0.6 mile into the hike you will see the double orange-blaze painted on a tree to the right of the road. The gravel road continues straight but you will need to turn here and continue following the Mid State Trail. We are now hiking on an old railroad grade as we head towards Penns Creek.
At three-quarters of a mile into the hike we reached the bridge over Penns Creek. Off to the right there are a set of old metal steps that go down to the creek bank. We will be heading that way to complete our circuit hike but first we need to cross Penns Creek and see the Paddy Mountain tunnel.
The bridge over Penns Creek is an old train trestle and is quite sturdy. Floor planking has been put down to make a smooth path for hiking and there are hand rails along both sides to keep you on the straight and narrow. We took a moment to stop in the middle of the bridge and enjoy the views both up and down Penns Creek.
Less than a tenth of a mile past the bridge the trail enters the Paddy Mountain tunnel. It is quite cool and damp in the tunnel and I got struck three times by falling water drops from the tunnel roof. The tunnel isn't all that long, perhaps 250 feet, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, guiding you through the dark. Towards the end of the tunnel there is a large metal culvert that you walk through. My guess is that this was placed here to make the tunnel more structurally sound. Upon exiting the tunnel we turned around to admire the stone work and masonry of the tunnel entrance. On the north side of the tunnel it was like entering a large cave but from this side you could easily imagine the trains of time gone by passing through the tunnel entrance.
We walked about 500 feet past the end of the tunnel and took in the view of Penns Creek below. There were others out enjoying the fine weather as well, including hikers, bikers, and fishermen. We let a couple bikers head into the tunnel before us and then we retraced our steps back through the tunnel and across the bridge.
At about 1.1 miles into our hike we turned left off the Mid State Trail, just after crossing the bridge, and climbed down the metal steps to the banks of Penns Creek. We followed the edge of the creek as we hiked across some private land. Once we entered the woods we found the path that is called the John Snyder Trail. This trail parallels Penns Creek as it makes its way back to Poe Paddy State Park.
At 1.4 miles we crossed a small stream on a wooden bridge and arrived at the end of the John Snyder Trail at 1.5 miles. We were now at the juncture of Big Poe Creek and Penns Creek. We turned right and followed a gravel trail back to the gravel road and the orange-blazed Mid State Trail. Turning left we crossed the Big Poe Creek bridge and arrived back at our car.
This hike could also be done in the opposite direction, taking the John Snyder Trail first and then walking back the gravel road. The John Snyder Trail is another option for Mid State Trail hikers that want to avoid some road walking. The trail isn't blazed, but it is quite easy to follow. If hiking with kids, regardless of the direction you choose, this short loop hike will keep them entertained and show them some of the amazing things that can be found in the natural areas of the Pennsylvania woods.