Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Black Forest Trail: From the Trailhead to Route PA44

If you are looking to do a three day hike I would not recommend hiking the Black Forest Trail (BFT) in the fashion that we did on this hike. Since we had previously hiked part of the BFT we were looking to complete as much of the trail as we could on this weekend without having to re-hike the part of the trail that we already hiked (some of us hiked the previous portion 3 times and was in no hurry to make it 4 times). Also, we wanted to end our days hiking at easily accessible camping sites so friends could come and camp out with us and enjoy the outdoors.

Trailhead: N 41° 27.70'
W 77° 34.35'
Total Elevation: 8973'
Trail Length: 20.1 miles
Hike Time: 12.5 hours
Hike Type: Shuttle
Difficulty Rating: 127
Near: Along PA44 and PA414
around the village
of Slate Run in the
Tiadaghton State Forest.

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This was my first 3 day hike. Up to this point most of my hikes were day hikes with an occasional overnighter thrown in. But this was, by my standards, a full blown hike of 20 plus miles, spread out over three days. I will attest to the fact that your pack weighs a lot more when you pack for three days of hiking compared to a simple overnighter. So with the formalities out of the way, let me tell you about our hike....

Day 1

The first day of the hike was just Waxman and I. We took off from work on a Friday and headed to Tiadaghton State Forest, with Storm, to begin our hike of the Black Forest Trail. We parked Mark's vehicle along the trail where we would be ending our first day of hiking. Since we would be back to Waxman's car at the end of the day, we left our large packs in the cars and decided to hike the first day with only our day packs: just enough water, and snacks, to get us through the day.

All three of us (Mark, Storm, and I) hopped in my car and headed to the trailhead. The trailhead for this hike, the coordinates are listed above, was along route PA44. As we parked the car we noticed 5 other hikers as well. It looked like they were hiking the same direction that we were headed.

So we got on the trail at about 10:15 AM. Not bad as it seems that we never get on the trail before 11:00AM. The trail is well blazed with orange circles and very easy to follow.

The hike started off nice. It was overcast, but still warm and very humid. At least the sun wasn't shining as we would have been sweating even more than we were. Also, there was no rain, but a quick, light shower anytime during our hike would have been welcomed to cool us off.

Within 20 minutes into the hike we came upon the five hikers that we noticed at the start of the hike. They were resting by a cabin and two of them approached us to talk and pet Storm. They allowed us to take the trail in front of them as they were carrying full packs and we just had our daypacks for this part of the hike.

At 1.8 miles we came upon our first vista. This vista, as were most of the vistas on this hike, was obscured in the distance by the constant haze. Still it was nice to look out on the Pine Creek gorge and take in the hazy sites.

From this vista we began our descent along a branch stream of Callahan run. Approximately 2.2 miles into our hike Waxman viewed our first snake of our hike. He wasn't sure what type it was, as he only saw it's tail as it slithered off the path, but he said it wasn't a rattle snake. We continued our hike downwards for another mile and came upon Callahan Run. From here we would follow the run back upstream, but we took an opportunity to sit an rest, eat a snack, and let Storm get a drink and cool off in the stream.

After resting for about 10 minutes we continued on with our hike. The hike led us along Callahan Run as we climbed back to the ridge tops. All along Callahan Run there was itch weed galore.

After a mile from our resting area, the trail turned upwards and away from Callahan Run. We could see that we were getting close to the top, and were looking forward to this as the next 1.5 miles was relatively flat as we hiked across the ridge line. Just a few hundred feet before we reached the ridge top where the trail made a sharp turn to the right, Waxman viewed a black bear walking on the trail directly in front of us. We paused to see if the bear was going to continue on and out of sight, but it decided to sit down just off the trail and watch us for a while. Waxman attempted to make a lot of noise to try and scare it off while I tried to take it's picture. Waxman was unsuccessful but I did manage to get a couple nice pictures of the bear.

Since the bear didn't seem to want to leave, and the fact that we had Storm with us (who, by the way, seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a bear only a few hundred feet away), we bushwhacked our way to the right of the trail. After five minutes of marching through Mountain Laurel and climbing over many fallen trees (along with frequent glances back towards where the bear was last seen to make sure he wasn't following us) we finally came back upon the trail.

After the excitement of the bear we came upon the second, and much nicer vista, at 5.8 miles into our hike. If you happen to have the Black Forest Trail map and guide book, this vista is what graces the cover of the guide book. It was still hazy, but we did take a rest here to enjoy the vista. Even with the haze we were still able to see down Pine Creek to the town of Cammal about five miles to our south.

We now began our descent toward Naval Run. On the map this descent looks intimidating, but it was actually pretty easy. There were many switch backs and the trail was not littered with rocks as is often found on other descents of this trail.

About half way down the mountain side we came across two other hikers. They inquired as to the distance to the top and commented about our Komperdell trekking poles (the one hiker had a set and said he tried to talk his friend into getting a pair but he insisted on using Leki trekking poles). At this point of the hike we were about 28 miles from the BFT trailhead and it was about 2:00PM. We would see these two hikers again on the morning of our third day at about 7 miles from the BFT trailhead.

Once we reached the bottom of the mountain, we followed the trail along Naval Run towards Pine Creek. The trail here was relatively flat and the air temperature was cool as it was shaded an near the stream.

We were about to end our first day of hiking, as the trail was coming to an end at the parking area where Waxman's car was parked, when we came upon three other hikers, only 500 feet or so from our car. They were huddled about looking at the ground just a few feet from the edge of the trail. As we approached we saw what had their attention: it was a coiled rattle snake sitting along the trail hissing and shaking his rattler. This brought our wildlife count so far for this hike to one bear and two snakes. After more excitement on our first day of hiking then we've had in our last four hikes combined, we were ready to call it a day. So we hopped in Waxman's car and headed off to the Hotel Manor to enjoy a beer (or four) and meet up with Merf, WaterMan, and Dude.

Day 2

OK, I'll admit, Day 2 did not start out all that great. It seems that the night before included a little too much celebrating, and I was not feeling all that well to start our second day of hiking.

Hiking the second day with us was Merf. WaterMan and Dude had other responsibilities that they had to attend to, so they packed up their stuff after camping out with us Friday night.

After tearing down our campsite, Waxman, Merf and I started on our second day of hiking. This part of the hike was about 7 miles long and started about one quarter of a mile from the BFT trailhead. Our first challenge of the day was to find a way across Slate Run. Luckily the stream wasn't that high, and we made it across with out much incident.

Once on the other side we began a long and arduous ascent. This wasn't a steep climb, but we did ascend about 1200 feet in less than 2 miles. On top of that I didn't feel all that well, the relative humidity was about 85%, it was very warm, and I had 50 pounds strapped to my back.

After what seemed an eternity, we reached a old abandoned quarry just a few hundred feet from the summit. We took an opportunity here to rest and catch our breath. With the haze that day our view from the vista was limited but, as you can see from some of the vista pictures, the view was still awe inspiring.

The rest of the second day's hike was uneventful. We had lunch at a second vista, that was only about 2 miles from where we ended up setting up camp. As the day progressed, I started feeling better, but with the high humidity and heat, we were all drenched with sweat. This caused some discomfort on the shoulder pads of the pack and I personally was looking forward to making camp and finally drying out.

At about 7 miles into our hike on the second day we decided to stop and make camp. We camped along Red Run in a very nice campsite. Once there the first thing we did was purify some water since this was our first stream since the start of the hike along Slate Run. While I got us all some water, Waxman and Merf set about pitching the tents.

Before long we had a nice little fire going as we all sat around the fire ring. For that evening's meal we had ham slices and Velveeta cheese and shells. We did encounter three gentleman that evening that were hiking up the trail in the opposite direction that we had come. They said they were from Ohio and just came up for the weekend to hike part of the Black Forest Trail. They inquired about campsites further up the trail and we referred them to a nice only a half mile from here.

After a long day of hiking I wandered off to the tent and called it a night at about 9:00PM. The next day was our last day and we had six miles to go. I was exhausted and I wanted to make sure my batteries were recharged for tomorrow.

Day 3

The last day of our hike started bright and early. Waxman, Merf, and I were up before 7:00 and we started to get ready for that day's hike. After making some coffee we purified water for that day and tore down the tents. By 8:00 we were all packed and ready to begin that day's journey.

Just a few hundred yards down the trail from our campsite we came across the two hikers Waxman and I saw on Friday. A quick calculation indicated that they were putting in 15+ miles a day, which by my standards was quite admirable.

Even though we did get on the trail early it was still quite humid. Luckily we only had one climb today with an ascent of about 700 feet. The trail traversed up the side of the mountain, so it wasn't unreasonably steep, but we still managed to work up a good sweat.

Sunday's hike was quite uneventful and we finished the 6 miles in a little under 3 hours. When we reached the end of the trail that day, we were glad to have the 20 miles of BFT behind us and looked forward to a nice hot meal and cold beverages. Once again it looked like a stop at the Waterville Hotel was in the plans for a Mountain Burger or a huge hot Ham & Cheese sandwich, along with a couple cold beers.

With the 20 miles of this hike, plus last year's hike of the Black Forest Trail, Waxman and I only have another 14 miles of the trail to do before we could say we completed the whole trail. We are looking forward to Labor Day this year where we will continue what is becoming an annual tradition of hiking the BFT. With the next hike we can hopefully say that we finally conquered the Black Forest Trail.

To be continued in September!

Mark zippers the legs back onto his pants as the itch weed along this part of the trail was rather thick. Funny, Storm doesn't mind the itch weed. I think this was a ploy by Mark so that he could sit down and take a rest.

See that black thing in the middle of the picture? Yep, you guessed right, that is a genuine Pennsylvania black bear. Mark, Storm, and I had to blaze a trail to get around the bear as he didn't seem afraid of us and refused to leave the trail. Mark suggested shaking a Slim Jim at the bear to try and intimidate him, but I persuaded him otherwise. Mark later told me he was just joking about the Slim Jim thing. I knew that..

The vista that graces the cover of the Black Forest Trail guide, live and in living color.

One of the many waterfalls on Naval Run.

Wildlife galore on this hike. Here is nice close up photo of a Timber Rattle Snake, or as we call them, a snake. If you look closely you can see his rattler sticking above his coils in the middle of the picture. And yes, they do rattle and hiss when they are in this position. This is why they put Zoom lenses on digital cameras.

Morning of Day 2. Mark is getting his gear packed while Chris and Dude watch. I'd help Mark, but I'm too busy taking pictures.

Storm, Mark, and Chris (from left to right in case you couldn't tell) at the top of the first climb on the second day.

Chris is just itching to go at our second vista of the second day. I guess once you seen one vista you've seen them all.

Chris leads the way as Mark follows. After I took this picture and put on my pack it took me about 10 minutes to catch up with these guys. They sure do walk fast.

Our camp at the end of Day 2. Storm keeps a close eye on the fire as I get ready to purify some water.

Mark in his hammock as Chris pushes him. After 2 pushes Chris is back by the fire eating some trail mix. Mark seemed a little disappointed with the brevity of Chris' pushing. He asked me to give him a push, but I couldn't because I was taking pictures, and Chris had a lot of trail mix that he wanted to share.

Chris and Mark, as well as Storm's backside, posing in front of another waterfall. Did I mention that the scenery here is beautiful? No? Then let me mention it now: the scenery here is beautiful!

Our only bridge that we encountered on our hike. I'm happy to report that all of us made it safely across with out getting wet, except Storm. I think he just took a short cut and walked through the stream.

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