Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Black Forest Trail: Hiking Along the County Line Branch

What started on Labor Day weekend two years ago in 2003 came to a conclusion Labor Day weekend of 2005 as Mark and I finished our hike of the entire Black Forest Trail. Shari, and Storm, came along as we finished the last 10 miles of the trail, hiking southward from route PA44. Just like our hikes the previous two Labor Day weekends, the weather this weekend was beautiful and perfect for hiking.

Trailhead: N 41° 31.52'
W 77° 35.95'
Total Elevation: 3065'
Trail Length: 10.6 miles
Hike Time: 6 hours
Hike Type: Shuttle
Difficulty Rating: 84
Near: Along PA44 near the
union of Potter, Clinton,
and Lycoming Counites.

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The trailhead for this hike is very easy to find. We started where we left off from our hike in June earlier in the summer. We started our hike where the Black Forest Trail crosses route PA44, at the Lycoming county and Potter county border. To reach the trailhead simply get on route PA44 at it's intersection with route US220 by Jersey Shore and drive north. After exactly 35 miles you will reach Potter county with the trailhead just off the left side of the road. There is a gated dirt road here with some room for parking. If you can't park at the trailhead, just 400 feet prior, there is plenty of parking on the opposite side of the road.

This hike was to be about 10 miles long. Though we could have done this as a day hike, we decided to make it an overnighter. Leaving work early on Friday afternoon, we drove to the trailhead and started hiking around 4:00PM. As this part of the trail had many campsites along it, we decided to hike for about 3 miles, leaving us a short hike of 7miles on Saturday.

The trail followed an dirt road for a short distance before it blazed off into the woods to follow the County Line Branch creek. The trail was well blazed with orange blazes and well maintained. There was an alternate high water route that we could have taken about 0.5 miles into our hike. Even though it had rained quite a bit early in the week (the remnants of hurricane Katrina), the stream was not all that high. If you were to hike this section of the trail in the spring, I would suggest that you make sure you wear water proof boots as we crossed the stream about a half dozen times, without the aide of bridges, before we reached our campsite.

Two miles into our hike we encountered another group of hikers that had just set up camp and were trying to get a fire started. After an exchange of hellos, the other hikers informed us that they had visited this website. My guess is that they recognized Storm, as he was wearing a bright colored collar like he normally does. They were kind enough to tell us of a very nice campsite about a mile further down the trail. We thanked them, snapped a picture of them (you can see it posted to the right, the one with all the blue smoke obscuring the view of their camp), and continued on down the trail.

After hiking just a little shy of 3 miles, we set up camp. Our campsite (the one that was suggested by the hikers we met) was along side County Line Branch at the point where the Black Forest Trail crosses the creek and makes a steep ascent back to the top of the mountain. This was a good place to call it a night as it was getting dark and we could take on the climb we had ahead of us in the morning when we were fully rested.

Mark and I set up our tents while Shari repaired the fire ring and gathered wood. After an hour or so we had a nice fire going and we were soon cooking our dinner over the hot coals. We ate dinner and enjoyed a few beverages that we brought along with us and finally headed to bed around 10:00PM.

The next morning we hit the trail around 9:30AM. Our first challenge of the day: a 550 foot ascent in less than 0.5 miles. Of all the climbs we did on our hike of the BFT, there was only one that was steeper than this one. As we reached the top of the ascent we were greeted with a small boulder field that we had to cross and climb over. Thirty minutes after leaving camp we were at the top taking a much needed rest and enjoying the view.

After our short rest we continued on the trail and encountered a large meadow which the trail bisected. I notice off to our left, as we were hiking across the meadow, a small pond. I bet this would be a great spot to come late in the evening as it probably attracted a lot of wildlife. Once we were past the meadow we descended to a stream, crossed on three logs that bridged the creek, and then climbed back up.

At the top of this second, small ascent we encounter a husband, wife, and son taking a stroll on the Black Forest Trail. They were looking to continue on, but to get back out to route PA44. We informed them that it was about 4.5 miles until the Black Forest Trail returned to PA44, but that we had passed the Blackberry Trail about three quarters of a mile back. The lady said they were looking for this trail as it connected with PA44 close to their camp. The gentleman had asked if we saw any rattle snakes. We said that we hadn't (yet) and he mentioned seeing five snakes last month. They said goodbye and continued down the trail as we sat down on some nearby logs to take a small break.

The trail continued along the ridgeline a little further on, with a beautiful vista to our right. After about 0.5 miles we were back into the woods and soon connected with the Geore Will Trail. This part of the trail follows an old, grassy forest road and made for some easy hiking.

After following the George Will Trail for a little more than a mile and a half, the Black Forest Trail beared to the right and descended along a stream. We followed the stream for about a half mile and then the trail continued straight, traversing the mountain side. It was on this section of the trail that Tumbleweed encountered her first rattle snake in the wild. While hiking along the trail, Tumbleweed looked down at her feet and saw a black and brown "log" slithering through the weeds only inches from her feet. Instead of screaming, as you would think most people would do when they noticed a rattle snake that close to them, Tumbleweed just took off, walking quickly, and stuttering something about "black, brown". So, there we stood on the trail, Tumbleweed, Waxman and Storm about 75 feet in front of me, and somewhere in between us a rattle snake the size of a python (according to Tumbleweed). I did find the snake along the left of the trail, and it was quite large, probably a full grown rattle snake. I took a few pictures and then quickly caught up with Waxman and Tumbleweed.

The rest of the trail was hiked rather quickly as Tumbleweed was hesitant to encounter another snake. We had our last ascent of the day as we came to the end of the trail. After hiking seven miles even a small climb is tiresome.

After seven miles of hiking that day we reached route PA44 where we had parked Waxman's car the previous day. Waxman, Storm, and I paused by a Black Forest Trail marker while Tumbleweed took our picture. With this hike we had finally completed the circuit hike of the Black Forest Trail. After posing for the picture, we all climbed in Waxman's car, went back to the traihead to pick up my car, and then on to the Waterville Hotel for a mountain burger and beers. With our completion of the BFT I wonder if we will get to enjoy the Waterville Hotel's cuisine and hospitality. I suppose a day hike on the Black Forest Trail is always a good excuse for visiting the Waterville Hotel.

Shari, Mark and Storm stand at the trailhead ready to start the hike.

About half way down the County Line Branch stream we encountered these hikers setting up camp and trying to get a fire started.

Our campsite along County Line Branch, at the point where the Black Forest Trail begins a steep ascent.

Shari gathers wood for that evenings camp fire.

Finally the top. We all pause to catch our breath, enjoy the view, and pose for a group picture.

Here the trail crosses a meadow on top of the mountain.

Shari makes her way across two logs that bridge a small stream, south of the mountain top meadow.

After our second, short climb of the day we stop to grab a bite to eat.

With a beautiful vista to our right, the trail follows the ridgline on this section of the hike.

As Mark found out, 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink'. In this case, our 'horse' was Storm.

A small stone building alongside the trail.

PAHikes.com version of 'Where's Waldo?'. Can you spot the Timber Rattlesnake?

Mission Accomplished! Storm, Mark and I stand at the end of the trail, marking the completion of our hike of the Black Forest Trail.

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