Located in Elk State Forest in Cameron and Potter Counties is the Bucktail Path. This 34-mile hiking trail extends from Sizerville State Park to the town of Sinnemahoning. This primitive backpacking trail was my latest hiking destination as I decided to check out this as-of-yet, unexplored trail in northern Pennsylvania.
|Trailhead:||N 41° 25.16'
W 78° 06.70'
|Trail Length:||4.9 miles|
|Hike Time:||3 hours|
|Near:||Sinnemahoning State Park|
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The trailhead proper for the Bucktail Path is located in Sizerville State Park and the other is found just outside of the town of Sinnemahoning. For this circuit hike, I decided to hike a small section of the trail near Sinnemahoning State Park. To get to this trailhead, head north on route PA872. As you head up route PA872 from its intersection with route PA120, you will pass the George B. Stevenson reservoir. After passing the dam and spillway, you will drive towards the state park for approximately another mile. You will pass a small convenience store/motor lodge on the left called Lakeview. Just a hundred feet past Lakeview is Brooks Run Road. This is a dirt forest road. Follow this road to the top of the ridge where it intersects with the dirt Ridge Road, approximately 5.2 miles from route PA872. This is where the Bucktail Path crosses Brooks Run Road and this is the location of the trailhead for this hike.
This was my first hike on the Bucktail Path. I was spending the weekend nearby at a cabin and decided to check out this trail since it was close. I looked at the map of the trail to find a section where I could do a loop hike of about 4 to 5 miles. I saw where the Bucktail Path crossed Brooks Run Road and decided to hike here, doing about 2.6 miles of hiking on the trail and then about 2.3 miles of road walking to get back to my car.
Starting where the Bucktail Path crosses Brooks Run Road, I headed north with a gradual ascent up a small hill. The first thing I noticed, and was definitely prevalent on this trail, was the lack of a well-defined foot path. Luckily the trail is well blazed and by keeping an eye out for the next blazed tree, I was able to navigate the trail.
At just a little over a quarter mile I reached the top of my first climb and then descended down into a saddle before beginning another climb. It was in this saddle that I crossed the gated access road to the fire tower. The crossing was in a small clearing with the Bucktail Path continuing straight in a northerly direction up to the top of the next hill.
At approximately 0.7 miles into the hike I crossed a gas pipeline that afforded me some small views to the north and south. I would cross this gas pipeline a total of four times by the time I was done with this short section of the Bucktail Path.
At 0.8 miles I came upon the fire tower. The trail approaches from the southeast corner of the fire tower, and skirts to the left of the tower. Once you pass the tower, continue towards the cabin located here and walk past it. You will see the orange blazes on the far side of the cabin as you begin a gradual descent off this hill top.
As you are hiking along this section of the trail, keep your eyes open at about 1.1 miles into the hike. The trail looks to continue straight when in reality it bears off to the right. I almost didn't catch this turn in the trail.
The trail now makes a constant descent towards the Right Fork of Brooks Run. You will enter a stand of pines before crossing one of the upper branches of the stream at about 1.6 miles. In another 100 feet there is another stream crossing before you turn right to follow the northern bank of the small brook down stream.
The trail was very hard to follow along the stream. The brush was quite high in places and the blazes were not as prevalent as they were before. I just stayed to the north of the stream and followed the path of least resistance. Finally, at 1.9 miles the trail makes a sweeping left turn and emerges on the remains of an old forest road. Here the path is clear and easy to follow as it begins an ascent once again following another feeder stream for the Right Fork of Brooks Run.
At 2.3 miles you will cross the small stream. It was just a bit past this stream crossing when I noticed that once again the trail was obscured by high brush. I made a mental comment to myself that this was a bit disconcerting since I could not see my feet. Approximately a minute later I placed my right foot down to suddenly hear a quickening rattling noise coming from the right of the path, very near my recently placed foot. Let's just say that I was high stepping and moving very fast, cover the next 100 feet or so of trail in a very short period of time.
As I slowed my pace and my heart rate returned to a reasonable pulse, the trail continued a climb up this old, forest road. I crossed the gas pipeline for the last time at 2.6 miles and finally emerged onto Ridge Road at 2.8 miles. I had completed today's hike of the Bucktail Path.
The road walk back to the truck went rather quickly, as road walks tend to do. I was treated to two nice vistas as I returned to the trailhead. Finally after 4.9 miles of hiking I was back to my starting point.
This short circuit hike of the Bucktail Path was a nice introduction to the trail. I know that there are some more difficult sections, especially towards the northern and southern terminuses. I was a bit disappointed with the state of the trail, what with all the brush and ferns obscuring it. However, the blazes were well placed and mostly easily to follow. Perhaps a hike in the spring or fall would be a better option as I am sure the foot path would be easier to see. I think I will try to return to the Bucktail Path soon to explore other areas of the Elk State Forest.