Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Chuck Keiper Trail: Cranberry Swamp Loop

The Cranberry Swamp Natural Area is located in Sproul State Forest, just south of Renovo Pennsylvania. This natural area is a typical mountain bog. It lies at the headwater of Cranberry Run and the amount of water can vary. During this hike there was quite a bit of water forming a large pond that many ducks were calling home. The Cranberry Swamp Trail is a loop off of the Chuck Keiper Trail but can also be easily accessed from route PA144.

Trailhead: N 41° 15.91'
W 77° 44.02'
Total Elevation: 502'
Trail Length: 3.3 miles
Hike Time: 2 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 43
Near: Off route PA144
south of Renovo, PA.

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On this hike I was actually looking for a campsite that we wanted to use on an upcoming hike of the east loop of the Chuck Keiper Trail. The weather that day started out quite cold and snow was falling as I headed towards the trailhead, even giving the ground a slight dusting. After traveling north on route PA144 I soon saw a sign for the Cranberry Swamp Natural area posted on the right side of the road. I turned right here and began driving down Pete's Run Road.

After traveling down Pete's Run Road for 2.7 miles I bared right onto Benjamin Run Road. I continued on this road for another half mile until I came across Cranberry Run Road to my right.

The trailhead proper for the Cranberry Swamp Trail is another 0.5 miles down Cranberry Run Road, but I highly suggest parking your car at this intersection. Cranberry Run Road is classified as a drivable trail. As I discovered hiking back this road, you could probably drive it for another 0.2 miles, but after that, you would most definitely need a four wheel drive vehicle with a lot of clearance. The road was muddy and had some very deep ruts in it.

This was a relatively flat hike, except for the descent and return ascent at the trailehead. The total mileage is rather low, coming in at just a little over 3 miles. This would be a great family hike, especially in the summer months when Cranberry Run Road actually is a drivable trail.

This hike started out with snow falling. It wasn't a heavy snow, but enough that it started to dust the ground with a light coating. About a little over a mile into the hike the snow stopped and the sun came out. Before I knew it, all traces of the snow fall was melted and gone, with the sun shining brightly and patches of blue sky above.

As I was walking southeast, on the north side of the swamp, I was thinking to myself how disappointed I was with the hike. I had only caught small glimpses of the swamp, and that was because areas were still frozen and the snow had remained, leaving them bright white patches that could be seen through the forest. The entire hike to the bridge, and campsite that I was scouting, I wouldn't have even know that there was a swamp nearby if I hadn't looked at a map beforehand.

At the southeastern section of the Cranberry Swamp Trail I found a campsite, about 500 feet downstream from the intersection with the Chuck Keiper Trail. The campsite had a fire ring as well as a large log to sit on and enjoy the fire. There was plenty of area all around the fire ring area to set up tents, with a nice soft bed of pine needles extended all around. I took photos and made note of the coordinates so that we could make sure we stopped here on our CKT hike next month.

After searching out the campsite, I was back on my way heading north west on the trail, this time on the south side of the swamp. As the return hike started out, I was once again disappointed with the scenery. It wasn't any different than walking through the woods, be it in a mountainous valley or a ridge top. I had yet to see the Cranberry Swamp.

Finally, just a little over 2 miles into the hike I was finally rewarded with a view of the swamp. I was so excited that I took many pictures, peering out through the trees to the swampy area beyond. I walked on for another 300 feet and the trail turned to the right and then another 200 feet beyond that, turned again to the left. At this point I was paralleling the swamp shoreline, with full view of the swamp to the right. The view was worth the trip as I stood there for a good 15 minutes taking in the surroundings. There were many ducks here, most of them being Mallards, though I believe I did make out one Wood Duck. I stood there silently hoping to catch a glimpse of other wildlife, but none could be seen.

My suggestion to any hiking the Chuck Keiper Trail (CKT) and thinking about taking a hike on the Cranberry Swamp Trail loop; take the south shore branch first and head in a clockwise direction. You'll be rewarded with nice views of the swamp sooner than if you were to walk around in a counter-clockwise direction and won't be as prone as to give up on the hike and head back because of a lack of "scenery".

The trail finally comes out into a pipeline clearing and you hike this back to Cranberry Run Road. It's a short hike of only about a quarter of a mile, but you have a great view of the upper end of the swamp to your right. I did run into a small snag as the trail intersected the head waters that feed the swamp. The stream, once it hit the pipeline clearing, kind of spread out and meandered everywhere. I had to do some back tracking until I could find a way across the stream without getting wet feet.

I did come across two gentleman getting ready to do the same hike I had just completed. They had 4x4 vehicles, with a lot of underside clearance, and drove right down to the gate on Cranberry Run Road to park their trucks. They seemed very familiar with the area and we shared a few pleasantries as I was leaving, continuing my hike back to the trailhead.

If you would like to try this hike, I would suggest venturing out in the late spring and early summer, when the ground is drier. At that time you should be able to drive up to the trailhead and hike the 2.4 mile loop around Cranberry Swamp without any trouble. As I stated earlier, the purpose of this hike was to scout out a campsite for a future hike. However, I was happy to be outside, enjoying the woods, and the views of the swamp that I finally encountered on the south west side made the hike even more rewarding.

The sign is at the intersection of Benjamin Run Road and the "drivable trail" Cranberry Run Road. I would recommend parking your car here and hiking back to the trailhead.

The trailhead proper along Cranberry Run Road. The blue blaze of the trail can be seen to the right of the road, just above the gate.

A view up Cranberry Run from the north bank.

A bridge shared by the Chuck Keiper Trail and Cranberry Swamp Trail. This spans Cranberry Run and is located about 500 feet upstream from a nice campsite.

Another view looking up Cranberry Run, this time from the south creek bank.

A look down the trail as it wanders through the woods along the swamp.

Towards the end of the hike, as I walked along a pipeline clearing, this was the view looking east over the swamp.

Some of the ducks that I saw on this hike. One of the ducks spotted me and spooked them. There were about a dozen ducks swimming on the pond.

As I was leaving, driving along Benjamin Run Road, I came across this semi driving along. Not something you'd expect to see in the woods on a rough mountain road.

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  • Made this hike today (5/25/2020). It was a nice 2 hour hike. The trail is marked in yellow now. There is no longer a sign at the top of “cranberry road” However there is a sign that says “driveable trail”. If you start here and travel towards the swamp area there is a split in the road. You need to bare left at this split. I assume the other road is a camp road. You don’t really see trail markings until you reach the pipeline crossing.

    brian probst on

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