Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Donut Hole Trail: Hiking the Kettle Creek Loop Trail

During the weekend of July 20th to July 22nd, 2007, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Keystone Trails Association and PA Parks & Forests Foundation sponsored the 4th annual Prowl the Sproul Hiking Weekend. The weekend was dedicated to hiking and eating, with a pancake breakfast and picnic supper on Saturday. Guided hikes of different lengths and difficulties were available from 2 miles to 15 miles with easy, family-friendly strolls and boot-buster climbs. The event took place on the grounds of the Western Clinton Sportsmen's Association. I managed to participate on one of the guided hikes on Saturday. The hike was a circuit hike called the Kettle Creek Loop Trail. The trail shared a section with the Donut Hole Trail. The Donut Hole Trail traverses most of Clinton County, beginning in the town of Sinnemahoing and ending in the town of Farrandsville, just north of Lock Haven.

Trailhead: N 41° 21.12'
W 77° 55.54'
Total Elevation: 2455'
Trail Length: 7.3 miles
Hike Time: 5 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 138
Near: Kettle Creek State

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All of the hikes during the Prowl the Sproul were guided hikes. Employees of DCNR guided hikers on over 20 different hikes located in Clinton and Centre counties. Base camp and gathering point for all of these hikes was the grounds of the Western Clinton Sportsmen's Associations.

Shari and I were going to participate on a 6.8 mile hike in the Kettle Creek area. We had not hiked in this section of Pennsylvania, and I was excited to be going on this hike

We had arrived Saturday morning to meet up with our hiking guide and group. We were running a little late and discovered that our group had already left for the trailhead. Thanks to Rick of Rock River & Trail Outfitters, we were given directions on how to get to the trail and we were quickly on our way trying to catch up with the others.

The trailhead for this hike is located within Kettle Creek State Park, just below the Alvin R. Bush Dam. To get to Kettle Creek State Park you will first need to get on route PA120. From Lock Haven, you will drive north on route PA120 for approximately 35 miles, passing through the town of Renovo. At 35 miles you will be entering the town of Westport. Keep your eyes open for a road and signs to Kettle Creek State Park on your right. You will turn right at Westport and follow this road northward to the State Park. At about 5.8 miles you will enter the park and notice the lower campground to your left. You will continue another 1.4 miles, cross a bridge, and the parking area for the trail is located on the right.

When we arrived at the trailhead we saw a truck parked there. We assumed is was our hiking party that we were trying to catch and that they had already hit the trail. As we were getting ready to hit the trail ourselves, putting on our hiking boots and packs, two cars pulled in, with one of them being a DCNR pick up truck. We hadn't missed our hiking group as they had to deliver a message to another group and took the long way to the trailhead.

The trail starts just across the road from the parking area. There is a short scramble up from the road until you hit an old logging road. This section of the trail is called the Alice Trail and is blue blazed. In about 0.2 miles from the trailhead we climbed a little higher on the side of the mountain, leaving the logging road behind.

The trail here is narrow in places with a steep drop to your left and a steep climb to you right. The trail was well maintained and there was only one section where we had to climb around a dead fall.

At 0.6 miles we began a short descent to Honey Run and the Alice Trail merged with the Donut Hole Trail. The Donut Hole Trail is blazed orange and we would be following these blazes for the next 3 plus miles. Shortly after merging with the Donut Hole Trail, the trail crossed Honey Run on a well built wooden bridge.

For the next 1.3 miles we followed the west bank of Honey Run as we followed the gradual ascent up and away from Kettle Creek. At 2.0 miles the trail split away from Honey Run as we came to its headwaters. At this point the climb was still gradual but we could tell that we were getting close to the end of our ascent.

At 2.7 miles the trail emerged onto Crowley Road. This was, for the most part, the top of our climb. We had ascended over 1200 feet from Kettle Creek. The climb was gradual, and with the many breaks we took along the way, no one was tired or winded.

We continued on Crowley Road for another 0.3 miles before we turned right onto another dirt road which made its way out to the Kettle Creek Vista. After another half mile of road walking we arrived at the Kettle Creek Vista, 3.5 miles into our hike and just about the half way point.

We ate our lunch at the vista and enjoyed the magnificent view. We could see the lake below as well as the mountains beyond. Mark, our guide, pointed out the Tamarack Fire Tower to the group, but it took the use of binoculars before everyone could see it. After about 45 minutes we packed up our things and continued on with our hike.

From the vista, instead of hiking out the way we came in, the trail continued along the edge of the mountain. During the fall I am sure we probably could have gotten a few more vistas, but with the leaves on the trees our views were limited. We followed this trail for another 0.8 miles before we once again emerged onto Crowley Road. At this point the Donut Hole Trail continued straight but we turned right and followed the road.

At 4.7 miles the trail bears right off of Crowley Road and begins a steady descent down Butler Hollow. The trail follows an old logging road again and it was clear of all obstacles, including rocks. The descent was as pleasurable as the climb.

At 5.7 miles our descent was finished as we found ourselves along Sugar Camp Run. We followed this stream for about a quarter of a mile before we turned away from it and entered the upper campground at Kettle Creek. We paused a moment here to get some fresh water before continuing on.

From here on out we did road walking. The first part wasn't bad as it was an old park access road and for the most part it was covered in grass. We hiked this for about a half mile before we ended up on the paved road at about 6.4 miles along our hike. At 6.8 miles there was a parking area by the breast of the dam. We stopped here for a few minutes to look over the lake and to also look back up to the top of the mountain at the vista where we had just came from.

The entire hike was 7.4 miles in length. We had climbed, and descended, over 1200 feet but the trail was routed in a way that the ascents and descents were gradual and easy. If you are looking for a moderate hike to do, set aside about 4 hours of your day and schedule a trip to Kettle Creek State Park. This was my first hike in this section of Pennsylvania and I was impressed with the area and the landscape. I am definitely going to put the Donut Hole Trail on my short list of hikes that I want to do.

Just across from the trailhead, the trail climbs up a small embankment along the road.

Along this section of the Kettle Creek Trail, which is also part of the Donut Hole Trail, the climb was gradual and the hollow was lush and full of vegetation.

Once we reached the top of our climb we had a little bit of road walking to do.

Turning right off of Crowley Road, we hiked back a short dirt mountain road towards the Kettle Creek Vista.

The destination of our hike; Kettle Creek Vista.

Enjoying a summer afternoon picnic on the trail.

Fellow hikers enjoy the vista as well.

Heading back to the trailhead, we paused a moment at the breast of the Alvin R. Bush dam to look back over the Kettle Creek lake.

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