It was time to schedule our annual fall backpacking trip, and the Loyalsock Trail immediately came to mind. I had been told by many fellow hikers that this trail ranks up there with the Black Forest Trail as far as great Pennsylvania hiking trails go. We had originally given some thought to doing a hike on this trail in the spring, but that trip was cancelled. So when the planning for our fall backpacking trip came up, I immediately suggested doing an overnight hike on the Loyalsock Trail.
|Trailhead:||N 41° 26.90'
W 76° 27.21'
|Trail Length:||13.0 miles|
|Hike Time:||8.5 hours|
|Near:||World's End State Park.|
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Unfortunately we were not able to get the same crew together as we did on our last year's fall trip on the Old Loggers Path. We had six of us going on that trip, and it was a nice size group for an overnight trip. One of our participants from last year was successfully winning a battle with cancer and was still going through chemo therapy and unable to make it out with us. Another was in the beginning stages of building his first house. It looked as if we were only going to have three doing this trip; Chris, Kaelen, and myself. Then to everyone's surprise, Jim stepped in and said he would love to do the hike with us. To the best of my knowledge Jim hadn't done an overnight hike in over 4 years and I was glad to finally get a chance to do a hike with him.
We decided to hike 13 miles on this trip, doing 9 miles the first day and 4 the next. We were going to start at the eastern terminus of the trail and hike to World's End State Park.
The eastern terminus of the Loyalsock Trail, and the trailhead for this hike, is located at a large parking area just off Meade Road, along route US220. Traveling on route I-80, you will take the Muncy / I-180 exit and head north. Your will travel about 15.5 miles where you will exit route I-180 at the route US220 exit. The rest of the trip will be on route US220, but you need to be observant of the road signs as this road twists and turns through a number of small towns. Once on route US220, travel approximately 30 miles north, and once you see signs for the town of Laporte, keep your eyes open for Meade Road and the trailhead. Meade Road will be on your left, and there is a sign indicating the parking area and trailhead for the Loyalsock Trail just prior to reaching the turn off. Once on Mead Road, which is a dirt road by the way, you'll travel less than 0.2 miles and you will see the parking area to your right. Park here and head to the northeast corner of the parking lot where you'll find the beginning of the trail.
As is typical on our hikes, we strive to hit the trail prior to 11:00, but never succeed. This time was no different as we started hiking at just a few minutes past 11:00AM.
For the first 0.2 miles of hiking we descended to an old railroad grade. At this point the trail turns sharply to our left and we began a fast paced hike along the abandoned railroad bed. At 0.5 miles the trail bears off to our right and we leave the old railroad grade for now. There is a red blazed trail that continues on the railroad grade that we will again meet up with in a couple of miles.
Once again the trail descended about 100 feet until we found ourselves along the bank of the Loyalsock Creek. This section of the trail was a nice hike as the trail meander through the trees, never straying too far from the creek side. The trail was flat and free of obstacles.
We followed the Loyalsock Creek for the next 1.2 miles before the trail makes a turn to the left to begin an ascent back up away from the creek. At this point is the location of the Haystacks. The Haystacks are rock formations in the stream that resemble stacks of hay because of their shape and color. The panoramic picture above was taken of the Loyalsock Creek at the Haystacks.
Leaving the Haystacks behind, we began a climb back up to the old railroad grade. The ascent was gradual at fist, but became rather steep towards the end. Just prior to the steep section of the climb we passed a trail register at 2.1 miles into our hike. We paused here to sign the register and then continued on.
After the first climb of our hike, we found ourselves back on the flat railroad grade about 2.3 miles into our hike. Turning right here we made some good time hiking on this flat section of the trail. We followed the railroad grade for a mile before the trail turned off to our right and began our second descent back to the Loyalsock Creek.
This descent was a gradual one, dropping 350 feet in about three quarters of a mile. We emerged from the woods onto an forest road where we turned right to cross the Loyalsock Creek on a steel truss bridge. We had hiked a total of 4 miles once we crossed the bridge, and decided to stop for lunch just a short distance on up the trail. Chris dug out his sausage and cheese, that we all shared and stuffed into pita bread. Jim brought along some trail mix which was a good source of quick energy for our next climb. This climb was to be the longest and steepest of the entire hike.
After lunch we continued on the trail and began our next ascent about 4.2 miles into the hike. We climbed about 400 feet in less than a quarter mile. The trail then switchbacked to our left as we made our way along the edge of the Loyalsock gorge. At 4.9 mile the trail turned to the right and made its way through a rock outcropping. The trail wandered in and out of the rocks and at the very end we found ourselves having to climb up to the top of the outcropping. Once on top of the rock outcropping, the trail leveled out and we had a rather easy hike on flat terrain.
At 5.6 miles the trail crossed Rock Run road. We came across a group of hikers heading the other way and talked to them a bit at this point. They informed us that Sonnes Pond was just ahead. We were anxious to see Sonnes Pond as it was one of the highlights on this section of the trail.
At 5.7 miles into the hike we came upon the shores of Sonnes Pond. The pond looked more like a small lake to me. We spent a few minutes here enjoying the scenery and snapped a couple pictures. We then followed the shore of Sonnes Pond as the trail followed it for the next 0.2 miles, heading around the northern edge of the pond.
The next two miles of hiking were pretty easy going. The terrain was relatively flat with no major ascents or descents. We passed "Ann's Bridge" at 6.4 miles, even though there was no bridge to be found, only an old sign. At 7.4 miles the trail merged with Loyalsock Road, a dirt forest road, for about 0.1 miles before turning right off of the road back into the woods.
At 8 miles our level hiking changed into a gradual to slightly steep descent. For the next 0.6 miles we continued this descent towards Big Run. At 8.6 miles, just a few hundred feet up from Alpine Falls, there is a register where we signed in. There was an old forest road that headed south, away from the trail. We could see the remnants of a fire ring on a relatively flat area of the old road. We decided to hike up to that spot and call it home for the night.
Prior to us heading for the trailhead to start this hike, we decided to stash a cooler of beer and 16 hot dogs in the woods not far from our campsite. While Chris and I went about setting up camp and gathering firewood, Kaelen and Jim headed off in search of the cooler. After 30 minutes, they came huffing and puffing back into camp with the cooler in tow.
Dinner that evening consisted of many, many hot dogs as well as a few beers. I managed to hang with the guys until about 9:00PM and then I headed off to bed. By midnight everyone was asleep in their respective tents.
The next morning was quite brisk and we didn't get out of camp until about 10:30AM. Kaelen offered to carry the cooler, now only full of empty cans, out of the woods and back to the car. It was a site indeed to see this guy hiking in the middle of the woods, with a pack on his back, carrying this huge cooler.
From camp we headed down along the small stream that flows over Alpine Falls to where it met up with Big Run. Here the trail turns to the right and makes a steep, but short ascent to Ken's Window. The view from here would probably have been better without leaves on the trees. However, with the encroaching tree limbs, branches, and leaves, Ken's Window was more like Ken's Peephole.
From here we descended a small amount to meet back up with Big Run which we continued to follow upstream. After a mile the stream disappeared and we crossed but was probably its headwaters in the spring, when water levels would be higher. At 10.1 miles we once again crossed Loyalsock Road.
We had a short climb of about 200 feet in a half mile and then our terrain was flat and level. At 10.8 miles the trail makes a sharp right, joining with an old, overgrown forest road, now barely distinguishable from the surrounding woods. For the next half mile we followed the eastern edge of a very boggy area. I am sure bugs would be an issue here in the summer, but during the first week of October we didn't have any problems.
At 11.5 miles we crossed Loyalsock Road for our third and final time. We began our descent back down to Loyalsock Creek. The descent was quite gradual at first. At 12.3 miles it got quite a bit steeper as the trail followed the knife edge of the small ridge line we were descending. At 12.5 miles we got our first and only vista on this hike. The vista looked up the Loyalsock Gorge with World's End State Park directly below us.
Another quarter mile of descending on a narrow trail brought us out on route PA154. Turning left here and crossing a bridge, we were at World's End State Park and back to the car after another 0.2 miles of hiking.
The entire hike was 13 miles in length. This is probably something we could have accomplished in a day, but since I hadn't done an overnight backpacking trip in over 6 months, this trip was just right. The first day, at 9 miles, was probably getting close to my limit on hiking with a pack on my back for one day. I did a minimal amount of hiking this summer and I wasn't conditioned for a longer hike.
We all had a great time on the trip and it was nice to get Jim out on the trail with us. I hope he realizes just how relaxing and fun backpacking is and it won't be another 4 years till we see him on the trail again. We are definitely planning on making back to the Loyalsock Trail to do some more hikes. This is one of those trails that I want to add to my "Hiked it Completely" list. From what I've seen of the trail so far, I would recommend it to anyone that wants to explore and experience what the woods and trails of Pennsylvania has to offer.