Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - Woolrich: Revisiting Gillespie Point

Only a few miles shy of the northern terminus of the Mid State Trail (as of Nov. 2005), Gillespie Point looks down onto the town of Blackwell with amazing views both up and down the Pine Creek Gorge. Known locally as the "Matterhorn of Pennsylvania", Gillespie Point is located just south of the town of Blackwell. The hike to the top of Gillespie Point is well defined as the Pennsylvania Mid State Trail, at it's northern terminus, is routed so as to include the spectacular view from this fine vantage point.

Trailhead: N 41° 33.37'
W 77° 22.89'
Total Elevation: 1953'
Trail Length: 4.2 miles
Hike Time: 2.5 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 81
Near: On PA414 in the town of Blackwell.

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To reach the trailhead you simply follow route PA414, coming from either the north or the south. From the south, take the PA44 exit off of US220. After 12.3 miles you will bear right onto PA414 and then stay on this road for another 24.8 miles until you reach the town of Blackwell. After just entering the town of Blackwell you will see a small parking are just off to your right. This parking area is used by people canoeing Pine Creek as well as hiker's of the Mid State Trail. If you are coming from the North I would suggest route US15 to the Liberty/PA414 exit. From this exit, just stay on PA414, through the town of Morris, for 15.6 miles.

This hike started on a very warm and beautiful November day. The temperatures were close to 70°F and I was persuaded by Waxman to take a vacation day off work. After meeting up with Cathey, Mark, Tira, and Storm, at their place, we were off to Blackwell to hike to the top of Gillespie Point.

This was Mark's third climb to the top of Gillespie Point and my second. The view is awesome and I had no objections to doing this hike again. Mark had told Cathey about the view and he wanted her to experience it as well. Also Mark's favorite quote about hiking is: "If it's a good hike, then it's worth hiking three times". Mark seems to have a habit of hiking the same trails multiple times.

We arrived at Blackwell around 1:00PM, and after a little visit to the Blackwell Hotel to wet our whistle, we were heading towards the trailhead at about 2:00PM. From doing this hike before we knew that it would take us around two and one half to three hours to hike. With it being so late in the year, that would put us back at the car just as the sun was setting.

The initial climb up the mountain is not overly steep, but it is constant as it traverses the front side of the mountain without any switch backs. We did stop a few times on the way up to catch our breaths and let Storm get a drink at a small spring just along the side of the trail.

At about 3/4 of the way up the mountain, the trail switches back to the left and the ascent becomes much easier as we walked up the ridgeline. With the leaves falling off of the trees, we were able to catch a glimpse of some nice views to our left and also to our right.

The leaves had pretty much passed their peak in color as there were many already on the forest floor and those above us were either orange or brown in color. It was still nice to be out in the woods with the smell of autumn still clinging to the trees.

After about an hour from the time we started our hike we finally reached the summit and Gillespie Point. The view from here was amazing in the spring the last time we did it, and it was even more amazing with there still being leaves on the trees. You can see for a number of miles down the Pine Creek Gorge as well as catch glimpses up the gorge and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

We stayed at the top for about 20 minutes enjoying the view and taking a lot of pictures. The wind was blowing pretty strong, and if it had been a colder day, I doubt our stay would have been as long.

We were soon off and heading back down the ridgeline and continuing to follow the orange blazes of the Mid State Trail. After a little more than a quarter mile from the summit, the trail made a sharp right as we descended from a saddle along the beginnings of a mountain stream. There seemed to be more leaves on the trees here than on the ground, and I was able to capture a few nice fall foliage pictures.

Approximately 1.25 miles from the summit the trail met up with a well maintained dirt road. The orange blazes of the Mid State Trail continued along the road to our left. This is the way we hiked on our last trip here in April, but this time we had decided to head to our right and follow the dirt road back to the bottom of the mountain and the end of our hike. Walking on dirt roads is a nice treat during a hike as it allows you to walk without the fear of tripping on a root or rock along the trail. And when you're hiking along a road you have the opportunity to look around more and really enjoy your surroundings.

The total hike of 4.2 miles took us a little over two and a half hours. This was pretty good since we spent about 20 minutes at Gillespie Point, and the good time can be contributed to the mile and half of road walking that we did during our descent.

I'm sure I'll make the trek back to the top of Gillespie Point again. However, I believe next time it will not be the main attraction of the hike, but one of many, as I hike the Mid State Trail south to Little Pine State Park. If you've never hiked in the Pine Creek Gorge area of the state, then I highly recommend that you introduce yourself to the area and it's great vistas with this short and rewarding hike. Once you get a chance to experience the view from Gillespie Point I'm sure you'll be looking for other trails in the area to hike as well.

Getting ready for the hike, Cathey and Mark make sure our equipment is ready to go, and Storm patiently stands by.

The trailhead proper, where the Mid State Trail begins the ascent to Gillespie Point.

Storm waits by the side of the trail as Cathey makes her way along on one of the steeper sections.

With the hardest part of the climb behind us, the trail turns to the left for an easier final ascent to the top. Storm and I wait here for Mark, Tira, and Cathey.

The happy family standing on top of the world.

I tried to capture the steepness of the side of the mountain with this picture. I am sitting on a rock outcropping and you can just make out part of Pine Creek at the top of the picture.

Some fall foliage from our hike. Most of the leaves were orange or brown, with the peak in the fall foliage season for this area being a week or two earlier.

Almost done. Our final one and half miles of hiking was an easy descent on a mountain road.

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