Located in the Bald Eagle and Tiadaghton State Forests, between R.B. Winter State Park and Ravensburg State Park, is a collection of blazed trails known collectively as the Central Mountain Trail System. The trails in this section of the state forest are blazed red for use by hiker, horse back riders, and mountain bikers. It was in amongst this extensive trail system that we decided to do a small circuit hike on a relatively warm January day. The circuit hike that we decided upon was a little over 5 miles in length. It was composed mostly of the red blazed central trail system trails, but we also did some hiking on the Mid State Trail as well. The hike was located on the mountain tops to the east of Ravensburg State Park, in a relatively flat area known as Sand Spring Flat. There was a fresh coating of snow about an inch deep from the night before, and with the temperatures hanging around 40 degrees, we were looking forward to a a pleasant stroll in the woods.
|Trailhead:||N 41° 05.66'
W 77° 13.52'
|Trail Length:||5.4 miles|
|Hike Time:||3 hours|
|Near:||Behind Ravensburg State Park, off route PA880.|
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The trailhead for this hike was at the intersection of Sand Spring Road, Kalbfleish Road, and Krape Road. Krape Road is normally gated, but was open at the time of this hike. Reaching the trailhead is rather easy. You will need to get on Interstate Route I80, and if you are heading east or west, you will want to get off exit 192, the exit for Jersey shore. Once you exit route I80, head west towards the town of Loganton for about 1 mile. After a mile you will come to the intersection of route PA880. Turn right here and start heading up into the mountains. You will continue on route PA880 for another 3.5 miles, as you are beginning to descend the mountain, and turn right onto a dirt forest road. This is Sand Spring Road and even though there is a small sign, it is easy to miss. If you enter Ravensburg State Park you have gone too far, so turn around, and turn left at the first opportunity. Once on Sand Spring Road, travel for about another 0.5 miles. You will come upon the intersection of what looks to be about 5 roads. This is the trailhead that we used for our hike, but if you travel back Kalbfleish Road another 0.2 miles, you will find a large parking area on your left.
We started our hike at around 10:00AM. I had done a quick estimate the night before and figured that we would be hiking anywhere from 5 to 5.5 miles. Our hike started with a little road walking. Normally I don't like road hiking and try to avoid it, but with the fresh snow on the ground and like packs on our back, this little bit of road hiking wasn't bad at all.
We hiked down Kalbfleish Road for about 0.7 miles, passing the large parking area on our left. This section of the hike was not part of the blazed trail system and we were using it as a connector to make our circuit hike. At 0.7 miles we beared off to our left onto Sawalt Road. This road looked to be a drivable trail on the maps but we soon discovered that it wasn't because of the large pile of rocks placed across the road at the intersection. We were only on Sawalt Road for a tenth of a mile until we came upon the red blazed trail.
The red blazed trail continued straight ahead on Sawalt Road but we turned left at the intersection and followed the trail back into the woods. This section of the trail seemed more like a typical hiking trail and I would guess that it would be almost grown over in the spring and summer because of all the Mountain Laurel around.
We followed the trail through the woods and headed back west. At about 1.75 miles into our hike we came upon our only stream crossing. There was a nicely constructed bridge here that spanned McMurrin Run. We paused here a moment to get a drink and enjoy the view of the stream meandering through the snow covered forest.
After a 10 minute break we were back on the trail. Only 100 feet or so past the bridge the trail switch backed to our left. The blazing on the trees makes this a little difficult to follow, so you need to pay attention at this point so you don't wander off the trail.
For the next 0.5 miles we had a nice easy climb, gradually ascending around 150' in that half mile. At 2.4 miles into our hike the trail crossed Sand Spring Road. We could have turned left here and made this a very short hike but we continued on and started our second, and steepest, ascent of this hike.
For the next 0.7 miles we gradually climbed to the top of the western most summit of the Nippenose Mountains. OK, maybe summit isn't the best word to use, as the highest point was only at 1875 feet, but for this hike it was our "summit". We climbed about 250 feet in 0.7 miles. Nothing to brag about by a long shot, but we were surprised since I had originally thought that this hike would be all level hiking since we were on Sand Spring Flat. The little climb did get our heart rates up a bit and made us break out into a sweat. We stopped for about 15 minutes at the top to get a drink and cool off before we continued on with our hike.
At 3.1 miles into our hike, where we stopped to cool off, we literally ran out of forest. We were at the boundary of the Tiadaghton State Forest and the trail turned sharply to the left and followed alongside the boundary.
For the next 0.5 miles we slowly descended and hike alongside the state forest boundary. We soon turned away from the edge of the state forest and at 3.8 miles into our hike, the trail merged with the Mid State Trail. At this intersection, the Mid State Trail headed west towards Ravensburg State Park, but we followed the south branch and the red and orange blazed trail.
The next 1.6 miles was hiked entirely on the Mid State Trail. The red blazed trail left the Mid State Trail once, but soon reunited with it after about a quarter of a mile. The trail was well maintained and could have been used by cross country skiers as well. The elevation change was minimal and a gradual descent until we reached the trailhead.
The total hike was just a little shy of 5.4 miles, so my estimate of the hike being between 5 and 5.5 miles was pretty good. This was the first hike of 2006 and the first hike after the holidays. It was nice to get out and get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It had been over a month since my last hike which was too long, so I'll be making sure that I get out more often.
As I mentioned earlier, there are numerous trails and forest roads in this area making it easy to plan a circuit hike. I will definitely be planning another hike in this area, maybe a little further south towards R.B. Winter State Park. At the very least I'll be hiking through this area again as I try to add more mileage on the Mid State Trail.