Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Quehanna Trail: A Fall Backpacking Trip

It was time for our annual fall backpacking trip. There were six of us heading out this fall and we opted to hike in the Quehanna Wild Area. Four of us had hiked a section of the Quehanna Trail in the spring and we were looking forward to logging a few more miles on the trail this fall. With rainy weather to start, we headed out on the trail to experience what would be a great weekend of backpacking on a section of the Quehanna Trail that more than exceeded my expectations.

Trailhead: N 41° 15.39'
W 78° 21.12'
Total Elevation: 3947'
Trail Length: 13.1 miles
Hike Time: 9 hours
Hike Type: Shuttle
Difficulty Rating: 105
Near: Off the Quehanna
Highway, near Medix
Run, PA

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The trailhead for the start of this hike is located just off state route 1011, also known as the Quehanna Highway. To reach the Quehanna Highway, you need to get onto route 879. This can be reached from route I80 at a number of exits: at exit 120 near Clearfield, at exit 133 near Kylertown, and exit 147 near Snow Shoe. Exit 120 near Clearfield is with route 879, so just head east from there. Exit 133 near Kylertown brings you out on state route 1011 (its not called the Quehanna Highway here) and you can follow it north to the intersection with route 879. And finally, from exit 147 near Snow Shoe, take route PA144 to its intersection with route 879 and head west. Near the town of Karthaus (you'll pass through this town if coming from the Snow Shoe exit of I80), there is an intersection with route 879 and the Quehanna Highway. Follow the Quehanna Highway north for about 16.4 miles (you'll drive through Piper, also known as the Quehanna Boot Camp) and keep your eyes open for a dirt road on your right. This is marked as Grant Road on some maps, but there will not be a road sign here indicating such. This road is almost directly across from where Sullivan and Dent Road meet the Quehanna Highway. Once you turn off onto Grant Road, drive for about a half mile and you will see a stone parking area on the right. Park here as this is the trailhead for this hike.

This was a shuttle hike, so we needed to take one of our vehicles to the other end of the hike. Our hike was to end at a designated parking area for the Quehanna Trail, along Hoover Road. The last time we hiked on the Quehanna Trail, this was also the end point for our hike, however due to recent rains, we were unable to reach this trailhead because of bad roads. Luckily things were different this time, as the roads were repaired and we were able to reach the parking area.

After dropping Jeff's truck off at the end of our hike, we soon joined up with the rest of the crew at the trailhead. After a bit of fiddling with packs and such, we were starting our weekend hike on the Quehanna Trail. From the parking area we had a short bit of road walking as the Quehanna Trail proper didn't cross until another 500 feet past the parking area. Turning right off the road, we were all getting adjusted to the trail and getting our backpacking legs under us.

The first half mile of hiking was relatively flat and we made pretty good time. At about 0.5 miles we began a slight descent that got a bit steeper as we hiked along, and crossed numerous times, the upper reaches of Mix Run.

For the next two miles we had a gradual descent on an old railroad grade as we crossed Mix Run a number of times. At 2.5 miles we crossed to the east side of Mix Run for the last time. We hiked along on a relatively flat section of the railroad grade with Mix Run flowing swiftly below us.

At 2.7 miles we turned right in a large flat area where Deible Run flows into Mix Run. There were two places where we almost lost the trail. First was where we wanted to follow the railroad grade along Mix Run, but the trail made a sharp turn to the right on an old, overgrown forest road. The second time was a short distance past this as the old forest road started to climb the hillside. The trail cut off to the left, through a thick stand of saplings, to follow Deible Run upstream.

After 0.4 miles hiking along Deible Run, the trail crossed and began a steep ascent. There were a number of switchbacks during this climb and at 3.5 miles into the hike the climb leveled out and offered us a view to the valley below. A short break here to take some pictures and to enjoy some of the meat and cheese that Chris brought had us back on the trail on a more level section with less climbing.

At 4.1 miles we crossed a dirt forest road, and a geographical survey benchmark of 2228 feet. We began a short descent which ended with a sharp turn to our right and climb out of the hollow. We were heading into one of the unique rock formations on the trail. Just prior to coming upon the rocks Jeff, the last in our hiking party, was about trampled by a herd of deer. Around six deers came straight towards him as he followed the trail through a thicket. A bunch of yelling and jumping about was enough to scare the deer off and Jeff was able to continue the hike without the discomfort of being trampled by a bunch of deer.

We crossed another forest road at 6.1 miles into the hike. This is the eastern cross-connector for the Quehanna Trail. Turning right would have taken us back to the Marion Brooks Natural Area but we followed the main trail to our left. A short walk on the road and then we beared right back into the woods as the trail started a gradual descent.

Our descent became much, much steeper at about 6.5 miles into the hike as we descended down along Porcupine Draft. Over the next mile we descended about 700 feet, following both banks of Porcupine Draft. At 7.6 miles we pulled away from Porcupine Draft and hiked on a level section of trail with a gradual descent towards Red Run.

We appeared on Red Run Road at 8.1 miles into our hike. After two tenths of a mile hiking on this stone road, we beared off to the left and in a short distance we crossed Red Run on a well built, sturdy bridge. After another 0.7 miles of hiking along Sanders Run we came across a campsite which we decided was going to be our home for the night. Taking the pack off my back I felt like I was walking on air. An hour of setting up camp and gathering firewood had us all gathered around the campfire sharing stories and enjoying the canned craft beers that we carried in with us. A feast of a variety of meats (brisket and kielbasa to name a few) along with more had us ready to hit the sack before midnight. I must admit that I slept quite soundly, only awoken by Mr. Pringle telling me I was snoring and that I needed to roll over onto my side.

The next morning was quite cold with a layer of frost on everything. I crawled out of bed around 8:30AM with Mark already up and brewing some coffee. A short time later everyone was up as well as we slowly broke camp. It was about two hours later until we were on the trail, hiking along Sanders Run.

The climb along Sanders Run was much less steep than the descent along Porcupine Draft. The slow, gradual climb out of the hollow was exactly what the doctored ordered and we all enjoyed the easy ascent.

The climb came to an end at about 10.9 miles into the hike. As we walked along a grassy road we came across another unique site on this hike. It started with what I thought was a trick of my eyes. There looked to be a wall of white in the distance, perhaps snow, but the sky above was blue. At 11.2 miles the white wall was revealed as being a stand of white birches. The greyness of the woods surrounding us contrasted with the whiteness of the woods found here. We paused to take a group picture before we continued on.

At a bit past 11.9 miles we came across our last vista of the hike. With views towards the north and the sun shining brightly to our backs, this was a nice way to end our hike. Only another mile plus of level hiking had us at the end of our hike at Hoover Road. We all climbed in Jeff's truck and headed back to the trailhead to finish up our weekend of hiking.

Our spring hike had us doing 15 miles of hiking on the Quehanna and this fall backpacking trip saw us adding another 13 miles of trail. I am looking forward to our spring backpack trip so that we can do even more of the trail. Our next hike will probably have us exploring section of the trail south of the Quehanna Highway. Check back in 6 months to see what new sections of the trail we explore.

Just a short distance from the trailhead, everyone is ready for a day of hiking.

A nice Pennsylvania fall day for hiking.

Crossed quite a few bridges (and quite a few crossings where there should have been a bridge) on this hike.

A climb out of Deible Run gives us our first vista of the hike.

The trail makes its way through some interesting rock out-croppings.

Descending along Porcupine Draft.

Mark crests the hill for yet another crossing of Porcupine Draft.

Almost to Red Run the sun comes out and gives us a nice autumn view of the surrounding mountains.

The boys getting a bit of road walking under our belts.

Crossing Red Run and heading towards tonight's campsite.

Breaking camp after an evening of good food, good beer, and good company.

This picture does not do Sanders Run justice. There were some beautiful waterfalls on this section of the trail.

Upper reaches of Sanders Run and the colors of autumn.

Jeff kicking butt as we hike (quickly) along this section of the trail.

Mark, Chris, Jim, Jeff and Jody pose in front of a stand of birch trees.

Our last vista of the hike, looking across Little Fork Draft.

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