Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Quehanna Trail: Finishing the Trail North of the Quehanna Highway

On the first weekend of May 2011 myself and a group of friends started hiking the Quehanna trail. We put a little over 16 miles under our belt on that hike. Fall of last year had us going back to hike an additional 13 miles of the trail. Now, almost a year later, we were back for even more backpacking on the Quehanna Trail. With our largest backpacking group yet, seven in total, we conquered another 14 miles of the trail and had us completing well over half of the 74 mile circuit trail.

Trailhead: N 41° 15.39'
W 78° 21.12'
Total Elevation: 5028'
Trail Length: 14.0 miles
Hike Time: 9.5 hours
Hike Type: Shuttle
Difficulty Rating: 120
Near: Off the Quehanna
Highway, near Medix
Run, PA

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We've had various hikers on the previous two backpacking trips and early on it looked like we would have the entire group together, plus some new attendees. With an original roster of 10 backpackers, this looked to be the largest group outing as of yet, and even concerned me a bit with regards to logistics and finding an adequate place to camp that would accommodate such a large group. However, as the weeks progressed, the number of hikers dwindled until we ended up with our final number of seven backpackers for this outing.

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.

Like our previous hikes, this as to be a shuttle hike. This hike would have us hiking on about 9 miles of the Quehanna Trail proper and then about 4 miles on the West Cross Connector. This made for a shorter and easier car shuttle. Our hike was to end on Little Medix Road, about a half mile from the CCC camp and the intersection with Medix Road. After dropping Jim and Chris off at the trailhead, I drove to this point and awaited Jeff. Jeff was driving a pickup truck and we would use this to shuttle our entire crew, and packs, back to the trailhead at the end of the hike. After a short(?) wait Jeff showed up and, after parking his truck, we took my car back to the trailhead to start our hiking adventure.

Once we got back to the trailhead the rest of the crew was ready to go. We all put on our packs and headed down the road about 200 feet before we turned left off the road and onto the orange-blazed Quehanna Trail.

The first part of the hike had us walking through mostly flat, but damp, stand of pines. We soon emerged from the pines but the ground was still saturated and very wet. The leaves were just starting to come out on the trees and we had a rather unobstructed view of the sky. It was suppose to be rain free and mostly sunny that day. It was rain free, but completely cloudy would have been a better description of the weather. And the humidity was near 100%, making for a very muggy hike.

We crossed a pipeline clearing at about 0.3 miles into the hike and continued hiking for the next mile across marshy flatlands. At 1.4 miles to trail began to descend down into Silver Mill Hollow. As we descended the trail turned from swampy to rocky. The descent wasn't too bad, but there were steep parts, and a small stream accomanied us on our left with small feeder streams crossing the trail from time to time.

Our descent into Silver Mill Hollow ended at 2.7 miles where the Quehanna Trail crossed the small stream on our left and began a gradual climb on the north-east face of Haystack Mountain. The climb was short lived as the trail soon leveled off and we continued wrapping around now to the north-west face of the mountain. At about 3.6 miles the trail emerged onto an old gas pipeline clearing and we began to follow it.

At 4.1 miles we ventured off the clearing and into the woods to the left as the trail continued with a gradual descent. At 4.4 miles we crossed a powerline clearing and at 4.5 miles we all stopped for a short rest at one of the official trailheads for the Quehanna Trail, just off the Quehanna Highway. This marked the completion of hiking the north section of the Quehanna Trail, that part located north of the Quehanna Highway. We started at the Quehanna Highway a year ago, following the trail in a counter-clockwise direction, and now we had completed the northern section.

After a short break we crossed the road and immediately crossed Sullivan Run on a small bridge. We continued hiking on the Quehanna Trail for another 0.8 miles as is paralleled Medix Run before we decided to stop for lunch. One thing I forgot to mention at the start of the hike was the Jody realized that he forgot to bring his trekking poles. He typically hikes with the poles but had to do without on this trip since he forgot to pack them. Well, we found out at lunch that Jody forgot another item on this hike: lunch. Chris was providing meat and cheese for all to share at lunch and he gave these items to Jody to put in his pack the night before. We surmised that the meat and cheese was sitting on Jody's living room floor upon our departure that morning and that his dog Nigel was probably enjoying a nice snack. However, we managed just fine, munching on Jeff's venison bologna sticks and my pistachios. After a half hour of eating and relaxing we put our gear back on and continued with the hike.

At 5.7 miles we crossed Medix Road and at 5.9 miles crossed Medix Run on a nice bridge. Shortly after crossing the stream we started our biggest, and luckily only, climb of the day. Over the next mile we would climb 700 feet as the trail followed Bear Run to its headwaters. At 6.9 miles the trail makes a sharp right, a bit of a steep climb, and levels off. There is suppose to be a view on the right, looking over Bear Run Hollow, at 7 miles into the hike, but the vista was grown over and did not offer any type of a view. At 7.1 miles we all gathered and waited for everyone to catch up. We rested a bit and rehydrated as the clouds were now gone and the sun was shining brightly in a blue sky above.

From our resting spot we continued west on the orange-blazed trail and came upon the Caledonia Pike at 7.7 miles. This was where Jeff made a visit to earlier in the morning and dropped off some beer. He gathered the beer, put it into a stuff sack, flung it over his shoulder and we continued on with our hike.

The trail was relatively flat after crossing the gravel Caledonia Pike. We came upon our first and only vista of the entire hike at 8.2 miles south-east towards the town of Pennfield. Just a bit beyond the view we began a descent, steep at times, along a small stream. This small stream merged with another tributary to Laurel Run, coming in from the left, at 8.6 miles. This was the end of the first day of hiking as this was where our campsite was suppose to be.

We found a campsite, located almost directly on the trail. It was a small one nestled in under some pine trees. We had four tents to set up and there was no way we were going to be able to set them up here. Luckily, on the other side of the stream there was a large flat area. We ventured across the stream and found the area to be suitable for us to set up our tents. As some of us went about setting up the tents, others built a fire ring (thanks Jim for your fine rock workmanship) and gathered firewood (and thanks to Jody for lugging the bow saw along on the trip). Before long we had the tents erected and we were all gathered around the fire ring in the stadium seating.

We spent an enjoyable evening around the fire, eating smoked corned beef, smoked cheese on pita bread, and fried ham steaks. We also had some canned craft beer to enjoy along with a couple ounces of fine single-malt scotch whiskeys. At about 9:30PM we noticed the very large, and extremely bright moon rising over the hill top. The moon was so bright we could have easily hiked that night by its light. About 11:00PM everyone was calling it a night and heading off to bed.

We didn't get as early of a start to the day as we would have liked, but we had camp broke down and breakfast eaten by 10:30AM and we were on the trail shortly there after. The trail continued its descent along this tributary on an old forest road. The hiking was very easy and we made good time. At 9.2 miles the trail makes a sharp left and again follows an old jeep trail as it parallels Laurel Run.

For the next 0.8 miles on the old jeep trail we had a gradual ascent which leveled out at 10 miles into the hike. The trail was relatively flat for the next mile. At about 11 miles we came upon Saunders Road. We turned left onto this road, still following the orange-blazed Quehanna Trail, and hiked for another two tenths of a mile. Just after a bridge crossing we left the Quehanna Trail to follow the yellow-blazed West Cross Connector Trail. We were now starting our second steep climb of the hike, following the yellow-blazed trail as it paralleled another Laurel Run tributary.

At 11.6 miles the trail crossed the stream and ascended more steeply as it climbed away and out of the hollow. At 11.9 miles the trail makes a sweeping right turn and continues eastward on relatively flat terrain.

About 12.7 miles into the hike we entered a large highland meadow. This large clearing seemed like it would be a great place to spot elk or other wildlife. Sadly, no wildlife was seen. At 12.8 miles, about a third of way across the meadow the trail crosses the headwaters of the tributary we were following earlier.

We once again crossed Caledonia Pike at 13.2 miles into the hike. After a tenth of a mile hiking on relatively flat terrain the trail began a steep descent towards Little Medix Run. After 0.8 miles, for a total of 14 miles of hiking, we emerged on Little Medix Road and all met up at Jeff's waiting truck. A short break at the truck and taking of some pictures and we were soon heading back to the trailhead.

Of course what would a weekend of hiking be without an after hike meal. This time we headed into Benezette for a bite to eat at the Benezette Hotel. The food was good but the service was a bit inadequate for the large number of people taking advantage of the nice weather. After the meal we said our good-byes as we hopped in our cars and headed back home. I really enjoyed this hike and came away from it without feeling worn down or tired and sore. I am looking forward to the fall hike when we return to the Quehanna Trail and see if we can put on rack up some additional miles on the trail south of the Quehanna Highway.

The group is ready to start putting some miles behind us.

The first part of the hike was relatively flat, but quite boggy and wet.

Near the intersection with the Quehanna Highway. This marks the completion of the north section of the Quehanna Trail.

Lunch time, deciding what to do after discovering Jody forgot to bring lunch for all of us.

The bridge over Medix Run.

Some of the riffles and falls found on Bear Run.

We make our gradual but steady climb up along Bear Run.

Jeff has his beers in his bag thrown across his shoulder.

The only vista on the entire hike.

The morning of the second day as we are in the midst of tearing down camp.

Savannah follows the lead hikers as we walk down Saunders Road.

The trail crosses a large highland meadow.

We gather for a picture after our hike.

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