The West Rim Trail is a 30 mile long trail located in Tioga County, positioned on the canyon rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. With many vistas overlooking the Pine Creek Gorge, the section of the trail from its northern terminus to its midpoint has the highest density of views and offers some of the best, especially near Barbour Rocks. In late September a group of us headed up to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon to do an overnight weekend backpacking trip. Our planned route was the northern half of the trail, starting at Bradley Wales Picnic Area, the midpoint of the trail, and then hiking to the trail's northern terminus near Ansonia.
|Trailhead:||N 41° 38.60'
W 77° 27.54'
|Trail Length:||13.8 miles|
|Hike Time:||9 hours|
|Near:||Near Ansonia PA|
View Large Map
Download TOPO! 4.0 and GPX Files
|Get the trail guide.|
For this hike we needed to drop a car off at the northern terminus. To get to this trailhead you will need to make your way to route US6. From the town of Wellsboro, follow route US6 west for approximately 11.3 miles and turn left onto Colton Point Road. Once on Colton Point Road, continue for about 0.6 miles and you will see parking and the northern terminus on your left. We dropped a car off here and then continued on Colton Point Road towards the State Park. Once you pass the sign welcoming you to Colton Point State Park, drive for about another three quarters of a mile. At this point the paved road turns to your left. Stay straight on the dirt road. Once on the dirt road all you need to remember is that every time you come to an intersection, turn left. This keeps you close to the rim of the Pine Creek Gorge. After your third intersection, you will need to keep your eyes open for the road (on your left) that takes you to the Bradley Wales Picnic area. This fourth intersection isn't as obvious as the previous three. Once you turn at the fourth intersection, it is only a drive of a little over a half mile until you arrive at the picnic area proper. There is parking here to the left of the road and this is where we started this overnight backpacking adventure.
The weather forecast for the weekend looked great. It was expected to get a bit chilly at night, with lows in the upper thirties, but the day time temperatures were great, with both days in the low to mid sixties. There were four of us doing this hike and after a short period of checking our packs, we were soon on our way hiking north on the West Rim Trail.
The hike started out great because in less than a quarter mile we came across our first vista. As a matter of fact there were three vistas here for us to enjoy. As we looked out over the canyon, we could see the colors of autumn just starting to appear in the forest canopy. We were probably a week to two weeks early to really enjoy the fall foliage. Nonetheless, the views were spectacular on this clear and crisp early autumn day.
The nice thing about hiking the West Rim Trail is that there isn't any very large elevation changes. The trail, for the most part, hugs the west rim of the canyon. You do make an occasional descent into and climb out of a hollow that borders the canyon. Our first descent came at 1.2 miles into our hike as we descended about 100' into Ice Break Run hollow and then climbed back out. We came across our next vista at just a bit shy of 2 miles into the hike. We stopped here and ate our lunch as it was now a bit past noon. After a 20 minute lunch break we were back on the trail.
Soon we were dropping back down to cross Little Slate Run, a small tributary that flows into Pine Creek. This descent was a bit bigger, with us descending about 150' and reaching Little Slate Run at 2.9 miles. There is a great campsite located here and if you ever find yourself hiking southbound on the West Rim Trail, I would highly recommend you stopping here to spend the night.
Climbing away from Little Slate Run and back on the rim we came across another vista at 4.2 miles. We encountered 3 other hikers here just finishing up there lunch. We waited for them to leave and then spend a few minutes ourselves resting here and enjoying the view.
We crossed a dry Horse Run at 4.5 miles and then encountered a low and slowly flowing Burdic Run at 5.4 miles. At this point the West Rim Trail crosses the stream and continues on to our right. There is another trail, the Seimons Trail, that continues straight along Burdic Run and meets up with the West Rim Trail in 0.7 miles. It is a short cut and trims about 1.5 miles off of the hike. We decided to go this route to make our hike a bit shorter and to get us to our campsite sooner.
At 6.1 miles we emerged back onto the West Rim Trail. We had a bit of a climb up Seimons Trail so we stopped a bit to wet our whistle. Once we resumed our hike we found ourselves descending very steeply down to the Left Branch of Fourmile Run below. After reaching the bottom we crossed the stream on a newly built bridge (made for autos, not just people) and then followed a dirt road upstream. To our left we could see some small waterfalls in the stream. However, with the lack of rain this summer, the waterfalls were not all that impressive. A visit in the spring will be on the agenda next year to see these waterfalls in all their glory.
For the next half mile we hiked on the dirt road before we made a sharp right and began to climb away from the road and stream. This was to be our steepest climb of the entire trip: a little over 300' gained in about a half mile. At 7.3 miles we finished our climb, which really wasn't all that bad, and then began an immediate descent towards the Right Branch of Fourmile Run. We crossed this stream and two dirt roads at 7,8 miles. The trail followed a grassy road away from the dirt road following a small stream that fed into the Right Branch of Fourmile Run. We noticed that the stream was flowing rather swiftly with a two foot waterfall near a small campsite off to the left of the trail. There was a stream near our planned campsite but as we were discovering on this hike, many of the streams were either very low or not flowing at all. We decided to take this opportunity to top off our water bottles as we were not sure if we would get another chance.
Back on the trail, we continued our gradual climb, with a sharp switchback to the right at 8 miles into the hike. We were following an old, abandoned grassy road and the trail was pretty easy to hike. After a mile we came across another dirt road. Heading to the right, we could have followed the dirt road into Colton Point State Park. We continued straight as our planned campsite was only a short distance ahead.
At 9.5 miles we came into a clearing with Bear Run just on the far side. Crossing Bear Run, our planned campsite was only a few hundred feet ahead. However, to our surprise, there were about 12 young adults, probably of college age, that had set up camp here. Luckily, just near the edge of the clearing, and prior to crossing the stream, we noticed a smaller campsite. We backtracked to here and found the site to be more than adequate for the four of us. We took off our packs and settled in to make this spot home for the night.
After an uneventful, but cold night, we had a bit of breakfast and broke down our camp. Soon we were back on the trail. At 9.8 miles we crossed the paved Colton Point Road and began an easy ascent away from Bear Run. At 10.2 miles the trail makes a left turn as it comes upon the edge of the canyon rim. For the next mile the trail closely follows the rim, with a steep drop off to our right. We are afforded many nice views and vistas along this part of the trail. At 11.2 miles we came upon the Barbour Rocks vista. This vista is easily accessible via a more direct, handicap accessible trail that starts along the Colton Point Road. We spent a bit of time enjoy this view as it would be the last vista of our hike.
From here we had a continuous, gentle descent, dropping from an elevation of 1800' to an elevation of 1100' at the northern terminus. We crossed Owassee Slide Run at 11.8 miles into the hike. We crossed a dirt road at 13.2 miles where we made a sharp right turn and continued our descent into Strap Mill Hollow. We soon crossed a small stream and had to climb up out of the hollow a short distance before the trail once again leveled off. Finally, at 13.8 miles we came to the end of our hike and our waiting car.
The West Rim Trail is an enjoyable trail to hike. Elevation changes are minimal along the entire length of the trail. The northern half of the trail seems to offer more opportunities to view the Pine Creek Gorge. If you are looking for a weekend backpacking trip, hiking the northern half of the West Rim Trail will make for a great adventure.