by Lizard Seeker Emily Newman
Ready to enjoy a late season 3-day backpacking trip? Purple Lizard's Trail Guru Dave Gantz and Lizard Blog Contributor Emily Newman hiked a portion of the West Rim Trail and offer this blog to help inspire you on our own fall adventures!
They agreed that best practice dictated meeting up for a pre-hike breakfast to fuel up with home fries and coffee and to make final route decisions.
We parked the car at Rattlesnake Rock Parking Area on route 414 just west of the little town of Blackwell. The southern terminus of the West Rim Trail (WRT) was easily spotted on the opposite side of the road. The trail starts with a steady climb, heading north on the orange blazed WRT. After a few miles we reached a spectacular vista looking south into the Pine Creek Valley. With a bench to sit and enjoy the view, this could be a perfect spot for a break and a snack! Check off the first purple lizard spot of the trip!
After a snack, we continued on the WRT and descended to Bohen Run. This is actually the northern terminus of the old Mid State Trail (MST). Our route crossed this intersection again the next day. For now we stayed on the WRT towards Dillon Hollow. The day ended at a very pleasant and well used campsite in Dillon Hollow.
The WRT heads towards the rim of Pine Creek. Soon enough, we reached Steele Hollow and a dry campsite. Now we had to make a decision: turn left (west) on the yellow blazed Steele Hollow Trail, which leads to West Rim Road or continue north on the WRT for more views and campsites before turning left on Pine Trail to reach West Rim Road. We chose Steele Hollow Trail. The trail was easy and well blazed. We didn’t see any wildlife, but Emily did spot a hunter!
Bright Orange Lizard Beanie!
The half-mile road walk south on West Rim Road was also easy, but we did have to keep a lookout for Dillon Trail. While the trail is well blazed, it can be hard to spot from the road!
Dillon Trail led along the plateau until it ended at a T-intersection with the Bohen Trail. Our route lead left (east) back towards Pine Creek. The forest felt old in this area, and the trail did too. Dave volunteered to cross a rickety bridge first (and was successful).
The decent to the WRT (where we were yesterday) was gorgeous. Rather than climbing back south on the MST towards Rattlesnake Rock, we continued downstream along Bohen Run on the old Mid State Trail, which is now just the Bohen Trail. Oh, the magnificent beauty of the Bohen Trail! We saw multiple cascades and pools and seeping moss from the trail.
A blue blazed side trail appeared on the left along with a nice waterfall: Check-off the third purple lizard spot of the weekend! This blue blazed trail wanders down to Pine Creek for a bit before returning to the Bohen Trail.
After a short but steep climb on the Bohen Trail, we walked directly over the top of Jerry Run Falls. The section of Bohen Trail from these falls to Blackwell had been washed out in 2018, but luckily the trail was repaired and reopened by volunteers and PA DCNR employees over the summer of 2019!
The Bohen Trail ended where route 414 crosses Pine Creek. We stopped for lunch on the east side of the bridge where we found well water, picnic tables, and public bathrooms at McCullough Access Area. We stopped here to prepare and enjoy our backpacking food. Emily checked out the map: a 1.8 mile southbound walk on the rails-to-trails led back to the car at Rattlesnake Rock, but we were headed the other way, hopping on the MST northbound!
It was only a 1-mile northbound hike on the rails-to-trails, but it was beautiful. We were now on the MST, which is also the Great Eastern Trail (GET). The GET leads from New York to Alabama!
The MST hangs a right (west) on the Stone Quarry Trail. We climbed steeply along the beautiful drainage. The climb ended at the plateau and an intersection that we would revisit later. The MST follows the East Rim of Pine Creek Gorge for a bit then drops slightly to cross one stream before reaching another stream shortly after. Here, a yellow blazed trail leads left down to Pine Creek, while the MST continues upstream. We stayed on the MST and soon found a good spot for a back country campsite.
It rained overnight, but stopped in the morning just long enough for us to enjoy a hot breakfast. Soon the MST would cross Clay Mine Road and head downhill towards Stony Fork. While there are three purple lizard spots on this route, we thought it better to save that for a warmer, sunnier day. For the record Stony Fork is absolutely wonderful, although overuse has forced DCNR to close the area to overnight camping (see pic below from a summer adventure).
Our plan was to walk south on Clay Mine Road to reach Quarry Trail (gated double track road), and followed this road until it essentially reached a four-way trail intersection. The rain was falling steadily now so we checked the map quickly and turned right, onto the yellow blazed Stone Quarry Trail.
This trail meets up with the MST at the top of the Stony Quarry ravine. We hopped on the MST again, this time descending Stone Quarry Trail, which is much easier than the climb up. Pine Creek rail trail appeared after the steep drop. From here we headed left about 1 mile to Blackwell and then continued another 2 miles along the rail trail back to the car at Rattlesnake Rock.
We hurriedly changed into dry clothes and threw wet gear in the car; Hotel Manor was calling! Hotel Manor sits at the confluence of Pine Creek and Slate Run, which is a 10-mile drive south from Blackwell. The food is great and the brews are cold. Of course we spread the map over our table and discussed the awesome loop that we just discovered in Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area and to plan our next adventure!
Blackwell is roughly 45 miles north of Williamsport and 20 miles south of Wellsboro. Before you leave, grab your Purple Lizard Map and contact Tioga State Forest for current camping and campfire regulations.
With over 300 miles of non-motorized trails, tons of gravel and dirt roads, and 24/7 access, Rothrock State Forest is a true gem for year-round outdoor recreation near State College, PA. Although the forest roads are not maintained in winter, a few parking lots along the perimeter of the forest provide ample access in almost any conditions. Below, we've chosen a few of our favorite very difficult trail loops accessible in the winter from one of these parking areas. The following loops are best for those who enjoy challenging, steep, and rocky climbs and descents.