Pennsylvania public forests surrounding Pine Creek Valley are well known for a plethora of great recreational opportunities; the 62-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail is regarded as one of the top 10 rail trail paths in the US, the 44-mile Black Forest Trail and 32-mile West Rim Trail are both nationally recognized as superb backpacking routes, and over 200 named trails are open to bicycles for year-round exploration. One section which you may have never heard of might just be the best loop trail system in the area, though: The Green Monster Loop Trail System.
Even though there are over 300 hundred trails to choose from in Pine Creek, most adventurers seem to congregate in the same areas: Black Forest Trail, Hyner View, PA Grand Canyon, Slate Run, and West Rim Trail. Of course these areas are well-known for good reason and we believe everyone should experience them. But, we also believe everyone should experience the big Green Monster that is tucked away just north of Pine Creek. Upstream from the famous Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, this route which is primarily maintained by volunteers with Tyoga Ruuning Club and Twisted Spokes Bicycle Club, includes 25K (16.2 miles) and 50K (31.5 miles) loop options.
While the Green Monster Loop includes almost 32 miles of exciting trails, there are plenty of additional side trails in this corner of Tioga State Forest too. Features for all of the trails in this area include wide single and double track paths with solid dirt treadways. The notorious rock gardens found in many other parts of 'Rocksylvania' are less common here. Almost all of the trails in this part of the forest are open to bicycles; riders and runners will enjoy these smooth and fast trails! Several steep drainages cut through the plateau in this part of northern Pennsylvania; some of the trails sidehill along the beautiful streams running through the forests, while other trails force users to clamber straight up and down over the hollows and across the grain of the landscape. Most trails are well maintained, well signed, and well blazed. There is a free rustic camping area (we discuss more about this below) and tons of miles of gravel roads to explore as well. Dozens of loop options exist in this part of Tioga State Forest, but today we'll give an example of this area by following the 50K loop in the same direction as the annual Green Monster Challenge. Pull out your Pine Creek Lizard Map and follow along with us today, then go out and discover this area for yourself!
The Green Monster Loop trailhead is a 15 minute drive west of Wellsoboro. There are several parking areas and pull-off spots along the loop, but the main parking area (which can be tricky to spot) is just notheast of Asaph along Straight Run Road. Follow your map closely to find the parking area. Left Straight Run Trail, which acts as the beginning and the end of the 25K loop, begins at the back end of this gravel parking area. This trail parallels the road as a nice dirt double and single track alternative to the pavement for a bit until we split onto Deer Trail.
Soon enough, the loop route crosses Straight Run Road and heads uphill along Deer Trail. Some sections of Deer Trail are steep and difficult, while other sections (pictured above) are mellow and fast for running, hiking, and biking. Be sure to keep an eye out in the surrounding woods; we spotted a healthy black bear while hiking this loop in October 2018.
Deer Trail reaches the grassy double track Stone Trail at the top of the ridge. Stone Trail leads across the ridge, then downhill for just a bit to an intersection with Horse Lane Trail just before reaching Horse Run itself.
Horse Lane Trail follows alongside Horse Run from Bee Trail the whole way downstream to Canada Run Road. The trail is fast and offers less technical rock gardens than many other trails in Pennsylvania. The Green Monster Loop follows this trail to Canada Run Road, then uses the road bridge to cross Horse Run before climbing upstream on Oil Well Hollow Trail.
Oil Well Hollow Trail follows Right Branch Canada Run upstream the whole way to gravel Baldwin Run Road. Diehards looking for an extra hill in their adventure will follow the official Green Monster Loop by climbing Bark Slide Hollow Trail, hanging a left on Matson Trail, then another left on Last Trail which descends back down to Right Branch Canada Run. Whew...the rest of us will just continue upstream on Oil Well Hollow Trail and enjoy the beautiful mountain stream running beside the trail until it reconnects with the official Green Monster Loop.
Again, keep your eyes open in this forest. This barred owl was spotted just off trail along Right Branch Canada Run. Although this loop doesn't offer as many extensive views as other sections of Pine Creek, it does offer plenty of quiet solitude and opportunity to experience wildlife.
Single track bliss! A narrow yet well maintained trail of moss through a maturing hardwood forest with rhododendron and mountain laurel underbrush. This scene, found along the loop near Baldwin Run Road, is common in this section of Tioga State Forest.
The loop leads adventurers downhill on Carpenter Trail to cross a small stream before climbing back uphill shortly to intersect with Spoor Hollow Road. The loop then follows the road west for just a bit to meet up with the infamous Stinger Trail.
Stinger Trail is a nasty hill for hikers, runners, and cyclists. Although the hill is barely a 400 foot climb, it is very steep and difficult nonetheless. Stinger Hill is the type of hill that a person tries to 'conquer'. It is well known amongst competitors at the annual Green Monster Challenge; and for good reason, this small hill can crush those with dreams of finishing this loop quickly.
Near the top of this ridge, Stinger Trail makes a hard left and turns into Plantation Trail. As with the rest of this loop, the trails and intersections are well signed, so no need to fear getting misplaced. Plantation Trail follows the boundary line between private property to the north and State Forest to the south. The trail is relatively flat, and can be very fast for those looking to make up time from Stinger Hill.
Green Monster Loop hangs a hard left onto Observatory Road, which is a grassy double track trail that leads downhill to a parking area at the intersection of Spoor Hollow Road and Baldwin Run Road. Cross this intersection and continue straight ahead on Stone Trail (yes this is the same Stone Trail from several miles back). Keep an eye open for a hard right turn onto Jim Close Trail. This turn occurs before the gate on Stone Trail.
Jim Close Trail is an amazing downhill that everyone will love. It is another single track trail which winds around for a bit before dropping steeply straight downhill to Straight Run Road. Straight Run Road is an excellent bail out option for folks who need to get back to the car quickly; it's roughly two miles downhill along this easy road back to the starting point of our adventure.
Those who choose to continue on the Green Monster Loop will cross Straight Run Road directly and enter into a dark single track tunnel known as Birchstill Trail. Birchstill Trail climbs away from Right Straight Run just as Jim Close Trail had descended towards the stream: straight and fast. After a steep climb to the top of Broad Ridge, Birchstill Trail levels off for a bit before it connects with Broad Ridge Trail.
Frankenstein's Forehead is another challenge that has been known to destroy the knees, ankles, equipment, and dreams of many adventurers. Although Broad Ridge Trail looks mellow in the photo above, most of this trail is in fact brutal. Unofficially known as "Frankenstein's Forehead", this extremely steep trail is loaded with loose rocks and debris. Frankenstein's Forehead is a classic hill in this area, so be sure to attempt it; but beware that either up or down, this trail will be difficult!
Reach a T-intersection at the bottom of Broad Ridge Trail and take a breath to recuperate from the descent of Frankenstein's Forehead. We're now at the split between the 25K and 50K loops. Ahead, Left Straight Run Trail descends along this gorgeous stream for some time before returning the the starting point of today's adventure. This is the final section of the 25K Green Monster Loop! Upstream, the trail continues on along the 50K route.
Left Straight Run Trail continues until an intersection with Davis Hill Trail. This trail climbs steeply nearly to the top of South Hill, before winding downhill the whole way to Sand Road. This section is a really really fun and fast flowing trail!
The Green Monster Loop turns left at Sand Road and continues straight past a gate. Shortly after, the loop veers right along Scotch Pine Spur Trail. Hang a quick right on a double track Hessel Gessel Road, then a quick left on Hessel Gessel Trail. Ahead, behold a Purple Lizard Spot! This spot highlights the Hesselgessel Millstone Site. Enjoy the spot, then continue on towards Asaph Wild Area.
Cross Right Asaph Road and enter Asaph Wild Area. Middle Ridge Trail, which can be slow and swampy in some places yet fast and dry in other places, leads through the plateau of this Wild Area.
Even though Middle Ridge Trail is in great shape as it leads straight across the ridge of this Wild Area, the Green Monster Loop itself turns right (west) to descend steeply on Big Tree Hollow Trail. The descent is roughly 600 feet in 0.5 miles!
Leave the Wild Area and cross Left Asaph Road to continue on a relatively new section of trail. This section was recently built as a means for enthusiasts to connect Big Tree Hollow Trail with Frying Pan Trail. The new trail, aptly named Left Asaph Trail, is in great shape as it follows Left Asaph Run closely. There are two stream crossing along this stretch; though, both of which can be difficult during high water.
Reach Frying Pan Trail and follow it across the stream, then uphill for a long way to almost the top of the ridge. Cross a gravel road, then begin a very fun descent of Goodall Hollow the whole way back down to Asaph Run Road.
Road walking or riding Left Asaph Run Road is another great option for folks who are camping at Asaph Run Campground and/or folks who want to cut out the tough climb and fun descent of Frying Pan Trail. Left Asaph Run Road is a gorgeous pleasant walk through the woods on a little-used gravel road.
Asaph Camping Area is a special place indeed. Open May through November, this first come-first served campground offers picnic tables, fire rings, a well water hand pump and a pit toilet. Camping costs $10, cash only. There are roughly one dozen sites, with some big enough for vehicles up to 35 feet long. The site is surrounded by a fabulous stream, miles of gravel forest roads, and several shared-used non motorized single track forest trails. Most of the forest is also open to primitive back country camping. Backpackers and Bikepackers are welcome to set up camp in the forest while following a few rules. Contact Tioga State Forest for more information on primitive camping. Other adventurers are welcome to utilize the plethora of local private campgrounds, hotels, and b&b's located nearby.
Back to the loop for today. Find Scotch Pine Hollow Trail on the north side of Asaph Run Road and follow the trail as it climbs steadily uphill to the top of the ridge. The trail follows the waterway along Scotch Pine Hollow closely, and the cascades are quite impressive when water levels are normal to high.
Turn right onto Darling Trail at the top of the climb. At first, Darling Trail meanders along the wide ridge. Soon though, it begins to descend. The descent is a wonderful mix of steep and mellow sidehill trail that offers just enough speed for an enjoyable finish to this 50K loop.
Be sure to soak in one last deep breath of mountain air, and one more glimpse through the trees of this forest before you descend downhill to pop out on Straight Run Road. Turn north on the road and continue uphill to the beginning point of our loop. Congratulations on completing the 50K Green Monster Loop!