This fun and beautiful hike in Moshannon State Forest consists of a 3-mile downstream jaunt on a single track trail alongside Six Mile Run, followed by a gentle 3-mile hike back to the car on a gravel forest road. Trail runners looking for a loop with a challenging beginning and mellow finish will love the loop described below. Backpackers also enjoy this section of the Allegheny Front Trail year-round!
Begin your adventure at the intersection of Route 504 and Six Mile Run Road, which is about 2.5 miles west of Black Moshannon State Park, or 6 miles east of Route 322 in downtown Philipsburg. Route 504 is usually in pretty good shape all winter, but be sure to watch for black ice on those winter days.
A few parking areas exist near this intersection, but please avoid parking in front of any gated driveways that lead to private cabins. A parking lot, large enough for 4-5 cars, is located on the north side of the intersection of Route 504 and Six Mile Run Road. Walk across the road bridge on Route 504 and begin hiking northbound on the yellow blazed Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) by stepping over the guardrail on the east side of Six Mile Run.
Don't worry about getting up early for this hike. Six Mile Run north of Route 504 is in a pretty deep and steep canyon which boasts unique sunlit colors throughout the day. The sun seems to rise late and set early in this hollow, you won't miss much if you plan for a mid-day hike, but don't forget to bring a headlamp just in case. In addition, explorers will often experience magical foggy conditions in this canyon any time of year!
The trail is often wet (or frozen) due to side streams draining into Six Mile Run. These streams, including Six Mile Run may or may not be good source of drinking water. So plan for wet feet and bring plenty of your own water for this trek, rather than filling up from the streams. The first mile of trail consists of multiple short ups and downs, as the stream bank is sometimes too steep and narrow to allow a trail directly beside the water.
A fun overhanging rock appears just over a mile into this hike. This rock is often dripping wet in the summer (see above)...
...slightly frozen in fall (see photo above)...and filled with icecicles in the winter (see photo below). Be sure to check for porcupine droppings under this overhang, as this seems to be a favorite spot for these pointy forest creatures.
The second and third miles of this hike consist of more of the same surprisingly tough terrain. Even though the trail is following Six Mile Run downstream, the route can be a challenge for hikers and downright tough for runners. "PUDS" is the term that thru-hikers give to trails like these (pointless ups and downs). In truth, these short and steep climbs are necessary to ensure a sustainable trail for years to come.
This area is very popular with the fishing crowd in spring and summer, but quite devoid of humans in the winter. Although you may notice several camping sites on both sides of Six Mile Run, plenty of signage along Six Mile Run Road indicates that car camping is prohibited along the road. Backpack camping is allowed along the AFT, but always contact Moshannon State Forest before your backpacking trip in order to confirm overnight opportunities, current conditions and regulations.
Old structures, like the one above, can be found along the trail near Six Mile Run and along Six Mile Run Road, too. Historians and guidebook authors, such as Ralph Seeley, assume that these structures are remains from various old industrial activities, which ceased years ago.
Back to the hike: After one of the steeper and more sustained climbs along this stretch, the Allegheny Front Trail finally reaches Cassanova Road. The AFT goes right, uphill along the road, but we will stay left and cross Six Mile Run on the road bridge. Shortly thereafter, take another left onto Six Mile Run Road and head back upstream, southbound towards your vehicle near Route 504. Our Trail Guru has marked the aforementioned parking spot with a red "P" on his map, pictured below:
Just follow the road for three miles back to your car. Sounds easy doesn't it? Admittedly, this gravel road is quite flat and easy to hike or run, but don't forget that you are heading upstream! Since the elevation gain from Casanova Road to Route 504 is only about 250 feet, this route is actually easy and enjoyable. Do watch for ice on the road in the winter and car traffic year-round, although you will usually find it feeling very remote and quiet.
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I had two seriously long days in the woods planned, for an estimated total of 44 miles of backpacking. My plan was to follow a slew of lesser-known trails to create a loop that incorporates both Black Forest Trail and West Rim Trail. I picked this route after studying the Pine Creek Lizard Map. There are countless trails on this excellent map, but some of them are old, neglected, and untravelled. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Winter is a great time to do this kind of exploring. There are no rattlesnakes, nettles, or ticks. Streams are easy to follow, and the cold temperatures can dress up the stream banks with ice sculptures. The lack of leaves creates winter vistas where in the summer there is only endless green. So off I went.