July 31, 2019 4 min read
One way to start exploring this fantastic forest, which lies in the heart of beautiful Central PA, is on the White Mountain Ridge Trail within Penns Creek Wild Area. This recently designated Wild Area along Penns Creek is in the heart of Bald Eagle State Forest. White Mountain used to be its own wild area, but is now incorporated with Penns Creek Wild Area.
There is a four mile and a nine mile loop which offer amazing vistas of one of the most remote areas in Bald Eagle State Forest. The short option is the four mile ridge loop using Devil's Elbow Trail and White Mountain Ridge Trail connected by Weikert Run Road. The long version (9 miles) includes the entire White Mountain Ridge Trail and sections of Long Path, Weikert Run and Longwell Draft Roads. Because this loop covers a lot of road time, it can also be done as a car or bicycle shuttle option. The bicycle option should be used for the road miles (White Mountain Ridge Trail is shared-use, but it's very rough going on a bicycle). The road sections are remote, and as such you may very well hike along them and never see a car!
As the sign above suggests, this entire area is very remote. So, as always when hiking, come prepared with food, water, proper attire, and your Lizard Map. Always let someone know your hiking plans. Cell service in this area is spotty at best.
The easiest access to White Mountain Ridge is from the town (or crossroads) of Weikert. You can wind your way in to this area using Woodward Gap and Cherry Run Roads south of route 45 in Woodward, PA. In Weikert, turn onto White Mountain Road for a mile or so, and then turn right onto Weikert Run Road. Refer to your Bald Eagle Lizard Map to find where White Mountain Ridge Trail ends and where Weikert Run Road uses a bridge to cross over Weikert Run. This is the end of our loop, so park one car here if you plan on doing a shuttle, or lock a bike here, or just note this area as the beginning of your road walk at the end of the day.
Continue on Weikert Run Road to Devils Elbow and Devil's Elbow Trailhead. Park here if you are doing the four mile option. Hike uphill on Devils Elbow Trail and turn right at the summit when you meet White Mountain Ridge Trail. Turn right on White Mountain Ridge Trail, enjoy Chimney Rocks and the stunning vistas, then continue on White Mountain Ridge Trail back to Weikert Road.
The 9-mile loop is described here in more detail: If you are doing the longer loop, continue further ahead and park at the intersection of Weikert Run Road, Hoofnagle Road, and Longwell Draft Road. It is suggested that hikers park here, although those with high clearance vehicles may choose to continue another two miles on Longwell Draft Road (a drivable trail) to the intersection of Long Path. Longwell Draft Road is very narrow and only offers a few pull-offs for oncoming traffic. There is space for two or three cars at the intersection of Long Path.
Most of us will begin our hike at the intersection of Weikert Run Road, Hoofnagle Road, and Longwell Draft Road. Longwell Draft Road is signed and blazed as a Drivable Trail. This means the road is open, but not maintained, for motorized vehicles.
Walk for about two miles to reach Long Path Trail, which is signed and blazed in yellow. Begin a very steep climb northbound on Long Path. The climb seems relentless, but in reality isn't much more than 500 feet elevation gain.
Long Path Trail is part of the Reed's Gap Spur Trail of the Mid State Trail. That's a mouthful, but the interesting part is these trails are so underused that they are often filled with undergrowth. Volunteers from Mid State Trail Association and Keystone Trails Association re-opened Long Path Trail and other trails along the Reed's Gap Spur in the Fall of 2017.
Towards the top of this climb, find the intersection for White Mountain Ridge Trail and turn east (right) on this trail and climb a bit more before reaching the top of the ridge. Sections of this trail are well maintained, while other sections are overgrown with blueberries, green briar, and other understory (photo above). Now the trail follows the ridgeline while slightly descending for several miles. This is one of the longest and most underutilized ridgeline walks in Penn's Woods. Winter views exist on both sides of the ridge, but the summer views are generally overgrown with leaves. The ridge seems to last forever, and doesn't have any water except a seasonal vernal pond. Enjoy the feeling that you are actually in the middle of nowhere...because you are in fact in the middle of nowhere.
You will eventually reach Devil's Elbow Trail on the right. A 300 foot descent leads back to Weikert Run Road if you need a bailout, but the best views are yet to come on White Mountain Ridge Trail.
You will start to see side spur trails leading to vistas on the north (left) side of the trail. Feel free to explore these trails, but beware of the steep cliffs and drop-offs! A bit further down trail are more open areas with large vistas and the famous Chimney Rocks. Again, beware of loose rocks on these cliffs. The views are spectacular and lead your eyes along Penn's Creek and Penns Creek Wild Area. Bald Eagles, Osprey, and other birds of prey are often spotted flying up and down the creek.
After enjoying the vistas, continue along the White Mountain Trail until reaching a private property sign. Although there are trails leading through the private property, users MUST obtain prior permission if they want to hike on these trails. Instead of entering private property, White Mountain Trail makes a sharp right turn and descends back to Weikert Run Road. Here, you should find your shuttle car/bike. Hop in your ride, retrieve your vehicle from the start of the hike, and then make your way to Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim to enjoy a well earned meal!
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