Trip Report: Loyalsock Trail: A Fern-tastic Hike!

For the Independence day weekend this year, I was originally considering ideas in the Catskills. Nothing was clicking though and I was losing hope that there would be any interest in a trip. Alex C reached out and said he and Jonathan were interested in something. We discussed a few options and landed on Loyalsock trail. Loyalsock is my favorite PA trail, so it didn’t bother me at all that this would be my 3rd time hiking it. Greg and Alex D signed up as well, making it a group of Five Guys. In a departure from prior trips, we decided to hike East to West. We desperately prayed to the weather gods to send pleasant temps our way and our prayers were answered! 

The long drive to the Eastern trailhead was the smoothest drive on the Friday of Independence Day weekend I’ve ever seen. It sucks that the ADK group didn’t have such luck. After checking out the Dutchman Falls, we arrived at our campsite next to the Haystacks just as it was getting dark. We chatted for a bit before turning in around 9. 

It rained overnight and into the morning when we hit the trail, resulting in raging water along the Haystacks. It would rain on and off during the entire day, despite the sun making appearances in between. The climb to the plateau led us to the pretty Sones Pond. The next few miles were a blur as we made our way through the super wet conditions. We stopped for a break at High Rock, enjoying the view of the World’s End State Park. The park people had trapped a bear near a dumpster and were putting it on display to people. The bear was going to be released in a couple of days. 

We made the climb out of the park in wet, humid conditions. It was pouring when we got to Loyalsock Canyon Vista, but there was still a view through the rain. We soldiered on and stopped at Double Run for a lunch break. It felt weird being a bit chilly during breaks in July. Welp, the climb out of the valley warmed us up and the mile-meter kept going up. At the Alpine View Vista, we took an extended break and tried drying our wet gear. While the ladder signs were intimidating, the actual ladder next to Rode Falls was really not. The Falls had a humongous amount of water in it from the fresh rain. Some folks had already taken the large campsite next to Ketchum Run, so we took the next smaller site that fit us. The rain had stopped at this point. Fire making was a challenge due to the wet conditions, but everyone worked hard to keep it going and it paid off. Tired from the long day, we hit the sack before it got fully dark.

The next morning began with a gentle, long climb out of the valley. There was a spot where a few folks missed a turn, but caught it quickly. At High Knob road, Jonathan, Alex C, and I took a mini detour and we were rewarded with a stunning view of the clouds beneath us. At Detters Run, we saw another set of nice falls brimming with water. The descent into and the climb out of Kettle Creek was steep. On our descent to Brunnerdale Run, we encountered a few day hikers headed towards Angel Falls to celebrate America’s birthday. We enjoyed a long lunch break at the bottom. 

An open, wide landscape treated us at the top of the hill. At the members only Highland Lake Manor restaurant, we tried our luck on scoring food. At first, we were point-blank denied. As we hung our faces and started walking out, we were called back in. A kind lady had decided to sign us in as guests. We relished burgers, waffle fries and sodas in the outdoor seating area on the beautiful day. We resumed hiking and finished off the road miles in good form. After a climb, the trail took us through tall pine trees. We crushed the final miles to camp at a fast pace and arrived at our beautiful site next to Shingle Run. The feeling of camping near soft pine needles was soothing, and the light was just beautiful outside. Getting the fire going was again a bit of a challenge, but easier than the day before. A few of us didn’t cook, still full from the earlier meal. 

We started early on the last day. On the climb up to Smiths Knob, we enjoyed walking through the clouds, with the sunrays trying to pierce through. At the top, we were rewarded with a stunning view of the valley of clouds beneath us. A few miles later, we were atop the final ridge. The final descent was very steep, but in the end we were victorious. Allie arrived within minutes and shuttled us to our cars. We stopped at Country Friends cafe for a nice meal on the way. The drive back was again surprisingly smooth. 

All in all, we had a great time. Our splits were ~2/23/23/12 miles. We were extremely lucky that the temps oscillated between low 50s (or even high 40s?) and 70s. I kept thinking most highlights were only on Day 1, but gladly I was proven wrong multiple times. I loved seeing the reactions from Jonathan, who was delighted with how beautiful the trail is. There was a decent bit of traffic on the trail – we saw 5-10 hikers every day. Everyone seemed to be headed in the opposite direction. I liked mixing things up by going East to West. Either way, you cannot go wrong with the Loyalsock Trail!

Picture Credit: Jonathan

Link to our route on Caltopo: https://caltopo.com/m/A6Q4

Google Photos Album Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/rmhiMDEEiANkV9nJ9

B.A.

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