Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — May 2004

Allegheny Front Trail — Green Grotto and Other Delights

by Gary Thornbloom

The Allegheny Front Trail (AFT) is a trail with many dimensions. There is convenient access at numerous points along the trail. While some sections are more remote than others, the section in the Six Mile Run Valley from Horse Hollow Road to Route 504 offers a pleasant hike where it is easy to set up a shuttle or to hike a loop. Most of this section, not nearly as rocky as other sections, is gentle on the feet and offers subtle delights of wild flowers, mountain streamside hiking, hemlock giants, and a green grotto. There is only one short steady climb in this otherwise gently rolling hike.

Begin hiking north on the AFT where it crosses Horse Hollow Road. Orange blazes mark the trail, although the trail is poorly marked in places. At several points the trail follows the terrain or old paths, and then turns away. Double orange blazes indicate a sharp turn in the trail. Close attention is essential!

After walking along Dayton Dam, site of a sawmill in the 1870s, the trail leaves Six Mile Run and follows an intermittent stream up a gentle, open hollow — Slide Hollow. The side of the hollow is covered with a green carpet of several species of clubmosses. Also look for a small tree with smooth gray fluted bark locked in a tense well-defined image of muscle. This tree is hornbeam commonly known as musclewood. Toward the top of the hollow the trail is in a trough from which many large stones have been removed — a trace of the log slide that gives Slide Hollow its name.

The trail follows the small stream up the hollow, but close attention is necessary to keep on the trail and to not miss the sharp right turn that takes you north, up and across an open flat with absolutely no understory. This is an excellent area to see woodland where an overabundance of deer have eaten everything within their reach and allowed no regeneration of trees or bushes. The openness, although visually pleasant, is unnatural.

The trail continues for well over a mile across this open flat before dropping back down to cross Six Mile Run Road and the bridge over Six Mile Run. A short climb into a Red Pine plantation from the Civilian Conservation Corps days soon provides a buffer between the gravel forestry road and the trail. Walking through stands of pines offers the pleasant sensations of sounds varying from a hushed whisper to a roar similar to surf pounding on the beach. The pines are a comfortable setting for a nap or for a lunch stop.

Just before a sharp right leading to a short steep climb there is a nice vista of the Six Mile Run valley. Another half mile and the trail turns sharply left and starts down one of the many side hollows with springs that feed the stream below. A spring in this hollow pours from the side of the mountain and splits into numerous small streams that wind through a large cover of sphagnum moss. Countless shades of green brighten this small green grotto. What a place to while away a hot afternoon!

After accompanying this small stream part way down the hollow the trail turns away now paralleling Six Mile Run. Large rhododendron and hemlocks form a canopy over the path. Here the trail uses two sections of old logging railroad grades. According to Ralph Seeley in Greate Buffaloe Swamp this small grove of hemlock giants survived only because they were along a disputed property boundary. The penalty for cutting your neighbors trees was quite severe. This resulted in numerous stands of trees not being cut and we now have many small glimpses of the forest that once was. The AFT soon comes out on Route 504.

At numerous locations along the trail in mid April there were small wildflowers—hepatica, trailing arbutus, and yellow violets. Streamside habitat will likely offer even more wildflowers as the season progresses. These small delights can be found anywhere on and along the trail.

Numerous convenient access points allow for a loop hike, while the gravel forestry roads make for an easy car or mountain bike shuttle. The gentle terrain and subtle delights of this section of the Allegheny Front Trail provide for a pleasant spring or summer outing that makes this a hike that is accessible for hikers of all ages and skill levels.

If You Go: To hike this with a shuttle, drive 2.6 miles west of Black Moshannon State Park on Route 504. Leave a vehicle at any of the wide areas at the intersection of Six Mile Run Road and Route 504. Drive 3.9 miles south of Route 504 on Six Mile Run Road to just past a group of former CCC camps that are now private camps and look for the orange blazes marking where the Allegheny Front Trail crosses the road. The hike described in this article is around 7 miles and can be done at a modest pace in about 5 hours. An alternative would be to shorten the hike by starting or ending where the trail crosses Six Mile Run Road near the middle of the described circuit.


Greate Buffaloe Swamp by Ralph Seeley includes a description and some history on this section as well as on the entire Allegheny Front Trail (proceeds from the sale of this book benefits the Quehanna Area Trails Club and copies are available from George Lockey, 882 Rolling Stone Rd Morrisdale PA 16858).

The Public Use Map for Moshannon State Forest is available free from the Bureau of Forestry and provides an overview of the area as well as showing the trail. A map of the AFT is available for free at the Black Moshannon Park Office.

Gary Thornbloom is the Chair of the Moshannon Group of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club and will be leading a hike on this trail on August 15th [2004] and can be reached at bearknob@verizon.net