Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — September 2013

Loyalsock State Forest Road Tour

by Gary Thornbloom

Old Loggers Path in Loyalsock SF

Vista on Old Loggers Path in Loyalsock State Forest · Photo of Gary Thornbloom

Fall in the woods, in Pennsylvania. There is not a more beautiful time and place. The varied species of hardwood trees and the varied topography of the land provide a month or more of color, color that ranges from subtle early on to stunning at the peak.

The timing for peak color varies each year. The mix of factors begins with the constants of shorter daylight hours, chemistry of each leaf, and species of tree, and then the variables of rainfall and temperature take over.

The rural roads that thread their way throughout northern Pennsylvania and through our State Forests in particular are one way to sample the varied landscape. Dick Martin, Pennsylvania Forest Coalition, created a Road Tour through the Loyalsock State Forest, which will show you a beautiful forest that is also a threatened forest.

Download detailed directions and a map for this Road Tour.

Traveling north from Williamsport on PA87 will take you along Loyalsock Creek a beautiful stream with trees that will likely have color early in the fall. As the mountains close in you will begin seeing some State Forest land, and after crossing Loyalsock Creek you will eventually enter the State Forest. The paved roads turn to gravel State Forest roads as you make your way to the first stop on the Road Tour — mile 23.5 on the Old Loggers Path. 

A short hike into the woods takes you into an area that will be home to a compressor station, a 500-feet by 500-feet fenced and lighted area that will be running, very noisily, 24/7. Not far from here will be a 14.8 million gallon water impoundment and two natural gas well pads. Savor the fall woods, the hemlocks in these wetlands, and imagine the change.

On your way to the next stop you may opt to add a trip to Sharp Top Vista. The John Merrell Road takes you almost to Sharp Top Vista, and so will a 2.5 mile hike (5 miles round trip) approached from mile 21.52 of the Old Loggers Path (where OLP crosses Cascade Road). This will put you out in the forest with the colorful leaves, as well as the colorful flagging used for planning the industrialization of the forest. The vista is a great view that includes forested mountains, as well as natural gas infrastructure.

The second stop on the Road Tour is Rock Run. Because the bridge in Masten, a ghost town, is out, the route to Rock Run will be circuitous, but scenic. The route winds through a rolling landscape, some of which is in the State Forest, and will take you into the Lycoming Creek watershed.  

Rock Run is a stunningly beautiful stream that will enchant you whether you swim, fish, float or hike it. The stream includes waterfalls, rock chutes, and some great swimming and fishing holes. The stream cuts deeply into the rock, with sheer rock walls enclosing it. Rock Run is a magical place. There are several points where it is accessible from the road, and if you have packed a picnic lunch, here is where to enjoy it.

While natural gas drilling is unlikely along Rock Run, Anadarko Petroleum Company would like to drill in the headwaters of streams that feed Rock Run. So while you enjoy Rock Run, look at the maps and imagine the infrastructure of an industrialized State Forest.

Bodine Mountain is the destination for the third stop of the tour. As you climb the State Forest road, through your State Forest, enjoy the forest, the fall, and the leaves. Note how wide the gravel road is, the three security check points you will have to stop at, and then the clear cut gas line swath that parallels the road. You are encountering an industrialized State Forest. This part of the tour also includes a pig launcher, used to clean the pipes; recently fracked well pads (part of your State Forest that is now off limits); another possible compressor pad site; a 14.8 million gallon reservoir for fracking water; large water pipes along the berm. 

As you drive through the industrialized forest in this final section on the Road Tour, compare it to the still industrial free areas of the forest that you visited earlier in the day.

It is good to get out on the trail, and to see what is there — and fall is a great season for doing that.

Gary Thornbloom is the Chair of Sierra Club Moshannon Group, and can be reached at bearknob@verizon.net