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Black Forest Trail (PA)
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b s
(smyth) - F
Black Forest Trail (PA) on 04/16/2009 09:09:22 MDT Print View

I headed up to north-central PA for a couple nights in the Tiadaghton State Forest. The Balck Forest Trail (BFT) itself is a 42-mile loop with about 8500' of elevation gain. Many other trails intersect the loop to provide numerous alternate routes.

I set out on Monday afternoon after a 4.5 hour drive from Jersey. A quick ford of the Slate Run is followed by a nice 1200' climb over the next mile. Views up and down Slate Run from several vistas along the way.

Slate Run ford


Once up on the ridge, the trail levels out. The trail is well maintained and well blazed. The ridge lines are blanketed with mountain laurel which bloom around the third week of June from what I read.


I got in about 10 miles before dark on night one. I set up camp at one of the established campsites which can be found along the way. No permits or reservations are required for overnights in this area according to PA DCNR Guide Book.

The next 5-6 miles of BFT descends into the Young Womans Creek drainage and includes 20 stream crossings according to the guide book. With a forecast of rain and having forded twice on day one, I decided to take the Sentiero Di Shay Trail - the alternate high water route. The Sentiero Di Shay continues along the plateau through more mountain laurel and provides many views this time of year as the trees have yet to fill in.



After following the George Will Trail for a few miles, I connected back up with the BFT. After passing a few nice cascades, the trail descends steeply into the Callahan Run Drainage.



The trail climbs steeply out of the drainage and summits Hemlock Mountain. A great camp site at the summit with views down the Pine Creek Valley but with no nearby water I continued on.


The trail descends steeply after the summit into the Naval Run drainage. The forecasted rain was threatening so I set up camp next to the Naval Run.


The rain came in soon after I set up and increased in intensity throughout the night. I can happily report that my BMW Stealth Tarp is also waterproof when pitched upside down. This inadvertant test was a result of a hasty set up which I noticed once I settled in for the night. Temps dipped into the mid 30s overnight. I was plenty warm in my WM Megalite and Vapr bivy which shed most of the rain spray.

The forecast on the third day looked to be hypothermic - cold rain and temps in the 30s. I decided to cut the trip a little short and took the Naval Run Trail down to Naval Run Road which I followed back to my car.

A quick trip with some surprisingly diverse scenery and wildlife (whitetails, turkey, porcupine, and coyote scat?). I got to test my tarp/bivy combo in the rain for the first time and practice my wet camp break down (needs work). I'd like to go back in June when the mountain laurel is in bloom. The weather would hopefully be better and many of the swimming holes I passed would provide some refreshment. I'd highly recommend this area as a weekend trip for anyone within a few hours or Williamsport.

Edited by smyth on 04/16/2009 18:33:12 MDT.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Black Forest Trail (PA) on 04/17/2009 08:03:57 MDT Print View

Brad, Great TR! Now I've got to get out on that trail as well. BTW, if you have interest in the West Rim Trail, I have a copy of the guidebook and trail map.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Black Forest Trail on 04/17/2009 08:16:48 MDT Print View

Nice trip report and pictures, thanks. And to think I thought all the beautiful outdoor scenery was here on the west coast. I enjoy seeing pictures of site selection and gear, thanks for including these in your report.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Black Forest Trail on 04/17/2009 08:19:57 MDT Print View

I've got to get out in the woods before everything turns into one piece of monotone green. I love how leafless trees show a little more terrain detail.

b s
(smyth) - F
Black Forest Trail (PA) on 04/19/2009 19:00:26 MDT Print View

Thanks guys. Agreed. With so few opportunities to get above tree line in this part of the country, October thru April at least provides some unobstructed views.

Joe: Have you ever hiked the West Rim? I looked into that too but I would've needed a shuttle so I opted for the BFT. They're not too far from each other. I even passed a connector trail a few miles in on the BFT. I think it was six or seven miles to the West Rim Trail from there.

Thanks for the offer. Not sure when I'll get back up that way but if I do I may take you up on it. Likewise, I've got the BFT guide/map too if ever head up there.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Black Forest Trail (PA) on 04/19/2009 19:37:14 MDT Print View

I just did a dayhike on the WRT. We had a family trip up there, and I was coming off a bad ankle sprain, so I just did a dayhike for "a taste". Nice trail, but it can get a little boring.

I may hit the Batona Trail in May.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Batona in May? on 05/04/2009 10:40:35 MDT Print View

if you plan on doing the Batona, bring your scuba gear, the swamps will be swampy. this passes right near my in-laws and we have done some day swamping, er hiking and it's interesting. bring 100% DEET.

Carlos Figueroa
(cfigueroa) - F

Locale: Santa Cruz Area
Re: Black Forest Trail on 05/04/2009 22:19:04 MDT Print View

Hey Brad,
thanks for the great trip report and the pictures. I’m curious, you mentioned that you needed more practice with your wet camp break down – how would you improve it?

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
West Rim Trail on 05/05/2009 06:57:41 MDT Print View


I've done the West Rim Trail four times now - it's obviously one of my favorite hikes. It's the trail I use to introduce newbies to backpacking...spectacular views, well marked, and water is relatively plentiful.

I prefer to start at the northern end of the trail - most of the vistas of Pine Creek Gorge are in the northern half of the trail and I like my plebes to get some rather instant gratification.

Pine Creek Outfitters offers a shuttle service for your car for $40. They're located about a mile from the northern terminus of the trail. Stop in, pay your $$, leave them a key, and you can either drive to the trailhead and leave your vehicle there or simply start your hike from their office. Tell them when you want your car to be delivered and what to do with the key and it will be waiting for you when you finish the trail.

Please feel free to PM me if you want more info. Here's a shot from my hike last June - taken about 3 miles from the southern end of the trail:

View of Blackwell from the WRT

Edited by KBabione on 05/05/2009 06:58:24 MDT.

b s
(smyth) - F
Black Forest Trail on 05/06/2009 08:29:39 MDT Print View

@ Carlos: Good question. I'm not sure as I've only recently converted to the tarp/bivy setup on solo trips. I stored my pack/extra equipment either in my pack liner or in my bivy over night where everything stayed dry. The issues arose when I started unpacking things in the AM to get my sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack. I did my best keeping my sleeping bag dry but it rubbed against the top of my bivy a few times which was wet from rain splash. In my haste to keep my bag dry, a few things escaped the cover of the tarp and took on a little rain. I think I simply underestimated some of the contortionist positions required to dress and pack in such tight quarters. This was partly my fault as I had the tarp pitched pretty low that night. I think I'd start with pitching it a little higher on calm nights to give myself some more room under there. Nothing got soaked and I'm sure I wasn't being as careful as I could have been since my car was only a few miles away. Like eveything else, I guess it'll just take some practice.

@ Kevin: WRT looks nice. Thanks for the info on the shuttle. I had heard about it but didn't know the specifics.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Black Forest Trail (PA) on 05/20/2009 17:55:32 MDT Print View

Great trip report, and nice photos. Lots of elevation gans in that hike. I agree about the comment concerning the better views before the foliage comes. I am also reminded that with summer comes bugs and oppressive heat.

James Dubendorf

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Black Forest Trail on 05/21/2009 11:44:10 MDT Print View


Great report, thanks for sharing! I am in a similar situation as you, really enjoy the bivy/tarp combo but need more practice to make it work in inclement weather. Part of my "problem" is that much of the hiking I've done in the southwest has been very tarp friendly- so much so that more often than not I don't even set up the tarp at all. I'm sure I need more practice operating under a tarp in weather. Anyone have some good tips for sleeping/packing/unpacking in tight quarters under a small tarp?


Jared Cook
(rooinater) - F

Locale: Northwet
Re: Black Forest Trail (PA) on 05/21/2009 12:06:27 MDT Print View

excellent trip report! Those hills nearly look like a desert landscape with all the leafs missing from the deciduous tress.