Backpacking Pennsylvania: 27 Miles in Two Days on Old Loggers Path

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Six hours into the hike on day one! (T. Harrison)
Ever planned a trip you thought might be a little ambitious? Yeah? Me too.

Prior to a Labor Day Weekend adventure on Old Loggers Path, the longest I remember hiking in one day is around ten miles. When my hiking partner and I agreed to tackle the 27.1 mile loop in two days, our itinerary called for 17 miles on our first day and ten on the second. We knew it would be difficult, but given the elevation profile and the fact that it follows existing graded logging trails in a number of areas, we agreed it was both doable and an exciting challenge for both of us.

We read there were well-established car camping sites at the trailhead in Masten, a ghost town and abandoned logging camp. We drove straight there, bypassing campgrounds at nearby Ricketts Glen and Worlds End State Parks because honestly, who doesn't want to sleep in a ghost town? Though most of the drive was on well-maintained roads, a significant portion at the end, including a detour around a road that was out, took us on unpaved state forest roads.

I didn't expect much, but when we arrived in Masten under the veil of darkness on Friday night, we found a beautiful campground with a port-a-potty and plenty of parking. Our chosen campsite had what remained of a fireplace and chimney. After a handful of s'mores, we crawled into the tent. I'd brought summer clothes, but when temperatures dropped to 49 degrees, I was thankful for an extra bag of clothes for donation I'd stashed in my trunk earlier that week.

The backpacker camping area at Masten.
We found the Masten Ghost Town Start on the map and were on the trail by 8am on our first day, planning to tackle 17 miles in eight hours. We opted for a counter-clockwise approach to Old Loggers Path because there's no bridge across Pleasant Stream, and our feet got wet during the crossing, we'd deal with them on the shorter day. That route also put two vistas (Sharp Top and Sprout Point) toward the end as a reward. And we preferred to camp by Pleasant Stream; it made getting enough water for cooking, drinking and washing easy.

Old Loggers Path had us climbing right out of the gate. The trail was easy to follow over both days; the bright orange blazes are hard to miss. The climbing ended after less than two miles, and after meeting a box turtle in the middle of the path, we found ourselves at an intersection with the Sharp Shinned Trail in under two hours (2.96 miles). After passing the second intersection and crossing Rock Run (3.68 miles), the trail took us down to our first snack stop.

The trail then climbed up and away from Rock Run, crossed Ellenton Road, crossed a large opening in the forest for a pipeline, then took us along a ridge for just under three miles. We found a handful of vistas along the ridge that were, evidently, perfect spots for rattlesnakes to spend their afternoons; we saw four in total. We didn't startle the first one we saw, but did surprise the second and the rattle I heard was enough to get my adrenaline pumping.

Can you spot the rattlesnake? I was grateful for phones that have high megapixel; I wasn't going to get too close! (T. Harrison)

We crossed Buck Run, traversed around Sullivan Mountain, then dropped into a valley to cross Long Run. We passed well-established campsites every two miles or so, and the further we got, the more tempting it was to just call it a day. The toughest campsite to refuse came about a mile from our 17-mile cutoff as we crossed Stream Road, but we made it the extra mile and found a beautiful campsite along the north side of Pleasant Stream.

We didn't get much in the way of vistas on
the second day, but everything was so GREEN!
The second morning brought a deluge of rain, and had ten miles to go to complete the loop. My hiking partner and I opted to try and wait it out, but when 10am rolled around and the rain was still coming down, we figured we'd just grin and bear it. I found myself wishing we'd camped on the south side of Pleasant Stream; the water was much higher than it had been the night before. We made it across and climbed up to Sharp To Vista in an hour (mile 19.09).

Unfortunately, as a result of the weather, we didn't get much of a view there or at Sprout Point Vista 2.5 miles later. But the clouds had Loyalsock State Forest looking particularly green and beautiful all day, and the rain stopped shortly after we passed Sharp Top Vista. After climbing up to Sprout Point (mile 22), we descended just over two miles to cross Grove Road (mile 23.53), at which point the trail got pretty swampy. Given I was already soaked from the rain and residual humidity, I hardly noticed.

A long, gentle descent along an old graded road brought us along the last part of our journey. When we popped out of the woods at the end, it appeared the trail brought us through someone's backyard. The trail follows a well-established forest service road back to Stream Road, which we took back to Masten to conclude the trip. I was definitely "smelling the barn" toward the end of that day, if for no other reason than I wanted out of my wet gear. We made it to Masten from our Pleasant Stream campsite in just over four hours.

Our last few trail steps. The Masten Ghost Town Start is up the road to the right and the campground is to the left.

Overall, I loved Old Loggers Path and would absolutely do it again. Our itinerary was aggressive and I anticipated wanting to spend more time at some of the vistas, but never felt cheated out of views (except for the clouds on the second day), or out of any piece of the trail experience. My feet were definitely tired at the end of the first day and getting warmed up on the second day took a while, but I felt great and as though we accomplished something at the end. If you're planning a trip along Old Loggers Path, I'd recommend taking a few things into consideration.   

One of the campsites we didn't pick. Nice, right?
  • We didn't see signage about permit requirements for the Masten campground until we got up to leave on our first day. If you're planning to overnight at Masten in the C.C.C camp, be sure to check in with the Hillsgrove Ranger Station off of Rt. 87 to obtain a permit. Backpack campers are not required to obtain a camping permit if they stay no more than one night at a location.
  • We used the trail map from the PA DCNR website and that was all we needed to navigate. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow as long as you keep your eyes open for orange blazes at intersections. It never hurts to take a compass, just in case.
  • There are plenty of water sources along the trail, assuming it hasn't been a dry season. We took an MSR pump filter.
  • There are well-established campsites all along the trail. If you pass one up, there will be another close by! There were at least three sites at Pleasant Stream out of earshot of each other.
  • Watch for snakes, especially at vistas and rock outcroppings. 
  • We didn't take a bear-proof canister, but did hang our food away from camp. 
  • My Toyota Corolla did just fine on the forest roads, but I'd recommend taking a vehicle with higher clearance and AWD if it's an option. Get your GPS loaded before you go; we didn't have service for the last 90 minutes of the drive.
  • We used Backpacking Light's forum and MidAtlanticHikes.com to help with trip planning. They're great resources.

I'd been meaning to try this trail forever and am so glad I got the chance! Did you get any backpacking in over Labor Day Weekend? Have you ever seen rattlesnakes on a trip before, or other slightly scary wildlife? Have you been on Old Loggers Path? We'd love to hear from you!

4 comments :

Heidi Henry said...

Eeek! Snakes! Otherwise sounds like a blast =)

Beth J said...

Love the inspiration! Thanks for the fabulous pics and great story! As a 38yo mom of two I am looking to not act my age! I am trying to get in shape to climb my first mountain (one of the smaller ones out East). Reading stories like yours make my goal seem more attainable. . . and fun! Thanks so much!

Katie L said...

Thank you for the kind words, Beth! What mountain(s) are you looking at climbing? That's so inspiring! Whatever your goal is, I have no doubt you're going to achieve it :)

Beth J said...

We're looking to climb Mount Washington. My husband and his father did over twenty years ago and it's all I can think about right now! I'll keep reading your tales to stay inspired; thank you!!