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6.08.2020

Visiting Yoder Falls near Johnstown

Yoder Falls has a strange mix when it comes to waterfall locations. I am used to heading out deep into the woods to find a waterfall and expect to hear nothing but the sounds of woods and the flowing water. Yoder Falls is a little different.
The access point is a simple stone pull off from a road (Carpenters Park Road) that crosses Route 219. You head into the woods, but hear the constant sound of loud trucks and cars as they rush across the 190+ foot tall McNally Bridge on 219. If it were not for the heavy road noise, you would think you were deeper in the woods. The hike is very short at 0.3 miles each way, but with a quick elevation change of about 200 feet as it heads down the side of the Stonycreek River Gorge. The location has a nice grove of rhododendrons and hemlocks.
When you reach the bottom of the little trail, you immediately run into abandoned rail bridge piers, which served a trolley line that carried visitors to this spot as a picnic area and small amusement park/grove. You then see the boulder strewn Stonycreek River, with an orange hue from the mine discharge from the region's industrial days. The massive McNally Bridge is visible up ahead. If it were not for the loud highway, and the acid mine discharge in the creek, this area would be a stunning naturescape.
From this point you head up the creekbed of the small creek on your left. This leads up to Yoder Falls, a small and roughly 20-25 foot waterfall. To make it up this gorge, you will need to make your way over and under logs, step in the shallow creek bed, and use your best judgement to make your way up.
The elevation change feels much more gradual than the hike down the gorge, but making your way up requires a little bit of strategic judgement.
 Making it up the gorge is a little bit of a puzzle. Expect to step in water that is a few inches deep.
I will not go as far as to say that the hike up is challenging, but rather that it requires an eccentric approach, including stepping into water that is about 1-3 inches deep. In more challenging conditions that require walking through a creek bed, I am used to fully submerging my boots, but it was not the case here. I found that my mid ankle Keen hiking boots actually are waterproof.
When compared to other situations that I have needed to use strategic judgement to hike through an area, this was relatively easy, but I would not recommend taking children along on this hike, along with not going after heavy rains or within wintry conditions.
The drainage trough from the highway, through which the creek flows prior to the waterfall.

I feel like this spot has shown that nature has somehow managed to prevail in spite of all sorts of disruptive efforts by mankind. If there were a practical way, I would really like to get the garbage out. The embankment leading off of the Carpenters Park Road, and down the creek itself, is strewn with garbage. Full wheels with tires on them, large Playskool plastic toys, old tube TVs, beer cans, and even a pet kennel carrier can be found along the creekbed, something that was not present when I had visited this spot a few years prior. I took a bag with some of the smaller stuff out, but there is pretty much no way to take out the bigger and heavier stuff safely or as just one person. I do not know if people know this, but the boroughs, cities, and other municipalities of the state have something called trash pickup, garbage dumps, and electronic recyclers for your old TVs. If you are going to enjoy the waterfalls, carry your junk out and keep it in the car until you get to a place with trashcans. It seems like mankind has done everything it can to mess up this beautiful spot, but nature still finds ways to prevail. The geologic aspects of this spot, along with the thick hemlock and rhododendron forests are still quite beautiful. This is public land that is owned by the City of Johnstown, even though it is located across the border from Cambria County in Somerset County.
Overall, if you are in the area and like short hikes that give you a good little workout, check this place out. You have lots of good reasons to be in the area and make this a little side trip. Whether you are exploring Johnstown, doing the fantastic hiking and sightseeing offered on the Rager Mountain and Babcock Tracts of Gallitzin State Forest, checking out the world class birding scenic overlook at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, "defying gravity" at Gravity Hill, and more within a 45 minute radius of the location, it is worth dropping by and checking it out.

The GPS coordinates to the pull off area from Carpenters Park Road to park for the Yoder Falls Trail are:
40.247375, -78.892262
The pin shows the stone pull off area. You can't miss the well worn trail that goes down to the level of the river. Note the orange acid mine runoff in the river, that is even visible from satellite imagery, that we were talking about earlier in the article. 

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