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5.23.2021

Frew Mills Falls Area of Slippery Rock Creek and Grant City Falls

Just a few miles north of McConnells Mill State Park, sits a great hiking area that has rock cities, stands of wildflowers, beautiful forests, cascades, and more than four waterfalls two in Slippery Rock Creek if you count the old dam spillway, one in a small tributary to Slippery Rock Creek, and at least a few that encompass the powerful Muddy Creek/Grant City Falls. Muddy Creek is the main water source and discharge for Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park. 

Trailhead is on the eastern end of the bridge, along with a few gravel roadside parking spots.

The area you need to park at to access this is a small rock gravel pull off at the end of the bridge across Slippery Rock Creek on Frew Mill Road. The only way to access this area is from the north, for the southern access points have only private access, so do not attempt to access from the area of old 422. The access point has to be from Frew Mill Road. 

This section is an extension of mother nature's beauty in the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, which is the primary focus of McConnells Mill State Park. As with many quasi natural places across the state where there have not been huge strides in official development, this place is definitely a local hootenanny spot, with graffiti on many of the giant boulders, campfire spots in places, and beer cans strewn about. Frequent drownings have been reported in the area of the small waterfall. Swimming in this spot, or any part of Slippery Rock Creek, is a fool's errand, with boxcar sized erratic boulders within the creek that create strong downward currents that are so strong that it sometimes takes days, weeks, or even months to find people after they have drowned, for the currents are even too strong to attempt for professional divers. 

Trillium

This place needs to only be used for hiking. As for hiking, this is a fantastic moderate skill place to go. The elevation changes are minimal, but you will be doing some scrambling across the rocky landscape and you will need to take extra care to stick to the trail, for this is home to one of the finest stands of trillium in the state. Even light damage is enough to permanently kill the flowers, so you need to stick to the trail and dogs must be leashed at all times. Grant City Falls alone is worth the hike, which comes out to just about 1.2 miles each way, making for a 2.4 mile round trip hike. 

Dam Spillway from Frew Mill

I basically stumbled upon this hike on a random drive, and information is very hard to come by online about it. I found this spot just by driving and ending up at a pretty bridge with an old mill dam waterfall on Slippery Rock Creek, at the next bridge crossing north of Old 422. Several times I have tried to explore to the south of this spot to see Grant City Falls from its southern edge, but struck out with it being private property. This time, I was cruising and driving around and heard the power of water from old mill's dam and had to check it out.

The spillway dam and this rock city beckoned me to stop and check it out, and a well worn trail beckoned me to hike for a little bit.

I pulled over in a stone pull off area at coordinates: 40.991949, -80.184256 and found a well worn trailhead and a rock city. I was amazed with the beauty and I walked down with CeCe and my camera and started hiking, just expecting this to be a quick stretch of the legs. It is clear that this area is a "party" spot for the locals, with light graffiti on many of the boulders, beer cans, and extinguished camp fires. Upon further research, it appears that some people use the creek as a swimming hole, which is very dangerous and you should not attempt, with how strong the currents are and how big the boulders are within Slippery Rock Creek. Several people die a year by drowning within the creek, from this spot and down through McConnells Mill State Park. 

Even with the vandalism, the beauty of nature still shines through in this spot, with a giant rock city, which feels even more imposing than the ones in McConnells Mill State Park, just a few miles downstream from here. 

A small wispy waterfall, similar to Alpha Falls in nearby McConnells Mill State Park, showed up almost immediately on a small tributary to the creek. I continued hiking down the trail because I realized that the trail had to end pretty shortly, but alas, it kept going and continued to get even wilder.

Incredible and breathtaking rock formations, even with the vandalism done by stupid people.

I started to see some wildflowers begin to pop up and some beginning to bloom as I went further down the trail, where less people seem to go. 

About half way through on my hike, about a half a mile in, a rolling portion of the landscape was absolutely covered in beautiful white trillium in one of the biggest patches I have ever seen. 

Trillium, ferns, and boulders

Giant boulders and a giant creek

Life finds a way

The lower portion of Grant City Falls/Muddy Creek Falls

I continued hiking until I reached a cross stream, and realized that this might be a way to access the ever elusive Grant City Falls, and low and behold, there it was, emerging through some enormous boulders. 

The northern side of Muddy Creek has access through hiking from the Frew Falls area and I was amazed at its beauty. Muddy Creek carries the outflows from Lake Arthur and it is powerful. 

Grant City Falls itself has about three or four falls ranging from 4 feet to about 30 feet tall, and there are three other falls along this hiking route, from one seasonal waterfall that is similar in size and flow to Alpha Falls at about 15-20 feet tall, one waterfall rapid in Slippery Rock Creek that is about 4 feet tall, and a spillway waterfall from the old mill dam. 

Reseeded Hemlock Trees growing on top of a boulder. I have never seen this happen this vigorously at this early of a point in their lifespan. At some point, one will probably become dominant like the next one we will see. 

In a hundred years, one of those baby hemlocks will grow like this incredible specimen.

The hike from the parking area to Grant City Falls is about 1.2 miles each way, and common sense and caution is greatly advised. The creek is not called "Slippery Rock" for nothing. These giant boulders are slick and common sense must be used to protect yourself. 

This is a fantastic little hike with the added benefit of a tremendous area of trillium growth. Beware though that there is only room for just a few cars to park there, so expect the chance that you may not be able to park to visit this one, but should you strike out in getting a parking spot, McConnells Mill State Park, and Wolf Creek Narrows, are not too far from this spot. 


5.16.2021

Former Colerain State Park Overlooks: Spruce Creek, Indian Lookout, Canoe Mountain Overlook & Colerain Road Overlook

There are four tremendous scenic overlooks in the areas surrounding the Colerain Picnic Area in Rothrock State Forest.

Huntingdon County's Colerain Picnic Area in Rothrock State Forest was once known as Colerain State Park. It is home to some breathtaking views of Central PA's dramatic and breathtaking topography. On this particular visit for us, the weather could not seem to make up its mind and within view of most of the overlooks, you had glimpses of sunny weather, cloudy weather, and rainy weather, all within view at one time. It is easy to see why this place was given state park designation and it is still worth a visit, even after its "de-parking." It is home to an aggressive hike up a mountain with aggressive elevation change, another ice mine, small in scale like nearby Trough Creek State Park's, and numerous amazing scenic overlooks. The state forest road that goes through this spot, and deeper into Rothrock State Park, goes up and across a beautiful ridge. Stunning scenic overlooks and vistas can be seen in numerous spots, with only one requiring a short hike 1/10th of a mile hike from the upper end of the Yellow Arrow Trail (or a 1.1 mile hike if starting at the bottom of the mountain)

After heading up the mountain road, filled with giant trees and lots of hemlocks, through the old Colerain State Park, you reach a curve. This curve has the first visible scenic overlook, the Spruce Creek Overlook, which looks South/Southeast at the aggressive mountains and gaps, where you see how the old Pennsylvania Railroad ingeniously was able to get through the rugged central PA landscape through the Juniata River Valley.
Note the rain visible out in the distance in the Juniata Valley. There were hawks flying through the air in this spot, though as soon as I grabbed my telephoto lens, they were gone. 
One of my favorite things about scenic overlooks in most of Central PA is the views you get over multiple mountain ridges. This topography fascinates and mesmerizes me so much, from here, up through the Finger Lakes Region of New York, where this finger-like geology ended up with the region getting a series of giant lakes.
Back to ascending the ridgetop
Our next stop takes us to the top of the Yellow Arrow Trail to Indian Lookout. You can't miss this pull off and trail intersection. An easy tenth of a mile hike from the intersection takes you to Indian Lookout, which is quite beautiful. 
The view from the overlook shows the agrarian nature of the region and the rugged nature of the topography. The elevation of the overlook is roughly 1624 feet, according to topographic maps, and the valley below is around 900 feet, give or take, so there is roughly 700 feet in elevation change from here to the valley floor. 
The history of this spot is troubled though. In recent times, several people have slipped and fallen to their deaths in this location. The name of the lookout, Indian Lookout, was not given in that it was used by the native peoples in the region, but rather as a lookout and stalking point by colonizing settlers to surveil the native peoples that were defending their land.
This memorial was created for Kevin "Rocky" Burkhardt, one of two people who have perished in falls at the overlook. Stay behind the safety fence, for the rocks are both slick and unforgiving. A ten foot fall can be fatal, let alone a fall down hundreds of feet of rock face. 
Canoe Mountain Overlook (West/Southwest Overlook of Colerain Road). Roughly a mile further up the road, you reach a clearing that gives the most commanding view of the landscape seen at the Spruce Creek and Indian Lookouts. The other two overlooks work like puzzle pieces leading up to the grand overlook up here on Colerain Road. 
Sunny skies, cloudy skies, and rain were all visible in this classic day of moody Pennsylvania weather. The views from the overlook are seemingly endless, showcasing multiple mountains, gaps, and valleys.
A stark and dramatic exhibition of moody Pennsylvania weather.
Multiple sets of mountains rippling across the land, looking like giant waves heading towards the shore. This photo definitely brings about daydreams of boarding on some Pacific waves.
Windmills out on the furthest ridge
What an incredible landscape.

Colerain Road Scenic Overlook East is about a mile further up Colerain Road and gives a stunning view to the East, as opposed to the largely southwest, west and northwestern views given at the three other scenic overlooks in Rothrock State Forest near the Colerain Picnic Area. As far as views go, Colerain Road is fantastic. It is one of the most scenic short drives on a state forest road that there is. 

The only coordinates you need are to the road entrance to the former Colerain State Park Area: 

40.626878, -78.113405

All three of the four listed scenic overlooks are right along the road and you can't miss them within a 3 mile ride up the road. Indian Overlook is easy to find at the trail crossing of the Yellow Arrow Hiking Trail, and a one tenth of a mile hike down the trail to the overlook. It is very easy to access this place from the Raystown Lake/Huntingdon area, Altoona, and State College. 

 

5.09.2021

Tank Hollow Overlook: Stunning Vista Above the Lehigh River Gorge near Mauch Chunk

The Tank Hollow Overlook above a stunning bend in the Lehigh River is a place that has been on our radar to check out for a long time. We finally got the chance to check it out a few weeks ago and it was even more impressive than we expected. Access to the overlook requires a relatively level and very pleasant half mile hike from a state forest road, if the gates to the road are open. If the gates are closed, the hike will require a few mile walk down a pretty state forest road to the pull off point where the trail to the overlook begins. If the gates are closed, the effort would still be well worth it. About 10-15 people were there to check out the late afternoon sun and its illumination of the bright autumn colors. 
If I did not know any better, I would think that the boulders at the overlook were poured concrete, but they are fascinating sedimentary rocks.
I always love seeing trees that are able to grow in places that look so unlikely. The tree also adds even more photogenic appeal to the overlook.
The rocks were exposed when folded over a 60 million period more than 300 million years ago. Just for some perspective, humans have been on earth for only six million years, which gives such a huge perspective on just how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things when it comes to nature. It is such a humbling and incredible thing to think about and being at places like this is just so serene and relaxing. 

Tank Hollow Overlook is also referred to as Buzzard's Point, and the parking area at the head of the State Forest Road is named after this. It is easy to understand why it is referred to as Buzzard's Point, especially in the migration seasons. We saw numerous hawks and vultures, along with a Bald Eagle, flying in the half hour or so we spent just taking in the breathtaking view.

Brit and CeCe taking in the views. The trail is dog friendly, however they must be leashed and cleaned up after. Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos to preserve this place for future generations to visit.
The last few hundred feet of the trail leading to the overlook is located within a thick grove of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel, with it so thick in places that it practically creates a tunnel at points over the trail. 

Considering that this is State Game Lands, it is wise to wear orange for your safety, especially during hunting seasons. 

All in all, this is a place that is well worth going out of your way to visit. It is one of the most stunning scenic overlooks within the state. 

GPS Coordinates to the State Forest Parking Area (if the gate is closed, this will be your trailhead, if the gate is open, drive about a mile and you will see the trailhead for the overlook on the right. The hike from here is relatively level and is out-and-back, roughly 2 miles out and 2 miles back) 
Buzzard's Point Parking Area, off of Behrens Road 

40.9415, -75.67242

GPS Coordinates to the trailhead for the Tank Hollow Overlook (make sure you put these in AFTER you put the coordinates in for the State Forest Parking area, because otherwise it will take you to a private road that you cannot access the overlook from. If the gates are closed, you will walk the state forest road for roughly a mile to get to the trailhead. It is not well marked so you have to see where the worn trail is. The trail is roughly a half mile each way for a one mile hike total)

40.94566, -75.69188

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