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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. 


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