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jmitch 11-26-2018 01:26 PM

PA Wilds Trail

A few years ago I realized a continuous network of trails stretched across the PA Wilds, following both backpacking and connector trails. I always thought this could be a premier hiking route. After hiking extensively in the region I came up with the most scenic and feasible route, featuring vistas, waterfalls, vast meadows, streams, big rocks, diverse forests, isolation, superb camping, canyons, gorges, and wild elk. The route goes through four rural communities. There is no bushwhacking or new trail construction; it only follows existing trails. It is about 171 miles long, from Parker Dam State Park to Arnot Road. Hopefully this will attract more hikers across the vast trail system in the PA Wilds.

poconoron 11-26-2018 02:45 PM

:eek::eek::eek: Ssschssssschsss.................I don't want those hordes of ADK peak baggers flooding into Pa. Wilds............

DSettahr 11-26-2018 02:47 PM

Interesting and tempting. The PA Wilds are definitely a hidden gem in the northeast when it comes to long distance backpacking options ranging from 20 to 100+ miles.

Are you familiar with the route of the Eastern States 100, a 100 mile running race through the PA Wilds? It was posted to the PA Wilds subreddit as a possible 100 mile backpacking loop that follows portions of the Mid State, West Rim, Black Forest, and Donut Hole Trails. There are some short road walking sections but the vast majority of the loop is off road and on trail. According to the person who posted it, the group that organizes the race does a fair amount of trail maintenance along the route so the route is easy to follow even where it doesn't follow designated State Forest Hiking Trails. The southern and eastern portions of the loop could be used to lengthen your proposed route even further (although by doing so, you'd miss the scenic sections of the Black Forest Trail).

Similarly, I've had ideas for a while of a grand 120+ mile loop incorporating the Susquehannock Trail System, the North and South Link Trails, and the Black Forest Trail. Adding on the bulk of the Eastern States 100 to this loop would increase this distance even further, to about 190 miles.

jmitch 11-26-2018 05:01 PM

I'm aware of the ES 100 loop and have thought about some kind of grand PA Wilds loop. I've also heard, and seen, that it is well maintained leading up to race day. Maybe that can be a next project.

I like the PAWT because it joins Quehanna, one of my favorite places, with the Pine Creek Gorge while passing through rural communities and offering diverse scenery. It can also be a component of any kind of west-east PA trail should that ever happen, or maybe a future route of the NCT.

On another note, STS has another shelter, the Wild Boy Shelter, at mile 68.7.

DSettahr 11-26-2018 05:38 PM

Any particular reason you chose to have it turn east rather than continue north along the West Rim Trail? As it is, it does include Pine Creek Gorge but only a small section of it. I haven't hiked the West Rim Trail yet myself, but my (educated) instinct would be that this would be the more scenic route. However, I've also often thought that a trail that links Loyalsock State Forest generally, and the Loyalsock Trail and Old Loggers Paths specifically, with the rest of the broader PA Wilds would be neat, and after looking at the map I see that it would easier to do this by having the trail skip the bulk of Pine Creek Gorge. Perhaps, after the Black Forest Trail, the trail could cut more directly north, then east, then work it's way south along the West Rim Trail, then turn east? It'd be a bit convoluted (and it might violate your "existing trails only" rule), but if the West Rim Trail is as nice as I've heard, it seems like it would be worth including somehow.

Another thought I had after reading your post was that on the west end, it could turn south and eventually link up with the Laurel Highlands Trail, but I took a look at the map and I see that there would be about 50-60 miles (as the crow flies) of nearly entirely private land to traverse to make such a connection. Allegheny National Forest is much closer, and while there is still a gap of private land that would need to be crossed, I agree that a connection there would be more feasible.

jmitch 11-27-2018 05:35 PM

The WRT gets plenty of traffic, so I thought it best to follow the MST, which is a very diverse and underrated trail, and could use more hikers. I actually think it is more diverse than the WRT. I'm sure many backpackers would prefer the WRT, and that is the beauty of the PAWT- they can take that instead. The PAWT is intended to be a central conduit for a "choose you're own adventure" approach, where backpackers can choose different trails to follow.

I guess I always leaned towards the MST because I initially thought of this as a route from Hills Creek State Park to Parker Dam State Park. Due to private land and roadwalks, I stopped it at Arnot Road.

An OLP-MST connector has been casually discussed. There is a more solid proposal for an OLP-Loyalsock Trail connector.

jmitch 11-04-2019 01:52 PM


Someone recently hiked most of the PAWT, here is his trip report with photos. He really enjoyed it and his photos clearly show this is a high quality hiking route.

jmitch 08-01-2020 11:50 AM

Four people have thru hiked the PAWT this year. Hopefully the idea will catch on. The eastern terminus of the route now ends at the northern end of the West Rim Trail, essentially from Parker Dam to Colton Point State Parks.

Below are the trail journals and pics of two people who just recently completed it. Great job!

jmitch 02-05-2021 03:58 PM


The PAWT has been updated with a revised route, new maps and photos. Explore the beauty of the PA Wilds.

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