By: Patrick Gensel
I’ve come to find, in recent years, that there is a lot of good hiking here in the Keystone state. From the relentless sixty mile Loyalsock Trail to the beautiful Falls trail loop at Ricketts Glen there is just so much going for Pennsylvania as far as hiking goes. I thought I knew about all of the great hikes of eastern PA, then I found the Pinchot Trail.
Named after Gilford Pinchot, America’s first professional Forester, This 23 mile loop runs deep into Lackawanna State Forest near Thornhurst, PA. It offers a beautiful variety of scenery including swamps, rhododendron groves, crystalline streams and many other beautiful landscapes. The primary use of the trail is as a hiking footpath, but as I walked the trail, I envisioned a beautiful place to cross country ski. Keep in mind though, mountain biking is not allowed on this trail.
Although the Pinchot Trail is a burly twenty three miles, due to the gentle nature of the trail, most fit hikers with some determination and a comfy pair of hiking shoes can crush it in a day. My hiking partner and I started at seven am and were back at the trailhead by a little before five. This was with very minimal breaks and a fast pace, but it was able to be done none the less. We had limited time and a hankering for some beers otherwise we would have went out with the intention of spending the night. I would suggest doing it in two days simply because there is so much opportunity for some beautiful camping.
The Pinchot Trail is littered with fantastic camping opportunities along its twenty three mile length. While I was traveling along the trail, I came across a great previously established camp site every two or three miles. The sites offer many different settings from exposed fields to wooded stream side seclusion. I was surprised at the quietness on the trail despite the close proximity to the Poconos and Scranton. During the nine hours spent on the trail, My hiking partner and I passed only a few groups. The entire time I was hiking, I experienced that super quietness that comes with a snow storm and fresh powder.
If you have a thing for Fall colors, then you will not be disappointed. This trip out to the Pinchot was my first foray into the forest this Autumn and if it was my last, I would feel nothing but satisfied. Fiery oranges, brilliant yellows and subtle browns could be seen in every direction.
Pennsylvania may not have the sky scraping mountains of the west that I love so much, but the rolling forested hills are certainly a good substitute. If you have a day or two to spend in the area, Check out this and the other trails I mentioned. This may not be the most challenging trail out there, or in the state for that matter, but it certainly offers a relaxing ride through some lovely scenery. Lets call this a “rest day trail”.