Joyful Exploration | Pine Creek Rail Trail | Pennsylvania

As I get to know this natural world around me…..

It wasn’t too long ago that I didn’t know that the Pine Creek Rail Trail existed. One end of the trail, what I would call the beginning because it is closer to me than the other end, is only an hour away from where I live. And yet it was unknown to me for most of my life until recent years.

So glad I learned about this trail. This trail and the area surrounding it has been the source of many great memories for me. I have shared times with friends. There have been opportunities to see more of the worlds beauty. And I have pushed myself to my physical limits. And all of this because of the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

Pine Creek Rail Trail

So much to explore

As I began to learn more about the Pine Creek area it only fueled my desire to know even more. The more I was able to explore the more I wanted to get out and explore new things. I needed to know what else there was to see and experience.

I don’t remember how I was introduced to the Purple Lizard Map but I am so glad that I was. There were some areas I was familiar with in the region. There are two state parks that sit on opposite sides of the gorge through which Pine Creek flows. I had run on the trails in the Green Monster Trail System. But I knew there was so much more out there to explore. I just didn’t know how to access it. The Purple Lizard Map was the key.

Using the Purple Lizard Map I could see the beginning and the end of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. The map showed me where all of the access points were to get on and off the trail. I was able to see all of the state forests and parks with trails wo explore that lie in this region. It was making me excited for exploration and giving me the feeling that I could never know it all.

My first big exploration of the Pine Creek area was using the Purple Lizard Maps. I drove down tot he far end of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Then I slowly made my way back. I drove along the trail and stopped at every access point noted on the map. Each spot was like a completely different area to explore. I would walk some of the trail. Then I would go down by the water. And I would take note of any interesting features or trails along the way. I had my camera along for that adventure to help me take in the sights.

I drove the entire distance of the trail and was able to see a lot of it by accessing the points you can by car but I really want to bike or run the whole trail at some point.

Scenery along the Pine Creek Rail Trail

Pine Creek

Pine Creek flows through the valley floor. The creek is such a beautiful body of water. It provides just the right touch to the surrounding scenery.

Standing down by the water of Pine Creek there is a sense of peace and tranquility. Look down along the creek and watch the forests and hillsides rise up above. Then look scross the creek and see just how steep those gorge walls are in places.

As you travel along the Pine Creek Rail Trail there are many waterfalls that run down the sides of the gorge and feed into the creek. I have never been there when the creek or those tributaries are raging full of water, but I can imagine it is quite the sight after an early spring storm when water levels are high.

Pine creek is also a great spot for bird watching. Ducks and waterfowl can often be seen in the creek. The landscape surrounding the creek provides a variety of habitat for other bird species. And if you look in tree tops of up into the sky you can often see majestic bald eagles taking in the sights along with you.

Pine Creek flowing through the valley

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, also referred to as the Pine Creek Gorge, stretches for over 45 miles with depths of nearly 1500 feet.

There are really some great views to be had in and around the gorge. From the valley floor and the Pine Creek you can feel very small and isolated within a given section of the gorge. Then if you make your way up tot he top of the gorge and you look out along the canyon you can see sweeping vistas.

There are large forested hillsides. Clouds above and water in the valley below. As you observe the landscape you notice when the land drops off precipitously and falls down steep edges to the valley below. There is a distinct ridge line created across the forest. It as if someone has gouged out a large chunk of the land.

There are also great opportunities to see beautiful fall foliage along the PA Grand Canyon.

For a few great viewing opportunities check out Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks.

The view looking down into the PA grand canyon

Hiking Trails

So many trails to visit. I was already aware of some of the trails that allow for navigation through this area by foot. But then I look at my Purple Lizard Map and I am almost overwhelmed by all the trails that exist in this region. So many places that I will never find the time to step foot.

The Pine Creek Trail is the obvious place to start. A perfect are to stop anywhere along the way for a nice casual and relaxing hike. Then there are the nearby Green Monster Trails. These have a variety of rugged forest terrain with beautiful streams mixed in. And there are roads to drive up and access the specific locations you want.

If you want a long adventure there is the 30+ mile long West Rim Trail that starts in Colton Point State Park and eventually takes you down into the Pine Creek Valley. I have not explored much of this trail, yet. One adventure that I was able to take thanks to my Purple Lizard Maps was a hike of the whole Golden Eagle Trail. This trail is a 9+ mile hike that takes you along stream beds and up to scenic vistas before looping back around and eventually back into the Pine Creek Trail area.

Views along the Turkey Path down from Leonard Harrison State Park to the Pine Creek Trail


I completed on of my most challenging running adventures here on the Pine Creek Rail Trail. I ran and finished the Pine Creek Challenge 100 mile race. This race was by far one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done. I could not have completed that journey without the support of my wife and my friends. If you are interested in that story I wrote about it, Running 2019 Pine Creek Challenge.

There is one event that really takes in all the different aspects of the Pine Creek area. You love the flat smooth Pine Creek Trail, you get a bunch of that. If being up ion the woods on the single track trails is more your thing, well you get that too. And of enjoying the majestic views from Pine Creek itself, well you can get a dose of that as well. The Canyon man 100 is a 100 mile self supported triathlon. In this event you paddle 19 miles on Pine Creek, run 31 miles on the West Rim Trail, and then bike back using forest roads and the Pine Creek Rail trail for another 50 miles. This event intrigues me so much. It really makes my adventurous spirit get excited. Someday I think I will take a shot at it.

Scenery while running the Pine Creek Challenge 100 Mile race on the Pine Creek Trail

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