Black Forest Trail - South


Stakeless' Trip Report and Photos

I'd like to thank Jeff Mitchell, Pat Roberts, Little Mountain Girl, Jon Wiborg, Lost Soul, Scott Adams and all the other BPers on the forums I've might have missed for their description of the trailhead, route and campsites we used. Their information made things a lot easier.


Description: The Black Forest in PA is a small part of the Tiadaghton State Forest. It is to PA what Dolly Sods is to WV, one of the prized gems of that stateís crown hiking jewels. The Black Forest Trail proper (BFT) is a 42 mile circuit that takes you through valleys and along ridge tops. It is interspersed with easy flat walks and rocky steep ascents and descents, some averaging 1100 feet elevation change in less than 0.7 miles. Thatís steep! The hiker is rewarded by his/her effort with astounding views of the surrounding peaks and valleys and an assortment of forest types ranging from Pine Plantations, giant Hemlocks and Red Spruce to a mixture of Hardwoods and other deciduous trees. Wildlife you might encounter include, but is not limited to, turkey, grouse, deer, raccoon, porcupine, screech owls and black bear.

As this description implies, itís not necessary to hike the entire 42 mile circuit to enjoy the Black Forest. You can either setup a shuttle or use the many additional ski trails, forest trails and roads to form shorter loops. The following describes what I consider to be the southern section of the trail which is connected by the Pine Bog Trail, Blackberry Trail and less than 0.5 miles of forest road walking. Maps and details for the northern section, using the same cross connectors, can be found here.

Google Custom Directions

Look for the Trout Run Road sign on the right as you travel 12 miles north of Haneyville on PA Route 44. The parking lot is just a little further on the right side of the road.




Printable/Downloadable Map (11X17 best)

View 3-D Map

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users




Trail Notes: The Black Forest Trail (BFT) is blazed orange for its entire length. Cross connectors are typically blazed blue. Other trails are blazed red. A few trails may not be blazed but these are not used here. Any trail shown on the map that is not used in the described route is drawn as an approximation and might not be shown in its entirety. These notes present this route as a 3 day/2 night affair. Feel free to adjust it to fit your time requirements.

From the parking area walk south on a short dirt driveway that parallels PA Route 44 and turn left onto Trout Run Road. Immediately pickup orange blazes. In 0.44 miles from the parking lot turn right onto an orange blazed footpath. Before you do check out the vista that looks down the Naval Run drainage. You'll be camping somewhere down there tonight.

For the next 0.89 miles the trail parallels Trout Run Road. As you begin a slight descent you'll pass a nice campsite and in a few yards cross the headwaters of Trout Run. It appears to be a pretty reliable water source. Arrive at the intersect of a gravel road on your right with Trout Run Road straight in front of you. Cross Trout Run Road and follow the edge of a lawn to pickup the trail behind a hunter's cabin. You'll climb gradually to a small plateau and in 0.75 miles from the Hunter's Cabin arrive at Big Trail Road. Here you'll find a nice view of the Callahan Run drainage as it meanders down to Pine Creek, as well as Hemlock mountain on the left. You'll traverse both of these before making camp.

After taking in this view turn left and walk up Big Trail Road a few yards before turning right onto a footpath. Descend steeply before picking up the south branch of the run where the grade moderates significantly. 1.43 miles after leaving Big Trail Road arrive at the confluence of the north fork of Callahan Run. Make a sharp left here and follow this branch for 1.32 miles up to the ridge line of Hemlock Mountain. If a bailout is needed at this point turning left on the Old Cut-off Trail ( I don't think there is a sign but it's pretty obvious.) will quickly return you to Big Trail Road. Turn right onto Big Trail Road which will then merge with Trout Run Road and return you to your car.

To continue with the hike turn right at this junction and continue to follow the orange blazes. You'll dip down into a slight saddle before climbing steeply a short distance to the rocky summit of the mountain. (Be sure to turn around at this point and take in the view behind you. You'll be looking back towards your starting point. In a few more yards arrive at a grand view of Pine Creek and the surrounding mountains. You're almost to the first night's camp so if the weather allows take in the view for as long as you want. From the vista descend 1.29 miles to Naval Run and Naval Run Road (blazed red). Initially the descent will be steep but you'll pickup some nice switchbacks near the bottom. You can either turn left or right on Naval Run Road to find a nice campsite. There is a smaller one if you continue a little further on the BFT and cross the stream. The campsite to the left on Naval Run Road is just across the stream. The one downstream is pretty large and sits on a nice bench along the stream. During periods of high water there are several nice small falls, chutes and pools along the entire length of the stream.

Notes: If, for some reason, you need to bail out and return to your car or you want to make this a short over-night trip continue up stream on Naval Run Road. It's visible on the map but not highlighted. It will climb the mountain through a series of gradual switchbacks. This, at one time, was a haul road for the loggers. It might be in rough condition in spots but is still passable. A more thorough description is given in Tom Thwaites "Fifty Hikes in Central Pennsylvania" in the Black Forest Trail Loop description. Do not follow his description all the way to the end. Stay on Naval Run Road to return to the parking area where your car is parked. If you have a real emergency continue downstream on Naval Run Road to get to the small town of Slate Run.

Assuming that you are completing the route as described cross Naval Run on the BFT. the trail will climb a bit before turning downstream and following the run for 0.88 miles. It then makes a sharp left turn and climbs steeply up to the ridge line of an un-named mountain. (If you need to bail out before the climb the sidehill trail the BFT was on will continue for about 1/4 mile before arriving at Naval Run Road.) Near the top of the steep climb (1.43 miles after the start of the climb) there is a sign with a partial vista. Ass the grade lessens significantly you'll find a nice vista to the left of Naval Run and Hemlock Mountain and another to the right with a good view of Pine Creek and Little Slate Run.

In 0.54 miles from the last vista arrive at a trail junction. Turn left to stay on the BFT. You'll soon pass another good vista to the left of Naval Run. There is a camera icon on the map. There is still a better one yet a few more yards further along also marked with a camera icon. I did not provide waypoints for either but you can't miss them.

In 0.82 miles from the last trail junction turn left onto a dirt road. In 0.41 miles pass the Moss Hollow View on the left and then the White Birch View on the right. Soon after the last vista the trail turns off of the road to the right on a footpath. The continuation of the road is called the Gas Line Trail and serves as a bailout point to return pretty quickly to your cars.

From here the trail begins a rocky descent along a dry tributary of Little Slate Run but abruptly turns left and climbs steeply to a smoother trail. This doesn't last long as the trail then descends at an even steeper rate. At one point you might wonder where the ladder is. After a few hundred yards of this you'll connect with some nice switchbacks that will take you to two of the nicest campsites on the entire BFT. Even on the brightest of days you are shaded in this dense Hemlock Hollow. I've not seen it but I've been told there is a mammoth specimen of same close by. There is a sign pointing to Pine Creek. This trail is Little Slate Run Tr. The official guide book for the BFT states that it cannot be used as a bailout trail because it crosses private property near its terminus. Continue to follow the orange blazes up Little Slate Run. It will soon climb high above the stream and moderate in pitch to a degree before reaching  Manor Fork Road in 1.41 miles.

Turn right onto Manor Fork Road. In about 0.3 miles The BFT will leave on the right at the intersection with Pine Hollow Road. This is where you leave the BFT to jump over to the eastern segment. Continue on Manor Fork Road a few more yards and turn left onto rather sandy Old Mountain Road. Follow it for about 0.23 miles. Here find a driveway to a hunter's cabin on the right. It is usually unoccupied in the summer. If it is occupied it is an easy open woods bushwhack around it on either side to arrive at a footpath in the rear of the cabin that crosses a stream on a small bridge. Follow this a short distance out to a blue blazed trail. This in the Pine Bog Tail. This section is a loop so turn either left or right will work as long as you follow the blazes.

In about 0.56 miles you'll pass the other side of the loop on the left or right, depending on which way you turned onto the trail. Continue down the trail towards PA Route 44. In another 0.13 miles pass part of the Sentiero Di Shay Trail on the right. It's not signed at this junction but obvious. Soon turn left onto a driveway and pass a parking area on the left just before crossing PA Route 44.

Cross the road and join wide and grassy Blackberry Trail. Soon after two segments of the George Wills Tr will come in from the left and another section of the Sentiero Di Shay ski trail will come in from the right. In 0.27 miles, after passing through an open area rejoin the orange blazed BF straight and to the left. Turn left. Soon pass through an open highland bog and the headwaters of the north fork of Baldwin Branch. Soon after re-entering the woods you'll join an old RR grade which will switchback down to the stream and a nice campsite. This site is big enough to hold 3 small tents but there is another one back in the woods that can perhaps hold 3 more. This is  where day 2 ends.

After breaking camp cross the stream and climb steeply to the edge of a plateau. From here you'll enjoy a nice view of the ridges to the west of the north fork of Baldwin Run and County Line Brach. In 0.27 miles from camp pass the junction with the Dugan Log Trail on the left. In another 0.51 miles arrive at another vista before turning to cross the Plateau. In another 0.52 mills the George Wills Trail will come in from the left on a grade. Stay on the BFT to the right and in 0.49 miles come to another vista on the right that looks over  Baldwin Branch.

After taking in the view continue along the grade. In 1.26 miles the Refugee Tr comes in from the left. Stay on the BFT. In another 0.42 miles yet another section of the George Wills Tr come in from the left. Continue on the BFT. descend into an evergreen hollow with a campsite on the right 0.27 miles from the last George Wills Tr junction. Follow the stream for 0.13 miles, pass to the left of the old stone pump house and climb to another grade. to the left is the Ruth Wills and Baldwin Gas Line trail is to the left. Turn right to follow the BFT.

In 1.26 miles the trail will descend and cross a stream. There is a small campsite to the right after the crossing. Continue along another stream a short distance before making a hard left turn in another 0.22 miles. Climb steeply for the last time to reach the plateau. The last 0.5 miles is either a very gradual climb or flat through pretty open woods. Turn left onto a cabin driveway and in a couple hundred yards right onto a footpath before coming out onto PA Route 44. Your car is waiting for you on the other side.

Printable/Downloadable Trail Notes

Critique this outing








Name:   Alice
Date(s) of Hike:12/30/2014-1/2/2015
Hike Name: Black Forest Trail - South

Ranking: 4.5

Outing Critique: Went over New Years- so very cold, quiet, and crisp.  There was little snowfall, and I was able to hear movement so audibly and clear - a true blessing of winter backpacking.  I recommend getting the trail map and guide by Chuck Dillon.  Some parts of the trail were steep gains and falls, but the vistas are beautiful.  They are not true mountains- rather, syncline(s) and anticline(s).  Beautiful geology, but I found it strange walking along trails named "gas line trail #__".

I urge you to attempt this trail as soon as possible before more aggressive natural gas drilling overtakes the area.




Name: Dan                                                                                                                  Hike: Black Forest Trail-Total

Date(s): 06/28-29/14                                                                                             Rating: 5


Critique: Did the entire loop over 2 days. Absolutely beautiful and I saw no over night backpackers anywhere. Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs but they are well worth it. The vistas, creeks, waterfalls are just outstanding and I'll definitely be back to hike some of the sections I really liked with my son. I had planned on a three day hike but since I did 19 miles the first day and there were possible storms Sunday night I figured I could do the last 24 miles Sunday. I paid for the 24 mile Sunday hike with sore quads and hips that night. My recommendations for anyone doing this is to go light and enjoy. No need for heavy boots and packs that weigh 40+ lbs. I cowboy camped Saturday night under the stars and listened to the bubbling brook for music. I would not do this hike clockwise do to some of the ascents. Counter clockwise is the way to go. Be alert for the wildlife. I almost got it from a rattle snake by not paying attention to what I was doing. Go out and do this hike. Its a true gem of Pa and take Pictures!




Name: Adam                                                                                                               Hike: Black Forest Trail - South
Date: 5/11-5/12/2012                                                                                             Rating: 5

Critique: This was a great, albeit challenging hike. Wasn't expecting it to be as tough as it was, but the vistas and top notch campsites make it all worth while. We got caught in a bad thunderstorm on day 1, got the tent up and the fireworks started, confined to the tent for 12 hours. At least we had shelter. The day 2 climb really gets your heart racing, nothing like starting your day with an almost vertical 1,000 foot climb.

Met Bob Weber, spirit of the forest. This trail is incredibly well maintained, unreal. It was not lost on us, and we appreciate it!

We will definitely be back to do the Northern Loop.




Name: Chris                                                                                                                 Hike: Black Forest Trail - South
Date: 7/2-3/10                                                                                                          Rating: 5

Critique: I hiked the southern loop of the Black Forest Trail over two days, 7/2-3/10, starting from the northern parking area where the Blackberry trail crosses Rt. 44. My friend Jesse had started the day before on the northern loop from Slate Run and hiked down the west side of the Sentiero Di Shay trail. We started our hike there at 9:00am. We hiked around 13 miles the first day, and the balance the second. Stopping at Callahan Run, we got enough water for dinner and breakfast, and camped on the top of Hemlock Mountain in hammocks --sharing the campsite with a family. I agree with the other review, this was a beautiful place to camp. The view of the sunset, as well as the sunrise, on the Pine Creek valley was extraordinary. The trail was everything it was supposed to be --the climbs and descents were challenging and the vistas were beautiful and worth the effort. We didn't see any bears but saw plenty of sign and met a hiker going the opposite way that had seen one an hour earlier. We did see one really big rattler, three grouse, and deer. I thought the trail was well marked with one exception, we could not find where the BFT crossed Naval Run; we ended up hiking east on the logging road till we found a yellow set of double blazes that took us across Naval Run and back up to the BFT. I am looking forward to going back in the fall to do the northern loop. Thank you Mike for doing such a good job with the website.




Name: Tim Marshall                                                                                                   Hike: BFT (total loop - 42 miles)
Date: numerous dates in the past                                                                          Rating: 5

Critique: I have hiked this trail numerous times in the past, going back 12 years. My backpacking bud, Jeff, and I have not been back for several years but are planning a return trip this spring. We have hiked this trail both fast and slow taking as many as 5 days to do the entire loop. The slower pace has allowed for a good deal of exploring trailess areas and spending maximum time at prime vistas. We would recommend the Hemlock mountain overlook area for a vista campsite. Great morning sunshine for those "cold" AM hours. I agree about the numerous climbs...they are challenging but do not fail to reward with great vistas. You need to make certain that you are in relatively good shape, however. Rattlesnakes have proven to be regular residents of the rock outcrops and upper flat areas. If you take a dog, just keep this in mind.





Name: Garrett Socling                                                                                               Hike: Black Forest Trail - Southern Loop
Date: 6/6/09 - 6/7/09                                                                                             Rating: 5

Critique: Enjoyed every portion of this hike. We did it in two days, 13 miles from parking to Little Slate Run on day one, 11 miles from Little Slate Run back to the parking on day two.

The weather was perfect if just a tad warm at around 80'F down in the valley bottom. Thankfully a little cooler up top!

Only wildlife we saw was two turkeys we scared out of trees at various points, and one rattlesnake that we scared off the trail on day two.

I took extensive photos to enhance the guide and the Black Forest Trail - South description.

Photos can be viewed here.

The new management of The Waterville Tavern and the poor ambiance at the Pine Creek Lodge chased us down into Jersey Shore. We highly recommend The Tiadaghton Inn in Jersey Shore for good food, good service and an excellent ambiance. They have two dining rooms and a separated bar, so reservations are rarely necessary.




Name: Reid                                                                                                                  Hike: BFT (total loop - 42 mile)
Date: 5/21/09                                                                                                            Rating: 4

Critique: Great hike, tough as nails though. The elevation changes are no joke, and the steep inclines can be treacherous with a full pack and will slow you down. Overall a great hike, though, and the weather was perfect but for a sprinkle on the third day in.

We did the whole loop over the Memorial Day weekend, in on Thursday, May 21, and out on Monday, Memorial Day. Did the route backwards from the prescribed route, and saw few hikers coming the opposite direction, and had little trouble finding space at the campsites.

WATCH OUT FOR RATTLESNAKES. We surprised at least two big suckers right on the trail during the hike. Other than some wild turkeys and the rattlesnakes, we did not encounter much wildlife to speak of.

Only complaint: when we hiked out, we were all hankering for our post-hike burgers and beers, and headed immediately for the former Waterville Hotel (now the Waterville Tavern) that had been suggested by many other hikers. We had nine campers in our group, and they wouldn't push two tables together to accommodate us, because "the owners don't want us to push tables together" as the waitress told us. Needless to say, they lost our business (well over $300) to the Pine Creek Lodge (I think is the name?) down the street. DO NOT GO TO THE WATERVILLE TAVERN, as it seems they don't care for hikers' business anymore. The Pine Creek Lodge served us wonderfully, and all future hikers of the BFT should take their business here instead of the Waterville Tavern.



Name: Gerard Viau                                                                                                     Hike: Black Forest Trail - complete
Date: 10/3/08 10/6/08                                                                                            Rating: 5

Critique: Three of us did the full BFT loop (North and South) in the fall as the leaves were turning and it was amazing. We started at the trailhead near the Hotel Manor and hiked counter-clockwise for the full loop. The vistas got better as the hike progressed leaving some of the most amazing views for the end of the hike a nice reward for our hard work. Why didn't we do this hike sooner!

Day 1: 15 miles (17 if you including our rocky start). Started out a bit rough by going the wrong way obviously it would have been fine since the BFT is a loop, but we wanted to go counter-clockwise and we were still groggy from the night before. After one mile in the wrong direction, we figured it out and turned around. It rained a bit in the morning and cleared up by 2pm, so our wet feet had a chance to dry out by the end of the day. We saw three other hikers on this first day (2 of which were planning to do the full loop.) We had lunch by a stream and camped for the evening at a relatively small campsite. Starting a fire that night was a challenge because all of the wood was wet, my friend donated some of the pages from his Ernest Hemingway book to get it started what a lifesaver. Temperature dropped to around 34 degrees at night, but we all slept well after a long day.

Day 2: 12 miles. We enjoyed some varied terrain: boulders, heavily wooded forest, an open meadow, and some clear flats. The morning gave us a little stretch of hiking downhill, but then we quickly came to a steep incline at mile 16.5 (about 500 feet in half a mile); that gave the legs a good wake up call. Mid-morning we came across a black bear and her two cubs about 15 yards in front of us; thankfully, there was some brush and trees between us so they did not feel threatened and just moseyed on. We stayed at a great campsite at mile 27 with a water source right next to us (Callahan Run). Temperature crept up a bit to around 37 degrees.

Day 3: 12 miles. Easily the hardest day of the trip, partly because we started out with a 1,000 ft incline over 1.3 miles brutal. We stumbled upon a Ruffed Grouse (PA state bird) in the late morning before we stopped for lunch at an amazing vista it was the boost we needed. We planned to only do 9 miles today, but a lack of water forced us to keep pushing on and it was worth it. We camped at Foster Hollow Pond with unobstructed views of the stars and enjoyed our last night on the BFT. Temperature stayed up at around 38 degrees.

Day 4: 3 miles. This last day was easy given we only had a handful of miles to finish up so we took our time packing up camp and hitting the trail, and still finished up before 11am. And on the way home, we got burgers at the Waterville Hotel.

If you haven't done this hike and you're looking for a challenging and amazing trail this is it. Enjoy.




Name: zach                                                                                                                 Hike: Black Forest Trail North and South
Date:11/22-24/2008                                                                                                Rating: 4

Critique: Great hike in all.

Cold cold cold. Had two nights of sub 20 degree weather and 5 inches of snow. had to really push myself to finish on the last day. I went left from the Slate Run trail head and was able to return in 3 full days of trekking. Scenery was beautiful but wouldn't recommend hiking it this late in the year (November 22-24) unless you want a challenge and are prepared for the cold.

Ran into bear hunters throughout the final day, all were friendly and surprised to see a hiker.




Name: Bill                                                                                                                    Hike: Black Forest South
Date: 7/5/08                                                                                                              Rating: 5

Critique: We did a reverse trek according to the narrative we found here. This was a tough trail, but the payoff was great! This trail traverse numerous different forest ecologies, including thick vegetation, high brush and ferns, nice blooming rhododendrons, plenty of pines, and some great camping areas.

On the first day we trekked down to Naval Run from the Di Shay parking area atop the map. Since we got off to a slow start, we had to blaze through this portion of the trail. This was very difficult and I don't recommend pushing as fast as we did. However, we arrived in plenty of time to set up camp and relax for a bit.

Day two, we trekked out, past the pump house and set up camp underneath the pines. On day two, we passed an incredible potential camping spot atop the first vista when walking south from Naval Run. A word of warning, we descended the "final" climb according to the written narrative above. This was a straight drop down without any switchbacks.

Day three, we broke camp and hiked back to our car. The night before the hike, I took some travel equipment with me so I could do some stargazing at the Astronomy Park in Cherry Springs. While, I do not recommend leaving anything valuable in your car during any hike, we thankfully didn't have a problem.

Beautiful sights, fun hike and some great camping areas!!



Name: Jonny                                                                                                               Hike: Black Forest trail
Date: 6-19-08 to 6-20                                                                                               Rating: 5

Critique: This is a beautiful hike with many vistas. Many streams to cross, we did the entire BFT in 2 days. I parked just off rt44 at the county line start/end point. we started at noon on day 1 and decided to camp at the campsite on Slate Run, which was .77miles past the old quarry rd. We got their at 6:00pm very nice camp site, lots of pines.

Day 2 we left campsite at 10:30am. After crossing a forest rd climbing up to the top is the hardest climb, but it is the best overlook on the trip. plus we saw 2 rattlesnakes laying on the rocks on the edge. My friend was able to catch one and hold it. Perfect place to rest or eat lunch, just watch were you walk rattlesnakes blend in well up there. We got back to the truck at 5:15pm. I wouldn't recommend doing the entire loop in 2 days unless you're in good shape. It is a advanced trail.



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