Planning a Fall Foliage Tour? Check out these vistas in the heart of Elk Country…

When the stifling heat of August inevitably rolls around, my thoughts drift to the sights and smells of Autumn.  Cool, crisp air with the smell of fall leaves drifting on the breeze, the stunning display of nature as our trees turn brilliant shades of red, yellow, and orange, as Mother Nature prepares for her long winter hibernation.

A couple weeks ago, I stayed in Benezette to make for a shorter drive to Prowl the Sproul, an awesomely difficult 10k race in Hyner, Pennsylvania.  Aside from having to attend the race, the dog and I were free to explore Elk and Cameron counties the rest of the weekend.  A “tour” of nearby vistas has been on my blog bucket list for a couple months, so the dog and I hopped in the Subaru with the Elk State Forest map in hand.

(See the map at the end of this post for the visual of our route, highlighted in fuschia!)

Starting Point: Bucktail Overlook

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This vista showcases a southeast view of the Bucktail State Park Natural Area, which stretches from Emporium to Lock Haven, boasts forest land that is abundant with trees such as sycamore and river birch, which thrive in the river valley.  Elk, whitetail deer, bear, and other animals call the Bucktail Natural Area home as well, along with many species of birds, plants, reptiles, and amphibians.

After the Bucktail overlook, I headed west on Mason Hill Road into the village of Sterling Run.  This is NOT a route that should be attempted in snow and ice unless you have tire chains!  Once in the village of Sterling Run, I turned left onto Highway 120 towards Emporium, making a right onto Hunts Run Road.  After another right turn onto Whitehead Road, and another right, it becomes apparent that Ridge Road is aptly named.

Logue Run Vista


On the East side of Ridge Road, is this spectacular view overlooking Logue Run, a tributary of the First Fork of the Sinnemahoning Creek.

Not boasting any spectacular views, but still having some picnic-potential, is the Whitehead Pavillion, just a short drive south from the Logue Run Vista.

Steps lead from Ridge Road to the Pavilion
Pavilion with Picnic Tables

Unnamed West-Facing Vista


The next stop on the vista tour was this unnamed spot, facing west, overlooking Whitehead Run, still stunning!

Norcross Run Vista

Vista overlooking Norcross Run

This vista was not my favorite.  As you can see from the picture, the land immediately adjacent to the road has been timbered, and though the view in the distance is nice, the fallen trees and brush isn’t too visually pleasing.  The vista overlooks… you guessed it, Norcross Run!  Though the view is somewhat tainted by the timbering, it is still worth a stop!

Square Timber Vista


This isn’t the first time I have posted about the west-facing Square Timber Vista, it is situated less about one mile from access to the Bucktail Path, for more information about that stretch of the trail, see my blog post here.

This is a stunning overlook that provides a view for miles over the Square Timber Wild Area, which consists of 8,461 acres of steep hills and deep valleys.

If you follow Ridge Road, it eventually leads down the hill to Grove Hill Township Road, and back onto Highway 120 in between Sterling Run and Driftwood.  Below, you can find a map of exactly where we went.

As a side note, if you see Brooks Run Fire Tower signs and your interest is piqued, the hike from the intersection of Brooks Run Road and Ridge Road is one solid mile up hill, and the tower is fenced in with barbed wire around the top.  Neither the 11 year old dog nor I were pleased >:(

One tired beast…

I hope this helps our readers with some ideas for planning a trip to see the fall foliage this year in the PA Wilds!  What are your favorite things about fall?  Comment below!

Happy Vista Viewing,


Tour Map





Family Fun at Fred Woods Trail

After seeing ONE picture in the Elk State Forest map, Fred Woods Trail has been on my trail bucket list.  Fred Woods Trail is a 4.57 mile loop on Mason Hill Road in Elk County, Pennsylvania.  It is known for some AMAZING rock formations, which can be found on the north side of the trail.  A trail guide can be found here.

One weekend in Benezette, I suggested to Bryan that I take our kids, ages 9 and 12, along with their two friends, ages 7 and 13 up to Fred Woods for a short hike.  So, I packed all four kids in the truck and made my way down 555 listening to the some chatter that indicated excitement for some and reluctance for others.  I just wasn’t sure how hiking with four kids in the middle of July was going to go!

Turning onto Mason Hill Rd, we drove 2.75 miles up to the parking area where we unloaded all the kids, got everyone’s sneakers on (don’t try this in sandals!), and made sure everyone had water.  There is a .76 mile path to the loop, and I tried to quell the whining with promises of “really cool rocks.”  Two falls, one scratched knee, and one scraped side (WATCH FOR THE ROCKS ON THE TRAIL!!!!!), things were NOT looking good… until we started finding, well, COOL ROCKS.


And they climbed, and climbed, and fell some more, but spirits were high!  What was supposed to be an hour or so trip, turned into a solid 5 hour adventure.


What I didn’t realize was how large the rock formations are a couple miles in… as big as houses!  The kids were amazed, and I was impressed with some serious eye candy.

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I think that everyone was in awe.  The girls walked around with me, in sheer amazement, and as boys will be boys, they did more climbing.



After this, everyone was getting pretty tired, so we hiked out the way that we came.  I have to say that although we didn’t make the whole loop, it was totally worth it to watch all the kids having SO MUCH FUN in the woods!  What a beautiful, and memorable, experience for all!  We are surely going back for another rock climbing adventure soon!

Post any Fred Woods memories or adventures in the comments below!

Happy Trails,


Bucktail Path… Miles of Ferns and Mt. Laurel!

I. love. trails.

I started running trails in the spring of 2015, and it has kind of become an obsession for me.  I have one trail running friend who loves checking out new spots, and we actually stumbled upon this stretch of the Bucktail Path by accident after we bypassed another trail head.


Bucktail Path is a 34 mile trail that starts in Sinnemahoning, Pennsylvania and traverses through the Johnson Run Natural Area and Elk State Forest.  Our intentions were to run the Square Timber trail, near the village of Sterling Run in Cameron County, but we drove right past!  After studying the map, we changed plans and were aiming to pick up Bucktail at the trail head at the intersection of Stillhouse Rd. and Ridge Rd. (see red arrow on the above image). Parking is problematic, so we ended up driving a bit further and parking at the Square Timber Vista, which was another spectacular, serendipitous find!

Square Timber Vista

For a full map, please see the PA DCNR website here.  This was a hands-down GORGEOUS trail!  We ran about three trail miles out and back (see red dot on the map for our turn-around point), and could not stop saying how beautiful the scenery was.

Bucktail Path

There is some weaving in and out of the woods across a gas line right-of-way, but even these clearings were stunning!  Back in the forest, there were ferns as far as we could see!  The trail was very friendly, and very run-able.  We did do quite a bit of climbing, but more between miles two and three (and on the back-side, of course).

Ferns along Bucktail


I would have to say that one of my favorite aspects to this run was the fact that the Mountain Laurel were blooming!  On May 5, 1933, the Mountain Laurel was declared the Pennsylvania state flower by Governor Gifford Pinchot, and for good reason!  This showy shrub blooms across our beautiful state from June through July, predominantly in wooded areas.

Mt. Laurel in bloom

Native Mt. Laurel

Just a short drive from Camp Eagle’s Nest, this section of the Bucktail path is a perfect day hike (or run!) for the intermediate level trail enthusiast!  Make plans for a June hike, and you will not be disappointed by the spectacular floral display!

Happy Trails,