Wilderness Areas: Grand Canyon East
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Outside magazine, June 1993
Wilderness Areas: Grand Canyon East
Surveying the enormous expanse of Pine Creek Gorge from an overlook on the east rim, you could easily mistake it for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Hiking down to the swift-running creek past waterfalls, cliff faces, and the occasional bear or coyote, you could well be tramping through the A bsarokas, especially since the surrounding area is home to celebrated trout
Like the insouciant residents of rural Pennsylvania, Pine Creek is unflappable. When gravel, sand, and clay deposits from advancing glaciers of the last ice age formed a dam and blocked its northeasterly fl ow, the creek simply reversed its direction and flowed south out of the valley. As the ice sheets dissipated, a massive torrent of water and detritus carved the canyon’s red
The best way to introduce yourself to the region is to drive on Pennsylvania 44 north from U.S. 220 past the hardscrabble villages of the gorge’s west bank. Route 44 leads to 414, which disintegrates to gravel a bove the settlement of Cedar Run. From there it’s a dusty five or so miles east to Blackwell, a tiny hamlet boasting a church, a hotel, a boat landing, and a bar; it’ s
The views from both rims are great, but to really appreciate Pine Creek you have to get down into the canyon. From the east side, hikers descend from Leonard Harrison State Park, ten miles sou thwest of Wellsboro on Pennsylvania 660. Inside the park, the Turkey Path trail follows Little Fourmile Run, a Pine Creek tributary, one mile and 850 vertical feet via steep,
Access from the west is trickier and less crowded. From Colton State Park, four miles south of the town of Ansonia via Colton and Painter-Leetonia roads, the Fourmile Run Trail leads 1.25 miles down a rugged, slippery path along the Left Branch of Fourmile Run. The trail disappears at the confluence with the Right Branch; from there you’ ll have to follow the stream itself,
Back up on the rim, you can head out on foot or mountain bike on 400 miles of Iroquois trails and abandoned railroad beds that crisscross Tioga State Forest. The 30-mile West Rim Trail, from Ansonia to two miles below Blackwell, features hemlock and bee ch trees, glacier-scoured cliffs, and more waterfalls. Hiking the whole trail takes about three days, but you can bike it in
Once you’ve explored the gorge on land, paddle the creek itself. The popular Class III Owassee rapids, below Ansonia, are runnable by raft, kayak, or canoe. Pine Creek Outfitters guides one-day raft fl oats ($32 per person) and two- or three-day canoe trips ($210- $290, including lodging at an area inn). You can also take a raft trip ($29 per person per day) or rent a canoe
By the time they reach Blackwell, most visitors are primed for diversion, be it bluegrass, burgers, or beer. The Blackwell Hotel is the place to dance on Saturday nights: Canyon photos decorate the walls, a stuffed bear cub patrols the back bar, and the jukebox warbles sentimentally.
Pine River Gorge is five hours northwest of Philadelphia. From I-80, take U.S. 15 north, Pennsylvania 414 west, and Pennsylvania 287 north to Wellsboro. To get to Blackwell, turn north off I-80 onto Pennsylvania 44/414 four miles farther west, at Jersey Shore.
With a few exceptions, primitive camping is permitted on state land flanking Pine Creek; check on restrictions and pick up a free permit at the Tioga State Forest District Offi ce in Wellsboro (717-724-2868). RVers, car campers, and canyon day-trippers can head to Canyon Country Campground, nine miles west of Wellsboro on Pennsylvania 660 ($11 per night for a tent site, $16 for