Southwest Quehanna Wild Area Loop

Quehanna Wild Area has lately been the object of my obsession. A beautiful high country plateau situated in the north central portion of Pennsylvania. The area has a long history of exploitation and disregard by man from logging, subsequent fires and even nuclear projects. There has been two publications that have been an integral portion of my understanding of the area :

  • Foot Trails of the Moshannon and Southern Elk State Forests, Ralph Seeley
  • Guide to the Quehanna Trail, Ben Cramer

I would like to begin by stating some factual information about the area to help the reader understand the area better.

  • A Wild Area is defined by Pennsylvania as:

“Management of wild areas is aimed at preserving the wild or undeveloped character of the area. Land use within the area is restricted to uses that will not have a permanent or long- range effect. Certain management activities in these areas require approval from the state forester via a State Forest”

  • Quehanna Wild Area is the largest Wild Area designated as such by the state of Pennsylvania. At just over 48,000 acres Quehanna is the largest Wild Area in the state.
  • Quehanna is in the Susquehanna River watershed, mainly drained by Bennett Branch Sinnemahoning Creek and the West Branch Susquehanna River.
  • There are no permanent residents in the area, over 75 sq miles.
  • There have been a number of industries in the Wild Area over the years including logging operations, Curtiss-Wright Corporation and Piper Aircraft. None of which are there any longer.
  • There are 2 State Natural Areas inside of the Wild Area. Marion Brooks and Wykoff Run. State Natural Areas are even more fully protected from development over Wild Areas.

I could never imagine to share as much information as the two aforementioned books in a blog post. If this area interests you I recommend the books.

On this day I hiked a 13 mile loop consisting of the following trails:

  • Quehanna East Cross Connector
  • Bridge Trail
  • Crawford Vista Trail
  • Crawford Vista Extension
  • Meeker Trail
  • Red Run Trail

The final portion of the hike was finished with a road walk on the Quehanna Highway which is the main thoroughfare of the area.

I parked at the Beaver Run Shallow Water Impoundment which used to be a shallow water dam filling a marshy area. The dam has since been taken out of commission for unknown reasons. The photo below showcases the nature of the marsh area. Ralph Seeley summed the feeling up perfectly when he referred to these dead trees as “bony sentinels.”


This photograph was taken on the breast of the old dam. Here we can see Beaver Run making it’s way south headed for Mosquito Creek.


As we head to points further south we flank and finally cross a basin that used to be home to numerous beaver dams. Soon we leave the East Cross Connector in favor of the Bridge Trail. The silt deposited here by the beaver ponds has created an environment where trees aren’t likely to take hold. Subjectively this area was particularly scenic to me with the open views, colors and tranquil water. We cross Beaver Run and then up over a slight hill to view the valley to west.





Beyond this section we enter into the Mosquito Creek basin. House sized boulders flank the sides of the Mosquito Creek valley as it creates a draft through the plateau.


Soon we break down hill and are saddled up along Mosquito Creek. In high water I was able to hear the stream rushing below. Evergreens, lichen, boulders, laurel and rhododendron perch themselves along the stream.

Rushing whitewater tumbles over a narrow section.

As we walk downstream we soon come to a junction with the Crawford Trail. At this junction you will notice a trail register tucked inside of a mailbox. We will take the Crawford Trail leaving the valley but not before we take the Bridge Trail a little ways beyond this junction.  Here I stopped for lunch and admired the bridge over the stream.


As we leave the valley we make a pretty easy ascent towards the Crawford Vista Trail.  We enter some unremarkable territory with a lot of small growth trees and soon arrive at the junction where we head towards the vista.  As luck would have it a heavy fog moved in and made the sweeping views impossible to see.


Below was my view from the Crawford Vista that day.  In the center of the image you can see Mosquito Creek flowing in the valley below.  We all like to have perfect weather conditions to see the things we want to see but conditions like these give me a realistic perspective of an area and I appreciate them just the same.  That’s the beautiful thing about our seasons here in Pennsylvania. Every season has it’s own colors, conditions, smells and changes.  Every place offers a different feeling based on the conditions of the day.IMG_20180223_110254.jpg

We leave the Crawford Vista on the extension trail in search of the Meeker Trail by way of a brief section of the East Cross Connector.  Meeker Trail named for the stream it runs alongside, Meeker Run.  Photographed below is Meeker Run.



As we leave the Meeker Trail we pick up the Red Run Trail heading in a general northerly direction towards the Quehanna Highway.  We pass a trail that used to be named Penn State Outing Club Link but has since been named in honor of Ralph Seeley a member of the PSOC.

As we pass through relatively unremarkable terrain on our way back to the truck let’s take a moment to reflect on all the varied terrain we witnessed as we traveled on foot through this beautiful and remarkable area.  Different geology, flora, fauna, soils and streams as we wandered deeper into and then back out of this country.


Quehanna is definitively special and unique is it’s array of landscapes.  No area of this land was left untouched by man and thanks to the original efforts of Dr. Joseph Rothrock and many people since land conservation is Pennsylvania has protected areas such as this.


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