Skirt the soaring, 1,000-foot walls of the “Grand Canyon of the East” as you meander the western lip of Pine Creek Gorge, the state’s sprawling natural wonder. Take three days to complete this mostly level, 29.8-mile shuttle hike on the only route above the canyon. From the parking lot at Rattlesnake Rocks (1), follow the West Rim Trail’s orange blazes into a thick canopy of hemlock, maple, and oak. Climb 950 feet in two miles (your only major hump), past gurgling Lloyd Run (stop for some photos; “Key Skill,” next page), to the top of the Allegheny Plateau. Pause at a gap in the trees at mile 3 (2) to view the wooded peak of 1,800-foot Gillespie Point, known as “the Matterhorn of the Alleghenies” for its pyramid shape. Spend the rest of the day slipping through patches of ferns as you hike past a series of small campsites spread over the day’s remaining 7.5 miles. Tank up at Steel Hollow Run (3), the last reliable water source on your way to the best site (4), which boasts a balcony view of Pine Creek making an S-turn below. Next day, march 3.7 miles west as the trail rings a private hunting camp. At the Bradley Wales Picnic Area at mile 14.2 (5), find pit toilets and potable water. Follow the gravel road .1 mile to where the trail veers north to a series of bird’s-eye vistas of the canyon; look for boaters and peregrine falcons below. After 5.3 miles, turn left at the blue-blazed Sieman Trail (6) and head .3 mile to a small, flat campsite. Day three, resume heading north on the WRT, following it 6.2 miles as it turns away from the canyon into a forest of maples, red oaks, and white peeling birch. After a sign to Colton State Park at mile 25.8 (7), the trail moves back to the canyon edge (8). For a mile, enjoy a series of rocky overlooks of the gorge snaking southward, cutting a gash into the forests and farmland that border the canyon. Finish by descending 675 feet over two miles through the woods to the trail’s northern terminus off Colton Road (9).
Trip Planner Shuttle car: From Wellsboro, take US 6 W 11 miles to a left on Colton Rd. Park in .5 mile. Trailhead: From Wellsboro, go 12 miles on PA 287 S to PA 414 W 7.7 miles to Rattlesnake Rocks.
Gear up & shuttle Pine Creek Outfitters, 5142 Route 6, Wellsboro, PA; (570) 724-3003; pinecrk.com