Erie, PA: Minister Creek Loop

This 6.4-miler loops through the lush forest surrounding Minister Creek, passing glacial boulders, wooded caves, and a plethora of streams.
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This 6.4-miler loops through the lush forest surrounding Minister Creek, passing glacial boulders, wooded caves, and a plethora of streams.

Follow leaf-covered Minister Creek Trail to the northwest through hemlocks and deciduous forest. After .6 mile, bear right at the junction to start the 5.2-mile loop around Minister Creek—you’ll stay within sight or sound of the creek for most of the trip. The trail passes gigantic, moss-covered boulders that were deposited by glaciers and crosses numerous streams. At mile 3.1, the route curves to the south for the return trip, crossing several more streams. Tackle a boulder-scrambling side-trip to an overlook above Minister Valley at mile 5 before closing the loop and retracing your route to the trailhead. Note: Use caution when hiking in Allegheny National Forest during hunting season.
-Mapped by Mike Ciccone

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 10.3

Waypoints

MIN001

Location: 41.6206093, -79.153595

From the parking area, cross PA 666 to reach the Minister Creek Trail (marked with reflective, white diamond blazes). Wide, leaf-covered trail climbs above Minister Creek through a mixed hemlock and deciduous forest.

MIN002

Location: 41.6211433, -79.1547775

Trail merges with an old logging road and levels out; moss-covered rocks and hemlock trees flank right side of the path. Listen to the rushing sounds of Minister Creek as you climb to the northwest.

MIN003

Location: 41.6227455, -79.1570282

Continue heading northwest through lush, and sometimes foggy, landscapes that resemble a rainforest; an unblazed trail veers off to the left. Water pours out of a small pipe built into the hillside.

MIN004

Location: 41.6258354, -79.1586761

Trail transitions from logging road to a rustic, rocky path covered with sticks and roots.

MIN005

Location: 41.6269226, -79.1596069

Bear right @ Y-junction to start 5.2-mile loop around Minister Creek. Next, descend past a sign for the Minister Valley Overlook.

MIN006

Location: 41.6281013, -79.1588898

Continue northeast descent toward Minister Creek. On the right, small trees grow out of a massive, moss-covered boulder (roughly 20 feet high and 40 feet long). Ahead, climb over or crawl under the large logs that block the trail.

MIN007

Location: 41.628994, -79.158577

Cross wood bridge over a tributary creek that flows into Minister creek.

MIN008

Location: 41.6303139, -79.1593552

Cross another wood bridge. Trail continues ascent into the woods along the right side of the creek. Ahead: Climb over several large trees that have fallen across the trail; walk through boggy area; and look for fossilized ripples in the sandstone boulders next to trail.

MIN009

Location: 41.634819, -79.1622314

Tillite boulders line the trail (this type of sedimentary rock contains pebble-sized chunks of glacial till).

MIN010

Location: 41.6372643, -79.1576309

Continue straight @ signed 3-way junction; a side trail enters on the left.

MIN011

Location: 41.6385612, -79.1574783

Cross a small stream on a bridge made of three decaying logs. Trail rounds to the west.

MIN012

Location: 41.6385117, -79.1600571

Ascend a field of enormous boulders-a good place to practice bouldering techniques. Many of these boulders are covered with moss and trees.

MIN013

Location: 41.6421013, -79.1654205

The trail crosses two streams (one of them is dried up and covered with logs); Minister Creek can be heard but not seen. Walk past plants that resemble miniature palm trees.

MIN014

Location: 41.6452866, -79.164856

Another steam crossing. Some of the white diamonds have been painted over or replaced by blue diamonds.

MIN015

Location: 41.6455879, -79.1656265

Pass a broken trail sign, then turn left. Ahead: The Minister Creek Trail follows the North Country National Scenic Trail (this 4,600-mile trail travels from New York to North Dakota).

MIN016

Location: 41.6485748, -79.1709747

Walk across wood footbridge, then bear right (southwest); follow double-diamond blazes.

MIN017

Location: 41.6480637, -79.1718826

Walk across another bridge. From here the trail turns left off the North Country Trail and starts a steep climb away from Minister Creek. Look for moonstones (white limestone) that dot the trail.

MIN018

Location: 41.6453819, -79.1711731

Trail turns right (marked by black arrow on a white diamond blaze). Note: Although this isn't a junction, the trail can be hard to follow if you don't look for the markings. Next, trail crosses two more streams.

MIN019

Location: 41.6422806, -79.1685562

Cross stream, then turn left at the trail junction and head uphill.

MIN020

Location: 41.6266861, -79.1633606

Descend stone steps and walk beneath overhanging rocks, heading southeast; explore the caves, boulders, and overlooks that surround the trail. Next, follow path to Waypoint 5; continue straight @ Waypoint 5 to return to trailhead. Optional: Turn right (south) onto side trail to reach Minister Valley Overlook.

Tillite Boulder

Location: 41.6348801, -79.1619797

North Country Trail Junction

Location: 41.6456223, -79.1655426

Minister Creek Trail

Location: 41.6481247, -79.171814