State College, PA: West Rim Trail

Chase canyon vistas through stands of old-growth hemlock.
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Chase canyon vistas through stands of old-growth hemlock.

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, 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, to the top of the Allegheny Plateau. Pause at a gap in the trees at mile 3 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, the last reliable water source on your way to the best site, 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 hunt- ing camp. At the Bradley Wales Picnic Area at mile 14.2, 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 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, the trail moves back to the canyon edge. 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.
-Text and mapping by Dave Pidgeon

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 47.9

Waypoints

WRT001

Location: 41.540714, -77.40575

Southern Terminus for West Rim Trail. Parking lot and pit toilets available. Area known as Rattlesnake Rocks. In 0.2 mile, find red box trail register nailed to tree.

From the parking lot at Rattlesnake Rocks, 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, to the top of the Allegheny Plateau.

WRT002

Location: 41.55215, -77.41145

Lloyd Run waterfall

WRT003

Location: 41.5616, -77.414133

Side trail leads to remains of old hunting cabin.

WRT004

Location: 41.563683, -77.412917

Yellow blazed-trail enters from left. Go right with orange blazes and leave Lloyd Run ravine. Total ascent from car - 1081 feet.

WRT005

Location: 41.565583, -77.409367

Cross minor road and pass shed with the word "Dynamite" painted in white. Trail levels.

WRT006

Location: 41.5682, -77.405967

Cross West Rim Road.

WRT007

Location: 41.569668, -77.392901

Pause at a gap in the trees at mile 3 to view the wooded peak of 1,800-foot Gillespie Point, knownas “the Matterhorn of the Alleghenies” for its pyramid shape.

Trail skirts the ridge from here. 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

WRT008

Location: 41.577, -77.401683

Intersection with Mid-State Trail. Cross Bohen Run and second minor creek soon afterward.

WRT009

Location: 41.57935, -77.398267

View of Bohen Run and east rim of Pine Creek Gorge.

WRT010

Location: 41.5813, -77.393867

Potential campsite, no water. Trail levels for 1.12 miles.

WRT011

Location: 41.592983, -77.407017

Dillon Hollow. Potential camping. Cross stream.

WRT012

Location: 41.60058, -77.413901

Potential campsite. Seasonal stream. Intersection with Steel Hollow Trail, which leads .6 mile to West Rim Road. Trail rises 160 feet over next .7 mile.

WRT013

Location: 41.601064, -77.415287

Tank up at Steel Hollow Run, the last reliable water source on your way to the best site.

WRT014

Location: 41.60791, -77.417436

Potential campsite, no water. Short blue blaze trail leads to partial view of east rim.

WRT015

Location: 41.608683, -77.4223

Potential campsite. No water.

WRT016

Location: 41.610833, -77.423633

Potential campsite. No water.

WRT017

Location: 41.6137, -77.430232

Intersection with blue-blazed Gundigut Trail, which leads .4 mile to West Rim Road.

WRT018

Location: 41.616567, -77.428167

Vista of east rim. Rise 314 feet over next 1.4 miles.

WRT019

Location: 41.626217, -77.447683

Potential campsite, no water.

WRT020

Location: 41.628586, -77.448113

Your campsite, which boasts a balcony view of Pine Creek making an S-turn below. No water.

WRT021

Location: 41.630083, -77.450983

Campsite and spring. Area known as Good Spring Hollow. Trail leaves west rim of canyon to go around private hunting grounds. Trail rises 306 feet over next .6 miles.

WRT022

Location: 41.6314, -77.459433

Cross minor road. Trail gradually descends.

WRT023

Location: 41.633233, -77.47335

Arrive at open meadow and swamp.

WRT024

Location: 41.629967, -77.474067

Arrive at West Rim Road. Turn right and follow road for .5 mile.

WRT025

Location: 41.637, -77.477683

Turn right and return to woods.

WRT026

Location: 41.640217, -77.4628

Potential campsite. No water.

WRT027

Location: 41.639783, -77.461717

Potential campsite with water source.

WRT028

Location: 41.64352, -77.459016

At the Bradley Wales Picnic Area at mile 14.2, 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.

WRT029

Location: 41.64515, -77.458633

Excellent vista of Pine Creek Gorge.

WRT030

Location: 41.646233, -77.461133

Excellent vista of Pine Creek Gorge. Trail descends for 187 feet over 1.18 miles.

WRT031

Location: 41.653683, -77.4772

Cross Ice Break Run. Trail rises 204 feet over .4 mile.

WRT032

Location: 41.658217, -77.471517

Excellent vista of Pine Creek Gorge.

WRT033

Location: 41.666067, -77.483567

Arrive at yellow-blazed link trail to Painter-Leetonia Road. Cross Little Slate Run. Campsite.

WRT034

Location: 41.667233, -77.479917

Cross small stream.

WRT035

Location: 41.67065, -77.469667

Cross stream.

WRT036

Location: 41.67125, -77.467933

Excellent view of Pine Creek Gorge. Two campsites in the area. No water.

WRT037

Location: 41.67615, -77.472017

Cross stream.

WRT038

Location: 41.6765, -77.465933

View of Pine Creek Gorge. No water.

WRT039

Location: 41.678133, -77.465733

Campsite. No water.

WRT040

Location: 41.682803, -77.470868

Turn left at the blue-blazed Sieman Trail and head .3 mile to a small, flat campsite. Day three, resume heading north on the WRT.

WRT041

Location: 41.697267, -77.4683

Arrive at junction with Refuge Trail with yellow and blue blazes. It leads 0.33 to Painter-Leetonia Road. West Rim Trail goes left. Trail rises 216 feet over next 0.68 mile.

WRT042

Location: 41.691567, -77.47275

Grassy campsite. No water. Continue descent.

WRT043

Location: 41.689183, -77.47935

Arrive at Painter-Leetonia Road and intersection with Sieman's Trail, which leads to campsites and West Rim Trail in .7 mile. Look for orange blazes across road as path leads into woods.

WRT044

Location: 41.6902, -77.4824

Arrive at Painter-Leetonia Road and Four Mile Run. Follow road to the left.

WRT045

Location: 41.6902, -77.48535

Waterfall and short trail to Four Mile Run.

WRT046

Location: 41.692883, -77.4907

Exit road where trail turns right and returns to woods. Trail rises 339 feet over next .6 mile.

WRT047

Location: 41.70075, -77.48735

Cross grassy road. Begin to descend.

WRT048

Location: 41.704617, -77.48535

Cross Painter-Leetonia Road. Continue descent.

WRT049

Location: 41.705117, -77.485183

Cross bridge and Colton Road. Trail follows road leading uphill. Campsite near intersection by water source.

WRT050

Location: 41.707767, -77.486067

Trail to left leads into gully where you find a campsite and great water source.

WRT051

Location: 41.70825, -77.486

Turn right at T intersection and follow old logging road. Rexford Trail goes left.

WRT052

Location: 41.711167, -77.476717

Pass old cabin to the right.

WRT053

Location: 41.7112, -77.475217

Cross Rexford Branch.

WRT054

Location: 41.713683, -77.474667

Cross Deadman Hollow Road, then follow old woods road.

WRT055

Location: 41.718317, -77.467867

Cross Bear Run. Two campsites in the area.

WRT056

Location: 41.717383, -77.46375

Junction with yellow-blazed Bear Run Trail. Cross Colton Road and pass sign for Colton Point State Park.

WRT057

Location: 41.711995, -77.460219

The trail moves back to the canyon edge. 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.

WRT058

Location: 41.718383, -77.4568

Excellent view of Pine Creek Gorge.

WRT059

Location: 41.718983, -77.453067

Excellent view of Pine Creek Gorge.

WRT060

Location: 41.718767, -77.451517

Excellent view of Pine Creek Gorge.

WRT061

Location: 41.718716, -77.450835

Excellent view of Pine Creek Gorge from platform. Intersection with yellow-blazed trail. Another excellent view as you continue down West Rim Trail.

WRT062

Location: 41.724716, -77.449897

Cross Slide Run. Finish by descending 675 feet over two miles through the woods to the trail’s northern terminus off Colton Road.

WRT063

Location: 41.7235, -77.44405

Spring. Water source.

WRT064

Location: 41.7262, -77.439367

Cross creek.

WRT065

Location: 41.734183, -77.435067

Cross road and continue through the woods.

WRT066

Location: 41.734578, -77.433367

Cross stream.

WRT067

Location: 41.738779, -77.433189

Northern terminus. Parking and pit toilets available. Red register box along trail. Pine Creek Outfitters and additional 1.1 miles from terminus. Follow road away from trail, turn right at Route 6, then follow snow mobile trail.

WRT068

Location: 41.7468, -77.44415

Pine Creek Outfitters