I wake to gathering sunlight and chirping sparrows, but I lie back in my hammock. I have plenty of time for a restful morning—cup of strong coffee and a big breakfast—before knocking off the remainder of this 12.8-mile loop through the Alleghenies’ northern hardwoods. The only designated wilderness in Pennsylvania with trails, Hickory Creek is both wild enough to earn the highest level of federal protection, and small enough to hike in a mellow weekend. Maybe I’ll have a second cup of joe.
From the Hickory Creek trailhead: Head 1.4 miles west then south through a corridor of red maples and white oaks on the Hickory Creek Trail to a junction and the beginning of the loop.
Continue south (hiker’s left) to do the loop clockwise for a longer first day, traveling through stands of 60-foot-tall eastern hemlocks and along a stream to a small meadow at Jack’s Run at mile 7.1.
Continue on the Hickory Creek Trail through sparser forest and past sandstone rock formations to the original junction at mile 11.4.
Retrace your steps 1.4 miles to the trailhead.
Jack’s Run (mile 7.1)
Pitch a tent in the small meadow that’s trimmed with black-eyed Susans this time of year. Bring a hammock: Two perfect trees in the area make for a great hang site. Find reliable water in the brook just north.
Pennsylvania has just two designated wilderness areas, and the other is a collection of tiny river islands. So tick off this trip, and you’ll have checked off every wilderness trail mile in the state.
To preserve the wilderness character of this trail, land managers went light on the blazes. You’ll want a map and compass.
DO IT Trailhead 41.698591, -79.252689; 15 miles south of Warren on Hearts Content Rd. Season Year-round (it’s skiable in winter) Permit None