Monday, June 24, 2013

Ohiopyle State Park: Meadow Run Trail (Blog Hike #327)

Trail: Meadow Run Trails
Hike Location: Ohiopyle State Park
Geographic Location: east of UniontownPA (39.86200, -79.49481)
Length: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: 6/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: September 2010
Overview: A scenic lollipop loop featuring the playful aquatic antics of Meadow Run.
Hike Route Map: https://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=723299
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: Take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Donegal exit (exit 91).  Exit and turn left on SR 31.  Take SR 31 east for 2 miles to SR 381 and turn right on SR 381.  Take SR 381 south past the Ferncliff Natural Area and through the Borough of Ohiopyle.  Just south of Ohiopyle, where Kentuck Rd. exits to the right, park in the blacktop parking area on the left across from Kentuck Rd. This parking lot accesses the Meadow Run waterslide and the Meadow Run Trails.

The hike: For some general information about Ohiopyle State Park, see the previous hike.  If you find the crowds at Ferncliff Natural Area a turn-off, then the Meadow Run Trails should be more to your liking.  After you leave the waterslide area, you will likely be alone here.  Nevertheless, the scenery is superb: of the four hikes I took during my September 2010 trip to western Pennsylvania, this one rather easily ranks as my favorite.
Start by descending the wooden steps at the middle-rear of the parking lot.  At the bottom of the steps, you step out onto the black bedrock that underlies the waterslide in Meadow Run.  The unusual waterslide that makes this area popular lies right in front of you, starting uphill to your right and ending downhill to your left.  The water has cut a channel about 5 feet wide and 7 feet deep into the black bedrock.  The channel looks much like a waterslide you might see at a water park, hence the name.  With some risk, you could slide down the channel along with the water.
Waterslide in Meadow Run
            No blazes are visible at this point, but the Meadow Run Trail heads upstream using the bedrock as a treadway.  The going is not as hard as you might think, and a short detour with a wooden bridge gets you over the largest tributary easily.  After a few hundred feet on the bedrock, look for the yellow blazes to the right as the trail heads uphill into the forest, leaving the bedrock for good.
Climbing switchbacks to a cliff
            The trail climbs moderately through some dense rhododendron to reach a small cliff, which it ascends through a gap using a double switchback.  At the second switchback, the trail joins what appears to be an old road with SR 381 just uphill to your right.  The state highway is somewhat noisy, but the old road makes the hiking very easy.  At 0.6 miles, you reach a trail fork and the beginning of the loop portion of this hike.  A brown carsonite post that simply says “TO” marks this intersection.  To get the hardest climbing over with first, this description will turn right here and use the left trail as our return route.
Climbing through old stone wall
            You now begin a long, moderate climb to the high point of the hike.  Just after leaving the intersection, the trail passes through an old stone wall, a remnant of this land’s agricultural past.  At 0.8 miles, you reach a gravel parking lot that could be an alternate starting point for this hike.  This parking lot is located on Dinnerbell Rd. just off of SR 381 and just before the road reaches the park office.  No facilities are available at this parking lot.
Two trails other than the trail you came in on leave the parking area.  To your left, a wide trail leads directly to the fishing area along Meadow Run and offers an opportunity to short-cut this hike.  For the full tour, continue straight on a trail leading to the rock climbing area.  More climbing lies ahead, but the grade never gets too steep.
At 1 mile, the trail levels out on the north side of a knob, which rises to your right.  This is the highest elevation on this trail, and it lies about 350 feet above the trailhead.  Of course, a moderate descent comes next.  This descent leads to an old road, on which you will tread a level course to reach the rock climbing area.
Trail joins old road
            1.3 miles into the hike, the trail exits the old road on the left as it heads down a steep area through a gap in the cliffs overlooking Meadow Run.  Watch for the yellow blazes to ensure you do not miss this turn.  At the base of the cliffs, the trail passes under some small rock shelters on your right as Meadow Run comes within hearing distance on your left.  Unfortunately, thick broadleaf tree cover prevents any views from this height.
The trail curves to the left as it continues downhill, soon reaching the elevation of Meadow Run.  Some unofficial trails exit to the right, and you should follow at least one of them to get a good view of the Cascades Waterfall.  This waterfall is actually a collection of small ledge-type waterfalls each of which is about 3-4 feet high.
Small waterfalls in Meadow Run
            For the next mile the Meadow Run Trail treads an easy downhill course, all the time staying within 50 feet of its namesake creek.  A few hemlocks mix in with the broadleaf trees along the creek.  At 1.9 miles, the short-cut trail exits uphill to the left on what appears to be another old road, heading back to the gravel parking lot on Dinnerbell Road.  To continue the main loop, angle right at this intersection to remain along the creek.
At 2.3 miles, the trail makes a short moderate climb away from the run to join another old road.  About 500 feet later, you close the main loop.  Continue straight and retrace your steps 0.5 miles back to the trailhead, getting another view of Meadow Run’s interesting waterslide as you complete the hike.

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