Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tioga State Forest, Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area: Barbour Rock Trail (Blog Hike #437)

Trail: Barbour Rock Trail
Hike Location: Tioga State Forest: Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area
Geographic Location: southwest of Mansfield, PA
Length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: July 2013
Overview: A short lollipop loop to a fine overlook of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

Directions to the trailhead: From Mansfield, drive west on US 6 for 23.6 miles to Colton Road, passing through the town of Wellsboro en route.  Turn left on Colton Road.  Drive narrow, winding, but paved Colton Rd. 3.1 miles to the gravel parking area on the right and signed trailhead on the left.  Park in this area.

The hike: For my general comments on the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, see the previous hike.  The Barbour Rock Trail described here takes you on a short loop to a nice canyon overlook.  Compared to the overlooks at nearby Colton and Leonard Harrison state parks, this one has two advantages: 1) its location several miles from the state parks ensures more solitude, and 2) its location on a curve in the gorge gives a better view.  Of all the canyon overlooks I visited, I enjoyed my trip to the Barbour Rock overlook the most.
Trailhead: Barbour Rock Trail
            Start at a large wooden signboard across the road from the parking area.  The wide firmly-packed gravel trail heads southeast as it passes some strategically-placed boulders that block vehicles.  This trail was built in 1978 by the Youth Conservation Corps, and the segment out to the overlook is wheelchair accessible.  Yellow paint blazes mark the trail, but you will not need them here thanks to the gravel.
            At 0.2 miles, the trail forks to form its loop where the gravel portion curves noticeably right.  The dirt return trail continues straight, but you may not notice it because nothing marks this intersection.  The gravel trail climbs slightly through forest dominated by maple, birch, and pine tress with a dense understory of ferns.  Just shy of 0.5 miles, the trail curves left as the canyon comes into view on the right.  The dirt West Rim Trail can be seen only feet to the right between our gravel trail and the canyon rim.
            0.7 miles into the hike, you arrive at the Barbour Rock overlook.  The trail and overlook are named for Samuel Barbour, a man who lost his life in a logjam in the 1890’s.  The lumber industry dominated this part of the state in those days.  The overlook points southwest and offers a fantastic view down the heart of the gorge.  The trail you see in the gorge is the 62 mile Pine Creek Trail, a Rails-to-Trails project that runs the entire length of the gorge.  On my visit, several hawks sailed near the gorge walls on thermals.  This overlook is the highlight of the hike, so stay awhile to see what you can see.
Barbour Rock overlook
            The gravel trail ends at the overlook, so to continue the loop you will need to take the single-track dirt trail that exits the other (east) side of the overlook.  The Barbour Rock and West Rim Trails share a treadway for a short distance before our trail turns left to head away from the rim.  Make sure you follow the yellow-blazed Barbour Rock Trail here rather than the darker orange blazes of the West Rim Trail.
Return portion of trail
            The return route is a single-track dirt trail that undulates gently through lush northern forest.  This section of trail provides more of a true nature trail feel compared to the wheelchair-accessible trail you hiked on the way out here.  After passing a small knob on the left, the trail descends gently, crosses a couple of wet spots, and intersects the outbound gravel trail to close the loop.  A short walk straight ahead will return you to the parking lot to complete the hike.

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