The Roaring Creek Tract of the Weiser State Forest in Northumberland and Columbia counties is must for walkers, runners, kayakers, hikers and general outdoor enthusiasts.
Having previously featured areas off the Roaring Creek Trail, which runs east-west from Route 42 in Columbia County to Route 54 in Northumberland County, it was the eastern section, and its many less-traveled trails that had piqued my curiosity for years.
With the Labor Day holiday and the prospect of crowded trails elsewhere, the hope was an early morning visit to this section of trails would be lightly trafficked and peaceful. Mission accomplished on both counts. Aside from three mountain bikers encountered over the last tenth of a mile, it was nothing but nature and the crackle of dried leaves underfoot.
This hiking/biking loop is about six or so miles (I do not use GPS or phone apps; consider me old fashioned, I get into the woods to get away and enjoy Mother Nature) and is great for families and hikers of any experience level. There is little elevation change. In fact, compared to hikes elsewhere, this stroll includes no "ascents" or "descents," only some moderately rolling changes in elevation. Mountain bikers enjoy the trial as well, but it should be noted there are areas with downed trees, as well as rocky areas that warrant the attention of experienced off-road mountain bikers.
Parking at the Klines Reservoir lot along Route 42 is abundant. From there, you can cross Route 42 and catch Homestead Trail, which follows along Route 42 south until you head east away from the roadway. All the trails are blazed red, and intersections are marked by the familiar state forest posts. If there's one complaint, it would be the red blazes across all trails, and while the trails are largely easy to follow, more blazes would make it easier for novice hikers.
Homestead Trail traverses east through acres and acres of beautiful fern-covered forested floor with plenty of hardwoods. Several miles in, the trail's namesake comes into view just to the right among one of many hemlock groves scattered in some of the wetter areas of the tract.
As the trail cuts back north a bit, you pick up the Headwaters Trail and venture through the largest area of pine and hemlocks as you cross the south branch of the Roaring Creek — very low due to a dry summer. Once you emerge and navigate the eastern-most portion of the tract, you come into a hardwood forest and begin slowly working your way back to the north and west. An owl, and several curious and a few skittish deer showed themselves during my early morning hike. There were plenty of birds as well, some I recognized, others I did not.
Much of the Headwaters Trail is hardwood forest, aside from an occasional dip back into a boggy area with some hemlocks. During wetter times of the year, these trails will require wet crossings and a good pair of boots. The typical rocky terrain of Pennsylvania also warrants a good pair of boots and perhaps a trekking pole or two.
This eastern section of the Roaring Creek tract is one I'll revisit soon, and can be traversed year-round. Many intersecting trails offer the opportunity to cut the Homestead-Headwaters trails described a bit shorter, or even extend it to the north where the Ponds, Big Mountain and Dark Woods trails add a little more challenge to the hike from Klines Reservoir. Another parking area is located a short ride north from the Klines Reservoir parking area, and provides easy access to Big Mountain and Dark Woods trails.
For more information, including a map of the tract, visit www.https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateForests/FindAForest/Weiser/Pages/Maps.aspx