Sinnemahoning Canyon Vista-Elk State Forest
This hike leads to a dramatic view over the canyon of the Sinnemahoning Creek, located near Driftwood. Here, the canyon is about 1,200 feet deep, making it among the deepest in Pennsylvania if not the eastern U.S. The view is spectacular as it overlooks the plateaus, ridges, gorges, and glens along the canyon. The terrain is diverse. This view is good for both sunrises and sunsets.
Almost this entire hike follows an unblazed trail, which is actually an old forest road. However, the last small section is off trail, and steep, as it leads to the vista. This hike is in the Elk State Forest and Bucktail State Park Natural Area. The natural area protects a corridor along the Sinnemahoning Creek and is named after the Bucktail Regiment which was recruited through this region to fight in the Civil War.
The Sinnemahoning Creek is huge, really the size of a river. It is beautiful as it flows through canyons. It is ideal for fishing and paddling, and not nearly as crowded as the more famous Pine Creek.
Park off of Montour Road, and follow a gated road as it climbs. Reach the pipeline swath and hike along it. The trail turns left off the swath, but it is easy to miss. The turn is hidden in pine and spruce trees, but is noticeable if you keep an eye out for it. Follow the trail across the plateau through thick mountain laurel and hardwoods. Descend gradually to a meadow. Here, the trail ends and the short off trail hike to the view begins. Head south and follow a steep ridge down off the plateau. Reach a rock outcrop with superb views. I particularly like the narrow, sloping ridge to the southwest. The view looks into the side gorges of Lower and Upper Jerry Runs. You can also see upstream for several miles. The pedestals of bedrock make this a unique view.
The grandeur of this vista showcases the wild, rugged scenery of the Sinnemahoning Creek and the Pennsylvania Wilds. The view is almost completely free from development. The hike is about 2.5 miles, one way.
I hope to return to check out some other potential vistas, and a possible knife edge ridge to the east. Parking is at 41.325393, -78.042696. Montour Road is in decent shape and can be driven by a car, although it is not plowed in winter. The vista is located at 41.300091, -78.048657.
Jeff Mitchell is the District Attorney of Wyoming County, and author of ‘Hiking the Endless Mountains,’ ‘Backpacking Pennsylvania,’ and ‘Paddling Pennsylvania.’