Loyalsock Trail: High Knob and Falls

A single star in blue night with silhouette trees

I was a bit apprehensive and excited about a winter trip this year. The ice has not fully left my bones. But it’s difficult to keep me away.

It’s been three years since I spent multiple nights out in sub-freezing temperatures while hiking a trail section. And last time, it was -10 (F) for two days.

But we ventured out to the Loyalsock Trail’s High Knob section near Hillsgrove, Pa. for two days of vistas and waterfalls. And we took a tent, but I left my better sleeping bag behind under the false assumption the thermometer would not dip much below freezing. I was wrong. My keychain thermometer read 17 degrees the first night. It read 25, the second night. In both cases, it was colder, but we survived.

I’m glad we did. The waterfalls of the Loyalsock Trail in winter are like fine fountain sculptures at some castle in the French countryside. You could stand there all day, following the lacy patterns of icicles here and there. A rivulet of crystal water catches your eye, slaloming around ice spires and columns, in and out of frosty caves and bubbles, gurgling as it goes, splashing out of a luge channel into a slushy pool.

The perfect days of warm sunshine made the hike a joy, from the ice sculpture falls on Dutters and Cape runs to the expansive views of 2,010-foot High Knob vista.

We struck out of camp Saturday morning, following the LT northeast. When we came to the climb up High Knob, my mouth dropped and then I chuckled. When the original scouts planned the LT, they looked up, saw the cliffs at the top and said, “Let’s aim for that!” Then they cut five switchbacks with the third and fourth being long and nearly as steep as the knob face. It’s a 250-foot climb in just 0.21 miles.

But when we reached the top and walked the road to the main vista, our jaws dropped.

Panoramic image of the view from the High Knob vista.

“Wow. Oh wow,” I heard Josh and Gina say in quick succession. We were greeted with one of the most spectacular views in all of central Pennsylvania. We dropped pack at the picnic area, taking photos, eating lunch, soaking up the warm sun, a dozen mountain knobs visible in the distance.

Several people drove up, took a few photos and left. After three times, Josh, Gina and I chuckled at how little time people spent there. Maybe there’s perspective with climbing to the top by foot. Maybe those folks were in a rush, but if you drove up to a 2,000-foot knob with a view like that on a Saturday, why not stay for a while?

We sat there for about 45 minutes, our eyes sponging up the view.

The only thing that rivaled the vista were the stars at night. As the sun sank away, Venus twinkled bright just over the horizon. Then one by one, a quadrillion twinkling lights of the Milky Way appeared.

We alternated between staring into the warm flickers of fire and into the distant light show of the universe. To see wonder dancing in your friends’ eyes on a night like that, one sits back, warm in knowing the world is as it should be in that moment.

The stars dance and twinkle overhead in the cold northern Pennsylvania night, wrapped in the embrace of the oldest mountain chain.


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