5/14/2021 Sand Run Falls trail – Mid State trail
Elevation gain: 614 ft
Location: Arnot rd. Wellsboro, PA 16901 (Latitude: 41.682667, Longitude: -77.153025)
We are driving up to the Finger Lake region in NY for the weekend to hang out with Team Danger on Watkins Glen raceway so I’ve figured might as well enjoy some hiking while in the area. I was looking for trails closer to the interstate and Tioga State Forest stood out.
This particular trail on Arnot rd. is a hidden gem and only about 10 minutes from I15. There are three trailheads and only two cars in the parking area when we pull up. While getting Mag ready one car leaves, giving us a good chance of having this portion of Tioga State Forest to ourselves. Yayyyy!
We start out on the left side of the info board towards South. Since there are several splits in the trail from the beginning we lose our ways almost instantly. GPS has a hard time showing us the right direction when we move slowly. I figure we will eventually get back on Sand Run Falls trail so we keep on going. The trail otherwise very well maintained but seems like it mostly busy with bike traffic.
Since the weather got warmer we have been experiencing lots of bugs and mosquitoes. Pesky tiny flies are the biggest nuisance. However, I try to concentrate on the beauty around us and turn my attention to the small white flowers littering the ground. It turns out they are dwarf ginger plants. Who knew? Gorgeous Trilliums pop up all over as well.
After looping around for about a half a mile, following right turns at every ‘intersection’, we end up at this marker. Someone who knows the confusing maze of trails around here made a sharpie direction towards the falls on stake #3. We are following it….
I can definitely see more bike tracks than foot prints here and there are also these tiny bridges over even tinier creeks or more like water runoffs.
After getting back to our target trail we turn left on it, following the red paint markings, heading towards the falls. At stake #5 and #6 we are keeping to the left.
It is so quiet here! I wish we could have our house in a setting like this. The trail just lazily winds between slim, tall trees, giving Mag plenty of time to sniff every piece of grass there is. Meanwhile, I enjoy the serenity and the only thing that cuts through it ever so often, the laugh of my old friend, the pileated woodpecker.
Soon enough we come across a marshy area – after our first descent – hiking parallel to a deer fence. The valley is very muddy and swampy and the now elevated path shortcuts through it. We follow this instead of the original north trail marked on AllTrails. The path is made out of huge rocks and cement, bordered with boggy grass….
…. and huge, overturned roots of once majestic trees. Both colors, red and blue are painted on different surfaces here until we catch up with Sand Run trail on the other side of the mire. At the next marker we turn left again, leaving the fence behind, following the promising sign towards the falls.
Within 0.4 miles we keep to the left again and start a longer but gradual descent hoping that at the end of it we shall see the waterfall.
This stretch is about a mile long and as we proceed, water chiming becomes more pronounced. I get a bit excited when we come across a small brook but jumping over it steers us away from the stream. The next half a mile is very pretty, running between a rocky, hilly area on our left and the little creek further down on the right. At mile 3 it’s swells up, taking over a bigger portion of the now lower grade slope.
Crossing it again finally takes us to the last signs and low rumbling promises the view of the waterfalls. My first reaction is that it is kind of small but still very pretty. Mag poses for a few shots and after crackling on a branch in the middle of the water we take off.
I am hopeful to see if the trail loops around underneath the falls….
To my surprise the main attraction is just ahead of us and it is absolutely beautiful! We are still above Sand Run but ahead of is the “real” rapid, about 40 ft high. Since it’s partially covered with vegetation as we approach I cannot take a frontal pic. The trail widens than comes up on top of it so we perch on a flat boulder, looking down on the cascade.
Two rivers meet here, Sand Run and Babb Creek to become Pine Creek which flows into West Branch Susquehanna River just above Lock Haven further down south.
I would love to make it across to see it from another angle but we are running out of time.
If we want to make it back to the car and then to the track by 5:30 we have to leave immediately. It’s half past three so we have two hours to get out of here and drive up to Watkins Glen. We wave farewell to the wonders of Sand Run while I am already making plans in my head to return here.
Backtracking a bit will take us to the last markers we’ve encountered, where we keep left now, towards the unknown. It gets very muddy for several hundred feet than clears out. All runoffs are heading to the river, making this portion swampy. We are on the orange – a.k.a. Mid State trail by the way.
This approximately 3.5 mile portion is almost a straight shot back to our car but on the map it looks more like a curve of a bow. I am pushing a little bit harder than usual because of our time restriction but at one point I have to admit we will not make it. We’ll have another opportunity to walk Watkins Glen raceway with our crew.
Half way back we encounter our first set of humans, four ladies headed to the falls in a comfortable pace. They must be locals….
In about 10 more minutes another person emerges from the woods towards us and after a short step aside we leave him behind too. It is so quite here that I hear every little rustling in the groundcover. This time the sound comes from a pair of mating blister beetles (Meloe violaceus) or commonly called oil beetles. They release oily droplets of hemolymph from their joints when disturbed.
The other sound that catches my attention is coming from nearby Sand Run but the water stays mostly invisible behind the tree-line. Seldom peaks through, running parallel to the trail, even beyond our target location of the parking area. Before we reach it, our path becomes sort of a divider in the middle of a hill. River down below, hill up above on our right. Getting closer to Arnot rd. becomes obvious when I start hearing passing by vehicles on the paved surface. This map at the trailhead marks the end of our journey.
We parked a few hundred feet in on the off-road driveway and the view of our car is a welcomed sight for both of us. Mag jumps up right away and plops down. He knows it’s time to check for bugs. Ticks in particular. I carry a small jar with water to dispose of them if found. I don’t like the idea of releasing them back in the woods.
Here is our trail map:
Since we are not now in a hurry to get to our destination, I drive in a comfortable pace. Our rented bungalow for the weekend is awesome and as it turns out it is close to several waterfalls.
For dinner we head over to our friend’s rented house located on beautiful Seneca Lake. The sunset is not too shabby from here.
Even though I had plans for another hike on Saturday and the trail I’ve found is dreamy, our hike was cut short. Mag suffered a minor injury 2 weeks ago while doing our routine evening walk and yesterday’s trip opened up the wound. We were able to do 1 mile in but his limping was so pronounced I’ve decided to turn back.
We ended up on the racetrack, hanging out with the guys but sitting still is not my thing. ‘The Glen’ is sitting on 550 acres so we take a slow stroll. I climb up on one of the huge grandstands to take some pics while Mag enjoys the AC in the car.
Well deserved sleeping in on our last day is a given….
Before we hit the road we must chase those famous waterfalls this region is famous for. Unfortunately Watkins Glen State Park is closed at Rainbow Falls for the season – opens May 31. But there are other gorgeous cascades within reach.
Across from our bungalow is this beauty:
Montour Falls historic district hides this gem:
And while heading out of town Montour Falls or Aunt Sarah’s Falls waves us goodbye.
Such an amazingly beautiful area this is and so much more to discover! We’ll be back in July to continue. Hope you’ll be back to read about it.
But I mostly hope to see you out there, discovering for yourself. But remember!