Visiting the Waterfalls along Bear Run at Colton Point State Park
Needing to work off a few dozen Christmas cookies, my friend Steve Rubano and I headed north from State College to Tioga County on December 26th in search of Bear Run and the waterfalls along it.
A few weeks earlier we had attempted the same road trip but were stopped a few miles short of Bear Run due to extremely icy road conditions (but we did make it to nearby Chimney Hollow Falls).
Emboldened by the blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures, we were confident this time we would make it to the falls, located along the northeastern border of Colton Point State Park (the western side of the Pine Creek Gorge/PA Grand Canyon).
Turning off of Route 6 near Ansonia, we traveled southwest on Colton Road a little over 5 miles to where the West Rim Trail crosses Colton Road (see map below). We parked at the small pull-off near the Colton Point State Park sign, and observed Bear Run to be right in front of us. The West Rim Trail does not follow Bear Run, which we knew before heading up there, so this was to be a full-on bushwack kind of day.
Parking Area GPS Coordinates: 41.716432, -77.463791
Following Bear Run from where it exits a culvert beneath Colton Road, we proceeded downstream a few hundred yards until we reached the first falls. To this point the hike was pretty simple - a few back-and-forths across the stream but nothing too strenuous.
GPS Coordinates: Waterfall #1
This was a nice two-tiered one; probably looks fantastic with slightly more flow, particularly the top tier.
Moving downstream, again without too much difficulty, we encountered waterfall #2 at GPS coordinates 41.712650, -77.464717. A smaller two-tiered one, this waterfall had more of the classical appearance to it.
Almost immediately upon turning away from waterfall#2, we observed a significant drop downstream, and quickly we made it to the top of waterfall #3. Here is where things got interesting.
The gorge walls get MUCH steeper at this point, and the only way we could navigate around the top of the falls down to the base was a 4-6 inch wide ledge covered in wet leaves. Not the kind of thing I personally would attempt in snow/ice, and a bit nerve-wracking even as it was. But we made it down to the base with cameras and body parts intact.
GPS Coordinates: Waterfall #3
Personally I found waterfall #3 to be the most interesting of the ones we visited on that day. It looked great with the amount of flow we had, and I liked the way it wrapped its way down the gorge.
After spending a good deal of time here, we moved downstream to waterfall#4.
As precarious as the descent to waterfall #3 was, it was nothing compared to the narrow goat path leading down to waterfall #4. And in fact Steve must have taken his manly-man pills before we left that morning as he chose to descend the tiny ledge-and-scramble while I stayed up top. So what you are looking at right above and right below are Steve's images of waterfalls #4 and 5, with me standing at the top of #4 for scale.
GPS Coordinates: Waterfall #4
GPS Coordinates: Waterfall #5
There was at least one other waterfall below the 5th one, but even Steve agreed that was probably best attempted another day by coming up Bear Run from below, rather than descending down the gorge any further. So we made our way back up out of the gorge and returned to the truck, tired but extremely satisfied with what we had seen.
Although the sun was setting, we drove up the road a bit to one of the scenic overlooks where the immensity of the Pine Creek Gorge is on full display. By a stroke of good luck or divine intervention, a bald eagle flew up and landed in a pine tree on the rim of the gorge, maybe 50 yards away.
Steve and I scrambled to get the telephoto lenses on the cameras, and the eagle was patient enough to oblige. We observed and photographed him for several minutes before he once again took off and soared down the valley. If there's a better way to put an exclamation point on a great day in the Pine Creek Gorge, I don't know what it is.
Until next time, happy hiking!