Visiting the “Waterfall Wonderland” in Sullivan County
In his excellent book "Hiking the Endless Mountains" author Jeff Mitchell refers to State Game Lands 13 in Sullivan County as a "Waterfall Wonderland". Having read about and seen many pictures from this western neighbor of the more-famous Ricketts Glen State Park, my friend Steve Rubano and I decided to take advantage of an unseasonably warm January day and make the 2 hour road trip from State College.
We decided to focus our hike on the eastern portion of SGL 13, which would take us to Sullivan Falls, Big Run Falls, and several unnamed falls along Pigeon Run.
The drive up was fairly uneventful, save for some dense fog in spots along Route 118. The last 2 miles of the drive, along the dirt road leading to the parking area, was a bit of a slow-go due to ice. But Steve's 4x4 handled it without incident and we made it to the parking area closest to Sullivan Falls around 11:00 am.
Sullivan Falls Parking Area GPS Coordinates: 41.335133, -76.338967
NOTE: On Google Maps the road leading to the parking area is listed as Jamison City Road, but the road sign in the town of Jamison City itself says Sullivan Falls Road, so be aware that is where you need to turn if approaching from that direction.
Upon arriving at the parking area (a dirt lot marked by various State Game Lands signs) the trail leading to Sullivan Falls will be obvious, as will be the sound of the falls themselves (watch the video at the end of this post to see/hear a sample).
Walking from the back of the parking lot down the short trail to the East Branch Fishing Creek, you will come face-to-face with this 35-footer as it powers over a ledge into a large pool below. The descent to the bottom of Sullivan Falls was challenging as the narrow switch backs were covered in snow and wet leaves, but having driven 2 hours to get there we were not going to be denied. If you were visiting during dry conditions spring-fall I'm sure it would be a much simpler affair.
After spending 45 minutes or so shooting Sullivan Falls from various angles, we returned to the parking area and then hiked up Sullivan Falls Road for a few minutes until we came to Big Run Falls, which is clearly visible from the road.
Big Run was flowing nicely and this waterfall, while not as impressive as Sullivan Falls, still warranted a few frames.
Big Run Falls GPS Coordinates: 41.333800, -76.335483
After finishing up at Big Run Falls, we hiked back down Sullivan Falls Road in the direction of the parking lot. Just before reaching the parking area an old forest grade/log road became obvious on the right (marked prominently with a white "No Camping" sign). This was the path to Pigeon Run. The trail descended down to Big Run, which we picked our way across - there is no foot bridge. Ascending the opposite bank of Big Run, we then hiked maybe 30 minutes til we reached a fork in the log road. We stayed to the left/lower road and hiked maybe another 10 minutes until we reached Pigeon Run, which flows directly across the trail.
As previously mentioned, the falls on Pigeon Run are unnamed, as far as I can tell from researching them. However, that makes them no less spectacular and personally I found the hike up Pigeon Run to be the most interesting and photogenic part of the trip. I have simply numbered them here in the order I came across them. From what I understand there is one fall below where we explored as well as one above where we stopped for the day, due to deteriorating weather conditions. Those will have to wait for another day.
GPS Coordinates for Pigeon Run: 41.341500, -76.335217
As the light was fading and the fog thickening, we decided to make our way back to the truck around 3:00 pm. Retracing our steps back down the forest grade and across Big Run, we made it out just as a steady rain started to fall. Creeping back down Sullivan Falls Road, we made it to the safety of black top in Jamison City and then on home, another successful "mission" under our belts.
I have no doubt that there will be many more trips to this fantastic destination once the spring thaw arrives. We only scratched the surface on this trip and there are many more streams and falls to be explored in SGL 13. This one truly lives up the nickname - "Waterfall Wonderland".