Note: The Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System has been greatly expanded beyond the 8.9-mile loop described at the top of the page here. Check out a good map from the forest service here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5052731.pdf
My husband and I put together an approximately 20-mile loop which we hiked over three days, October 7-9. The trail is generally moderate in difficulty: some stretches up on the top of the plateau are quite flat and easy; there are some narrow sidehills; a few big climbs between the top of the plateau and the edge of the reservoir; many small stream crossings (pretty much all dry in October) and a few larger stream crossings that may be trickier when water is higher; occasional big swampy stretches, especially on the old forest road between junctions 5 and 7.
Like most hiking in the Allegheny National Forest, it's a nice walk in the woods. Occasional views of the reservoir in between the leaves; a few house-sized boulders here and there. Blazes are generally excellent; there are signposts showing one's location on the trail map at all the numbered trail junctions.
There are two developed campgrounds with vault toilets and hand-pump water: Hopewell, which is directly adjacent to the trail, and Handsome Lake, which has a longer connector trail going down to it -- we didn't go down to Handsome Lake at all, but I assume it resembles Hopewell. We did not camp at either of the developed campgrounds. On the first night we used an established backpackers' site near the outlet of Polly's Run -- water in the run was very low, so we went down to the reservoir for water. On the second night we used an established site on the north bank of the Tracy Run outlet. Tracy Run was clearly at a pretty low ebb but it still had plenty of water in it. Many other established sites dot the shores of the reservoir. Lakeside campsites are popular with boaters, so don't expect much privacy or solitude even if you stay out of the developed campgrounds.
We didn't see much in the way of wildlife -- squirrels, mice, and chipmunks in enormous abundance. Spotted a bear track near Nelse Run but no bear encounters. A number of songbirds, especially closer to the water.
My husband and I hiked the western Rimrock Loop portion of this trail as an overnight. (September 24-25.) Overall hiking was easy to moderate. A few narrow and sloping sidehill sections. A few extremely dense, nearly-impassable blackberry thickets and multiflora (wild) rose thickets when we were there in late September. Tasty windfall apples from old apple trees.
Trail was generally well-marked although the turnoff for the Morrison campground was totally unlabeled, as noted by most of the other reviewers there. There's a three-way trail junction with a sign telling you you're on the Rimrock Trail; absolutely no mention that the third trail, which heads distinctly downhill, is the access to the campground.
The Morrison campground no longer has piped water; due to bacterial contamination they've removed the faucets. Water must be gathered from the reservoir and purified. Vault toilets are still there. Because the Morrison campground is accessible to boaters and is very close to the put-in facilities at Kinzua Beach, Dewdrop, and Elijah (just a few easy miles for kayakers and even stand-up paddle boards, not to mention powered craft), the campground is popular and can be noisy. On a very chilly weekend in late September all but two campsites were occupied. Views over the lake and dark, starry skies were lovely. But if I crave more peace and quiet, next time I'll camp at an established backpacker's campsite at Campbell Run (there's a site visible slightly off-trail where the trail turns southwards away from the run, and it had very low but juuust-viable amounts of water in the stream there) or Morrison Run (good water even in late September and multiple established sites all along the stream).
A lovely walk in the woods, like most of the Allegheny National Forest. The trail is in a Wilderness Area and the blazes are being deliberately allowed to fade. The footpath is occasionally hard to spot, especially in areas without much undergrowth; there are also some spots where large new-fallen trees are blocking the footpath and picking it up on the other side can require a little bit of casting about. Aside from the occasional challenge in trail-finding, though, my husband and I found the hiking to be very easy, even speedy, without much in the way of elevation changes. Not much in the way of notable geographic features, but the trail does travel through several kinds of habitat, even passing a few small meadows.
In early September we found low water at Coon Run and Jack's Run, although both did have enough water to be viable water sources for camping. Good established campsites readily apparent from the trail at both of these streams. On the east side of the loop the trail approaches a small unnamed feeder branch of Hickory Creek that also appeared to have adequate water and some established campsites further off the trail, although we did not investigate these personally. Smaller side streams and springs were generally dry.
We visited during Labor Day weekend (September 3-4) and saw 5 or 6 other groups of backpackers (in addition to numerous dayhikers on the section closest to the trailhead). In the morning, birding was excellent although we did not see any larger wildlife. Because it's a wilderness area, human noise from ATVs, gunfire, motorboats, etc, was at a minimum. (Yay!)
An additional note: I think the trailhead and connector trail have been moved from the original description above. Parking is no longer at the picnic area; there's a separate trailhead parking lot directly off Hearts Content Road -- look for a sign.
Overall, beautiful trail. Good variety of vegetation, large rocks, and beautiful streams. We started on the right side of the north loop trail and ending on the side by the overlook. There are some really huge boulders you walk in between. There was one part of the trail where there weren't any white diamonds, but keep following the blue tree marks until you see another white diamond and proceed from there. We also came across quite a few trees down covering parts of the trail.
Very nice hike. The 8.9 mile loop requires taking Tracy Ridge Trail to the NCT and then back up the Johnnycake trail. Or trailmarkers 1->2->15->14->12->11->10->17->3->2>1. The trail is very well documented with a map located at every intersection. You can make this a longer hike if you continue past the Johnnycake trail south along the NCT to trailmarkers 6 or 7.
This is a beautiful walk along a river. I went with my teen kids as an outing while in PA. Within a 1/4 mile we realized this is a bike path but we had our lunch and figured "what the heck". It's a really easy bike path and a walk on a hard compacted, well drained gravel road.
We only went to mile 4 before turning back. We're not super athletic but you'd need to run to get your heart rate up on this trail. We should have brought fishing poles!
I'm not bashing this trail at all. It was very clean with benches and a river. It's well shaded, well maintained, and close to the road. And, as published, easy (my bad; I never used this app before so I went conservative!) I give it 4 stars because it's advertised as easy and it's really nice to be along the river.
It's not a loop, but you can pick up this trail at several points along the way.
Hiked from the PA/NY border to Sugar Run Rd. Super wet and steamy as it had stormed the night before but great nonetheless. Completely alone the whole day except for the chipmunks. Plan to continue until I complete the 100 miles or so in the Allegheny National Forest. Always on the hunt for hiking partners as well.
Hiked this trail this past weekend and did an overnight with some friends. Pretty good trail overall. I like how you get a little bit of everything on this loop (inclines, declines, different types of vegetation, etc.). There were several other pre-established, but not official, campsite areas set up. Just look for the fire pits. I think we'll definitely be back again at some point.
Two things worth nothing to my fellow hikers -
- When we went (in August) a lot of the streams were dried up. There were 2 or 3 that we came across, but several of them were tried out. Just keep this in mind when filtering water.
- Wear pants. There are some gnarly plants along a few stretches that look furry, but when they hit your skin they are really really irritating (burning and itching sensations).
We also didn't see that much wildlife. Just a few deer here and there. This was somewhat surprising as we had been told there was a high chance we'd see bears.