This was an excellent hike for this time of year. As you can see from the map you have some nice elevation gains. A few nice views along the way. Can get confusing near mile marker 3 with the snowmobile trails intermixing with the hiking trail. On top of that some elitist type went through with black paint and covered most of the blazes so you may need to pause every now and again to find which way the trail leads. If the ground is wet or even covered with damp leaves I would go counter clockwise as the grade gets pretty rough to the left of the creek. This was one of the better hikes around the Johnstown area without a large water feature.
I love this trail. It is my go to when I don't know where else to go. It is a great half day hike and is easy enough for a beginner and has a ton of interesting features. If you go to the right of the loop first you will hike up the gorge along the water and if you hike to the left first you will see a small overlook of the river and then come to a massive boulder field.
Overall nice trail. The only area that is less than desirable was Verla Dr. to Wolf Rocks. You could haul a lot of trash out and then Wolf Rocks has some uninteresting Graffiti all over the rock faces. The overall terrain changes quite a bit which keeps you interested. Plenty of good water sources and a few places are nice for an overnight. I spent the night at MM 4.5 after starting at the Clear Shade Rd terminus ( to the east of Babcock Picnic area off 56 (I did counter clockwise hike). The Middle loop and Shade Creek area is very nice also. I did both loops in two days taking my time. For a 59 year old diabetic on his first full pack overnighter I enjoyed this trail.
We did the medium loop (10 mi.) -- cutting the big loop in half. It was a nice hike in early fall. Very easy and mostly flat with a few rocky parts. Not much to see. No overlooks or anything like that. Wolf Rocks are just a large rock outcropping in the middle of the forest (with some uninspired graffiti.
My son and I decided to use this trail as a close by trail to backpack on. Started at the trail head and hiked it counter clockwise so as to do the rockiest section first. We didn't get on the trail till almost 5pm but hiked to almost camp 59 before deviating from the trail and cutting part of the Western section off. We actually camped near the stream using a campsite that had been used multiple times before. The eastern section of the trail along the along the stream soaked us from the waist down the next morning. It was grown up and wet from the dew. Overall a nice outing. Lots of graffiti on the rocks up to and including wolf rocks.
Backapcked this trail yesterday, with plans of this being my first solo overnight and ran into a bear in the South Loop, turned my backpacking trip into a brisk paced hike, completing the entire trail in a day rather than the planned two. The trail was nice though, well marked and maintained. Not a whole lot to see and there was quite a bit of graffiti in Wolf's Rocks. Swinging bridge was pretty cool, but so narrow I barely fit on it with my pack.
I hiked this trail with my brother on 10-11 July 2015. Due to recent rains and the general topography the trail was very wet and muddy. On the first day we departed from the Babcock Picnic area towards Wolf's rocks. The rocks were cool, but all of the graffiti really took away from the view. We continued on the Western side of the loop and around to the south end of the trail where we crossed swinging bridge on Clear Shade Creek. We then walked the southern loop which is about 5 miles. We stopped at the shelter on the Southern most part of the little loop. The shelter was a mess. Someone had put down a large pile of Ferns inside of the shelter and then left them there to rot. It was a large gooie mess of rotted plants. We keep on hiking the rest of the Southern loop and back to the swinging bridge. This put us at about 13.5 mils for the day. We made camp in area around the swinging bridge. There were some other people camping in the area who brought their barking dog along. The next morning we finished the loop, which continued to be very wet and muddy almost to the very end. There were no real nice views or sights to see on this trail.
Unsure what to expect and after receiving some terrain tips from Blue Knob maintenance workers, the Cuz and I decided our trail head would be the Babcock picnic area. As a result of this decision, we were able to acquire a map at an outbuilding, of which, became a necessity as did a compass during our trek due to the lack of and/or hidden/confusing blaze marks (e.g., from orange, to red and orange, to yellow, then red etc. Be advised to NOT follow the diamond shaped orange reflectors). In addition, the continuing blaze markings after mile fifteen (backwards from Babcock) along an access road were not visible. Preferring assents over descents, especially steep, our decision to begin at Babcock paid off as the terrain consisted primarily of assents. Stream access for filtering potable water is available, but be sure to pre-map prior to your trek. Camp sites/fire rings are non-existent for over half the trail, thus responsibly constructing your own is necessary. Short wearers beware of nettles, especially in the lower regions near water. In addition to steepness, the trail consisted of numerous quagmire type conditions. Although lush with plant life, this trail receives only one star, due to the lack/non-existence of vistas and/or visual stimulation. In all fairness however, this trek may be better suited for fall/early winter conditions, as there is potential for visual beauty. Note: Although reaching our terminus in three days, this trail in entirety, in my opinion, is NOT for the average beginner backpacker.
There are many places to access this trail, which is a very large loop, but also has a smaller loop attached to it right off Shade Rd. To get to the smaller loop, park about halfway between Crum Rd. and Clear Shade Rd. There's a parking area next to a sign for "Fisherman's Walk," which is marked on the Forestry Bureau's map as one of the "Other Well Defined Trails." Take it down to the trail and turn right, then cross the foot bridge to reach the 5 mile loop.
We camped for two nights off Shade Rd. where it crosses the culvert over Mile Run. There's plenty of parking and across the street and about 15 yards into the woods, a clearing that is incredibly soft with moss. There's a large rock that we used to build a safe fire upon, and lots of fallen branches. You can hear traffic from 56, but not crystal clear. Shade Rd. itself got 1-2 cars an hour while it was light out - it's really a logging road that seemed to get used as a cut through to Crum.
Most people apparently park at the lot near the cross of 56 (Clear Shade Dr.) and Babcock Creek Rd.) but we parked in a pull-off just steps from where the trail crosses Hollow Rd. and highly recommend this if you want a more difficult hike, as it is between two ridges where the trail dips down to meet the road. However the slope to the northwest from the road was too difficult for us to safely traverse back down. So we took the snowmobile trail north to Old Bedford Pike, (which turns into Skyline Drive as it crosses Hollow Rd.). We walked back to the car on the road once we hit Old Bedford.
The trail itself is very well maintained and has changing scenery every mile or so. It's mostly easy, as you can see from the terrain maps. But do be careful as there are some slightly muddy areas (without recent rain) and steep inclines near Hollow Rd. and the improved dirt road that extends from Buffalo Rd. across Skyline.
For a Saturday afternoon at the end of September on such an easily-accessible, beautiful trail, I was surprised to only run into two other hikers - older ladies who said they were locals and regularly hike 8-12 miles in a day. Pretty cool, huh!
Things you should know:
*The trail is not a loop.
*The free maps available at the parking areas do not show the entire trail, which continues north-east.
*You can find alternate parking areas near where the trail crosses the roads.
*All roads but 56 are well-maintained logging roads made from asphalt or dirt.
The trail begins at the Babcock picnic area, which was closed but parking is available across the road along SR 56. There are no signs pointing to a starting point or trail entrance, you just need to follow the picnic area road and look for the orange blazed to your left. The first 1.5 to 2 miles are quite rocky until you reach the biggest of them, Wolf Rocks. Unfortunately, the rocks have been almost completely covered by graffiti, detracting from what would otherwise be a great place to explore. The rocks are not high enough to get any real view of the surrounding area. After Wolf Rocks the trail gets easier as it follows old railroad tracks and forest access roads. Along the way there is plenty of scenery, from forest glades to bogs, and interesting features, such as the walls for the railroad grade, and of course, the suspension bridge crossing Clear Shade creek connecting the long and short loops. There are good camp sites along the river and, although there were no other campers at the time, the campsites are assessable via a 2 mile connector trail from a roadway and would seem to be busier during the summer months. The trail is well marked by orange blazes and easy to follow. A worthwhile side trip is to the observation deck along the Bogs and Boulder trail which overlooks the large bog at the center of the long loop.