Date: August 24, 2011
Total Distance: 9.39 miles
Time to Completion: 3:40 (hr:min)
Elevation Gain: 535 feet
Terrain: Dirt and gravel; single and multi-track, multi-use
We returned to French Creek State Park for a third time, with map in hand, and a planned loop that we had concocted ourselves. After studying the almost 35 miles of trails, we had decided to hike through the Western portion of French Creek, having done the Boone Trail (see Hike #8) and Mill Trail loops before on two separate occasions. All the guidebooks that we use stress the Boone trail as the hike to do, but part of the fun of going to French Creek is plotting a course and subsequently navigating the vast nework of trails.
We made the Turtle Trail our starting point, and parked at the lot indicated on the map right off of Fire Tower Road. From the parking lot, the trail was very easy to find. The Turtle trail overlaps with the Horseshoe Trail, and it was this trail that we spent the majority of our time hiking.
The Horsehoe Trail is a 140 mile trail that runs from Valley Forge National Park and ends at the Appalachian Trail near Harrisburg, PA. The trail was developed in 1934 by Henry Woolman, the founder of Abbots Dairy, to be a multi-use trail for hiking and horseback riding. The trail is blazed with yellow paint, and indicated on the trail map of French Creek using orange dots.
The French Creek State Park website describes the trails and gives each one a difficulty rating. Both the Turtle trail and the Horseshoe trail are rated as "more difficult hiking." However, the website and trail map do not have a legend as to what each difficulty means. From hiking along the Turtle trail, we can confirm that the Turtle trail does have a few difficult portions. There is a decent elevation gain in the early part of this hike with a lot of rocks to tread over. Hiking poles came in very handy during this leg of the hike, keeping us nicely balanced.
The Turtle trail eventually links up to the Boone Trail. As mentioned previously, most of the guidebooks that we own trumpet the Boone trail as their loop of choice. This is mainly due to the fact that the Boone trail covers many different areas of the park, offers a wide variety of terrain and scenery, and is almost akin to a "Best of" type hike. Certainly, some of the best sights that we saw on this hike came on the Boone trail.
We took the Boone trail to the Lenape trail and made a left at that junction. The previous two times we had been to French Creek, we had not seen Scott's Run Lake, and we were not going to miss it this time! The Lenape trail will take you right to the lake. Park benches, restrooms, and a boat launch can all be found when you reach the Lake. There were some awesome views from the top of the dam. When we arrived at the lake, we decided to take a fifteen minute break. While sitting at a table, munching down on an energy bar, we saw one of the largest wasps' nest we've ever seen hanging from the tree (picture can be found in our gallery here). After finishing off the bars, while nervously keeping an eye on the nest, we took some pictures, and headed back onto the Lenape trail.
As the weather was extremely beautiful, the trails had many visitors this day, including mountain bikers. It is important for hikers - as well as everyone on the trails - to share the trail. Since mountain bikers will be moving at faster speeds than you will be in your boots, it is courteous to move off-trail to allow them to pass (for my mountain biker readers, it is courteous for you to say thank you). Trail etiquette is a concept we will come back to in a future article, but it is important to remember on multi-use trails for hikers to yield to people on bikes and horses. They have as good of a chance hurting themselves trying to avoid you, as you have staying in their way. Therefore, it's not only courteous but also safer for you to yield the right of way to them. In the long run, it'll lead to a better hiking experience.
We continued along the Lenape trail (solid green blaze) taking that to a short connector trail (orange blazes with green stripe) until reaching the Six Penny Trail (orange blaze). Along the way, we encountered quite a few people walking their dogs. Hiking with dogs has been a inflammatory conversation between hikers with and without dogs. Until our more formal article regarding trail etiquette is published, it's best to know that if you are bringing your dog onto a trail that allows dogs (not every trail is dog-friendly, so check the park office before making an assumption), proper etiquette calls for your dog to be either on a leash (preferred) or under strict voice command. If you cannot control your dog with voice command (will your dog run up to a person even when you've asked he or she to heel?), then your dog should be on a leash.
By the time we had reached the Six Penny Trail, we made the decision not to do the Six Penny loop, instead taking the Horseshoe and Boone trails back to the parking lot. This portion of the Boone trail, however, is gorgeous! You almost feel like you're in a completely different world. In fact, when hiking French Creek - other than the occasional run-in with another person - you truly feel isolated. While on these trails, we heard minimal road noise, absolutely no gunfire (see previous hike in Dark Hollow), and were able to navigate the trail network with no problems! It was a great day and a great hike… We'll be going back real soon.
1. If going south on Fire Tower Road, use parking lot as indicated on map at second intersection.
2. Proceed south on road for a very short time, before finding the Turtle trail on your right. Take the Turtle trail (which overlaps with the Horseshoe trail) until you reach an area of overlap with the Boone trail.
3. The Boone and Horseshoe trails will also overlap. Stay on them until you get to Park Road. After hitting Park Road, you will want to turn left, and walk along the road - crossing a small bridge - before turning left back into forest and onto the Lenape trail (solid green).
4. Follow blazes until you get to Scott's Run Lake. Spend as much or as little time as you like here.
5. Find your way back to the Lenape trail and take it until you reach the connector trail (indicated by an orange blaze with a green stripe). You will cross Scott's Run Road as you walk along this trail.
6. After turning left on the connector trail, follow the orange blazes with green stripe until you hit the Six Penny trail. Turn left here.
7. The Six Penny trail will meet up with the Horseshoe trail, and you will make a left. The Horseshoe trail will overlap with the Boone trail again. Follow along with both trails until you reach an intersection in which you can turn right or left on the Horseshoe trail. Make a right to head back to the parking lot.
8. From this point, as long as you stay with the Horseshoe trail, it will meet up again with the Turtle trail and take you back to the parking lot, completing this loop.
(If you follow these directions, please leave us a comment below if they were helpful).