History of the Allegheny Front Trail
by Ralph Seeley

Reprinted with permission


From 1981 to 1985 we (the Penn State Outing Club and I) built the Rock Run trail system, mostly for XC skiing and short backpacks in an isolated area. Personnel of the Moshannon State Forest and I had discussed the idea of putting a circumferential trail around the whole Black Moshannon area, incorporating part of the Rock Run trail, but did nothing until we were galvanized by a proposal to build a trail from Prince Gallitzin State Park to Black Moshannon State Park. The proposer had no ‘troops’ behind him to accomplish the job, but it got us moving.

I had been rebuilding trails in the Quehanna area north of Clearfield ever since the tornado of 1985, but in 1995 I started scouting along the Allegheny Front east of the Park, in conjunction with Ken Barnes of the Moshannon District —sometimes alone and sometimes together. In June 1996 the first trail crew, a KTA crew, worked on the Front from Underwood Road to the Rattlesnake Pike. Then the scouting skipped over the Rock Run area to find a way from Rock Run over to Benner Run. We felt that it was important to use Benner Run because it is high-quality trout water and is a beautiful area, with its rhododendron cover along the brawling stream. But it was difficult to find a way over the height of land through the heavy scrub and laurel. We finally resurrected an almost-gone camp trail near the only hunting camp on Hall Run, and used that.

Along Benner Run there are two footbridges, constructed by PSOC using material purchased by RVOC and QATC. At the mouth of Benner Run is a camp bridge over Black Moshannon Creek. We considered installing our own bridge a half mile upstream on Black Mo to put distance between the trail user and a messy fisherman site at the camp bridge, but in the end the existing bridge was too convenient to ignore. The messy fisherman camp area was cleaned up and signed by BOF.

We decided to continue the AFT on over the height of land to the Red Moshannon Creek on an existing haul road, but run a cross-connector upstream to the Park along Black Moshannon Creek. That cross-connector has been named the Shingle Mill Trail by the Park manager, Chris Reese. On approaching Red Moshannon we had to decide how close we wanted to get to the I80 bridge over Red Mo. The possibility of a vista over the Red Mo valley, the I80 bridge, and the old railroad Viaduct bridge was compelling even though we had to accept I80 noise.

Red Moshannon Creek would be beautiful if it had not been acid-polluted by deep mines long ago. Downstream from Sawdust Hollow (site of a sawmill) there is a lengthy section of sidehill construction built by KTA. The passage of one horse would of course ruin this light-duty footpath construction. Then above Sawdust Hollow the trail climbs a sharp ridge in order to avoid an area that would have required more major sidehill work, and also to obtain views over the Red Mo valley. Finally the trail passes a steep land slump overlooking the stream and comes up onto the Munson Pike.

At the Munson Pike the trail jogs for a hundred yards on the road and then leaves it to climb steeply through heavy rhododendron and rocks up the spine of a ridge, briefly continuing on an old log road, then slabbing down a rocky slope into the Six Mile Run valley. Here the trail is alternately on flood plain and then on sidehill to get around places where the stream pinches in against the ridge. The construction was time-consuming, using KTA and PSOC crews, plus repeated visits by the trail maintainer to get it into its present excellent condition. The AFT continues alongside the beautiful stream for 3 miles up to the Rattlesnake Pike (PA 504). We have some hope that this 3 mile section can be placed into a Wild Area status.

The AFT crosses PA 504 and soon climbs steeply up onto an old railroad grade. This grade was initially hidden under heavy rhododendron, and was cut open by a combination of RVOC and BOF crews. When the grade ends the trail goes down into a grove of old hemlocks, and then moves up onto another old grade by which it slowly climbs up into a succession of tree plantations. The trees are red pine and Norway spruce, planted by CCC crews and later BOF crews.

The trail continues up the Six Mile Run valley by various stratagems to avoid hunting camps for aesthetic reasons. It goes down Slide Hollow, which was a long log slide during the white-pine lumbering days, and then passes Dayton Dam, a CCC-built pond. It passes below the outcropping called Wolf Rocks and turns up into a headwater drainage of Six Mile Run. Here it passes a beautiful little spring and grotto. It crosses other headwaters over to the upper end of the Black Moshannon stream, at this point a pretty little stream that flattens out into beaver meadows (and one working beaver pond). It jogs for 100 yds on Shirks Road, then crosses the Park boundary in order to connect to the existing Moss Hanne trail in the Park. Crossing the Julian Pike, it heads out to the Allegheny Front, where our story started.

Along the way out to the Front, about a mile east of the Julian Pike it crosses Smays Run, a small trout stream, on a bridge built by Gert Aron and I. The bridges placed in Rock Run were mostly built by me with the help of PSOC or BOF.

So that’s the story. If you have any questions, e-mail me at rsbb2025@vicon.net.
Ralph Seeley