Elevation Profile of Trail
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My first hike on the Golden Eagle Trail was in 2005. Three years later, in 2008, I hiked the Golden Eagle Trail for my second time. When offered a chance to do this hike again with some friends, I realized that a pattern was starting to form: a hike on the Golden Eagle Trail every three years. It looked like I was starting a new hiking tradition.
This year I did the hike with Jody and Jeff. The two of them were preparing to go on a week long excursion in Canada and were looking for a hike to help get them in shape. The week prior to this hike saw the area inundated with inches of water and we were a little skeptic about actually making it out for this hike. But come the weekend the rains had stopped, the temperatures were in the mid-seventies and the sun was shining. We packed up our hiking equipment and headed up to Pine Creek and the Golden Eagle Trail.
The trailhead for the Golden Eagle Trail is located on route PA414. It can be reached, coming from the south, by taking route PA44 north at the intersection of US220 in Jersey Shore. Just past Waterville, you will take a right off of PA44 onto route PA414. Once you turn onto route PA414 set your odometer and drive for 11.2 miles. You will see a parking area on your left, directly after passing over a small bridge that spans Bonnell Run. If coming from the north, once you enter the town of Slate Run, travel for an additional 2.9 miles and you will see the parking area on your right.
The start of this trail in on the northern side of PA414, across from the parking area. Before you start off on your journey, make sure you have adequate supplies. There are many sources of water (Wolf and Bonnell Run) along the trail, but remember to bring a water filtration device or iodine tablet as most streams in Pennsylvania require some degree of water purification before drinking. Jeff discovered the hard way what it is like to run out of water before completing the hike.
The Golden Eagle Trail is blazed orange its entire length. We began the hike by slowly ascending along Bonnell Run. We came upon the trail register for this hike at 0.2 miles. Another 0.2 miles beyond the register is the intersection with the main loop. From here you have the option of turning right and conquering the steepest climb of the entire hike right off, or you can continue straight up along Bonnell Run. On the previous two hikes that I had done on the trail we turned right, so this time we decided to take the gradual ascent along Bonnell Run instead.
Golden Eagle Trail
After another 0.4 miles we reached the banks of Bonnell Run, but the trail jogs to the right, up the steep embankment. Fially at around a mile into the hike we were back down along the stream and crossed it for the first time. For the next 1.5 miles we would cross the stream about a dozen times. With the recent rains I thought we would find Bonnell Run flowing swiftly and high. But to my surprise, the stream seemed to be at normal levels and we had no trouble at all during our stream crossings.
It was mentioned that there were a bunch of blow-downs on the trail, from an early summer storm, and that the hiking of the trail was difficult at times. I can attest to the fact that there were indeed blow-downs. Quite a few, actually, especially toward the middle section of our ascent along Bonnell Run. Luckily we were only carrying lite day packs, so we were able to maneuver over or around the trees, but the number of blow-downs was slowing us down and affecting our speed in doing the hike.
Just past the last real stream crossing at about 2.5 miles into the hike, the trail began to get noticeably steeper. It became even steeper yet at 2.9 miles when the trail makes a right and climbs over a rocky section, going straight up out of the hollow. Luckily this steep section is relatively short, and after a little more than a tenth of a mile of steep climbing, the trail turns to the left and levels out.
At 3.3 miles we emerged onto a grassy access road. Jody and I paused here and had a drink while we waited for Jeff to catch up with us. After a few minutes Jeff appeared and once he had a chance to catch his breath, we turned right and began a gradual ascent on the grassy road.
At 3.5 miles we had a chance to look out across the Bonnell Run area from our first vista of the day. Just a few hundred feet past that was an intersection with another grassy road, where we once again turned to our right.
The Beulahland Vista was on our left, about 3.7 miles into our hike. The previous times I visited this vista, the sky was cloudy and overcast. There were clouds here today as well, but of the fluffy, cumulus variety, with breaks of blue sky and the sun shining through. It made the vista all that more impressive. We paused here a few minutes for pictures and to enjoy the vista before continuing our hike.
Soon the grassy road came to an end and we resumed hiking on a single track trail. We were now beginning a gradual descent along the ridge line. We were offered yet another view, at about 4.3 miles into the hike, this one looking down the Wolf Run drainage area. This vista is becoming overgrown with encroaching trees and brush. Unless it is maintained, this view will probably no longer exist in another five to six years.
Our hike for the next 2.7 miles descending along the banks of Wolf Run were rather uneventful. At the last vista we were passed by a pair of hikers, but we did not meet up with them again. There were a number of blow-downs towards the upper reaches of Wolf Run, but not as many as we had encountered along Bonnell Run. And like Bonnell Run, Wolf Run was flowing at an average height and we had no trouble crossing or hiking along its banks.
One thing that I noticed, specifically on our hike along Wolf Run, was the large number, and variety, or mushrooms. It wasn't overly warm on this day, but it was quite a bit muggy, and we had recently experienced a prolonged period of heavy rains. There were mushrooms growing everywhere, and in more varieties that I can ever recall seeing, especially on one hiking trip. I may have viewed a dozen or so different mushrooms during a season of hiking, but today we had seen over thirty different types of mushrooms all in one afternoon.
At seven miles into the hike we reached the point on the hike where the Golden Eagle Trail leaves the banks of Wolf Run and climbs up towards the Ravenhorn and the ridgeline above. There is a trail that continues down along Wolf Run, which will take you to the rail-to-trails. Jeff was feeling a bit spent, having drank all of his water, and we suggested that he follow this trail out. Turning right at the rail-to-trails, he would be able to follow it back to the trailhead and our cars. However, he said he had made it this far and wanted to complete the hike. Jody gave him a bit of his water, and we all started our ascent our of the Wolf Run valley.
The going was quite steep with a number of switchbacks, and we finally reach the rocky ridgeline 0.3 miles later. It was still steep in places along the ridgeline, but it wasn't a constant climb like the switchbacks. We had opportunities to enjoy some level sections of hiking, before we once again continued our climb.
At 7.6 miles into the hike we reached the Ravenshorn. We had seen one, small rattlesnake so far on the ridge, so we were wary when we reached the Ravenshorn. Out cautiousness paid off as we soon discovered an adult rattlesnake and about four young ones calling the Ravenshorn their home. We kept a respectable distances from the snakes while we waited for Jeff. It was quite interesting, really, sharing this rocky outcropping with the rattlesnakes. They didn't seem to mind us being there and we got to watch the little snakes curl up in imitation of their mother, as well as crawl over her and onto other sections of the Ravenshorn.
After a prolonged wait, Jeff finally appeared. He was in a pretty rough state and gladly accepted a bottle of ice cold water from Jody. We gave Jeff a good bit of time to recoup somewhat before we began the last part of the climb on the trail. We took it slow and deliberate and finally reached the end of the climb at about 7.8 miles into the hike. We were all grateful to begin the long descent back to the trailhead.
The climb down off the ridge was steep in places, but it lessened quite a bit once we hit an old forest road. The trail turned off the old road at 8.4 miles with a sharp right and we followed the edge of what use to be a field or pasture. Soon we were back in the woods, and at a little under 8.8 miles we were back at the intersection with the entrance trail. We turned left here and finished up the last 0.4 miles of the hike and arrived back at the trailhead and our cars.
The hike was around 9.1 miles in total length but it had taken us just a bit over six hours to hike. This can be partially blamed on the number of blow-downs on the trail. We also spent a fair amount of time enjoying the views as well. It wasn't a killer time for hiking the Golden Eagle Trail, but I wasn't complaining. I finished the hike with some energy remaining and really enjoyed the opportunity to be out in the woods and to once again experience the thrill of hiking on the Golden Eagle Trail.