Route: Susquehannock Trail System Loop, Southern Gateway (PA)

Submitted by runwadm on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 06:32pm
Pennsylvania, US
85 mi
Vertical Gain
14,319 ft

The Susquehannock Trail System (STS) is a remote long-distance loop trail in far north-central Pennsylvania that is maintained by Susquehannock Trail Club. The route largely follows old CCC fire trails, logging roads, and logging railroad grades. The trail is orange-blazed, with the “STS” emblem painted on trees at intervals. The STS is connected to Black Forest Trail via the North Link and South Link Trails (see separate entry below), and for 8.7 miles it shares a path with Donut Hole Trail. Along its lengthy route, the STS passes few signs of modern civilization and reaches into very remote state forest areas with a particular sense of quietude and seclusion.

The Northern Gateway, which provides access to the northern portion of the STS loop, is at the Bureau of Forestry headquarters building on US 6 about halfway between Sweden Valley and Walton. From the parking lot, an access trail leads a short distance to the main STS loop. Another access point for the northern portion of the loop is Lyman Run State Park, where a 1.5-mile access trail leads from the south end of the lake to the STS. The Southern Gateway is at Ole Bull State Park on PA 144, through which the trail passes.

GPS Track


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This is an interesting trail. I ran and skied it years ago and now am back scouting it for an fkt attempt later this summer or fall. Or maybe it will be an okt (only known time):) 

Searching the internet I've found several accounts of backpacking trips, mostly 5 plus days, though Cam Baker did it in 2 and a half days. Don't think he tracked it though.

I'll be aiming for sub 50 hours, by going light and staying in motion as much as possible. If achieved the record would be marshmallow soft and hopefully will inspire others to get out and get after it!


Quite coincidental you commented on this trail this morning.  I just completed the self-supported FKT at 12:08am yesterday, 7/25.  I started in Hogback Hollow campsite at 5:10am on 7/23, and my total time was 1 day 18 hours 58 minutes (42:58).  I submitted my track yesterday so just waiting for approval.  It's my first FKT attempt, so hopefully I tracked it correctly.  The solitude was astounding.  I passed 2 tents set up at Hammersly Pool at 6:30am on 7/24 and only passed 1 other hiker the entire time.  Lots of deer, no bears this trip, 1 rattlesnake, 1 beaver.  many glowing eyes while night hiking on the final day.  If you have any questions about the trail, don't hesitate to reach out!

Congratulations Bob! Just saw this post and read your report. A coincidence for sure, but this is turning out to be fastpack summer.

I am curious about the frequency of available water? I plan to carry two 17 oz hand-helds and fill them from streams with a filter.

You/ve set the bar pretty high, it inspires me to train:)

Water was not an issue for me except for my last 10 miles, but that was my own fault.  to preface, I carry a 1L BeFree and a 1L Gatorade but rarely carry more than half a liter. I just pound a liter or two at water crossings making sure I'm aware of the next crossing.  I had stopped for water at Lyman Run right at sunset, filled a liter and drank that  and finished it as I hiked up the 600' climb.  I don't recall filling any water for at least 8 miles prior to that, maybe more.  I was rushing to finish and with the sun setting, for some reason I misread the map and thought the climb out of Lyman run was actually the climb to Cherry Springs fire tower.  Needless to say, I was quite confused when I reached W Branch road near Corbett in the dark, thinking it was Route 44.  I started to mildly panic because it was pitch black, 10'ish PM and I had no idea where I was or where the trail was.  I finally discovered it jogged West on W branch road for a few hundred yards but wasn't well marked.   I finally found the trail and in my haste, began to quickly ascend Cardiac Climb neglecting to fill water at W branch of Pine Creek.  I reached my car parked on 44 at 11pm and had only drank 1L in the past 16 miles or so. I knew the next water was 3 miles down into Hogback Hollow.  I had 2 liters in my car and decided to pound it to make the 700' descent tolerable.  Long story short, the only dry section is at the very North portion of the trail from the first time you cross Lyman Run to Hogback Hollow.  Fill up at each of those crossings.


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I will be attempting to set the new mark on Wednesday November 4 beginning at Patterson State Park at approximately 5am going counter clockwise.  I am going unsupported with intentions of completing the circuit in under 27 hours.  I will be tracking with my Garmin in reach mini as well as with my Gaia app and on Strava.  Here is my garmin map share link:

DNF. Started off strong and was on pace to beat the supported time until mile 56 when I could no longer overcome the stomach distress I was having.  Planning to give it another go on November 20 beginning at Patterson State Park at 5 am.  Here is my video documentary of my attempt.

I was able to complete the STS on November 22 and set the new Unsupported FKT in 31 hrs and 12 min.  As soon as my Strava link is available I will submit it along with the Gaia gpx and kml files for approval.  My Garmin Inreach mini link will unfortunately not be useable as it stopped working for three hours in the middle of my attempt.  

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On  Friday November 20, 2020 at 5:09 am I began my Unsupported FKT attempt of the 85 mile Susquehannock Trail System (STS) at Patterson State Park and was able to finish on Saturday November 21 at 12:21 pm with a total time of 1 day, 7 hrs, 12 min and 55 sec according to Gaia.  I also had Strava running and it failed to upload a completed link for some reason, I believe it was a glitch on my iphone 8.  My Garmin inreach mini was also tracking the entire time except for approx. 3 hrs. It does however show the start and finish of the FKT.  

I had been looking at this trail since March but was unable to make the time for it until November.  I trained fairly hard for three months prior and felt strong going in. I was hoping to beat the 27 hour, 22 min Supported time but fell just four hours short of that mark.  I was on pace to easily beat the supported time at the halfway point logging 42.5 miles at the 12 hour mark but 13 hours of night hiking and having a distressed stomach really slowed down my pace especially during the final third of the trail.  My food bag weighed in at 4 lbs which I carried during the entirety of the circuit inside my Palante Joey along with an extra pair of socks and an emergency camp set up if needed.  All of my water came from streams and creeks along the trail.  I vlogged my attempt for my Youtube channel and the video will be available soon.  I was also being filmed by one of my friends who drove to various locations where I crossed roads.  

At 1:30 am I laid down for about a half hour for a short nap but was unsuccessful due to the freezing temps.  At 2am I got sick and was unable to consume the necessary calories to keep pushing at the pace needed to beat the supported time.  At that time I refocused my attention to set a solid time in the low 30 hours and still be far ahead of the self supported time.  Fortunately I had created enough of a buffer in the first half of the trek to allow me to slow down and still complete the trail in a respectable time.  At 5 am the need for sleep felt overwhelming and I decided to lie down for a half hour before setting out on the final push.  This is where my Garmin mini acted up.  I had been charging it for about an hour and when you unplug a Garmin mini it proceeds to shut down and you must turn it back on and start tracking once again.  Coincidentally this happen to be the day that my Gamin plan was switching from the Expedition Plan to the Recreation Plan and because of this my unit did not work for over three hours.  

The final 6 miles were torture on my body and I had no more running left in me at all.  It's hard to explain the amazing feeling once I did exit the woods for the final time at the finish line and was finally able to lay down and receive support!  Not only was my buddy there to film me at the finish, but also three Susquehannock Trail Club officers met me at the end and provided me a home cooked breakfast right at the trail head!  

This is an amazing trail that passes by four shelters, three state parks and numerous beautiful camping options along its diverse terrain with approximately 13,000 ft. of elevation gain! The STS contains the state’s second largest Wild Area and many sections of it reminded me of the Quehanna Trail that I did this past March, the state’s largest Wild Area, where I was fortunate enough to see a herd of elk. I highly recommend this trail for FKT's and/or just a relaxing backpacking trip.  Much of it is very runnable but be warned, some of the climbs are unbelievably difficult, some of the hardest I've seen in the East.   

I did an unsupported solo run of the entire 84-mile loop of the Susquehannock Trail System (STS), starting 05/31/2021 at 7:52:19 and ending 06/01/2021 at 9:24:26, with a total time of 25:32:07.


I had a lot of fun!  The STS is located in a beautiful wilderness area of Pennsylvania. I was first introduced to the STS two weeks before, when I did a fun run organized and crewed by Rick Moyer.  I wasn’t able to complete the entire loop then because of foot problems, and I wanted to go back and run the entire STS loop. Rick suggested to attempt a fastest known time (FKT), something I had never done before, and I decided to run unsupported because I could easily rely on filtered stream water and my food needs are simple. Following the official rules of unsupported FKT, I carried all my supplies from the start and I had no support.  For emergencies I carried a GPS communication device and I shared my location with my family in Delaware.  For navigation I used the set of waterproof maps that come with the STS trail guide by Chuck Dillon. I also used a phone app (Avenza Maps) with pre-loaded USGS topo quads, and I also used this app to record the GPS track.


I started and finished at Ole Bull State Park campground, going clockwise. The weather was sunny, a bit warm during the day (mid 70s) and cool at night (mid 40s).  I did not see a single person the entire time on the trail, except when I ran through Cross Fork Village.  I did have a close encounter with a huge porcupine that I almost stepped on, and I also crossed path with a black bear 20 m away which rapidly ran away from me, which was quite a relief. 


The description below uses the official mile markers, with my run starting at mile 26. There are several sections of the STS I especially liked, including the first section from Ole Bull State Park (26) as the trail quickly ascends 1000 ft from Kettle Creek and then descends into Impson Hollow (29) and then Spook Hollow (31). The morning light shining on the ferns was just magical.  One of my favorite sections of the STS is the descend on the Morgan Hollow trail (36), which has a true wilderness feel to it.  It is crazy steep and it was slick from the recent rains and I made one particular bad fall, landing on my phone that I was carrying in my back pocket. I was worried that the GPS tracking stopped, which it didn’t, but it did mess up the volume buttons.  A few hours later I descended into Cross Fork Village on the Lieb Run trail (47), a fast runnable trail section. This was followed by a mile of road running, plus some extra when I missed the turnoff for the Twin Sister Trail (50).  From there the trail ascends 1000 ft, and then descends to the Hammersley trail (54), a scenic trail section that runs along a creek.  At this point in the afternoon it was getting quite warm and at some point I misjudged where to get water and I had to ration fluid intake. Next the STS followed a flat section on the Buffalo Susquehanna rail road grade (62-64), and then for the next 13 miles it followed a sequence of ups and downs on some of my favorite trail sections.  The light was beautiful in the woods as the sun was setting, and together with the temperature dropping it made for perfect running conditions.  I reached Patterson State Park (77) in the dark and I felt strong.  I had a minor problem at a planned water stop (81), which was actually a bad spot for accessing the creek, and I had to do some mid-night acrobatics on the creek bank, realizing as I was filtering that I was right next to some large animal holes with chewed up bones. I was glad to get back on the trail!  Next I reached the Northern Gateway ridge trail (84/0), a flat and runnable trail section.  Occasionally I would look at the stars. At this point it was the middle of the night, I was getting tired and I had to force myself to stay super focused on not tripping (which is what happened two weeks ago) and to keep up my fluid and fuel intake.  I reached Cardiac Climb (11.5) unscathed this time and there were only a few miles left until Cherry Springs Fire Tower (14).  This is where I stopped two weeks ago and this time I was in much better shape.  12 miles left.  I had not run this section before and I found some of it confusing and not the most scenic trail surface to run on.  I was happy to finally reach Cherry Run trail (21). The final descend into Ole Bull State Park (26) was the best, morning light on the ferns, magical.  My quads were hurting pretty bad and I was sleep deprived, but otherwise I felt fine.  It was a little weird to arrive at my final destination, alone. Then it was a hot shower, food, some sleep, pack up, and drive home.

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I will be attempting a supported FKT on the Susquehannock Trail Loop starting at Ole Bull Run on Friday, July 16, 2021.