Home > Appalachian Trail Section Hike: Sunset Rocks Trail Loop

Appalachian Trail Section Hike: Sunset Rocks Trail Loop

Pine Grove Furnace - South

April 25, 2015


Round-trip distance: 8.5 miles

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Today was an impromptu hike for Dad, me and my dog Hunter: another Pennsylvania section of Appalachian Trail coupled with a fun loop via the Sunset Rocks Trail. Turns out this 8.5 mile loop also included the modern interpretation of the A. T.'s halfway point, commemorated by a large wooden post with A. T. insignias and two American flags, completed and placed here in 2011. (1090.5 miles pointing south and north).

We began and ended our hike at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Despite feeling lousy, coming down with some sort of sickness, I also dropped my GPS at the parking lot and cracked the screen. Thankfully the hike was not over-exerting and my GPS seemed to work mostly all right. I never really seemed to gain my second wind--let alone my first wind, but 90% of the trail was easy.

One somewhat steeper portion took us up from the creek crossing through a forest full of barberries, one of the greener places in an otherwise still mostly dead looking early spring woods.

Shortly after the midway point of the A. T., we passed by a shelter, complete with outhouse, fire ring and an old stone furnace. Just after this we turned onto the southern terminus of the Sunset Rocks Trail.

This trail was actually nicer than I had anticipated. The whole first half of it was basically flat, and then a gradual series of switchbacks led us to the spine of the rocky ridge leading to Sunset Rocks. We stopped at the first crest to enjoy the view, then continued on to the rocky scrambling portion of the ridge.

Route descriptions I had skimmed over advised to "leave Fido at home," but Hunter as a seven-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer is still all legs and energy. He had very little trouble navigating and jumping his ways past the obstacles, but any smaller dog would certainly have issues. There were places that definitely required hands as humans, and even narrow portions of the ridge that offered exposure by Eastern standards. It was a fun little scramble, and had I been feeling better I would have taken liberty in exploring more difficult climbing options.

At the other end of the scrambling, we emerged at a small saddle. Ironically we did not visit the actual Sunset Rocks; turns out that was just ahead of us. The impromptu nature of today's outing and both of us feeling lousy besides made me overlook where the main event even is. Oh well, I'll go visit it again some day.

From this saddle it is a steep drop all the way back down to the Appalachian Trail. I was relieved we were doing this down and not up. Then it was a couple of simple repeat miles back to the truck.