How to Thru-Hike the Loyalsock Trail

There’s nothing like the sense of pride that comes with finishing all of something, and hiking a trail in its entirety is really something special. But it’s hard to do.

If you’re anything like me, you dream of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, but walking away from society for three+ months is difficult to pull off. And that’s putting it lightly. Fortunately, there are a lot of eventful trails that are shorter. The Loyalsock Trail connects Mountoursville and Laport, two small towns in north-central Pennsylvania. The trail spans along the Loyalsock Creek for 59.2 miles. Hiking the whole thing in 4 days is certainly no easy feat, but it’s entirely doable.

Mile 1 of the trail is at the Northwest end, in Williamsport, but I’ve always done this trail backwards, starting at mile 59.2 and ending at mile 1. Mile 1 is a treacherous rocky hill, so starting it backwards helps you ease in on a more gradual start. Plus, then you have a nice steep downhill to look forward to as your last mile. đŸ™‚

About the Loyalsock Trail

The LT is maintained by The Alpine Club of Williamsport. It follows the mountain ridges and streams along the Loyalsock Watershed. On abandoned railroad grades, footpaths, and old logging roads, the trail makes its way through the Loyalsock State Forrest.

The trail is marked with yellow blazes with red lettering.

Click here for a detailed, mile-by-mile breakdown of the hike.

A Note About Water

On this hike, we carry 2 Nalgene bottles and collect water from streams along the trail. I recommend packing 2 1-liter water bottles and something to use to treat your water. Check out my guide for techniques to purify your water.

The Best Time of Year to Hike the Loyalsock

If you’re from PA, you know the 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, & construction. What I mean is, things are hit or miss and vary from year to year. Obviously it’s better to go during a clear forecast, but that can be difficult to predict. It’s also more enjoyable to hike during mild weather, and that’s something you can predict, within reason.

I’d say the best time to do this hike is in September or May. That will save you from extreme heat during the day and extreme cold and night. If you can, check the forecast and choose a weekend that isn’t so rainy. But if you have a rain fly for your tent and a rain jacket for your person, a little rain isn’t a deal-breaker. At least not for me!

Of course, you can hike the trail any time of year. Heaven knows that Bart has! Personally, I’ve done the hike twice: once in May and once in July. The July time was a bit miserable–so hot! Another thing to keep in mind, if you’re doing it in the summer, is the bugs. Oh, the bugs! I didn’t have any issues with ticks, but there were gnats buzzing in my ear for much of the trip. So much so that I got into a rhythm of step, swipe bugs out of my eye, step, swipe bugs out of my ear. Rinse and repeat.

But if you’re an experienced hiker and you like a challenge, you can definitely do it in the heat, if that’s your jam. Just bring extra socks.

Camping/Hiking Permits for the Loyalsock Trail

If you’re hiking the entire Loyalsock Trail, you don’t need a permit. Just find a good-looking spot on the edges of the trail. The world is your oyster. Just don’t camp on any private property, and there is no camping between miles 14.82 and mile 21.14. That’s all private property.

Some people prefer to just do part of the trail or have a more laid-back camping trip, & that can be fun! Depending on where you stay, you’ll need to get a permit. I would recommend World’s End State Park, which has beautiful overlooks. That campground opens the second Friday in April and closes at the end of regular deer season (early December).

Trail Transportation

Though I’ve never used it a shuttle service exists for hikers on the LT. You will need to pay a fee and schedule ahead of time.

Another option is to park a car at either end, and one in the center can add an extra layer of security, in case someone gets injured or has a change of heart. Plus, you can store some supplies and food in there!

Here’s where we park our 3 cars.

  • 1 in the parking area along route 87, at mile 1, which is the northwest end of the trail
  • 1 in the parking area off of 220, at mile 59.2, which is the southeast end of the trail
  • 1 at High Knob Overlook, which is mile 29.95, roughly the center of the trail

If you’re parking a third car at High Knob Overlook, be sure to stash a feast in there. Goldfish, gatorade, honey mustard pretzels, jerky. The works.


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