John Summerson Trail

3.5 Miles
Trail hiked by:
OliverPhineas user profile picture
Trail added on:
April 16, 2021
Updated on:
May 03, 2021

Time to Hike: 1 hour, ~45 minutes

Camping Allowed


Dogs (leashed)

Water Source

PA Wilds PA Wilds

The John Summerson Branch Trail at Susquehannock State Forest's Hammersley Wild Area, near Cross Fork, Pennsylvania is a moderate 3.5-mile out-and-back hike. The John Summerson Branch Trail is a nice forest hike, and a beauty spot for some trout fishing. This trek leads the hiker along an 2 mile cascade of small water falls with abundant fishing holes and the possibility of over-night camping stays.

This hike follows the John Summerson Branch within the Hammersley Wild Area of north-western Clinton County.

Hike Description
This trek begins along Trout Run Road, where hikers will find a small parking turnout just before the creek crossing at Trout Run. Hikers will need to get their feet wet or come prepared with waders since the trail immediately crosses Trout Run before following a mostly-dry path that heads north along the John Summerson Branch and past, what appears to be a private camp. This section of the hike follows - what's depicted on the Hammersley Wild Area map - as yellow blazes. At least two additional creek crossings are need along the trail up the John Summerson Branch.

.2 Miles Cascade of Small Water Falls
Ideal habitat for the native PA Brook Trout. Recommend catch and release on these native fish streams. Catch and Release is a fishing technique of conservation. Once caught, the fish is immediately returned unharmed. For Fishing License purchase fishing rules, and fishing regulations please visit Pennsylvania Fish & Wildlife or visit local sporting goods stores to learn more.

After reaching the mouth of Van Oak Hollow, this trek ends and heads back to the parking area for a 3.5-mile out-and-back hike.

Additional hiking on this trail is available beyond the Van Oak Hollow to reach the John Summerson Branch summit at the junction of the Trout Run Ridge trail. This longer trek is published under the "Summerson - Trout Ridge - Lock Branch Loop".

Hikers will find a small parking area at the coordinates provided.

Dogs are allowed if leashed; however, depending on the size of your dog and the time of year, it might be best to leave your furry friend at home because of several creek crossings and the need to scale across a number of difficult blowdowns during of the hike.

Camping and Backpacking
Backpackers will find a couple of well-established campsites near the trailhead parking area.

Additional, dispersed camping spots can be found further along this hike, mostly in the areas where the tributary creeks of Lock Branch and Van Oak Hollow feed into the John Summerson Branch. Please follow all dispersed / primitive / backcountry camping rules and regulations that the state forest has in place.

This trail is not all that difficult in terms of elevation gain; however, there are sections of the John Summerson Branch Trail that will not be easy to hike.

The difficulty mostly lies within areas of blowdowns on the narrower paths cutting along the steep side hills. Maneuvering through or around the windthrows can be challenging on the steeper terrain. Be careful with footing especially on the descent part when walking around the blowdowns, or when stepping over or bending under the blowdowns on the steep hillsides of the John Summerson Branch Trail.

Creek crossings:
The creek crossings were not too difficult. However without the proper foot gear, the unprepared hiker will be left with not only wet feet but also water-laden footwear. One technique for dealing with creek crossings is to stow along a pair of light-wieght, knee-high waders, to change into during the creek crossings. When hiking on the dry portions of the trail change back into the more-supportive hiking boots necessary for rough terrain walking on the hillside trails.

Another technique is to come with a set of small stream fishing-waders, and trout fish the streams, avoiding the steep side-hill paths and the blowdowns.

Rattlesnakes: The Timber Rattlesnake tends to come down to creeks to cool down or hunt between the end of April through the end of September. Watch your step and give any rattlesnake you see some space.

Creek crossings: This trek requires the hiker to cross creeks several times. Come prepared with the proper footwear and gear for when crossing Trout Run and John Summerson Branch especially during the Spring.

Blowdowns: Some trail problems of concern to hikers including blowdowns on the narrow trail paths on steep slope hillsides.

Wild Plant of Interest
Horse Hoof's Fungus: This fungus makes a good tinder for flint and steel sparks. Used as a tinder to catch sparks and to carry a smoldering fire since at least 3200 BC. Once ignited a dry Horse’s Hoof Fungus can smolder for a considerable period of time.

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41.446281, -77.932241

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449 '

Total Change
819 '

786 '

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Note: Waypoints always include the parking location and trailhead. Campsites, waterfalls, and other points of interest are included in the GPX only if shown on the map.
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3 Trip Reports

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3.5 miles
Trail added
April 16, 2021
Updated on
May 03, 2021
0.0 miles
April 27, 2021
Explore of the Hammersley Wild Area near Cross Fork, Pennsylvania is the trace recording of this four-trail hike, which is a moderate 10.8-mile loop trek. These trails start along the Trout Run Road on the John Summerson Branch Trail which is a moderate walk, with a continuous gradual steepness for the 4 mile ascent. At the top of the John Summerson Branch Trail ascent turn right at the Trout Run Ridge Trail to hike toward the Beech Bottom Trail to find the F. H. Dutlinger Old Growth Forest Hike at the summit of the Beech Bottom Trail. This is a 0.5 mile spur along the Trout Run Ridge Trail that trails through the Old Growth Hemlock Grove. While hiking on the Trout Run Ridge Trail, the path to the Beech Bottom Trail turn was missed at the 5 mile mark during this loop hike due to a misplaced trail sign. The hiker came to a pipeline within 0.25 miles after the missed left turn on the Trout Run Ridge Trail hike, which gave the hiker an unmistakable visual clue of the missed turn on the Trout Run Ridge Trail. At this point, the hiker must turn back in the reverse direction to the Trout Run Ridge Trail and locate the missed turn. After a visit the Old-Growth hemlock forest on the upper portion of Beech Bottom Trail, this loop hike returns to the Trout Run Road trailhead parking area using the Lock Branch Trail which is a moderate walk, on a continuous gradual steepness along an old oil well pipeline road for the 3.2 mile descent.On this rather warm spring day, with the afternoon temperatures reaching in the high 70's and almost no wind, the punkies or swarming biting gnats, came out to be a nuisance at times. Not a big deal, but something to be dealt with in truly wild areas, where nature sets the rules. This longer loop trek report is also published under the "Summerson - Trout Ridge - Lock Branch Loop"
0.0 miles
April 27, 2021
Hiked the entire length of this trail with OliverPhineas (OP/original poster), but leaving report mileage at 0 to track mileage in the Summerson - Trout Ridge - Lock Branch Loop trail. The blazes along the John Summerson Trail are difficult to follow, even in the beginning where it splits with the Lock Branch Trail near the campsites 0.2 miles in from the parking area. We found a neat rock outcropping on the spine of the mountain, which we nicknamed "Hemlock Rock" on this hike. Also found a series of small waterfall cascades in the 2nd half of the trail. Hikers should note there is one very steep and potentially dangerous section of trail around mile 1.3 where the terrain becomes extremely narrow and slopes at a very steep grade. Last to note - if you hike this as an out-and-back, it might make sense to hike off-trail through the valley below along the creek to avoid the steep slopes - as OliverPhineas did in this trail data.

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In Cross Fork, PA

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