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I went on a hike with my family on the day after Christmas 2011 on the Cherry Run trail in State Game Lands 295 near Lamar, PA. The hike is 9.5 miles and is described in Tom Thwaites' book 50 Hikes in Central Pennsylvania. The hike is only mildly challenging for anyone who can walk 10 miles. But the setting is gorgeous. (Actually, a good part of it is in a gorge!) I would also recommend it as a trail run, somewhat more challenging than runs in our local State Game Lands, but nowhere near as tough as running the trails of Rothrock.

There are three challenges for runners and hikers. First, the route includes about half a mile on a winding country road with very little shoulder. Runners can get by this in about 4 minutes. Second, after leaving the road, there is a 900 ft climb in about 3.5 miles. But our Rothrock veterans should have no problem with this climb. Leg 1 of the mOUnTaiNBACK course has the same elevation gain, most of it coming in the 2.5 miles after turning on to Laurel Run, so the Cherry Run climb is not quite as steep as that. The last 5.5 miles of the run is downhill or nearly flat. The last challenge comes from the trail itself. I'd say about 80% of the trail is a nice running surface. The remainder is somewhat rocky, but nothing like the rockiness of the Mid-State Trail. In addition, the first two miles require crossing a small brook called Bear Run several times, and the last 4 miles requires hopping and splashing across small springs that feed Cherry Run. I suspect the water in both of these places was high on the day of our hike because of the wet year we've had, and that most of the springs would be nearly dry in the summer. But all in all, the challenges were not too hard, something that was easily accomplished by a couple in their 50s. We did the hike in just under 5 hours. At a time of year with longer days, I'd recommend taking it slower to soak up the scenery.

The beautiful setting easily repays the small challenges of the walk. Stands of hemlock, white pine, and white oaks, and thickets of rhododendron and mountain laurel border the trail everywhere except at the top of the hill, where mountain meadows afford a view of the surroundings. And the streams themselves are very picturesque: Bear Run, a small brook, on the outbound part of the walk, and Cherry Run, a deeper, noisier stream, on the return.

Directions: To get to the hike, take Rte 64 toward Lamar, PA. Just southwest (or south by the Rte 64 direction) of Lamar is Washignto Rd, which soon becomes Narrows Rd and heads to the southeast through a gap in the mountains. (You'd turn right if coming from Pine Grove Mills, or left if you took I-80 to get to Rt 64 in Lamar). Take this road 3.8 miles as it winds along Fishing Creek. Just before a bridge over Cherry Run is a turnout and parking lot on the left for the Game Lands. The turnout is directly across the road from Roachdale Rd. The hike as described has you do the required road walking first, so you'd park here and walk down Narrows Rd another half mile before starting the trail. Here is a Google map of the location of the start.

Here is a map and elevation profile of the hike. Here is a description of the hike from a hiking blog with some photos of Bear Run, giving you and idea of the types of stream crossings you'd be doing early on.

And below is a slideshow of some photos from my hike. One in particular shows my wife Vicky negotiating the most difficult crossing of Bear Run. If we can do it, anyone in this Club can.