The 405-acre Salt Springs State Park is in northeastern Pennsylvania, seven miles north of Montrose in Susquehanna County. Focal points of the park are the towering old growth hemlock trees, many estimated to be more than 300 years old, and the rocky gorge cut by Fall Brook with its three waterfalls.
Hiking at Salt Springs State Park
14.85 miles of trails
The trails pass through old growth forest, overlook the gorge, and meander through various habitats.
2 miles, most difficult hiking, blue blazes
Because of its elevation changes, this is the second hardest trail to hike. From the north it is accessed from the West Meadow. Together with Silver Creek Trail it runs parallel to a ridge while overlooking Silver Creek.
It splits from Silver Creek Trail, proceeds up a steep climb through the most western part of the park, and crosses Buckley Road before ending at Wetlands Trail.
1.5 miles, more difficult hiking, orange blazes
This loop is best accessed from a small parking lot on Buckley Road, east of where Fall Brook crosses the road. The trail ascends gently along Fall Brook to a small clearing which was once a log landing.
It then climbs steeply for a short distance through hardwood forest before intersecting and paralleling Cliff Trail through forest and old fields with some excellent views. It leaves Cliff Trail, passes a delightful spring, and then descends through a forest back to the parking lot.
1.6 miles, more difficult hiking, blue blazes
This trail can be reached from either Bunny Trail or from the Friends Parking Lot. After a short climb, Cliff Trail follows the contours of the land, gently climbing to the southwest corner of the property where there is an interesting spring area and Frog Pond. All along this section are boulders and cliffs worth exploring for ferns and wildflowers.
From the pond, the trail follows an old logging road and then descends to where it intersects Bunny Trail and then back to the main parking lot.
Fall Brook Trail
1 mile, most difficult hiking, red blazes
Access this trail across the bridge from the Wheaton House. It follows Fall Brook and climbs steeply along the three waterfalls. Use extreme caution on slippery rocks and near the edge of the falls.
After the third waterfall, the trail flattens out and follows the brook past Buckley Road until it ends at the intersection with Bunny Trail.
1.9 miles, more difficult hiking, white blazes
This trail starts at Hardwood Trail and heads south out of the forest and through a meadow to Buckley Road. From there it meanders south through another meadow before reentering the forest.
The trail eventually heads west to join Summit Trail near the highest point in the park. It can also be accessed from the Friends Parking Lot on Buckley Road.
0.4 mile, more difficult hiking, blue blazes
This trail runs south from the Wheaton House. After a sharp but short ascent, it levels out and follows the gorge rim. It goes through remnants of an old flagstone quarry and along a meadow's edge before returning to the woods and connecting with Buckley Road.
0.5 mile, more difficult hiking, yellow blazes
Access this trail at the northeast end of the picnic area, past the salt spring. After ascending the moderate slope along the edge of the hill, the trail swings south and climbs gently through mixed hardwoods before leveling out and turning west to where it intersects Woodland Trail.
0.4 mile, more difficult hiking, white blazes
Access this trail at the northeast end of the picnic area, past the salt spring. Follow right and climb steeply up the hill into the old growth hemlock forest. Just past the intersection with Woodland Trail, Hemlock Trail becomes a raised boardwalk. It follows the east rim of the gorge past Penny Rock to where a right spur leads to an observation platform overlooking the falls. Use extreme caution near cliffs and steep drop-offs.
The trail continues to where it eventually intersects Fall Brook and Overlook trails.
0.8 mile, easiest hiking, yellow blazes
Accessed from either Buckley Road or Silver Creek Trail, this largely flat trail loops through meadows and by old foundations, stone walls, and an interesting shale outcropping.
North Creek Trail
0.5 mile, easiest hiking, red blazes
This trail begins behind the Williams Pavilion, crosses Silver Creek (no bridge), and runs west through meadows and wild apple trees along the meandering creek, which creates scenic views. After re-crossing Silver Creek (no bridge), it joins Silver Creek Trail.
0.2 mile, easiest hiking, blue blazes
Designed specifically for accessibility, this short, wide trail begins at the parking lot on the north side of Buckley Road. The trail winds through light and dense forest on level land and connects to Fall Brook Trail near the overlook to the falls.
This activity or structure is ADA accessible.
Silver Creek Trail
1.2 miles, more difficult hiking, red blazes
This trail is accessed from behind the dairy barn and parallels Silver Creek through hemlocks and carpets of ferns. It follows the creek, climbing gradually through mixed hardwoods, and then up a steep climb to where it connects with Meadow Trail. An old stone wall can be an interesting rest stop.
0.5 mile, easiest hiking, white blazes
This trail begins at the far western edge of the park, where Border Trail crosses Buckley Road. The trail follows an easy grade through a magnificent grove of towering spruce trees planted during a reforestation project. It ends near the beginning of Wetlands Trail at Salt Springs Road.
1 mile, more difficult hiking, red blazes
This loop consists of a short climb of about 0.3 mile from Frog Pond to the highest point on the Friends’ property, returning to Frog Pond via an old logging road. The summit is a relatively flat area, with large, widely spaced trees.
0.5 mile, more difficult hiking, red blazes
This trail extends the loop of Hardwood Trail, climbing steadily up the mountain through mixed hardwoods, before circling back to rejoin it.
0.6 mile, easiest hiking, blue blazes
This trail starts at the Buckley Road bridge and traverses the wetlands north of Fall Brook. Signs of beaver activity and wetland plants and shrubs can be seen along this trail. The trail ends just after crossing Fall Brook (no bridge).
0.25 mile, easiest hiking, blue blazes
Reached from Hemlock Trail, this trail circles around the east side of the old growth stand. Explore a hemlock almost 300 years old that has fallen across the path. The trail ends at Hardwood Trail.
Picnicking at Salt Springs State Park
A small picnic grove with tables and grills is between Fall Brook and Silver Creek, the two streams that traverse the park.
A restroom is centrally located in the parking area.
At the southeast end of the picnic area is the park’s namesake salt spring.
A large timber frame pavilion, with electric outlets, is across Silver Creek from the picnic area at the entrance to the campground.
A second pavilion is located just west of the back parking lot.
Both pavilions may be reserved in advance for a fee from the Friends of Salt Springs Park, or used on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stay the Night at Salt Springs State Park
Rustic tenting sites are privately situated along the banks of Silver Creek. All sites include a fire ring and picnic table. Pets are permitted in the campground.
The campground has a restroom with composting toilets.
Water is available from an outdoor faucet at the Wheaton House and from a faucet in front of the restrooms in the parking lot.
The maximum camping period is 14 consecutive days.
Wildlife Watching at Salt Springs State Park
The park lies in a glacially altered, hilly terrain referred to since the 1750s as “the Endless Mountains.” The varying layers of Devonian age sandstone and shale of the Catskill Formation are exposed in the 80-foot deep gorge of Fall Brook.
The crystal waters of Fall Brook tumble over three picturesque waterfalls, each about ten feet in height, before joining the waters of Silver Creek near the eastern border of the park. Thriving in the cool, moist conditions of the gorge are mosses, liverworts, and ferns.
About 300 feet from the mouth of the gorge on the south side of Fall Brook, and easily reached from the picnic area, is the bubbling salt spring which is the park’s namesake. The water from the spring is very high in chloride, sodium, and dissolved solids, revealing the marine origin of the sediments.
The spring bubbles, due to methane gas created by the breakdown of organic matter in the ancient sedimentary rock. The commercial extraction of both salt and oil was attempted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but did not prove profitable and so was discontinued.
Fall Brook Natural Area
Encompassing the gorge and the old growth hemlock forest on both the east and west rims, the Fall Brook Natural Area was established “to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.”
Visitors can experience what Pennsylvania’s forests were like 300 years ago. Towering one hundred feet and more above the gorge is one of the last old growth hemlock forest tracts remaining in the commonwealth. Old growth forests exhibit complex ecosystems not found in other regional forests, and involve a delicate balance between nutrients, plants, and animals.
At one time, Pennsylvania was largely covered by this type of forest, but most have fallen prey to the pressures of commercial and industrial activities. The trees in the park now face the threat of infestation from hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native insect infecting many of Pennsylvania’s hemlock trees.
This unique habitat and the rich diversity of natural habitats found elsewhere in the park, including mixed hardwood forests, grasslands, overgrown meadows, streams, and wetlands, attract a wide variety of birds and wildlife.
More than 150 species of birds have been recorded at the park. The combination of Susquehanna County’s cool climate and the park’s deep gorge and coniferous habitat provide ideal conditions for some species of birds that are more commonly associated with the north, like:
A “Birds of Salt Springs State Park” checklist is available at the office. Wildlife at the park includes:
A wide diversity of plants can also be found, with spring providing the best time for wildflower viewing.
Fishing at Salt Springs State Park
Sections of Silver Creek and Fall Brook traverse the park for almost two miles and provide ample fishing opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers.
A favorite area is where Fall Brook flows into Silver Creek near the east end of the picnic area. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks both streams with trout in early spring.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations and laws apply.
Hunting at Salt Springs State Park
During established seasons, about 800 acres, including adjoining lands owned by the Friends of Salt Springs Park, are open to:
Training of dogs
Hunting is prohibited in the Fall Brook Natural Area.
Common game species are:
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas.
Sledding at Salt Springs State Park
Pastures and hay fields provide wide open areas for sledding and tobogganing.
Cross-country Skiing at Salt Springs State Park
Most of the trails in the park are well suited for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
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