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Snowmobile trails and gravel roads in Lackawanna State Forest

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

On Sunday, I headed to Lackawanna State Forest, this time with my mountain bike. I wanted to try riding some of the snowmobile trails. I had ridden some of the gravel roads there before, and some State Game Lands roads on my road bike. The gravel roads are no problem with the Trucker, but I suspected that the trails would call for a mountain bike. Here’s a map of my route, which ended up being a little convoluted.

View Lackawanna State Forest Ride 06/07/2009 in a larger map

And here’s the elevation profile:

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

I parked along Pittston Road and headed out on the gravel road. The road intersected the snowmobile trail, but I had enough of a sense of the lay of the land to know that it would be better to continue on the gravel road and pick up the snowmobile trail later. This way, I could do most of the climbing on the road. This afforded me a glimpse of the trail, though, and I was a little concerned: it looked very muddy.

Snowmobile trail map (some of these are really gravel roads)

This is where I’d later come out. Very muddy here.

Pittston Road

Everything looked so different compared to the last time I rode here. The landscape looked relatively barren back in March, and now everything was so green and full and lush. P1030844

I’ve been having a lot of fit issues with my mountain bike. It’s never felt right since I got it. I didn’t really know anything about how it should feel when I bought it, so it took a while for me to realize it’s not right. I’ve gone through several saddles trying to find a comfortable one, but now I think that my weight isn’t evenly distributed. Too much on my butt, not enough on my hands. So, I stopped and moved the saddle forward. This seemed to help a little, but it’s still not there. I had some climbing to do, it wasn’t outrageously steep, but it was slow going. I love these quiet gravel roads, though. I was in no hurry, but I still reached the trail access point in only about 20 minutes.

A fence and gate kept the deer out
of this area

Sign explaining the “Deer Exclosure”

The trail access point

My bicycle

I turned onto the snowmobile trail. At first it was rocky with loose gravel and larger rocks. Soon that ended and the trail was extremely muddy. My wheels sunk into the mud quite a bit, in places, and I had to ride through some fairly thick grass, and even some ferns. It was tough riding.

Rocky trail

Riding through mud, thick grasses, and ferns


Fortunately, the muddy section didn’t last long, and soon I was riding on a wide, mostly smooth grassy trail. The road climbing really paid off and now I enjoyed over a mile of almost entirely downhill riding on the trail. There were occasional rocks and logs to go hop over or go around, but for the most part it was clear sailing. I was pleasantly surprised, given that I can only assume these trails get little or no maintenance. Aside from a couple of clearings, the trail was heavily wooded on both sides.



The trail leads to a clearing


While I was riding, it occurred to me that it would be cool to have some video of some of this riding. I didn’t try to rig up my camera for that purpose at this point, but I would later in the ride. The snowmobile trails offer a unique experience falling somewhere in between gravel roads and technical mountain biking. The more I ride, the less I think about “road biking” and “mountain biking.” It becomes more of a continuum and while you do have to choose the right tool for the job, there is considerable crossover in the riding styles. Soon, I came to a wooden bridge over Spring Run, a beautiful little creek. A little past that was a trail intersection that wasn’t marked on the map. It’d be interesting to see where that goes sometime. Finally, I ended up back at the road.


Spring Run

Once back on the road, I had to climb back up. This time, I headed further out on Pittston Road, bypassing Pine Hill Road, which goes to the overlook. I figured I’d come back to that later, if I felt like it. At this point, I was more interested in exploring more of the snowmobile trails. I climbed for a while, and the road surface got a little muddy. But traction was fine so long as I didn’t try to go too fast. I was going through tree tunnels and not much sun could penetrate the dense trees.

Tree tunnel

Muddy road

I started a fun descent, and startled a grouse as I rode along, and it beat its wings and flew off. I passed another trail intersection that wasn’t on the map. I believe this trail goes into the neighboring State Game Lands 91 — it’s amazing how much there is to explore in that area. Eventually, I reached the snowmobile trail I was looking for.

Snowmobile trail

I turned onto the snowmobile trail, and it was quite muddy for a while. Once again, I had to ride through some ferns. And I had quite a bit of climbing ahead of me. This was the hardest part of the whole ride. Fortunately, once again, the mud didn’t last long. Once I got past it, I still had a ton of climbing on grassy trails, which was quite tiring (but doable).  Along the way, as I was steadfastly pedaling along, I looked off to my left and there was a wild turkey not more than 10 feet away. It hobbled off in the odd way turkeys walk. I had fun watching it, but didn’t want to startle it by reaching for the camera. I had some trouble taking photos anyway, it was surprisingly dark due to the dense canopy. A few times, it started to rain slightly, but I barely even noticed. The trees did a good job of shielding me from the rain.

Ferns, rocks, ruts, mud

Dark forest


Some parts of the trail were fairly overgrown. My biggest concerns were that I would encounter a snake or some other creature and not be able to see it, or that I would ride through some poison ivy. I watched the trail very carefully as I rode.

Overgrown trail

A clearing, this time with some post-processing


I really appreciated having the GPS on this ride. It was wonderful to be able to get a sense of where I was, and even though most trails aren’t on the map, I can guess where it’s going and figure out roughly how much climbing I have to do. In this case, I climbed for about a mile on these trails, gaining probably around 200 feet of elevation. Not a huge climb, but tiring nonetheless. Once I reached what I guessed was the top, I set up my camera to record some video. I had some trouble getting it mounted to my helmet in a satisfactory manner, so the videos are on a bit of a weird angle. Also, somehow the longest video I tried to make did not work out. I either didn’t hit the record button, or I must have turned it back off when I put my helmet back on. Here are a couple of video clips. If you’re reading through an RSS reader, you might have to click over to my site to see them.

Snowmobile Trail 1

Snowmobile Trail 2

When I finally got back down to the road, I decided to ride up once more, this time all the way up Pine Hill Road, so I could go to the overlook. I took some footage from the overlook that didn’t turn out too well. Then I restarted the camera and got video of walking down the sketchy staircase, getting on the bike, riding around the small cul-de-sac by the lookout tower, and finally, riding all the way back down to the car. It’s a descent of about 350 vertical feet over the course of about 3 miles. You might want to skip the part at the beginning with the tower.

Gravel Road Descent

2 Responses to “Snowmobile trails and gravel roads in Lackawanna State Forest”

  1. mike Says:

    very nice! looks like a cross bike with wide tires could work too. love the smooth dirt. its starting into form here in VT – and the green is coming with it.

  2. Apertome Says:

    Yeah, in fact, I generally prefer my Long Haul Trucker for rides like this. The only thing that would’ve been terribly problematic would have been the mud. The skinnier tires would really sink in.

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