“Very rural low hills, and circling a thousand-acre lake, mark MST's northern terminus.”
— Peter Fleszar
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers
Off-road trail at Elkhorn Creek crossing closed for hunting season Oct-Jan; near-impossible crossing in spring runoff; and property for sale subject to possible permanent closure.
Can't guarantee all the old fence wires bordering the old abandoned fields have been cut and removed, watch out.
for section updates as it is very likely Elkhorn Creek crossing will be closed. If closed, the gravel roads around are mostly in sun and longer than either the trail, or the paved Route 287/Elkhorn Rd way around.
Barring that possibility, climb away from Hammond Lake on Cole Road. Pavement soon ends and views open near the top. Jog left briefly on gravel Ridge Road before entering hedgerow (subject to possible closure, see above). You'll enter a pretty descent into a hemlock swamp, rise gently to 360-degree views, descend in woods to Elkhorn Creek (dry stone bed in August, rip-roaring in spring), turn right on gravel Elkhorn Creek Rd then right again on narrow paved Elkhorn Rd. Shoulder parking allowed (about 8 cars) near 1712 Elkhorn Rd.
Climb along another hedgerow away from Elkhorn Rd, view near top towards US 15 expressway. Pass another hedgerow and climb past an exurban home to cross Scenic View Drive to Scenic View Campground, longest open season and great sweeping view over Tioga County.
Circle a licensed hunting preserve (former blue-blazed bypass now orange blazed, old off-road trail closed by logging) on narrow gravel roads, leave Smith Hill Rd into an old field with another viewpoint then the northernmost trail register. Descend through wildflower and azalea filled woods to Baldwin Creek (often wet crossing, but gas well driveway just north could be high water passage), pass fence to abandoned Baldwin Creek Road. Descend on old road through hemlock shaded glen to narrow paved Gee Hollow Rd, cross PA 49 to Corps of Engineers Cowanesque Lake.
Keep lake to your right as you pass boat launches, picnic pavilions, and beach house with cold showers and summertime food. Occasional remnants of former farms such as old ponds and fences. Climb to Route 49 to cross Cummings Creek, then follow an abandoned portion of Route 49 through the old location of Nelson village with home shrubs grown wild. Climb briefly again to Route 49 to cross Cowanesque River, with Nelson Falls visible to south crossing on road bridge. (Closer view from side trail across road.) In four more miles of wide mowed path, in part on a railroad bed, reach short-season (mid-May to Sept only) Tompkins Campground and last parking lot.
Return to narrow gravel roads climbing gently to the state line, where orange blazes continue as Crystal Hills Trail, carrying Great Eastern Trail to its northern terminus on the other side of Steuben County, NY.
Flora & Fauna
Diverse land cover types from patches of deep woods to old fields, and many views of deep and shallow water of Cowanesque Lake make this a birding hotspot.