Allegheny National Forest Bikepacking

It started with talks of a Kentucky Bourbon Bike Tour, but somehow ended up a four day, three night bike camping trip in the Allegheny National Forest. Camping at the base of waterfalls, lots of forest roads, amazing times.

The plan was to head up to ANF with a forest service map and a loose route with these two guys, finding our way to primitive sites along the way. With some local guidance and a truck drop off at the top of a ridge we were off into the woods. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but the first bit of trail that local knowledge said we’d have no issues besides a few recent blowdowns was barely rideable without 25 pounds of gear a piece. After a couple of miles (and a couple of hours) we had our first casualty, a failed rack braze-on. Hose clamp and cord to the rescue—it held the rest of the trip without further adjustment. We were expecting a rainy, wet trip and at the moment a storm seemed to be rolling in, so we popped up a tarp and found a spot we could stay for the night if need be. The storm passed, and we pushed onward.

We pushed on further, eventually coming to a steep uphill hiking trail where we decided to bail on the rest of the proposed 8-10 mile loop. We were 3.5 miles in, and honestly worried about spending the rest of the weekend pushing the rest of this loop if we decided to go further. Another mile or so up and we stumbled upon the most amazing campsite, tucked into a huge boulder formation directly next to the classic babbling brook. Even though the entire hillside was completely wet and lush a bit of dry firewood was found hiding under a rock. Dried out our shoes from the many creek crossings throughout the day, ate the first of our Indian feasts (with naan!) and dug into our deep dried fruit provisions.

Pushed out of the woods and finally covered some ground, both paved and on dirt forest roads. Perfect riding, in perfect weather. Ducked out of a short burst of rain at the only not packed in meal of the trip and hit a couple of overlooks looking out at the Kinzua Dam. The goal was finding Hector Falls, an unmarked site off of some forest roads that we were told was not to be missed.

Hector Falls was everything promised and more. Not the easiest to find, not the hardest either, but worth every effort. Surreal square form, with water falling from both sides of the rock after flowing over the flat top. And we camped directly at the base of the falls, in something that looks like a movie set and would be a major tourist attraction in most any other location. But here, desolate with hardly any sign of humans besides a hiking trail and a small firepit. A pretty incredible place to live for a day.

Onward to Route 666, a grocery store stop for a bit of ice cream and fresh veggies, and then onto a fish hatchery where we guessed there would be picturesque camp sites. Somehow missed images of the hatchery itself, but the camp site above the small dam that provides water to the operations was quite awesome. Had to push across a shin deep creek to get there, with a locals party camp site sitting there right at the dam. More trash than any other site, but not unbearable and the ample firewood and beautiful surrounding made up for the beer cans tucked behind a tree for future pickup.

Day four, back to the car. After a leisurely paced wake-up some awesome riding and a quick walking tour of the old growth Heart’s Content area of ANF we made it back to the car. No flat, no injuries besides a bruise or two. Packed all but one of our meals in, pumped water out of streams, totally self sufficient for the three nights. The best camping trip for me yet. No question. Pretty amazing, and it all passed by so quickly.

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