Monday, August 8, 2016

Along the Way: Upper Jonathan Run Falls

The first view of Upper Jonathan Run Falls
This past spring I had the opportunity to visit Ohiopyle State Park to photograph a number of the waterfalls located there. After spending the day exploring the park and its natural beauty with my cousins Sue and Kevin, I left questioning why it had taken me so long to finally visit it.

Of the waterfalls that we had visited that day, Upper Jonathan Run Falls was my personal favorite. It was worth the hike just to visit these falls.

Parking at the trail head for Jonathan Run Trail along Holland Hill Road, the three of us set off to visit the waterfalls along the trail. The trail is almost two miles in length and follows Jonathan Run as it descends the hollow. The trail connects to the Great Allegheny Passage near the bottom of the hollow.

Upper Jonathan Run Falls
Just past the third bridge that crosses Jonathan Run, is the location of Upper Jonathan Run Falls. On the right there is a sign for the Kentuck Trail and on the left is an unmarked trail that leads to the falls. If you listen carefully, the hidden waterfalls can be heard from the trail.

Note: I’ve seen a number of websites that identifies the cascades located just below the third bridge as being Upper Jonathan Run Falls. You are not quite to the falls yet – these cascades are just above the falls. You cannot see this waterfall from the trail and will need to bushwhack down a hill to these falls.

A note of safety: if you descend the path to these cascades, you can walk along the stream to the top of the falls. Please DO NOT attempt to bushwhack over the edge of the falls – there is no safe way down them from here. Instead, go back up the path to the Jonathan Run Trail, travel roughly fifty yards downstream and descend that trail to get to the base of the falls.

Upper Jonathan Run Falls
After carefully descending the bank, we were greeted with the splendor of Upper Jonathan Run Falls. The waters of Jonathan Run drop roughly ten feet to form one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever encountered.

There seems to be a debate over the type of falls these are classified as. I’m not an expert of waterfall identification, but I personally believe they would be identified as a block (or what most consider the “normal” or “classic” waterfall type) that is immediately followed by a cascade.

These falls are hidden among the mountain laurel, giving it an even “wilder” appearance and with the recent rains, they were running freely. I’ve seen pictures of these falls in the late summer and while still nice, I would recommend only visiting after it had rained, but that is my opinion.

Upper Jonathan Run Falls
A couple things to keep in mind when photographing Upper Jonathan Run Falls:

1. It is roughly a mile to these falls from the parking area to these falls, so make sure you have all your equipment.

2. It is a short decent to the base of the falls on an unmarked, leaf-covered path. Please use caution when descending - the leaves can be slippery and rocks and holes are hidden by the leaf cover.

3. I’ve read a number of places about the best way to get to these falls and we settled on the Jonathan Run Trail, which is a relatively easy path. There are some ups and downs along the way, but nothing too steep. I’ve read that some use the Sugar Run Trail and while others use the Kentuck Trail then proceed on the Jonathan Run Trail to the falls, but looking at the state park map, those two options seem to be much longer and a much steeper way to get to the falls. Whichever way you decide to take, enjoy the trip and be safe.

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