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Hell's Hollow Trail-McConnell's Mill State Park, Ellwood City, PA

November 7, 2017

 

 Hell's Hollow Trail (to the right); North Country Trail (to the left)

 

 

The Hell's Hollow Trail in McConnell's Mill State Park can be accessed from the Hell's Hollow Parking Lot on Shaffer Road in Portersville, PA (for directions, click here).  This 0.5 mile, out and back trail (1 mile round trip), is a Class 1/Easy trail, and is wide, flat and groomed until you get within about 100 feet of the Falls access trail.  This trail will take you to an old lime kiln, and a wooden stairway that provides access to Hell's Hollow Falls - a popular attraction in McConnell's Mill State Park.  In nice weather, the parking lot often overflows to on-street parking, but recent improvements to the lot have increased parking spaces, and added a port-a-potty at the trailhead.

 

 Hell's Hollow Trail

 

The trail itself is well used and well maintained, even during the heavy growth season in the summer.  It parallels, and twice crosses, Hell's Run - the creek that feeds the falls.  Lush areas of wildflowers surround the trail in the spring; heavy green growth in the summer; and amazing leaf-peeping in the fall make this one of the most popular trails in the Park.  All ability levels can utilize this trail.  Wheelchairs that can traverse gravel can also utilize the trail, up until the access to the falls, where the trail becomes more steep, rocky and root-covered.

 Access trail to the Falls and the bottom of the lime kiln

 

Take the handrail guided trail down to the creek's edge to access the wooden staircase that will take you down to a rock path in the creek, and out to a boulder formation to view Hell's Hollow Falls from its best vantage point.  If the water level is too high, do not attempt to access the boulders - the county swift water rescue team is called out all too often to assist those who believe they can fight the current, or who slipped and fell on the rock path due to slippery conditions in the creek.  

 Hell's Hollow Falls, from the boulder formation in the middle of Hell's Run.  Wooden access staircase is to the left.

 

Because conditions are often slippery near the falls, it is recommended that visitors wear sturdy footwear, with heavy traction soles, or footwear made for creeks and rivers, if planning on stepping out onto the rocks to get a head-on view of the falls.  

 View of the inside of the lime kiln, now blocked by a gate to prevent access

 

Also at the top of the wooden access staircase is the lime kiln.  For many years, this attraction was a favorite for families to crawl inside and take pictures, but deteriorating conditions of the shale surrounding the kiln, as well as the brick lining, has forced the Park to block access to the inside of the kiln for safety reasons.  

 The lime kiln, from the top

 

Take the trail back up and cut around to the top of the overlook, and you will find the fenced-in area for the top of the lime kiln.  Be careful as you walk around the fencing - erosion has caused some of the soil to slip off the ledge, leaving very little area to stand on.

 

 A reminder of the dangers of the area - gravesite flowers left on the overlook

 

Hell's Hollow, Hell's Run, and Hell's Hollow Falls, along with the lime kiln, make for an exciting adventure for everyone.  Although this is a highly traveled path, designed by the Park to be as safe as possible for all, there are sometimes stunning reminders that this trail, and its destination, are often a very dangerous place.  We encourage you to explore Hell's Hollow, but caution you about following safety guidelines:  wear proper footwear, be aware of your surroundings, do not attempt to climb over safety rails, do not attempt to cross swift current, and most importantly - think before you act.  For you and your family, we wish you happy trails!

 

For more information on McConnell's Mill State Park, click here!

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