The Pinchot Trail System

The Pinchot Trail System is a 24 mile backpacking loop located in the Thornhurst Tract of the Pinchot State Forest, It can be hiked in it's 24 mile entirety or broken into the 10 mile North Loop or 14 mile South Loop. Other trails, forest roads and multi-use roads create an intricate system of trails and connectors which allow many variations for trips.

The Basics:

The Trip


I've spent a lot of time in the Pinchot State Forest, it's kind of my home field. But in all my trips there I had never done the Pinchot Trail System in it's entirety... I figured it was time to remedy that. So, on 12/24/2019, yes Christmas Eve, I headed out early and got to the trailhead before sunrise. The previous two years I had also done Christmas solo trips, it's become a tradition for me.

It was cold and crunchy out, the trail had a thin layer of snow and ice. Evidence of all kinds of wildlife could be seen, tracks of black bear, coyote, fox, bobcat, deer and turkeys could be seen in the trail. I could hear coyotes off in the distance signaling the each other. I headed counter clockwise on the trail, mainly because the southern loop is longer and I knew I could cover a lot of ground, and I also wanted to get the 3/4 mile road hike out of the way first.

I stopped at the Choke Creek Falls for my lunch break. Even though it was Christmas Eve I was surprised to have the falls to myself right up until I was ready to move on. I pushed on until I hit about 13 miles for the day, found a nice small camp on one of the new rerouted sections and spent the night. They have been rerouting the PTS to eliminate as much of the road hike sections as possible.

The second day, Christmas Day, took me over to the North Loop... which has a lot more hill climbing than I remembered. I took my time, enjoying every bit of the trail that I could. Stopping along the way to cut a few downed trees across the trail for the next passers by. I stopped at Painter Creek for my lunch break, and really to no big surprise I didn't see another soul until I reached the parking lot at the end of the trip.

In late March I went back to complete the trail clockwise, the other way around, with my friend Dragon. It was the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and we wanted to get out while we still could.

The Verdict

Although it's not the most technical trail, the Pinchot Trail System is a very enjoyable trip. What it lacks in vistas it more than makes up for in it's diversity of ecosystems. You'll hike through conifer stands, hardwood groves, along creeks and around swamps. There's easy single track and glacial boulder fields throughout.