Exploring Cole Run Falls in Somerset County

An exceptional roadside waterfall in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.

The author at Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.
The author at Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.

Cole Run Falls in the Forbes State Forest is probably the second most famous roadside waterfall in Somerset County, PA.

The most famous being the waterfall beneath the Pack Saddle Bridge.

On a snowy winter day the red sides of the Pack Saddle Covered Bridge jump out like in no other season.
The Pack Saddle Bridge on a winter afternoon.

But despite the fact that Cole Run Falls is located just a few yards from a road, some folks have a tough time finding it, or haven’t discovered any of the smaller waterfalls downstream.

So that is purpose of this write-up – to give you a comprehensive overview of what to look for and expect when visiting Cole Run Falls.


Where is Cole Run Falls?

How to Find Cole Run Falls

  1. Turn off of Gary Road in the Forbes State Forest onto Cole Run Road and proceed 0.3 miles.

    Note: Cole Run Road is a “No Winter Maintenance” state forest road.A map showing the location of Cole Run Falls and several smaller waterfalls on Cole Run.

  2. Look for the parking lot on the left hand side of the road, next to the bridge over Cole Run.

    GPS coordinates for the Cole Run parking lot are: 39.972979, -79.284007.
    The parking lot is large enough to hold 6-8 vehicles.

  3. Walk approximately 100 yards from the back of the parking lot to the top of Cole Run Falls.

    To see the falls from below, follow the footpath down the right side of the falls (as you face downstream).The upper and lower tiers of Cole Run Falls in Somerset County, PA.


Viewing the Falls

A side view of Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.
A side view of Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.

One of the great things about Cole Run Falls is the number of angles you can view and photograph it from.

A low-angle shot of Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.
A low-angle shot of Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.

If you don’t mind getting down low (and possibly a little wet), you can create some extraordinary images.

A snowy scene at Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.
A snowy scene at Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.

An arched tree trunk that creates a natural “frame within a frame” is a favorite vantage point for visiting photographers.

A winter view of Cole Run Falls from the Cole Run Loop trail.
A winter view of Cole Run Falls from the Cole Run Loop trail.

Another natural frame of sorts is created by surrounding trees when Cole Run Falls is viewed from above along the Cole Run Trail.

A summer view of Cole Run Falls in the Forbes State Forest.
A summer view of Cole Run Falls in the Forbes State Forest.

There are two tiers that make up Cole Run Falls.

Getting below the second tier is easy enough – just scramble down the dirt path behind the arched tree trunk.

A side view of Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.
A winter view of Cole Run Falls in the Laurel Highlands.

Frequently the flow is quite low at Cole Run Falls in late September and October.

Fortunately the fall foliage makes up for that.

An autumn view of Cole Run Falls in Somerset County, PA.
An autumn view of Cole Run Falls in Somerset County, PA.

And when the colorful foliage gives way to monotone ice formations, Cole Run Falls presents itself in an entirely new way.

The partially frozen upper tier of Cole Run Falls in the Forbes State Forest.
The partially frozen upper tier of Cole Run Falls in the Forbes State Forest.

More to See along Cole Run

Fall foliage at Cave Falls on Cole Run in the Laurel Highlands.
Fall foliage at Cave Falls on Cole Run in the Laurel Highlands.

If you are the adventurous type, there are several smaller waterfalls and cascades downstream from Cole Run Falls.

But rather than making your way directly down the stream from Cole Run Falls (which involves navigating through some dense areas of blown-down trees), the easier/smarter way to see these additional waterfalls is to return to the top of Cole Run Falls and then follow the Cole Run Trail down the right side of Cole Run approximately 1/4 of a mile until you find a spot you feel safe descending the bank.

From there you can hike back upstream, in the direction of the smaller waterfalls.

Refer to the map at the top of this write-up if you need clarification.

Cascades on Cole Run

Cascades on Cole Run in Somerset County, PA.
Cascades on Cole Run in Somerset County, PA.

As you make your way back upstream on Cole Run, one of the first great photo-ops you’ll encounter is the one pictured above.

I simply refer to it as the Cascades on Cole Run.

In fact, when I descend the bank of Cole Run from the Cole Run Trail, I usually do so right at the Cascades, and then I cross over Cole Run and hike upstream to Cave Falls on the side of the stream opposite the Cole Run Trail.

A downstream view of Cave Falls on Cole Run in the Forbes State Forest.
A downstream view of Cave Falls on Cole Run in the Forbes State Forest.

The approach to Cave Falls is marked by more small cascades.

Cave Falls on Cole Run

A summer scene at Cave Falls on Cole Run in Somerset County, PA.
A summer scene at Cave Falls on Cole Run in Somerset County, PA.

Cave Falls is not an “official” name for this 6 foot waterfall.

I just started calling it that because of the small, cave-like opening in the rocks to the left of the falls.

Other folks picked up on it, and the name has kinda stuck.

The author at Cave Falls on Cole Run in Somerset County,PA.
The author at Cave Falls on Cole Run in Somerset County,PA.

A few smaller cascades exist between the top of Cave Falls and Cole Run Falls, but in recent years they have become clogged up with blown-down trees.

I usually just turn around at Cave Falls and back-track to my vehicle via the Cole Run Trail.


Final Thoughts

Rusty Glessner at Cole Run Falls in Somerset County,PA
Rusty Glessner at Cole Run Falls in Somerset County,PA

For many years Cole Run Falls has been a favorite spot for local hikers, nature lovers, senior portrait photographers, and those looking for a romantic spot to “pop the question”.

Easy to get to and a delight to see – put Cole Run Falls on your PA Bucket List!

Still not convinced you need to see Cole Run Falls?

Then check out this video!

And while you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to check out the longest covered bridge in Somerset County – the Barronvale Covered Bridge.

It’s less than a 10 minute drive from Cole Run Falls!

A picture-perfect winter day at the Barronvale Covered Bridge in Somerset County, PA
A picture-perfect winter day at the Barronvale Covered Bridge in Somerset County, PA

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