A Brief History of the McIntyre Wild Area
Long before it was a 7,279 acre hiking mecca, the McIntyre Wild Area was home to the McIntyre Coal Company and the company town of – you guessed it – McIntyre.
Founded in 1870 by industrialist Jervis Langdon (father-in-law of Mark Twain), the McIntyre Coal Company mined and moved coal from their mountaintop mines to waiting train cars 2,300 feet below via an inclined plane. Coal was mined and moved in this fashion until 1886, when mining ceased and the company town at the top of the mountain was abandoned.
I mention this history for two reasons.
First – it is remarkable how well Nature has reclaimed and restored this area to a setting of extraordinary beauty.
Second – on the hike I am going to describe you will encounter remnants and reminders of that mining history. Old rail beds, timber bridges, pieces of cable from the inclined plane, building foundations, and coal. Lots of coal still scattered about the trail and stream bed.
How to Find Dutchmans Run Falls
Park in the large dirt DCNR parking lot located just across the bridge over Lycoming Creek from Ralston, along Thompson Street. This is where the hike begins. Even in the winter I have found this lot is usually plowed out and accessible.
From the back of the parking lot, climb over a mound of dirt and start down the flat and wide-open old rail bed. There are plenty of great rock formations on your right, and the Lycoming Creek to look at on your left as you proceed.
At .53 miles into the hike, power lines intersect and then run parallel to the rail bed. Continue to follow the rail bed (it stays above/ to the right of the power lines). Another couple hundred yards ahead you will pass behind a private home, but your path on the rail grade is solidly on public land. White forest boundary markers are plainly visible below you on the left.
At 1.1 miles into the hike, you will encounter this stone foundation to the right of the rail grade. This is a neat little spot to explore, and also your jump-off point from the rail grade.
From the stone foundation, you will hike at roughly a 2 o’clock angle from the rail grade up the hill, to your right, and towards Dutchmans Run just ahead. You could also follow the rail grade until it hits Dutchmans Run and then hike upstream, but I prefer to cut out that unnecessary corner.
As you get closer to the First Falls on Dutchmans Run you will see a grove of hemlocks ahead of you. That’s the spot you want to get to. The falls are just beyond that, roughly 1/3 of a mile from the old foundation. Note that at this point there is no trail, so pick your way along whatever route looks the best that day.
You’ll pass through the hemlocks, crest a small hill, and then the First Falls on Dutchmans Run will come into view.
GPS Coordinates for the First Falls on Dutchmans Run
I collected all my GPS data points on this day using a Garmin Oregon 450 handheld unit. If you plug these coordinates into Google Maps or any other GPS device exactly as they are printed here, you will find the waterfalls on Dutchmans Run.
With my friend Steve in this image for scale, I’d feel confident saying the First Falls on Dutchmans Run is a good 30 feet tall. Certainly this is one of , if not THE tallest waterfall in the McIntyre Wild Area.
Getting above the First Falls to the Second and Third Falls on Dutchmans Run can be accomplished by hiking up and around from either side. Having done both, I’d recommend staying on the right side, slightly back-tracking from this vantage point and hiking up around and then descending the stream bank above the First Falls.
The view from above the First Falls is as spectacular as the view from below.
Continue up the right side of the stream a few hundred yards to the Second Falls on Dutchmans Run.
GPS Coordinates for the Second Falls on Dutchmans Run
The Second Falls is roughly 6-7 feet tall, and would probably feel even impressive if it weren’t sandwiched in between two much larger waterfalls. But just upstream from this one lies the much larger Third Falls on Dutchmans Run.
GPS Coordinates for the Third Falls on Dutchmans Run
The Third Falls is a two-tiered waterfall totaling roughly 20 feet tumbling down the tight gorge.
Remnants of the McIntyre Coal Company’s rail system are visible in the pool just below the Third Falls, 100 year-plus old reminders that men and women worked and lived in this rugged terrain that you are now standing on.
Just to the right of the Third Falls a small tributary flows into Dutchmans Run. If you follow my directions below you’ll be seeing this one from above in a few minutes.
Backtrack from the Third Falls downstream to a point somewhere between the Second Falls and the top of the First Falls. Look up the mountainside (still on the right side) and you’ll see a long stretch of retaining wall above you. Hike up the hillside to the retaining wall. The remnants of an old rail grade are supported by the retaining wall.
Hike uphill along the rail grade, back in the direction of the Third Falls.
Along the way you’ll pass more remnants of mining activity from long ago.
At a spot directly above the Third Falls you’ll come to an old bridge over the tributary to Dutchmans Run that you stood at the base of just a short while ago.
If you continue upstream for a few minutes longer you’ll come to this old rail crossing of Dutchmans Run. Continue past that (climb down the bank, don’t try to tightrope-walk the rails) and you’ll come out at the top of the mountain near the ruins of McIntyre (the abandoned company town). But that’s another story for another day. I turned around on this day and hiked back down the rail grade.
The grade continues down the mountain, eventually coming to a turn above the old foundation you passed on the hike in. From there just continue to follow this grade as it runs parallel to the grade below that you hiked in on. This grade you are now on will intersect with the grade below at a point just above the private home you passed earlier. At this point it’s smooth, flat sailing a half mile back to the parking lot.
For years I’d heard about the waterfalls on Dutchmans Run, but conventional wisdom and most of the hiking descriptions I read said you had to take the long, windy dirt road to the top of the mountain and hike down from there.
Once I started pouring over maps and satellite images it became apparent to me that it would be an easier hike and certainly more accessible in the winter to simply come in from the bottom.
It may be a longer hike, but the use of the rail beds makes much of the hike out and back pretty painless. Thus the short ascents and descents of Dutchmans Run to to the waterfalls become much easier to contend with.
For anyone who enjoys waterfalls and/or discovering remnants of Pennsylvania’s industrial past, I’d highly recommend adding a hike to the waterfalls on Dutchmans Run to your PA Bucket List!
Still not convinced you need to explore the waterfalls on Dutchmans Run?
Then check out this video!
Of course Dutchmans Run is only 1/3 of what I like to call the McIntyre Wild Area Waterfall Triple Crown.
And if you didn’t know already, Dutchmans Run is the mid-point on the hike to Abbott Run Falls, another outstanding off-trail waterfall in the McIntyre Wild Area!
So plan on making a day (or even days) of it by thoroughly exploring all of these fantastic waterfalls!