Monday, January 2, 2012

Appalachian Trail: Tom Lowe Trail, Eagle's Nest, Sand Spring

The BMECC Section of The Appalachian Trail - Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club
Out on the Trail - The Reading Eagle

GPS Coordinates 40.537671, -76.123345

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Parking on either side of road just before gate.

PA Appalachian Trail Map Sec. 1-6: Delaware Water Gap to Swatara Gap - Keystone Trails Association
Pennsylvania State Game Lands 110A - Pennsylvania Game Commission (does not show trail to Eagle Nest shelter)

Tom Lowe Trail - AT - Eagle's Nest - Eagle's Nest Shelter - Sand Spring: 11 miles
Tom Lowe Trail - AT - Eagle's Nest - Sand Spring:  9 miles
Tom Lowe Trail - Sand Spring:  5 miles

APPALACHIAN TRAIL SECTION HIKING: - AT section miles 1191.9 to 1193.6

First rock hop crossing over Northkill Creek.
Several more creek crossings along the way.
The orange-blazed Tom Lowe Trail ascends a gorge through hemlock forests.
A tricky creek crossing in the gorge - the logs are slippery so finding a rock hop a little up stream seems to work better.
Climb up out of the gorge steeply on rocks.
At the top, the last part of the Tom Lowe Trail is flat.
The Tom Lowe Trail ends at Sand Spring.  Left on the blue-blazed Sand Spring Trail leads to the Appalachian Trail.  Right on the Sand Spring Trail returns to the parking lot.
The Appalachian Trail leads to the Eagle's Nest Trail which is almost flat until the end just before the overlook.
Rock scramble to Eagle's Nest Overlook.
View south from Eagle's Nest Overlook.
A service road which is used for snowmobiling from January 15 through April 1and runs parallel to the Appalachian Trail can be taken as an alternate route to the Eagle's Nest Shelter.
Blue-blazed side trail off the Appalachian Trail towards the Eagle's Nest Shelter and a view north.
Eagle's Nest Shelter
Continue a short distance beyond the shelter to the end of the blue trail for a view north.
The Sand Spring Trail is very rocky and full of roots for a while.
The Sand Spring Trail follows along the spring-fed creek and crosses over several times.
Waterfalls along the Sand Spring Trail.

[  0.00]  Walk back along the road the way you drove in to the start of the orange-blazed Tom Lowe Memorial Trail.  If trailhead is inaccessible due to blow down, continue along the road until you can cut over as trail runs between road and Northkill Creek
[  0.20]  Rock hop over Northkill Creek
[  1.30]  Trail turn right on woods road
[  1.35]  Keep straight towards clearing (old gravel quarry) when woods road goes right
[  1.50]  Cross creek and be careful to follow orange trail to left when, faded white blaze trail goes straight
[  1.60]  Trail makes sharp right turn at old Tom Lowe sign on tree (If you keep straight here, trail becomes difficult to follow even though there are orange blazes but they are sloppy orange blazes, not the neatly painted blazes of the correct trail.)
[  2.00]  Trail goes slightly uphill through gorge
[  2.30]  Cross over creek either on logs or find rock hop
[  2.60]  Trail veers to right away from gorge and begins to ascend steeply on rocks
[  2.80]  Trail flattens out at top of climb
[  3.10]  Tom Lowe Trail ends at Sand Spring; turn left on blue-blazed Sand Spring Trail
[  3.30]  Left on white-blazed Appalachian Trail when blue Sand Spring Trail goes straight
[  4.15]  Stretch of very rocky trail
[  4.40]  Turn left on blue-blazed Eagles Nest Trail
[  5.40]  Rock scramble to Eagles Nest Overlook; retrace
[  6.40]  Straight on blue Eagles Nest Trail when white-blazed Appalachian Trail crosses over
[  6.70]  Turn right on gravel service road with sporadic orange diamond blazes
[  7.20]  Keep straight on gravel service road when blue-blazed Sand Spring Trail goes right
[  7.70]  Turn left on white-blazed Appalachian Trail
[  7.80]  Left on blue-blazed trail to Eagles Nest Shelter
[  8.00]  Trail turn sharply left downhill to cross stream then turns right uphill
[  8.10]  Continue beyond Eagles Nest Shelter following blue blazes downhill to view; retrace
[  8.50]  Turn right on white-blazed Appalachian Trail
[  8.60]  Keep straight on Appalachian Trail crossing over gravel service road
[  9.20]  Left on blue-blazed Sand Spring Trail
[  9.35]  At Sand Spring keep straight on the blue-blazed Sand Spring Trail when orange-blazed Tom Lowe Trail goes right
[  9.60]  Keep left on blue when unmarked goes right, several creek crossings
[  9.80]  Trail veers away from creek and becomes less rocky, gradually descends
[10.85]  Turn right on gravel service road
[ 11.00]  Back at parking


  1. Daniela, wish we knew about this route when we were out at Hawk Mountain recently. It's not that far a drive south from Hawk. Gives us yet another reason to return to this area. So much more to see and do!

    BTW: Curious??? If you don't mind could you tell me approx. how long it took you & Shawnee to do the route you took? Thanks (once again).

  2. Linda,

    I had this hike in my "to do" file for a while thinking it would not be all that great but was I ever wrong. I LOVED this hike! The Ted Lowe Trail is through a pretty wild area with lots of blow down/flood debris and creek crossings so it takes a little longer to get through/around that but it's all doable. The blazes look fresh and it's well-marked, just have to pay attention in a few spots but it's pretty obvious when you miss a turn. The Sand Spring Trail has that really rocky and rooted section that slows you down, too. But the whole area is absolutely gorgeous. Just wish the hemlocks were not in decline :( I started around 8:15 AM and finished just a little after 3 PM.


  3. Daniela: Followed your Tom Lowe,Appalachian,Eagles Nest,Sand Spring Trails Hike on Good Friday with my daughter. Excellent hike on a beautiful day. Lunched and relaxed at the shelter, however the privy is full! :( Very dry conditions and had to ask campers to put out their fire due to red flag warning. Al in all, a great day! Thanks for sharing your journeys as we will be frequenting them in the future. Happy trails! Blaaz & JR

    1. Blaaz & JR - That is EXCELLENT! Thanks for the feedback. I was almost there too on Good Friday. I wanted to hike the Sand Spring Trail to the AT then north to Phillips Canyon and Auburn overlook and back. But at the last minute I changed my mind and ended up in the Catskills doing the Ashokan High Point hike that really needs to be done with the leaves down so it turned out to be the perfect day for that. But the weather was so great I think yesterday was the perfect day for any hike!


  4. Daniela: I plan on taking this hike tomorrow. One question as I match your description against the 2010 AT map from Keystone Trails Assoc.: at mile 3.10, shouldn't it be a left on Sand Spring Tr, not a right?

    1. It does look that way. I get my lefts and rights mixed up all the time. Thanks for catching that, I'll make the change. Have fun!

  5. I hiked this on June 22nd. It had rained a lot a couple of days before and I could not rock hop Northkill Creek. Had to wade it by taking off my shoes and socks & using a lightweight pair of flipflops I always carry in my pack, but it's time-consuming finding a place to sit down, dry your feet, put on your shoes, put away the wet flipflops. One suggestion in these situations: go up the Sand Spring Trail to the AT, then end with the Tom Lowe section back to your car. That way, just ford the creek with your shoes & unless you need them the next day, let them dry out over a day. (I had no problem doing the creek crossings on the Sand Spring Trail). Another suggestion: leave enough time for this hike (7 hours or so) to get back before dark because the blue blazes are hard to see at dusk. Make sure to have a flashlight or headlamp. And wear sturdy, ankle-supporting shoes for all the roots and rocks, and use trekking poles! The hike is worth the effort for the wilderness experience on the game lands trails and the 2 views from the AT. Thanks, Daniela.

    1. Great description of why I am usually too lazy to take my shoes off and wade across with water-appropriate shoes that I lug along, LOL! Glad you enjoyed it!


  6. I've been hiking the tom lowe and sand spring trail for 5 years now. It is the best loop trail in the area. This year 2016, in late spring I went up again. To my dismay, I found that on my way down the tom lowe.I came across a bulldozed road that followed the trail. It is hard to believe that anyone could ruin such a beautiful trail. I plan to go back soon to see how much of trail is left.

    1. Oh, how sad. I always thought these places were protected but apparently that doesn't mean much sometimes.

    2. I took the side blue trail to the Eagles nest shelter off the AT at least twice and can't seem to find the "trail beyond the shelter" for a view to the North. Is it the trail that goes past the privy? So it would be to the hiker's right after passing the shelter?

    3. It's been almost 6 years since I did that hike and I really do not recall.

  7. Is this still a viable hike? No one has posted this year. I've hiked Hawk Mountain and the Pinnacle many times along the AT but I've never known about these trails.

    1. You would need to check with the hiking club that maintains the trails.

    2. It's still a viable hike, but things have changed along a couple sections of the trail. The rocks built up for the first creek crossing (as seen in the first picture) are completely gone so it can be difficult to find a dry way across in moderate to high water times.

      Part of the Tom Lowe trail along the top a bit before it hits the Sand Spring trail and also the beginning part of the Eagles Nest Overlook trail were bulldozed as part of the controlled burn they did. Those sections can be very muddy and probably need to be more vigilant to make sure you follow the blazes for the actual trail when it diverges from the bulldozed lane.

      The view past the shelter might not exist anymore at it was getting overgrown last I had checked.

      With that said, all the really nice parts of the hike are still there and it's my favorite area to go in the area.

  8. This is still viable, I had recently ran it a couple times. Very nice outing!!

  9. It is a viable hike, I recently ran it! Very nice!