Hike along the beautiful Clarion river to the old stone Henry Run Sawmill Dam.
– Parking Coordinates: 41.33675, -79.22346 (Fire Tower Road is closed for winter. Park at Ridge Campground and hike up Fire Tower Road))
– Trailhead Coordinates: 41.33647, -79.22312 (Fire Tower Road starts across the street from Ridge Campground parking)
– Distance and Type: 4.6 Mile Loop
– Trail Difficulty: Moderate
– Elevation Gain: +/- 725 Feet
– Trail Markers: Signs marking trail and Blue/Yellow blazes that mark North Country Trail
– Historic Fire Tower 9
– Seneca Point Overlook
– Clarion River
– Henry Run Sawmill Dam
Note: Trail conditions change over time. If you discover any inaccuracies with this post during your visit, please post a comment below to let us know.
Hiking to Henry Run Sawmill Dam during the winter months means additional miles of hiking due to Fire Tower Road closures for the season. The dam can also be reached by hiking along the Baker Trail from Thompson Hill parking, but that hike is a 3.5 mile out-and-back hike with 933 feet of elevation change (Link to Hike)
Begin by parking at the Ridge Campground parking lot and crossing Route 36 to Fire Tower Road. Park services will groom portions of the road for cross country skiers. Practice trail etiquette by leaving the groomed portions free of foot tracks. Around 1.3 miles of hiking up Fire Tower Road will lead you to the Fire Tower/Seneca Point parking lot. Feel free to take some time to explore Seneca Point before heading to Fire Tower 9 and River Trail trailhead.
The distance between Seneca Point and Fire Tower 9 is a few tenths of a mile. Retrace your steps from Seneca Point to the fork in the trail and proceed up the path to Fire Tower 9. This old fire lookout tower was built in 1929, and it looks and feels every year of its old age. The park doesn’t prohibit climbing the fire tower, but the top section of the tower is sealed with plywood. The view from just below this point is still beautiful. I have read that rangers will open the top section throughout the summer months for tours, however you will need to check with the park to see when they offer that.
The trailhead for River Trail is located at the base of the old fire tower and will lead you downhill towards the Clarion River. You will descend around 500 feet in just under a half mile so use caution and pack a set of microspikes to help when descending areas covered in ice.
My favorite part of the hike was the distance I spent hiking along the banks of the Clarion River. Most of the surface was covered with ice leaving small sections free of ice. One of those sections had a Bald Eagle resting on a branch above hunting fish.
You will eventually reach a trail intersection where the River Trail turns north and leads uphill. For now we will hike past this intersection a short distance to see Henry Run Sawmill Dam, but we will return to this point to take the River Trail north. Proceed past this point for around a quarter-mile until you reach Henry Run Sawmill Dam.
Henry Run Sawmill Dam is downhill from the trail on steep slopes that ice over during winter. Use caution if going off trail. The pool at the bottom of the dam is larger than you may think and you could end up stepping through ice. Recent weather conditions will impact how the waterfall at the dam flows. I hiked after a full month of below freezing weather conditions so the falls was completely iced over, and I saw very little in the way of water flowing over the falls.
Retrace your steps to the River Trail intersection when you are done viewing Henry Run Sawmill Dam. Follow the trail uphill until you reach the Fire Tower Road, but take your time as you will be gaining around 450 feet of elevation over a short distance before you reach the road. Hike west on Fire Tower Road until it loops around and you end up at the starting point of your hike across the road from Ridge Campgrounds.
I enjoyed the solitude of this hike as I never crossed paths with another hiker during my hike. Seeing the Clarion River frozen over was beautiful, and fresh snowfall exposed all the animal tracks crossing the River trail on their way to feed at the Clarion River. My photos of Henry Run Sawmill Dam were underwhelming due to the solid ice covering the flowing water, but it offered a unique view of the falls that you don’t normally get to see.
I rated this trail as moderate as the distance and elevation gain in combination of snowy and icy trail conditions elevates it above beginner status.
(41.32197, -79.21183) – Mile 1.3 – Arrive at Fire Tower Parking Lot – Follow Trail towards Fire Tower 9
(41.31818, -79.21084) – Mile 2.0 – Reach the bottom of the hill and follow the Clarion River bank downstream
(41.31974, -79.22184) – Mile 2.4 – Reach the River Trail junction (you will return to this spot after visiting Henry Run Sawmill Dam for your return hike)
(41.32113, -79.22704) – Mile 2.75 – Follow the Baker Trail along the Clarion until you reach Henry Run Sawmill Dam
(41.31974, -79.22184) – Mile 3.05 – Return to River Trail junction and follow River Trail north
(41.32697, -79.21966) – Mile 3.6 – Follow River Trail until it intersects with Fire Tower Road
(41.33647, -79.22312) – Mile 4.6 – Follow Fire Tower Road until you reach the hike’s starting point. Cross road to Ridge Campground parking lot.