Trout Stream Trail
Skytop’s most popular hiking and skiing trail begins at a small parking area across Route 390 from the Ski Slopes parking lot. It can be reached either by driving one mile from the Lodge along Dutch Hill Road, or by walking along the Lake trail. The main trail is about one and a half miles round trip, completely level and follows the east shore of the Leavitt Branch after crossing a footbridge near the parking area. An alternate trail begins in the conifer plantation at the parking area and follows the other side of the stream, connecting with the main trail via another footbridge about a half-mile upstream. This alternate trail is a bit rougher but passes through some interesting wetlands, vernal ponds and ancient forest of hemlock, white pine, beech, tulip tree, sugar maple and other species probably well over 200 years old.
The highlight of the trail is its end point – the magnificent Indian Ladder Falls. Beautiful at any season, this 3-level waterfall was formed where the Leavitt Branch carved through layers of sandstone and shale on its descent from the Pocono Plateau. All along the stream below the falls there are pools where brook and brown trout can be seen. This stretch is very popular with fly fishermen. Large wood turtles and 4 kinds of stream salamanders – dusky, 2-lined, spring and northern red – inhabit the waters along with a great variety of aquatic insects. The pH of the stream is about 7.3 due to the presence of lime in the underlying sedimentary rocks which buffers the acid rain.
Many shy songbirds nest in the mature forest along the stream, including the hermit thrush, veery, Blackburnian warbler, Acadian flycatcher, blue-headed vireo, American redstart, Louisiana Waterthrush, scarlet tanager, brown creeper, golden-crowned kinglet and ovenbird. Mink and river otter frequent the stream and porcupines leave their rock dens along the trail at night to climb and feed on hemlock trees. Families of black bear and even solitary bobcats have been sighted, and wildflowers such as starflower and cardinal flower bloom in the spring and summer. In some of the shadier, cooler, upstream portions of the trail where sunlight rarely reaches, Canadian plants such as hobblebush, mountain ash, and mountain maple grow.