McConnells Mill State Park: Hiking the Alpha Pass and Kildoo Trails

McConnells Mill and covered bridge. Highlight for many visitors.
Photo by Teri A. Jacobs Jan. 2019

McConnells Mill State Park (PA) boasts 11.2 miles of hiking trails, mostly rugged and rocky. On my first visit to this state park, I hiked 4/4.5 miles, starting and ending at the Alpha Pass trailhead, where I parked. I had intended on only hiking to the Old Mill for a photo, but I continued on to the Kildoo Loop trail. The park website rates this trail as “more difficult” and All Trails ( rates it as “moderate.” The trail is rocky, but with good hiking boots and/or hiking poles, you’ll have little difficulty traversing the trail. I never felt winded or needed a rest. My biggest challenge was not overheating because winter hiking is a new activity for me, and I bundled too heavily.

I hadn’t checked out the map for the Kildoo Loop hike because I hadn’t planned on doing more than a quick hike to the mill. So when I hit the end of the trail (without looping back), I didn’t realize I had to cross the bridge to the other side of the Slippery Rock Creep to loop back to the mill. But, I saw a trail sign on the other side. I’d ended up meeting a DCNR ranger, Tom (who I saw again on another hike–check back for that post!), who answered my questions about other trails leading the other way (Slippery Rock Gorge trail). He recommended I check out Hell’s Hollow Falls, and I did. Again, check back with me! 🙂

While I have a bias towards alpine and canyonland trails in the Western and Southwestern states, I admit this hike ranks high as a newfound favorite and tops any forest or gorge trail I’ve ever done. The reason is simple: the wild Slippery Rock Creek accompanied me the entire way. You’re not just trudging over rocks and branches, with only rocks and branches and trees in your line of sight–mind you, pleasing nonetheless. But, you have roaring, rushing rapids. As a kayaker, I longed to paddle the whitewater, to enjoy every bubbling and boiling bit, and, thus, the Slippery Rock Creek kept me enthralled in awe and envy every step of the way.

Usually I hike toward a sight at the end of the trail: Waterfalls, lakes, rock formations, petroglyphs, vistas. However, the white-capped emerald waters were the ever-present, spectacular sights and sounds. Joy mimicked the Slippery Rock Creek, swelling, quickening, flowing through me. The sheer pleasure I experienced during this hike has little comparison. No place with similar landscape in Red River Gorge (KY) or Hocking Hills (OH) has kept me in this continual state of hiker’s high. Hike it (you should!!), and let me know if you agree or disagree. Not everyone will have the same admiration for the tributary as I do. Although you’ll find interesting geologic formations along Alpha Pass and Kildoo Loop, the small stream usurps all the glory. 🙂 Even when not wild…