Located in Venango County in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, Oil Creek State Park is easily among the state’s most historic parks. That’s because this park is known as the birthplace of the oil industry, and many remnants of this history can be seen throughout the entire park.
However, in addition to all of this history, there are also many beautiful spots to explore in the park. Pioneer Falls is just one such spot.
Pioneer Falls is one of several waterfalls in the Oil Creek State Park and is located along the Gerard Trail, a 36-mile trail that loops through the entire park. This waterfall, which is also called Gregg Falls, is the southernmost waterfall in the park and is accessible via a 1.2-mile roundtrip hike.
Like most of the waterfalls in the park, other than Miller Falls, Pioneer Falls only flows during times of high water. If you visit when there hasn’t been a lot of recent rain, like in the summer, this waterfall can often be completely dry.
The parking area for Pioneer Falls is located along Pioneer Road. This is a narrow dirt road but was passable in a car during my last visit. I’ve heard that the road is a bit rough beyond the parking area, so use care when visiting the area if you are driving a standard car.
The parking area is located just at the edge of the state park and is little more than a small open area adjacent to the field on the left side of the road. Look for a sign denoting the state park’s property line, as well as signs for the Gerard Trail, which crosses the road at this parking area.
This area is located 1.7 miles after you turn onto Pioneer Road at the following coordinates: 41.535550, -79.662050.
From the parking area, cross Pioneer Road and pick up the Gerard Trail. If you’re facing further down Pioneer Road, you’ll want to take the trail to your right on the opposite side of the road from where you parked.
At this point, the Gerard Trail meanders through the woods, and while it is slightly overgrown in a few places, it is easy to follow.
A short distance after starting the trail, you’ll notice a large wooden tank in the woods to the left of the trail.
This is one of the many remnants left in the park of the oil industry that once dominated this area. The land that is now the park was once home to tens of thousands of prospectors seeking their fortune during the world’s first oil boom. When they left, they simply abandoned much of their equipment where it still sits today.
About halfway into the hike, the trail enters a couple of switchbacks and then descends a small wooden staircase.
At the bottom of the stairs, turn right and continue the rest of the way to the top of Pioneer Falls. This 15-20 foot waterfall can be found at the following coordinates: 41.541583, -79.666633.
If the waterfall isn’t flowing well (or at all), this is an easy spot to miss, so look for a bench just before a small bridge that crosses above the falls.
Trying to get to the base of Pioneer Falls isn’t recommended from this spot, but there are great views from the top of the falls, and you can take a break and relax on the bench near the waterfall.
Somewhat confusingly, a sign next to the falls calls it Gregg Falls, but the park map and common usage refer to it as Pioneer Falls, so that’s the name I’ve gone with here.
The Gerard Trail continues over the top of the falls, but instead of following it further, turn around and return to your car the same way you came, unless you are interested in a longer hike.
While Pioneer Falls is far from the largest or most impressive waterfall in Venango County, this is still a nice hiking destination when water levels are high throughout the park.
If you are looking for a little-visited hike in Oil Creek State Park to check out, this is definitely a great choice.
[Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]