Just 8 miles from Route 80 exit 111, Parker Dam State Park is your gateway to hundreds of miles of gravel forest roads throughout Moshannon State Forest in north central Pennsylvania! Known as the PA Wilds, this part of the state includes an extensive network of dirt and gravel roads. This large forest on the Allegheny Plateau provides cyclists the opportunity to roll along flat, easy roads, or descend and climb steep gravel grades along cool water drainages.
Parker Dam State Park includes a small lake (open to boating, fishing and swimming), 16 rustic cabins, 1 large group cabin, and over 100 campsites (many with electric hook-up). Day-use parking is plentiful at this park, and the camp store near the lake sells snacks and ice cream for refueling after your ride! Whatever you do, definitely bring your swimsuit so you can jump in the cold water lake to refresh your muscles and rinse the dust off your body after a day in the saddle!
Many of these facilities are open year-round, but the cycling (and swimming) is best during the summer months. Learn more about winter activities by reading our blog: Winter Adventure Getways in Moshannon State Forest.
With so many options for riding in this area, choosing an applicable route for your taste can be difficult. Lucky for you, we're familiar with the area, so grab your Moshannon-Quehanna Lizard Map and follow below as we describe the roads surrounding Parker Dam State Park.
We suggest you stop at the Purple Lizard Spot at Panther Rocks climbing area. The most direct way to get here from the park is to climb up Laurel Ridge Road (a nice warm-up), then turn right onto Laurel Run Road. From here, hang a left at Harley Dean Road toward 4 Mile Road and S.B. Elliot State Park. The roads here are gravel or packed dirt, and somewhat narrow, so do keep an eye open for oncoming road traffic.
Reach 4 Mile Road, turn left, and enter a gravel highway. Well not really, but the road is wider than many paved roads you'll ride. It is likely that you will see a very large truck or two while riding this road, but the road is plenty wide enough for this traffic. And the crushed gravel surface along with the flat terrain is enjoyable and fast! Cyclists looking for a longer route may want to detour into S.B. Elliot State Park, a quaint little park with full facilities near Route 80, then loop back out to 4 Mile Road. Either way, head east on 4 Mile Road towards the Lizard Spot at Panther Rocks.
Reach Panther Rocks around 7-miles into this trip. There is a sign and small parking area alongside the roadway - feel free to stop here and walk about 100 yards into the forest to enjoy the rocks pictured above. Of course you can scramble and climb on these impressive rock formations as well, but maybe that activity would be better for another day!
4 Mile Road intersects with McGeorge Road up ahead - stay left here and pass a few private hunting camps before a quick downhill dip to a stream crossing. Carry your momentum over the bridge to easily regain the plateau. Note Tyler Road to your left - this road leads directly back to Parker Dam State Park. It is a nice rolling road to ride back to the park. A longer route towards Shaggars Inn Dam continues past Tyler Road. To go even further and find more options, hang a right onto Wallace Mine Road (pictured above) shortly after the Tyler Road-McGeorge Road intersection.
Wallace Sphagnum Bog is a special place in the heart of Moshannon
The surface of Wallace Mine Road is more typical to what you'll find in this part of the state: a packed down double track gravel road with loose gravel edges and a crowned strip of loose gravel in the middle. This road leads through a forest of white pine, hemlock and larch trees before opening up into a rather large bog, Wallace Sphagnum Bog. This place is a very interesting wetland area, which creates great habitat for many bird species. There isn't a lot of shade on this section of road, but at roughly 14 miles into the ride, it is a great place to pull-over and observe your surroundings.
Reach Caledonia Pike shortly after the bog. A left here leads to directly to Shaggers Inn Pond, while a right here leads to several loop options. A 30-mile ride follows Big Medix Grade Road downhill to Shaggers Inn Road, then climbs back to the pond before returning to the state park. Use Big Media Grade Road for longer routes which can include Wilson Switch Road, finding the Purple Lizard spot at Ginger Whiskey Road, bombing down Jack Dent Road or Quehanna Highway, climbing up Little Medix Road, and more!
Either way you go, beware there is no food or bathrooms at Shaggers Inn Pond, but this is a nice spot to stop before finishing the ride back to the state park. Bikepacking enthusiasts can even reserve a few free car camping permits near this pond (the other camping options include Big Medix Grade Road, or primitive camping in the forest)! Take a break on the dock benches at Shaggers Inn Pond and enjoy this peaceful place.
The route from Shaggers Inn Pond back to the parking area at the state park is quite mellow. Find McGeorge Run and follow it south to Tyler Road. The forest can be dark here, which is nice on a sunny day. The road is flat and pretty smooth, too. Turn right onto Tyler Road, just before a downhill to a stream crossing, and follow this to the state park boundaries. Fairview Road is a gated grassy road that takes you back to your car. Mud Run Road is paved and also leads back to the parking area and your car.
We suggest jumping in the lake as soon as you can after your ride! The water is usually quite cold, and super refreshing after a day on the gravel roads. Grab some ice cream at the concession stand, and rehash your adventure in Moshannon State Forest!
With over 300 miles of non-motorized trails, tons of gravel and dirt roads, and 24/7 access, Rothrock State Forest is a true gem for year-round outdoor recreation near State College, PA. Although the forest roads are not maintained in winter, a few parking lots along the perimeter of the forest provide ample access in almost any conditions. Below, we've chosen a few of our favorite very difficult trail loops accessible in the winter from one of these parking areas. The following loops are best for those who enjoy challenging, steep, and rocky climbs and descents.