Looking for an easy hike with great vistas close to State College in Rothrock State Forest?
Look no further than Lion’s Valley Vista! Emily, Rogue the Trail Dog, and Gantz trekked to this vista to enjoy a wonderful sunset:
This 3 1/2 mile hike begins at the Musser Gap Parking Lot on route 45, just over a mile east of the rt 26/rt 45 intersection by Pine Grove Mills. You can also get there pedalling from Whitehall Drive on the Musser Gap Greenway Bike Path.
At the parking lot a trailhead information kiosk shows the trail network in Musser Gap with a map designed by Purple Lizard. The red blazed wide gravel path, Musser Gap Trail, leads south into this recently-acquired Rothrock State Forest Land. In Pennsylvania a red blazed trail indicates a non-motorized multi-use trail, so expect to see bicyclists, trail runners, baby strollers, and perhaps the occasional horse and rider.
Musser Gap Trail first descends along a few old farm fields, and then leads you gently uphill into the forest. While this area can be wet during certain times of year, the wonderfully built path has been designed to allow hikers and bikers to stay dry in all seasons. Approximately one mile down this trail is a newly built footbridge that crosses a small stream. Just after this bridge, you will find the first trail junction. To reach Lion’s Valley Vista, turn right onto Frog Hollow Trail.
Frog Hollow Trail is a yellow blazed trail, which indicates that only hiking is permitted on this trail, no wheels or horses are allowed. Follow the dirt path leading uphill, sometimes steeply, to the ridgetop. The Lion’s Valley Vista (yellow blazed) turns to the right (west), while the Huckleberry Loop Trail (red blazed) turns left. The red blazed path straight ahead is also the Huckleberry Loop. On this particular evening, we turned right and walked about two minutes to enjoy the Lion’s Valley Vista, which looks north towards State College. The view is worth it anytime, but especially at sunset!
We wandered back to the trail intersection and followed the ridgeline on the Huckleberry Loop. The ridge here is narrow enough to provide views both north and south. The Huckleberry Loop descends to head east below the ridgeline. Just a few minutes later, we found a trail intersection with red blazes heading in two directions.
There is no trail sign here, so we whipped out our Purple Lizard Rothrock Map for help. On the map we could see the Huckleberry Loop continues to the right and heads back up to Lion’s Valley Vista, while the red trail to the left leads a hundred yards downhill to the Mountain Mist Trail. We headed to Mountain Mist Trail and walked through a beautiful forest inundated with young trees.
We returned to Musser Gap Trail which descended steeply at first. Gantz stumbled around a bit because he was focused on the surrounding rock formations rather than the path, and soon everyone made it back to the intersection with Frog Hollow Trail. From here we enjoyed the rest of the easy walking gravel path back to the parking lot.
We finished our adventure with dinner and drinks at Duffy’s Tavern just down the road in Boalsburg. Duffy’s welcomed us to sit outside on the patio. Duffy’s allowed Rogue to sit with us, and also brought a water dish for her! After a craft brew and good dinner we were completely satisfied and ready to head home, another after-work Lizard Adventure successfully completed.
Safety Note! Please be aware if it is currently hunting season you should wear orange in the forest. Lizard Beanie's make great orange gear for hunting seasons.
For more about the adventures of Purple Lizard's Trail Guru Dave Gantz, see www.walkwithgantz.com
Note: There are many new trails in this recently acquired section of Rothrock State Forest. We can thank Clearwater Conservancy for working with the land owners and community fundraising to save this amazing area from development and keep it in the public domain for all to enjoy. I highly suggest that everyone get out there to explore!
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.