Anyone who has attempted running on trails in Rothrock State Forest will agree that it is some of the most rocky and gnarly terrain around. We even make a special note regarding this on our Rothrock Lizard Map, "A word of caution: there are no easy trails in Rothrock...you will encounter steep, rocky terrain as soon as you leave the road. Expect it, embrace it and enjoy it". Fear not: this tough terrain provides some of the best and most accessible four-season training grounds for aspiring trail runners and for those looking to increase overall general fitness.
Any reputable fitness guide will tell you to start slow and stay steady with a fitness plan. If you are new to trails and running, we suggest you begin by hiking the loops described below. Take your time to start, then simply progress to run a bit further every time you revisit the forest! Also, consider beginning with the wonderful loop that surrounds Colyer Lake. Technically not a part of Rothrock State Forest, but still highlighted on our Rothrock Lizard Map, this exceptional 2.5-mile loop is generally flat and free from rocks. There are two water crossings, so prepare for wet feet. Read more about this loop here: Rothrock's Newest Trail.
Let's move on to Rothrock State Forest. There are a plethora of loop options which begin and end at Galbraith Parking Lot near Tussey Mountain Ski Area (pictured above). This is one of the most accessible trailhead areas during winter conditions in Rothrock State Forest. In addition, Lonberger Path and Tussey Mountain Trail (two of the better known classic trails in Rothrock State Forest) are most often utilized from this parking lot to make loops of various lengths. Mountain bikers love these trails and maintain them very well, which makes the area great for runners too!
All descriptions below lead the runner uphill on Lonberger Path. Lonberger Path climbs roughly 400 feet in about 3 miles, which is gradual enough for most people to jog while still keeping your heart rate up. Don't expect to run the whole trail on your first try, though. As stated above, give your body time and practice adjusting to the rigors of trail hiking and running.
All in all, the nearly 6-mile loop below is one of the flatter and quicker loops from the Galbraith Gap parking lot:
The easiest and quickest way to get from your vehicle to the trail is to cross Bear Meadows Road from the lot via a nicely constructed wooden bridge. Pass the Galbraith Gap Trail sign, enter the woods, and jog about 200 yards on the trail, which runs parallel to Bear Meadows Road.
Stay to the right on an old double track road. The trail now turns into a nice grade just above the stream. Now cross Laurel Run Road and a road bridge and re-enter the woods on the trail signed Lonberger Path (pictured below). This is the northern end (or ‘bottom’) of Lonberger Path. You are about to engage in a steep climb that utilizes rocks and switchbacks before leveling off at a T-intersection.
This T-intersection is about 0.5 miles into our loop. Don't worry, the path becomes gentler ahead. Turn left onto Lonberger Path, which descends for a quick bit. Lonberger Path is a wonderful trail run that parallels Bear Meadows road for about two and one half miles before intersecting with Kettle Trail. Lonberger Path has recently been updated and maintained by Nittany Mountain Biking Association (NMBA). These volunteers have done a great job; please enjoy their use of rock bridges and water bars that keep your feet dry in low muddy spots along this trail. Do remember to keep a look out for mountain bikes on this trail. It’s a great downhill ride for cyclists, so be prepared to step off the trail to allow bikes through!
Reach Kettle Trail roughly 3-miles into this loop. There is an obscure, unsigned, Y-intersection where Kettle Trail splits with Lonberger Path. Ideally runners will turn left here, but don't fret if you miss this junction. Lucky for you, we have this intersection pictured below and marked on our Rothrock Lizard Map. If you do miss this left, there is another intersection (this one is signed) just ahead which affords a second opportunity to turn left onto Kettle Trail. We know, this sounds weird and confusing, but just go out there and figure it out...we believe in you.
Kettle Trail drops slightly and then levels out, quickly becoming a gravel path. This trails leads the runner to Bear Meadows Road. Turn left on Bear Meadows Road. The rest of this loop is on the road, which gradually descends 400 feet in the next 2.6 miles. After a short section of gravel, Bear Meadows road changes to a paved surface. This is usually faster for runners, but is also more prone to ice and slick conditions—so be careful if conditions are changing. There may also be bike and car traffic on the road, so keep your head up as you run, wear reflective gear and bring lights if you are running in the dark.
After one slight uphill, Bear Meadows descends further to an intersection with Laurel Run Road on the left. Stay towards the right for another half-mile or so until you see a quick right hand turn onto Black Gum Trail. This trail is a fast, narrow gravel path that leads right to reach Galbraith Gap Lot and your car! Cool down a bit and then head home, glad that you got almost six miles of mixed trail and road running in for the day!
One key to sticking with a healthy hiking or running fitness plan is to gradually increase your difficulty and mileage. Once the above loop becomes easy for you, add on another mile or so by continuing straight on Lonberger Path past the Kettle Trail intersection the whole way to North Meadows Road. There is a trail sign at this road, follow the directions towards J. Wert Path (pictured below).
Jog along on this gated gravel road just for a bit, then pass the gate and turn left at the T-intersection with Bear Meadows Road. Now you're just about a 3-mile downhill run along Bear Meadows Road back to your car at Galbraith parking lot! Total mileage for this loop is roughly 7-miles.
Once you are able to conquer the loops listed above, check out our next option here:
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