Contrary to popular belief, not every trail in Central PA is difficult and rocky. But, moderate trails for hiking, running, and riding within public lands of Central Pennsylvania can be hard to find. We, like you, spend spring, summer, and fall toiling through rhododendron tunnels, stumbling over rocks, and pushing our bicycles uphill on climbs just too tough to pedal - and we love it - but sometimes we need an easier experience. This winter, take a break from the gnarly single track, grab some friends and family, and explore a new-to-you location in Bald Eagle State Forest!
Located less than two miles east of Route 322 via the gravel surfaced Sand Mountain Road in the Seven Mountains region of Central Pennsylvania, the Sand Mountain Dual Sport Trail System should be your new go-to adventure destination on those snow-free winter days! Have a look at your Bald Eagle Lizard Map, and locate Sand Mountain Trailhead Parking Area near Route 322 between Milroy and Potters Mills. Now take note of the plethora of trails leading east from this parking area. This trail system features fairly level trails with a cinder and gravel base, which is great for non-motorized gravel and mountain bikes! Trail runners will also love this very runnable trail system! Hikers too, can enjoy a winter stroll in this section of Bald Eagle State Forest.
This trail system includes both double track and single track gravel trails, which are excellent for all levels of forest explorer. Do beware, trails blazed with orange diamonds (as shown in the picture above) are open to snowmobiles during appropriate conditions! If you visit during times of snow, stay alert for snowmobiles, but when the trails are clear, there is no concern regarding this traffic.
When you visit this area, you will see purple diamonds and purple blazes along the trails as well. This blaze color indicates trails are open to dual sport motorcycles.
"Dual sport what?" you ask.
Dual sport motorcycles are motor bikes which are licensed to drive on PA roadways, yet are also capable off-road riding as well. Bald Eagle State Forest is home to the only dual sport trails out of all of PA DCNR forest lands. It is a gem for motorcyclists, and it is open for use from Memorial Day Weekend through the last full weekend in September. So, you should not encounter motorcycles on these trails during winter months. Learn more about dual sport riding and regulations here: Bald Eagle State Forest Dual Sport Trails
There are also plenty of single track trails to discover in this part of the forest for those looking to get away from the gravel. Red blazes and brown triangular signs indicate trails open to non-motorized, shared-use activities.
"What is that?" you ask.
Simply put, these trails are open to non motorized, hiking, running, and riding (bikes and horses). The Mid State Trail, which leads hearty hikers and backpackers from Maryland to New York, is the sole hiking only trail in this area. Mid State Trail is blazed with orange paint, as it follows the tallest ridge line directly south of this dual sport trail system. Dogs are allowed in PA State Forests, but they must be kept under strict verbal control and/or kept on a leash. Keep your dogs close and under tight control for both their safety, the safety of forest creatures, and the safety of other humans in the forest.
One last highlight of this trail system: great trail conditions and signage. Although this forest is rather remote, and includes numerous trail intersections, most of these trails are well maintained and helpful signs can be found at almost all intersections. Don't leave your Bald Eagle Lizard Map at home though; with so many options out here, you can use your Lizard Map to create your own adventure at every turn! Credit for these great signs and trails goes to DCNR Bald Eagle State Forest, local trail race groups, such as Transylvania Epic, and hiking groups such as Mid State Trail Association.
The Sand Mountain Dual Sport Trail System is truly a gem smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania. This system is an excellent example of an area used and maintained by multiple forest users groups for the good of all. As noted in the fine print of all Purple Lizard Maps, "remember that your actions affect all of us. Be smart, be safe, and leave no trace." The weather in Seven Mountains is always different than the surrounding valleys, and trail conditions and regulations can vary from season to season, so be sure to contact Bald Eagle State Forest for current updates before you visit. Until then, take a look at your Bald Eagle Lizard Map and plan your upcoming adventure in Bald Eagle 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.