Every now and again we all need a break from the hustle and bustle of 21st Century America. Luckily, State College is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands that are waiting to embrace you with fresh air and natural light. Email, news, phone, school, snapchat, social media, text, traffic, tv, twitter, work...leave it all behind and head into the forest to rejuvenate!
A waterproof map and a trustworthy friend
Outdoor recreation in the forest can sometimes feel intimidating, especially if you are just learning an area or starting out in a new outdoor activity. We suggest you try this: put your phone on airplane mode and tuck it away in a backpack. Grab your Rothrock Lizard Map, a snack and water, a trustworthy friend, and go for an adventure in the forest!
Bear Meadows Road
There are three entrances to Rothrock that are less than 8 miles from downtown State College. You could take the biking and walking path that leads from State College to Musser Gap Parking Area or hop on the public CATA bus to Tussey Mountain Ski Area. Of course if you have access to a car, you can drive almost anywhere in the forest including Shingletown Gap Parking Area!
Wampler Road Vista
Most cars will easily handle the open roads in Rothrock State Forest. But how can you be sure? Well, Purple Lizard Maps designate different road surfaces with different colors. Red and gray roads are paved, brown roads are well maintained dirt or gravel, and red/orange braided roads are high clearance 4wd roads. The high clearance 4wd road designation simply means 'not regularly maintained'.
Bear Meadows Natural Area
Bear Meadows Road is a great starter road for driving through this forest. First head towards Tussey Mountain Ski Area, then continue driving past the ski mountain and into the forest. Please drive slowly: hikers, cyclists, dogs, skateboarders and wild animals also frequent this road. Take time to pull over and inspect your Rothrock Lizard Map for trail and road intersections, and interesting spots (which we mark on our maps with tiny purple lizards). Be sure to stop at Bear Meadows Natural Area, Wampler Vista, and Alan Seeger Natural Area. You can even continue past Alan Seeger Natural Area and drive to within a quarter mile of Greenwood Fire Tower.
Greenwood Fire Tower
North Meadows Trail
Rothrock State Forest holds over 300 miles of single and double track trails open to hiking. Of course, you don't have to go that far to find an amazing place. Not-so-secret places in this forest include:
Hubler Gap Vista
Little Flat Tower
A couple of long distance backpacking trails lead through this forest, too. Be sure to hike some of the Mid State Trail and the Standing Stone Trail while you're here. The Mid State Trail leads north and south, a total of 325 miles from Maryland to New York. The Standing Stone Trail is nearly 80 miles long from Rothrock State Forest south to Cowan's Gap State Park.
Mid State Trail
Tussey Mountain Trail
Rothrock is well-known for excellent mountain and gravel biking. So well known in fact, that visitors travel here just for the challenge of riding the trails. In addition to riding the forest roads, riding is also allowed on non-motorized shared use trails, which are blazed red on the ground and maroon on the Rothrock Lizard Map.
Tussey Mountain Trail
We've highlighted two long distance bike routes in yellow on our map. These routes are designated International Mountain Bike Association Epic Routes, because of their difficult technical terrain and exceptional quality singletrack. Be prepared with both bike and human repair kits if you tackle the miles of rock gardens found on these routes!
Laurel Run Road
Not interested in technical rock gardens? Go for a gravel ride instead! Most of the roads in Rothrock are accessible with a road bike that is equipped with knobby tires (cyclo-cross, gravel, or mountain bikes are preferred). Be sure to use bike lights, since many roads are open to car traffic. Or avoid cars altogether and ride on gated roads. Gated roads not open to car traffic include Detweiler Run Road, Thickhead Mountain Road, North Meadows Road, and Gettis Ridge Road.
Thickhead Mountain Road
The term "running" is used loosely in Rothrock. 90% of trail runners in Rothrock will scramble uphill and jog downhill through the steep and rocky terrain. Still it can be a very good time and much more pleasant than trying to dodge traffic in town. Like hiking, running is allowed on all trails in the forest. Popular trails include Colyer Lake Trail, Lonberger Path, Lower Trail, Musser Gap Trail, Tussey Mountain Trail, and Whipple Lake Trail.
There is plenty of outdoor climbing available in the surrounding areas too! While not on public land, the privately owned Donation Rocks is noted on the Rothrock Lizard Map. Top rope, and some trad climbing is allowed at Donation Rocks, as long as each climber completes an online liability waiver, and has it with them at all times while on the property. Stone Mountain Adventures is kind enough to allow the public to use their property, so please heed all rules and be respectful towards the property owners. Visit C3PA for more information on climbing in this area.
Plenty of bouldering opportunities exist within the boundaries of Rothrock State Forest, too. Hunters Rocks and Rocky Ridge Natural Area are the two most popular spots for bouldering in the area. Enjoy climbing here, but be sure to stay off of the adjacent private land.
A few paddling areas exist in and around Rothrock State Forest. Specific PA State Park and/or PA Fish and Boat Commission regulations may apply, so be sure to research these waterways a bit before you head out with your own gear. In season, boats may be rented at Lake Perez and Whipple Dam State Park. Paddling is also allowed at Colyer Lake, Greenwood Furnace State Park, and Little Juniata River.
While the professional foresters at Rothrock State Forest do their best to maintain and upgrade roads and trails within the forest, the task is daunting. Most of the hand work done in the forest, such as trail clearing, blazing, and general maintenance, falls on volunteers like you. Trail maintenance is actually an extremely fulfilling experience for the mind and body.
Trail maintenance is a blast, but be sure to check with Rothrock State Forest before completing any tasks. Please only maintain what the foresters ask you to maintain. Try joining a trail maintenance crew...trail work can be difficult...and is made easier with group effort. Here are the groups who do most of the work in this forest:
Friends of Cooper's Gap, Friends of Rothrock, Nittany Mountain Biking Association (NMBA), Mid State Trail Association (MSTA) contact email@example.com, Nittany Valley Running Club (NVRC), Standing Stone Trail Club
Lions Valley Vista
Of course you can only find the best and most secret spots by either exploring the entire forest on your own, or by asking locals. Anyone is welcome to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, but quite honestly we are usually in the woods collecting data for our next map or buried in our computers uploading the data we've recently collected. We suggest you visit these fine local organizations and businesses for the most up-to-date information on Rothrock State Forest:
Appalachian Outdoors on Allen Street one block south of campus
Freeze Thaw Cycles on Allen Street one block south of campus
Penn State Outing Club meets every Tuesday evening on campus
Rothrock Outfitters downtown Huntingdon
Shavers Creek Environmental Center in the forest near Petersburg
The Bicycle Shop on West College Avenue
Women’s Adventure Club of Centre County,a local meetup group, which offers a wide array of outdoor activities specifically for women
Indy De Lemon Rocks the Lizard Beanie
Just a few notes for safety before you head out to adventure in the forest:
-Various hunting seasons are open September through January. Be sure to stay seen by wearing 360 degrees of bright colors. Blaze orange is the best. Our Lizard Beanie, pictured above on our friend Indy de Lemon, is bright orange (and warm) so you may want to consider that as a start!
-Wild animals live in this forest. These animals won't bother you as long as you don't bother them.
-Cell phone coverage is limited in the forest, so be sure to tell someone where you're heading and when you expect to be home.