Any loop variation which includes Lonberger Path and Tussey Mountain Trail is a classic for veteran explorers and an exciting challenge for new visitors in Rothrock State Forest. Below, we'll describe a few options for hikers and runners heading uphill on Lonberger Path, across Tussey Mountain Trail, and downhill on Camp Trail/Dylan's Path. We chose this direction mainly because Dylan's Path is steeper and therefore easier to descend than ascend. Mountain Bikers may prefer this loop in the opposite direction - either way works!
While this whole route follows relatively close to Bear Meadows Road and cell-phone coverage is pretty good in this area, it is always recommended to adventure in forests with a first aid kit, headlamp or flashlight, and at least one or two competent friends. Dogs are great friends, but we're talking about the type of friends with opposable thumbs here...friends who can help you out if you injure yourself!
Rothrock State Forest boasts almost 300 miles of trails open year-round to help you stay fit and/or prepare for longer summer vacation adventures. We consider the loops below as challenging routes that are easily accessible in winter conditions: These are not the steepest nor the longest loops in the forest, but they are not easy either. Check out these two easier loops before you attempt the Tussey Mountain Loop:
Like our other posted winter loops in Rothrock, Tussey Mountain Loop begins and ends at Galbraith Parking Lot near Tussey Mountain Ski Area. Pictured above, this lot actually has two parking areas and rustic restroom facilities! From here, we'll make our way up to Lonberger Path then head toward the ridge of Tussey Mountain Trail before descending back to Bear Meadows Road and Galbraith Lot.
Here's the details from beginning at 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 second parking area 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 the 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 unto Lonberger Path, which descends for a quick bit. Lonberger Path is a wonderful trail run that parallels Bear Meadows road for about 2.5 miles before intersecting with Kettle Trail. Lonberger Path has recently been updated and maintained by DCNR and Nittany Mountain Biking Association (NMBA). They 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 heading towards you 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 adventure (pictured above). Turn left here and follow Kettle Trail as it drops slightly and then levels out, quickly becoming a gravel path. This trails leads the runner to Bear Meadows Road. A left turn onto Bear Meadows Road will lead you 3-miles downhill back to your starting point. Read more about option here: A Great Beginner Trail Running Route In Rothrock.
We have bigger plans for today, though. Instead of turning left on Bear Meadows Road, continue straight across the road and onto Kettle Trail. Immediately begin a steep, but short climb up to Tussey Ridge (pictured below).
Reach a T-intersection at the top of the ridge and turn left on Tussey Mountain Trail. Get your quick feet ready for some fun rock gardens as you follow this ridge for about 2.3 miles. Tussey Mountain Trail is a beautiful ridge line trail that has lots of rocks, but not as many as most other ridges in this region. This trail is nationally recognized as an excellent technical trail for mountain bikers. Check out all the rocks along the trail in the picture below!
There is also a burn section along Tussey Ridge, which was created from a forest fire in 2006. This section becomes more beautiful each season as it regenerates itself into a hardwood forest again. Early morning and late afternoon views can be spectacular here as the sun either rises or sets on the adjacent ridges of Central Pennsylvania.
Pic by Lizard Seeker Joshua Brock
Reach the gas line cut. Stop for a second to enjoy the view and prepare for the remainder of your run. The rest of this loop is downhill, so you’re not going to want to stop again until you see your car! Turn left, following a cut trail that runs along the edge of the gas line. Take the first left that you see. This is signed as Camp Trail but also known as Dylan's Path. No matter the name, this trail isn’t necessarily blazed or marked. It is well used though and easy to recognize. This trail descends fast and steep, with only a few rocks, for over one half mile.
Important note: Dylan's Path is one of the few trails you will find on any Purple Lizard Map which crosses private land. Local trail advocates, mainly Nittany Mountain Bike Association (NMBA), have a close working relationship with the land owners of this property. During most times of year, Dylan's Path is open for travel, but it may be closed during major fall hunting seasons. It is imperative that we all respect the private property in this area! If you are not familiar with hunting seasons in this area, please call the Rothrock State Forest office before your trip to ensure that you are respecting the wishes of this landowner.
Reach a chain gate at the end of Corner Road. Now the trail becomes a gravel surface known as Corner Road - continue to follow this road downhill, passing by a few hunting camps and crossing a stream as best as you can (yes your feet will get wet).
Corner Road continues after crossing the stream eventually joining Bear Meadows Road. Turn right on the pavement and continue descending, now enjoying the smooth surface. 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, have a stretch, and then head home. Be proud of yourself for completing this 8-mile loop of mixed trail and road surfaces!
All in all, the option above is one of the flatter loops available from Galbraith Gap Lot, but you can always add in some other flat trails and end up with a bigger mileage route that still doesn't have too much elevation change:
Once the above loop becomes easy for you, add on another 1.5 miles 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 John Wert Path (pictured below).
Jog along on this gated gravel road just for a bit before reaching a gate. Pass around the gate and turn right onto Bear Meadows Road for just a few yards before hanging a left onto Tussey Mountain Trail. This terminus of Tussey Mountain Trail has recently been updated and now features an excellent climb and a new signpost (pictured below).
This section of trail, sometimes called Tuxedo Trail by locals, meanders uphill for about one-half mile. It is really an enjoyable and gentle climb anytime of year.
Now enjoy a quick and rocky downhill section before meeting up with Kettle Trail. The view and ridge line to your right, across the small valley, is Thickhead Mountain and Thickhead Wild Area. We're now back on the Kettle Trail section of the original 8-mile loop option, so refer to those directions above to get yourself back to Galbraith Lot!
Training for a half marathon or 25k trail challenge? Get your trail miles in, without too much elevation change, with the 14-mile long Tussey Mountain Loop option below.
Please note: Jean Aron Path and Bear Meadows Loop are not open to horses or cyclists, so please, hikers and runners only for this option.
As with the 10-mile option above: At around 3-miles into this loop continue straight on Lonberger Path instead of turning left at the Kettle Trail intersection. Enjoy a nice rock garden, running on your toes with quick feet to avoid turning an ankle (or two). Lonberger Path lasts another half mile to North Meadows Road. Turn right on North Meadows Road, which is a gated gravel road. Ascend just a bit while running on this road for less than one half mile, until you see Bear Meadows Loop Trail on the left (pictured below).
Turn left onto Bear Meadows Loop Trail. This trail drops off of the road and into Bear Meadows Natural Area. It is a beautiful and extremely flat trail that loops directly around the meadow. Unfortunately it can also be very wet and muddy during wet seasons. We suggest avoiding this option when water levels are high-it's not fun for you and it's detrimental to the trail, too.
After about a mile on this trail, Sand Spring Path appears off to the right. Stay straight/left on Bear Meadows Loop. Gettis Trail turns sharply uphill to the right in another quarter mile. Again, stay straight/left on Bear Meadows Loop.
Bear Meadows Loop eventually ends at Bear Meadows Road and the sign pictured above. Take the gravel road to the left, crossing the bridge and a small parking area, then continue on the gravel road for about a hundred yards, keeping your eyes peeled for Jean Aron Path to enter the woods on your left. This one can be hard to spot. Turn left onto Jean Aron Path. Like Bear Meadows Loop Trail, this trail is often times very wet, but it is beautiful and soft, as it goes through a grove of pine and hemlock trees along the edge of the meadow (pictured below).
Roughly one half mile later, Jean Aron Path ends at North Meadows Road. Turn right on North Meadows Road. Pass straight through the gate and turn right onto Bear Meadows Road for just a few yards before hanging a left onto Tussey Mountain Trail. This terminus of Tussey Mountain Trail has recently been updated and now features an excellent climb and a new signpost (pictured below).
This section of trail, sometimes called Tuxedo Trail by old-head locals, meanders uphill for about one half mile. It is really an enjoyable and gentle climb anytime of year.
Now enjoy a quick and rocky downhill section before meeting up with Kettle Trail. The view and ridge line to your right, across the small valley, is Thickhead Mountain and Thickhead Wild area. We're now back on the classic section of Tussey Mountain Trail. Follow this ridge line trail for about 2.3 miles through an old burned section of forest until you reach the gas line cut.
Continue straight across the gas line cut, staying on Tussey Mountain trail for another one half mile until you reach a beer tap. Yes, a beer tap. It is tapped into an old stump at a trail intersection (pictured above). Turn left at the beer tap onto Camp Trail/Dylan's Path. Follow this trail for a while as it meanders slighty downhill along the top of the mountain. Generally, stay to the left at any trail intersections - this trail is often updated and rerouted by the many mountain bikers that use and maintain this trail. Enjoy their efforts! Reach the gas line cut again in about another quarter mile. Follow the single track trail up the gas line cut for just a bit before crossing the gas line. As you cross this cut, Camp Trail/Dylan's Path will appear on the other side. This is the trail which you will use to descend along the way back to the Galbraith Lot. Dylan's Path is well used and easy to recognize. This trail descends fast and steep for over one half mile.
Important note: Dylan's Path is one of the few trails you will find on any Purple Lizard Map which crosses private land. Local trail advocates, mainly Nittany Mountain Bike Association (NMBA), has a close working relationship with the land owners of this property. During most times of year, Dylan's Path is open for travel, but it may be closed during major fall hunting seasons. It is imperative that we all respect the private property in this area! If you are not familiar with hunting seasons in this area, please call the Rothrock State Forest office before your trip to ensure that you are respecting the wishes of this landowner.
Reach a chain gate at the end of Corner Road. Now the trail becomes Corner Road - continue to follow this road downhill, passing by a few hunting camps and crossing a stream as best as you can (yes your feet will get wet).
Corner Road continues for a bit longer after crossing the stream before it reaches Bear Meadows Road. Turn right on the road and continue descending, now on a smooth paved surface. 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, have a stretch, and then head home. Be proud of yourself for completing this 14-mile loop!
Anyone able to conquer the loops listed above must surely have a good base fitness level. Continue your progression with us by attempting some of the more serious hill climbs available year-round in Rothrock State Forest:
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I had two seriously long days in the woods planned, for an estimated total of 44 miles of backpacking. My plan was to follow a slew of lesser-known trails to create a loop that incorporates both Black Forest Trail and West Rim Trail. I picked this route after studying the Pine Creek Lizard Map. There are countless trails on this excellent map, but some of them are old, neglected, and untravelled. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Winter is a great time to do this kind of exploring. There are no rattlesnakes, nettles, or ticks. Streams are easy to follow, and the cold temperatures can dress up the stream banks with ice sculptures. The lack of leaves creates winter vistas where in the summer there is only endless green. So off I went.