Spruce Creek Pennsylvania is well known for its world class fly fishing waters, but less known for its amazing array of ridge line vistas in nearby Rothrock State Forest. Just a few miles northwest of Huntingdon, PA, this section of Rothrock State Forest boasts miles of the Mid State Trail (MST). The MST in this area crosses through Little Juniata Natural Area and includes several views of the surrounding ridges and valleys. Take a look at your Rothrock Lizard Map now though, and take notice of the large number of side trails that descend off the MST ridge into either Brady Road or Tram Road below. So many trails...so little time...
On a sunny winter afternoon in Northcentral Pennsylvania, we decided to get outside to explore one of these side trails which leads uphill to Mid State Trail. We made the drive along beautiful Route 45 along the northwestern section of Rothrock State Forest and parked at the Yellow Arrow Trail head parking area on Colerain Road. The trail is immediately recognizable, having a trailhead sign and being well marked with yellow blazes.
Yellow Arrow Trail is not an easy trail. Although switchbacks are provided, it is still a challenging trail to climb in the late afternoon. The entire length of this trail is less than one mile, making it a great option to get up and down to the vista before dark on those weekday evening adventures.
After a fun narrow section of trail with unstable footing (maybe not fun for the feint of heart) we arrived at Indian Lookout. What an excellent vista of the surrounding area! There is a reason this is a Lizard Spot on the Rothrock Lizard Map.
This vista provides a superb bird's eye view above Spruce Creek. Route 45 and Spruce Creek run alongside each other for miles from Pennsylvania Furnace to the confluence with the Little Juniata River. It is truly a beautiful mountain-fed stream in Northcentral Pennsylvania.
Although there isn't a picnic table at this spot, there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view.
There are several options after Indian Lookout. One option is to turn around and head back to the car the same way we came in, along Yellow Arrow Trail. Another option is to continue straight to Brady Road, then turn left and pick up Colerain Road, then climb Rainbow Trail the whole way to Mid State Trail. From here the options are endless. The sun was setting on this winter day though, so we went with option C: turn right on Colerain Road and road walk the gravel surface back down to the parking area. Along the way we found DCNR Cap Campsite #2. These roadside campsites are free of charge, all that is needed is a pre-approved permit from the forester.
Campsite #2 includes a pretty incredible view of the valley below. We suggest checking this view out the next time you visit, even if you aren't staying for the evening!
We stopped to enjoy one more vista as the sun was setting. This vista, which includes a narrow pull-off, occurs at the switchback turn along Colerain Road not far south of Route 45. After this vista, the road continues to descend towards Route 45, but now under the tree canopy of the north side of the mountain. The road walk is enjoyable, especially one section with a hairpin turn. We arrived back at our car just before dark, and just in time to stop for dinner on the ride home!
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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.