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I had read about the Rock Run trails in various books (such as 50 Hikes in Central Pennsylvania as well as The Short Hiker: Small Green Circles) and decided to give it a try. I decided to head out to the trail after work and opted for the shorter of the two loops at Rock Run, choosing the south loop of five miles. Dude indicated earlier that he would like to do this hike as well, so I swung around his place to pick him up and we found ourselves at the trailhead at 6:30PM, ready to start our hike.

Trailhead: N 40° 57.12'
W 77° 58.24'
Total Elevation: 1116'
Trail Length: 4.9 miles
Hike Time: 2.5 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 71
Near: Off route PA504 near
Black Moshannon State Park.
Note regarding hike time and
elevation traversed.

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Using a number of forest roads and side trails, the AFT lends it self to circuit hikes that can be done as a dayhike. One such circuit hike is the Rock Run Trail. This trail is located along the northeast section of the AFT and is arranged in a figure eight double loop. With a number of options for different trailheads and the two loops, dayhikes can range anywhere from five miles to thirteen miles in length.

Black Moshannon State Park and the AFT are located relatively close to State College, only being about 20 miles away. I've visited Black Moshannon S.P. many times before, but have never done any hikes in or around the park. A group of us are looking at doing the entire AFT sometime this fall but I wanted to get out earlier and experience some of the trail.

I had read about the Rock Run trails in various books (such as 50 Hikes in Central Pennsylvania as well as The Short Hiker: Small Green Circles) and decided to give it a try. I decided to head out to the trail after work and opted for the shorter of the two loops at Rock Run, choosing the south loop of five miles. Dude indicated earlier that he would like to do this hike as well, so I swung around his place to pick him up and we found ourselves at the trailhead at 6:30PM, ready to start our hike.

35°
°F | °C
Allegheny Front Trail
Clear
Humidity: 88%
7 mph
Sun
Partly Cloudy
36 | 65
Mon
Mostly Cloudy
41 | 62

The trailhead for this hike is definitely off of the beaten path. You will need to make your way to route PA504, also known as Rattlesnake Pike, which is off of alternate route US220. If you live locally, you can probably find your way to PA504. If you don't live locally, the best way to get here is to get on route I80. Regardless if you are traveling east or west on route I80, you will want to get off at exit 158. Once you exit, head south on alternate route US220/PA150. Route PA150 will leave to your right as the road then merges with route PA144. Continue on, heading south, and in a short while route PA144 will leave to your right as well. Keep on driving straight until you have traveled 6.8 miles since you exit I80 and bear right onto route PA504. Continue on PA504 for another 6.3 miles (13.1 miles from I80) and you will see a dirt forest road on your right. This road is called Governor's Road or Snow Shoe Road, depending on the map you are looking at. Drive down Governor's/Snow Shoe Road for 1.35 miles where you will notice another dirt road on your left. You will turn left here and continue down this road until you come to a large clear cut area, 2.1 miles from route PA504. The road will be blocked by large boulders, which is fine, because this is where you need to park your car and start the hike.

We parked our car here and began our hike, continuing to walk down this road, passing the large boulders blocking it. We noticed off to our right a large grass clearing that use to be a gas well. After about 0.1 miles there is a trail to you left. This is called the Woodcutter's Road. Dude spotted this trail and you'll need to keep your eyes opened to make sure you don't walk pass it. We turned left here and followed this trail down towards the Rock Run trails.

The Woodcutter's Road trail is plenty wide so that both Dude and I could walk beside each other and hold a conversation. There is a slight descent of about 300 feet for the entire length of the trail. After 0.8 miles of hiking we came upon the intersection of Rock Run trails.

There are four main trails that make up the Rock Run loops. The larger, northern loop is made of the Valley Trail and the Ridge Trail. The smaller, southernmost loop is made of the Headwater Trail and Woodland Trail. The Woodcutter's Trail meets up with the Woodland Trail just a tenth of a mile south of the cross connector for the two loops.

Once we met up with the Woodland Trail we turned left, hiked for 0.1 miles, and then bear to our left, following the cross connector trail across Middle Branch Rock Run. These trails are great for cross country skiing and the bridges are designed to accommodate the skiers. After crossing the bridge we were now at the junction of the Ridge Trail and the Headwater Trail. We turned left and followed the Headwater Trail south.





The Headwater Trail immediately climbs the ridge side just a bit, taking you away from the stream, but giving you a nice view of it from time to time. At 1.6 miles into our hike, Dude and I came across a rather impressive beaver dam. We didn't see any of the critters running about, but there appeared to be a number of fish feeding in the pond as we could see the ripples from them on the pond surface. We paused here for a moment to enjoy the scene before continuing on.

At around 1.9 miles into the hike the trail comes right along the stream. Here the stream is small but flowing quickly. This was a nice section to hike and it would be especially so in the heat of summer. There were numerous rhododendrons growing, many pines, and the trail followed the stream through a small hollow, with steep hillsides on both sides. This was short lived as after a quarter of a mile we pulled away from the stream and started across a flatter, broader area.

We soon came across a trail register for the Allegheny Front Trail. Since crossing Middle Branch Rock Run we had been hiking the AFT. The AFT shares almost the entire length of Ridge Trail and all of the Headwater Trail before continuing west and south. The trail register is located at the junction of the Headwater Trail and Woodland Trail as well as the Entrance Trail which the AFT follows back towards route PA504. We stopped here, 2.5 miles into our hike and a little over half way through, to sign the register, rehydrate ourselves, and take a small break.

We came across a dirt road at 2.9 miles into our hike. This dirt road led down to a camp located in the middle of the southern loop. Aside for the Entrance Trail that we just passed, this is yet another way to access the trails of Rock Run. At this point, aside for where we parked at the trailhead, we were at the highest elevation on the hike. We crossed the road and began a gradual descent back towards the Woodcutter's Road.

During our descent we passed through some very interesting rock formations. At 3.7 miles our descent came to an end and we were hiking along the edge of a mountain meadow through which Middle Branch Rock Run flows. Dude commented about the many deciduous trees in the area. The mix was plentiful and they were all of a very respectable size. Maybe this is the reason that the Woodland Trail was so named.

After hiking for 4.1 miles we found ourselves back at the intersection of Woodland Trail and Woodcutter's Road. We turned right up Woodcutter's Road and in 15 minutes we found ourselves back at the trailhead and our car.

The total hike was 4.9 miles and made for a nice after work hike. The northern loop of a little more than 8 miles would make a nice after work hike as well. However, in order to get this hike in before it gets too dark, I am going to have to make sure that I take all of my hiking stuff to work and leave directly from there. Maybe in the next couple of weeks I'll see if I can't get this hike in as well, when there's plenty of daylight in the evenings. I really liked the hike on the southern loop and I'm anxious to get back to enjoy the northern loop as well.

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