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Mid State Trail - State College: Circuit Hike on the MST and Little Shingletown Road

One trail that I had not yet hiked in Rothrock State Forest was the Little Shingletown Trail. This trail is used quite a bit by mountain bikers and also makes for a good cross-country ski trail as it use to be an old forest road. It connects Pine Swamp Road in Hubler Gap with Laurel Run Road at the top of Tussey Mountain. For this hike Mike, Tim, Dan and I did a circuit hike that included the Little Shingletown Trail, Musser Trail and the Mid State Trail on a sunny and relatively mild Sunday in November.

Trailhead: N 40° 44.90'
W 77° 46.56'
Total Elevation: 2272'
Trail Length: 8.3 miles
Hike Time: 4.5 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 128
Near: Laurel Run Road, Near Little Flat, Rothrock S.F.

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Reaching the trailhead begins on route US322. Heading west on US322, about 1/2 mile before Boalsburg, turn left onto Bear Meadows Road and head towards the Tussey Mountain Ski Resort. Heading east on US322, go 1/2 mile past Boalsburg and turn right onto Bear Meadows Road. Bear Meadows road is directly across from the Elks Country Club. Travel on Bear Meadows road for about 1.5 miles and turn right onto Laurel Run Road. Travel for 1.8 miles until you reach the top of the mountain. This is where the Mid State Trail crosses Laurel Run Road and the trailhead for this hike. The Little Shingletown Road is gated so please make sure as to not block the gate when you park your car here for this or any hike.

Mike, Dan, Tim and I had previously met at the Rothrock State Forest Access parking area in Galbraith Gap and road up together in Mike's car. After we all got our hiking gear situated we started on our hike, heading west on the Mid State Trail. At this point the MST follows the Little Shingletown Road.

The trail made a slight gradual ascent as we passed the turn-off of the Mid State Trail at 0.2 miles into the hike. Continuing straight and a short distance past this point we began our long and gradual descent on the Little Shingletown Road.

The trail near the top of the ridge is a bit narrow at times. For most of the hike we were able to walk three or four abreast on the trail. However close to the top of the ridge we were only able to walk two abreast. Still plenty wide compared to a lot of hiking trails found in the area. The trail crossed a couple rock fields which offered a winter view to our left. In the summer with the leaves on the trees this view would have been obscured.

We came across the intersection with Sand Spring Trail at 0.8 miles. This trail is marked with a sign post to the left of the trail. To the left, Sand Spring Trail descends steeply down the side of the ridge to meet up with Laurel Run Road. The the right it climbs to the top of the ridge, crosses the Mid State Trail and then descends once again to meet up with the trails in Shingletown Gap. We paused here for a bit to get a drink before continuing on.

Just past the intersection with the Sand Spring Trail the Little Shingletown Trail makes a sweeping turn to the right as it levels out. We walked on relatively flat trail for about a tenth of a mile until the trail turns to the left and resumes its gradual descent.

For the next 1.7 miles we had a nice stroll on the trail as it made its way down through the small valley formed by the stream to the right of the trail. This stream is known as Shingletown Branch and feeds into Laurel Run at Hubler Gap. Laurel Run is the stream that provides the many recreational opportunities at Wipple Dam State Park.

Our broad, leaf covered trail came to an end at 2.6 as we came across a gate. This marked the end of the camp access road which can be reached from Pine Swamp Road. Off to our right was the state leased camp which looked to be empty at the moment. I made the comment that there would probably be people on all the camps along this road next weekend, the weekend before the start of deer hunting season.

The road was now gravel and looks to have been recently graded. As we continued on our hike the descent was much more gradual now. We passed a couple more camps before we arrived at Hubler Gap. We crossed Shingletown Branch and then turned right onto Pine Swamp Road at 3.3 miles.

We had a short bit of road walking on Pine Swamp Road as we began our climb back to the top of Tussey Mountain. After a half mile we turned right onto Musser Trail. The trail descended steeply to cross a small stream along side the road before beginning to ascend once again. There was another small stream cascading over rocks and logs along Musser Trail and with the sunlight shining down through the trees it looked very picturesque. We couldn't pass up the opportunity so Dan and I paused here a bit to take a couple snapshots of the babbling brook.

For a little over a tenth of a mile the climb was a bit steep but it did become more gradual as we crossed a timber area access road at 4.1 miles. The road looked to no longer be used for timbering but did look like it was still being used by mountain bikers.

Just a short distance after crossing the dirt mountain road the climb became noticeably steeper. For the next quarter mile Musser Trail climbed straight up the south flank of the ridge. Finally at around 4.4 miles we got a little bit of a break in the form of a switchback. A turn to the right followed by one to the left, the trail was now angling to the west as we finished our ascent and reached the top of the ridge.

We had hiked about 4.5 miles and were more than half way through our 8 mile circuit hike. We all took a few minutes at the intersection of Musser Trail and the Mid State Trail to catch our breathes. After a few minutes we had recovered from our steep climb of Musser Trail and continued with our hike heading east on the Mid State Trail.

After a half mile of hiking we came across our first vista. This was the expansive Sky Line Vista with views to the south east. We were able to look over the valley in which we just hiked and could view Greenlee Mountain and Big Flat on the horizon. We were afforded this view for the next tenth mile of trail as we hiked along the top edge of an expansive rock field.

After the vista the Mid State Trail continued on through the woods on top of the ridge. At 5.4 miles there is a small side trail which leads off to the south-east to another view. There is a sign along the Mid State Trail pointing to the side trail and view. As we ventured back towards the view we noticed patches of snow on the ground, nestled in amongst the rocks and boulders. Apparently the ridges in Rothrock State Forest already had their first taste of winter.

At 5.8 miles we came upon the intersection with Deer Path. This is the first of a number of trails that lead down off the ridge into the Shingletown Gap area. The old sign, attached to a tree at the intersection, had been removed. It was now replaced with a sign post at the junction of the two trails. Dan paused here for a minute to pose for a picture.

We were now hiking across one of the more rockier sections of the trail. Mike had day hiked this section of the MST in the summer with his son. Memories of that outing came back to him as we hopped, and stumbled, from one rock to the next. Good boots, with ankle support and a stiff sole are highly recommended for hiking this section of the Mid State Trail and for hiking any of the ridge top trails found in Rothrock State Forest.

About three tenths of a mile past the junction with the Deer Path we came across the side trail that leads to the Roman Tower. As with the Deer Path there was a new sign post planted here at the intersection. The orange-blazed Mid State Trail continued straight but we decided to turn left and follow the blue-blazed trail to the Roman Tower vista, reaching it at 6.2 miles into the hike.

Once at the vista we came across our first group of hikers. Up to this point it seemed as if we had the entire forest to ourselves. They asked us to take a picture of them, which we did, and then after a few snapshots of the view for ourselves, we headed back to the Mid State to continue our hike.

The trail was now predominately on the top of the ridge making for relatively flat hiking. We still had our share of rocks to deal with but that is to be expected when hiking the Mid State Trail. At 6.9 miles we came across another group of hikers enjoying a vista with views towards Bald Knob and Mount Nittany beyond.

At about 7.7 miles we came upon the intersection of Sand Spring Trail. This was the same trail that we crossed earlier when we had only traveled 0.8 miles of this hike. Unlike the other trail junctions we came across along the Mid State Trail, the Sand Spring Trail was still marked with the older style, plank trail signs. There was no sign post planted here. You could tell by the condition of the trail that most of the traffic on the Sand Spring Trail headed north, down to the Shingletown Gap area as the trail to the right, towards Little Shingletown Road seemed nothing more than a game trail.

Finally at 8.1 miles the Mid State Trail emerged onto Little Shingletown Road. We turned left here and retraced our steps for the last 0.2 miles of hiking back to the car and the end of our circuit hike.

This hike was a nice workout. The start of the hike was enjoyable as we hiked over three miles descending on a well graded trail. The climb up Musser Trail really made the heart pump and got the blood flowing. And the final four miles hiking along the ridgeline on the Mid State Trail offered some nice views of the surrounding valleys.

The start of our hike on Little Shingletown Road.

At the intersection with Sand Spring Trail.

The end of Little Shingletown Road in Hubler Gap.

We begin our climb on Musser Trail back to the top of the ridge.

The intersection of Musser Trail and the Mid State Trail.

Tim enjoys the view at the Sky Line Vista.

The rocky Mid State Trail.

Looking towards Mount Nittany from the Roman Tower.

This sign marks the intersection of the Sand Spring Trail and the Mid State Trail.

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