Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: Hiking the Greenwood Spur

The plan seemed simple. Meet Friday night at Jo Hays Vista, set up camp, and hike 23 miles over the weekend. Of course things never go as planned. Throw in some rain (and a guy, me, that's not too fond of sleeping in a tent in the rain) and a vehicle stuck in the mud, and plans get changed. Luckily the weather wasn't all that bad, my car was extracted from the mud, and we did get a nice weekend hike in, with some of us hiking a little further than others.

Trailhead:  N 40° 45.92'
W 77° 45.35'
Total Elevation:  5893'
Trail Length:  14.1 miles
Hike Time:  10 hours
Hike Type:  Shuttle
Difficulty Rating:  129
Near:  Off route US322 near Boalsburg, PA.


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We were originally starting with 4 hikers. Lee and I met up Friday night and headed towards Jo Hays Vista to set up camp. I had decided that I wasn't going to camp out Friday night, but I would meet up with everyone on Saturday morning atop of Little Flat. Lee was going to camp out with Pete and Erick Friday night and then meet back up with us again on Saturday night.

Lee and I took Pine Swamp Road, just down the south side of Tussey Mountain from Jo Hays Vista, and drove out to within a quarter of a mile from Friday nights campsite. I pulled off the road to park my car to find that the hill along this section of the road was very slick. A minute later my car was located down an embankment beside the road, pretty much stuck in the mud. Lee and I left the car where it was, waiting for Pete to show up and help pull me out. When it was all said and done, Lee decided he wasn't comfortable camping out on the trail, Pete and Erick showed up and helped extract my car from the mud, and we had a nice campfire going at the campsite for Pete and Erick. Lee and I said our goodbyes to the guys as they headed off to bed to get ready for the next day of hiking. Lee headed home calling it an end to a short hiking trip. I headed home as well, packed my gear, and got ready to head back out to the trail Saturday morning.

Saturday morning I drove to my trailhead for this hike. I parked my car at the Rothrock Forest access area at Galbraith Gap. The trailhead for my hike is located about 0.5 mile beyond the Tussey Mountain Family Fun Center on Bear Meadows Road. To reach the trailhead you will need to get on route US322. Traveling east, you will see Bear Meadows Road on your right, just after passing Boalsburg. The four lane highway will reduce to two lanes with Bear Meadows Road being 0.65miles beyond this point, on your right. If you are heading east, you will see Bear Meadows Road on your left, directly across from the Elks County Club and golf course. Once you get on Bear Meadows Road, drive for 1 mile. You will see a stone road as well as a sign to your left. Pull back onto this road and continue back to the second parking area. The trailhead is just across the bridge on the other side of the paved road.

For the first tenth of a mile I hiked in the woods, just to the right of Bear Meadows Road. Soon the road bore off to the left, crossing a bridge, while I continued hiking straight for another hundred feet. The trail then turned to the left and followed an old railroad grade along the south bank of Galbraith Gap Run.

At 0.3 miles into the hike the trail pulled up and away from the stream and crossed Laurel Run Road. This is the start of Longberger Path and it begins a gradual climb up the mountain. A half mile into the hike, Longberger Path intersects with Spruce Gap Trail. I turned right here and continued on Spruce Gap Trail. Spruce Gap Trail climbs, steeply at times, to the top of the mountain, intersecting with the Mid State Trail about tenth of a mile south of the Little Flat fire tower. The climb got the blood pumping and was slow at times as parts of the trail were snow covered as well as icy and very slippery in sections. Kudos goes out to the five guys that were hiking down the trail as I was heading up. They forewarned me of the ice and I was prepared for those sections when I got there. With out their warning I feel pretty certain I would have taken a tumble when I first encountered an icy patch.

After 1.5 miles of hiking, most of that time spent climbing up the mountainside, I reached the parking area beside the fire tower at Little Flat. It was 11:00AM, the time when I told Pete and Erick that I would meet them here. They had 6.5 miles to hike from their Friday night campsite to the Little Flat fire tower. I figured if they hit the trail at 8:00AM then they would probably arrive here in about 3 hours. I waited about 45 minutes before they showed up. They had a little late start and actually made pretty good time in hiking across the rocky ridge top of Tussey Mountain.

After taking a 20 minute break so that Pete and Erick could eat lunch we were back on the trail. The next 3.5 miles of hiking were rather easy as the Mid State Trail makes its way across the flat ridge top. At 1.75 miles we stopped to get our pictures take by the monument dedicated to Tom Thwaites.

In another 0.2 miles we came across the trail register. The trail register was in sad shape as most of the pages had come out of the binder. We couldn't find any blank pages so we skipped signing in to this register.

There are many vistas along this section of the trail, but the best was that at Indian Wells. Indian Wells is a large rock outcropping made of Tuscarora sand stone. The stones are very white, and there were many of them. From here you have a beautiful view down on the Bear Meadows Natural Area, as well as many of the mountains that make up the Seven Mountains area. We paused here to get a drink and take in the nice view.

From Indian Wells we hiked another mile, reaching the intersections of Gettis Ridge Road and North Meadows Road almost 5 miles into the hike. From here the MST descends quickly down towards Bear Meadows. After scampering down the mountain for about 0.25 miles the trail bears off to your right. Following the trail as it traverses the mountain side, it begins to climb back up to the ridge top at a saddle located on Thickhead Mountain 5.8 miles from the trailhead in Galbraith Gap.

A short climb to a small knoll and then back down the other side, we came upon Bear Meadows road. I had hike 6.5 miles and we stopped here to catch our breath. Are first day of hiking was almost over. We had a steep descent down Thickhead Mountain and then a short stroll along Detweiler Run to our campsite. At 7 miles the Mid State Trail merges with Bear Meadows road with about a quarter mile of road walking. From here, the trail turns to the right and descends towards Detweiler Run.

At 7.4 miles we reached the beginning (or end, depending on your perspective) of the Greenwood Spur. With the MST turning to our left and following Detweiler Run upstream, we turned right on the blue-blazed Greenwood Spur and followed Detweiler Run downstream. After 0.2 miles we reached our campsite for the night. I had hiked 7.6 miles with Pete and Erick putting in a very respectable 13.3 miles. We set up camp, had our evening meal, and then awaited nightfall. Soon as it got dark we all headed off to our tents, hammock in Pete's case, and called it a night.

That night it did get a little chilly, but I was actually quite warm in my 15 degree bag. I heard it raining during the night but soon fell back asleep, only to be awaken a short time later by the sound of sleet bouncing off my rain fly.

We got up Sunday morning around 7:00AM. After a quick breakfast we broke camp and were back on the trail around 8:30AM. We followed the northwest bank of Detweiler for the next 0.3 miles. With the recent rains and melting snow Detweiler was full in it's banks.

We crossed over Detweiler many times on this section of the trail. There were three stream crossing including a unique bridge that covered in red carpeting. I guess someone called ahead to let them know we were coming so that we could get the red carpet treatment.

Around 8.2 miles into the hike and shortly after the red carpeted bridge the trail merged with what appeared to be an old abandoned forest road. The road was grown over with grass but you could tell it was a road once because of the gradual grade, width, and obstacle free state of the trail. We crossed Detweiler once more before continuing on this old forest road.

We emerged from the woods onto Stone Creek Road after a half mile of walking on this nicely groomed trail. We crossed Stone Creek Road and soon found ourselves on another well groomed trail. This trail is within Alan Seeger Natural Area and took us through rhododendron tunnels, across Standing Stone Creek, and along side some ancient hemlock trees.

After 1.7 miles of hiking, and 9.3 miles from the trailhead, we crossed Seeger Road and paused just prior to our climb up Broad Mountain. Looking back I wish I would have taken this opportunity to eat something for energy. As we climbed up the side of the mountain I found myself out of energy and exhausted about three quarters of the way up.

The next 1.5 miles of hiking were the hardest part of the entire trip. In 1.5 miles we climbed 1300 feet. A thousand of those feet were climbed in less than a mile. Luckily there were quite a few switchbacks but it was still a killer climb. As I mentioned earlier, a Snicker's bar or something to eat would have provided me with some much needed energy.

I was the last to finish the climb. I came across Pete and Erick waiting for me at the Greenwood fire tower. At this point I was 11 miles into the hike from the trailhead. I took my pack off and promptly pulled out a granola bar. After washing it down with some water I put my pack back on and we continued our hike across Broad Mountain.

The next half mile of hike had us following an abandoned power line. We came across a number of healthy sized ant mounds on this section of the trail. At 11.5 miles the trail turned right, merging with Seeger Road.

After 0.15 miles of road walking, the trail beared off to our left. We began our descent off of Broad Mountain, gradual at first, but getting steeper as we progressed. The section of the Greenwood Spur that we were on was called the Collier Trail. A collier was a person that made charcoal for the smelting of iron. My guess is that this was a trail that the colliers based at Greenwood would use to get to the top of the mountain and the charcoal flats located there and beyond.

At 12.4 miles the blue-blazed Greenwood Spur trail turned right off of the Collier Trail. Along this section of the trail there were a number of blowdowns. At times it felt more like I was on an obstacle course then a hiking trail.

At 13.2 miles we emerged from the woods and upon a newly constructed forestry road. This road was put in place to assist in timber harvesting of the area. The trail then entered a deer exclosure. After having a hard time making it through the gate, we hiked about 0.2 miles when we came out the other side of the exclosure. After another battle with another exclosure gate, the trail turned to the right now following the flat valley floor.

Pete and I came upon a trail register at 13.5 miles to find that Erick had already signed us in. We continued along the trail which was quite wet and muddy. This section of the trail was longer than I had expected and it seemed like forever till we finally emerged from the woods. At 14 miles we came out in a grassy field next to the visitor's center at Greenwood Furnace State Park. Another 0.1 miles of hiking and across a temporary road bridge we came upon Erick waiting for us in his Land Rover.

I was glad to have finally hiked the Greenwood Spur of the Mid State Trail. It was definitely a challenging hike. I'm also glad I had the opportunity to share this hike with Pete and Erick. Both are great guys to hike with and they made the trip all that more enjoyable. I was impressed with their 13 mile plus hike on Saturday and still had plenty of energy to make short order of the seven mile hike up and over Broad Mountain on Sunday. The 14 mile weekend hike was more my speed and I enjoyed my first overnight outing of the year. For great views, peaceful campsites, and challenging climbs, I would definitely recommend this hike.

{vsig_c}0|ms17_01.jpg||Thanks to me getting stuck in the mud, Pete was covered in mud, head to toe, before even stepping one foot on the trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_02.jpg||The next morning, after being extracted from the mud, the Suzuki is parked at the trail head at Galbraith Gap.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_03.jpg||Hiking up to Little Flat on Spruce Gap Trail. The trail was covered with snow and very icy in spots as I approached the ridge top.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_04.jpg||Yours truly posing beside the Tom Thwaites monument.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_05.jpg||Pausing at Indian Wells, Erick readies his camera to take some pictures.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_06.jpg||Here's our campsite, on the Greenwood Spur, located not far from Detweiler Run.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_07.jpg||Wow, two photos of me in this trip report. Thanks to Erick for catching me in my natural environment.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_08.jpg||We approach the climb up Broad Mountain. This upcoming section and steep climb of the Greenwood Spur was the toughest part, in my opinion.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_09.jpg||Heading up the Johnson Trail of the Greenwood Spur. Steep and rocky.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_10.jpg||At the top of Broad Mountain and the fire tower, Pete and Erick wait for me to arrive. {/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_11.jpg||The trail heading down Broad Mountain towards Greenwood Furnace State Park. We did catch a glimpse of the sun a couple times on our hike{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms17_12.jpg||Almost finished with our hike, the trail passes through a deer exclosure. Those doors in the deer exclosure fence can be a bit difficult to navigate with a pack on your back. {/vsig_c}

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