Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: Hiking the Ironstone Trail - Part One

The Ironstone Trail is comprised of various trails within Rothrock State Forest and the Penn State Stone Valley Forest. It is a spur of the Mid State Trail in the State College Region. Starting at the intersection of Crownover Trail and the Mid State Trail, the Ironstone Trail descends the south flank of Tussey Mountain on the Indian Steps. It then climbs up Leading Ridge and follows it before heading south towards Lake Perez. Once in the valley it turns left and parallels Shaver Creek until it meets back with the Mid State Trail south of Jo Hays Vista. This was the first after work hike with Mike and the first of two hikes to complete the entire Ironstone Trail.

Trailhead:  N 40° 41.45'
W 77° 56.14'
Total Elevation:  1829'
Trail Length:  5.4 miles
Hike Time:  3 hours
Hike Type:  Shuttle
Difficulty Rating:  91
Near:  Harry's Valley Road, off route PA26


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The trailhead for this hike is located along a dirt forest road known as Harry's Valley Road. To reach Harry's Valley Road from State College, you need to find route PA26. Take route PA26 south through the town of Pine Grove Mills, turning left and following the road over the mountain. After cresting Tussey Mountain, route PA26 descends and makes a sweeping left turn. At this bend in the road you'll see a dirt forest road on your right. This is Harry's Valley Road. Follow Harry's Valley Road for about 1.9 miles and keep an eye open on the left side of the road for the trail marker for the Crownover Trail. Just a short distance past the trail marker is a small parking area on the left. Park your car here as this is the start of the hike.

Before starting the hike, Mike and I parked his car at the end of this shuttle hike. Traveling out Charteroak Road, we went to the second entrance to the Stone Valley Recreation Area. Here we spotted Mike's car and then drove to the trailhead on Harry's Valley Road.

The hike started out easy enough with a gradual descent towards Garner Run. These are the head waters of Garner Run and when we reached the stream, even though it was flowing, there was not much water in it. We crossed the stream 0.2 miles into the hike and shortly after the crossing our easy hiking came to an end.

We began to climb the north face of Leading Ridge with earnest. The trail went straight up with out any switch backs. Luckily the climb wasn't long. After a quarter mile of hiking we climbed 350 feet and reached the top of the ridge where the trail make a sharp turn to the right.

We were now hiking the ridgeline and the trail was easy to follow. However the hiking wasn't easy. Even though there weren't a lot of rocks to slow us down there were a lot of spiderwebs. It seemed that every 200 feet I was walking through a cobweb stretched across the trail. With the need to look down at the trail so as not to trip no the rocks and the need to look up so that I didn't walk into any cobwebs, the hike across the top of the ridge went a little slower than I had hoped.

We hiked the single track trail on the crest of the ridge for a mile, slowly descending as we went, when the trail emerged onto an old forest road. There was a large clearing here along with a fire ring. Even though it was a ways from water the camp site looked like a nice place to set up a tent. From here the Ironstone Trail followed an old forest access road.

At 1.8 miles into the hike the forest opened up on our left at a large clearing. From this clearing we had a nice view over the valley to our south. This was the only vista on this hike and Mike and I paused here a bit to enjoy the view and snaps some photos.

Continuing to follow the grassy forest road, the trail made a sweeping turn to the left at 2.5 miles. Shortly after the turn the trail began to descend more steeply down from the ridge top. The trail turned sharply to the right at 2.7 miles and then another sharp turn to the left at 2.8 miles. At this point the trail maintained a straight course as we continued to descend down the ridge.

At 3.7 miles our descent ended as the trail turned to the right around a small hill. At this point there was a sign indicating that we were leaving Rothrock State Forest. A short distance past this point the trail turned to the left and then emerged onto a well used gravel road at 4 miles into our hike.

We walked this road for a short while, passing a small spring house on the left at 4.1 miles. Not more than 500 feet past the spring house the trail turned to the right heading back into the forest and leaving the gravel road behind. It was on this first part of single track trail that we noticed an old oak tree to the right of the trail. The tree looked to be ancient and had lived a long life. It reminded me in ways of old Treebeard from the JRR Tolkien books.

At 4.3 miles the trail made a sweeping turn to the left and it seemed we were once again hiking on an abandoned grass covered road. For the next 0.5 miles we hiked on this abandoned road when we finally emerged onto a gravel road at 4.8 miles. The Ironstone Trail crossed the gravel road here and headed into a pine plantation. This was a recent planting as the trees were only about 15 to 20 feet tall.

The trail made a gradual climb up a small hill and then turned right to once again begin a descent. We emerged from the woods and walked through a grassy field before coming to Charteroak Road. Crossing the paved road we were back at Mike's car, about 2.5 hours after starting our hike.

This hike offered a little bit of everything from a descent climb at the start, to single track hiking, a view, and then easy walking on abandoned forest roads. Mike and I are looking forward to getting back out to the Ironstone Trail to finish up our hike as we explore the valley floor along Shaver Creek.

{vsig_c}0|ist1_01.jpg||The start of the hike along Harry's Valley Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_02.jpg||Crossing the headwaters of Garner Run.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_03.jpg||The steep ascent up to the top of the ridge.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_04.jpg||One of the pesky cobwebs that I had to try and avoid walking through.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_05.jpg||The only vista on this hike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_06.jpg||Looking back the way we came, leaving Rothrock State Forest.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_07.jpg||Treebeard.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ist1_08.jpg||Hiking through a young pine plantation.{/vsig_c}

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