Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: Laurel Run Road to Gettis Ridge

The Mid State Trail makes its way across the ridge tops in Rothrock State Forest. Just south of State College, the ridges double back on themselves, making a depression known as Bear Meadows. As Mid State Trail follows the ridgeline in this area, the hiker is presented with many breath taking views of Bear Meadows. The best view on this section of the trail is known as the Indian Wells Vista. This was the destination of our latest hike on the MST.

Trailhead:  N 40° 44.90'
W 77° 46.56'
Total Elevation:  713'
Trail Length:  5.5 miles
Hike Time:  3.0 hours
Hike Type:  Shuttle
Difficulty Rating:  69
Near:  Laurel Run Road, Near Little Flat, Rothrock S.F.


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This after work hike consisted of five hikers, including myself. We were planning on doing a shuttle hike, with a car parked near the end of our hike at Keith Springs. After our car shuttle, we all met at the trailhead where the Mid State Trail crosses Laurel Run Road.

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.

I had first did this hike back in August of 2005. We would follow the MST for 5.5 miles, hiking from Laurel Run Road, across Little Flat and on to Big Flat. Once we reached Gettis Ridge Road, we would follow the road back to our car, parked along Bear Gap Road, just near the gate to Gettis Ridge Road.

We started at Laurel Run Road and began hiking the MST, following the old Reichley Brothers rail road grade. Before I began hiking the Mid State Trail, my definition of a rail road grade was a relatively flat walk way, made of crushed stone, perhaps covered with moss or grass. After discovery the rail road grades on the Mid State Trail, I now have a completely different view of rail road grades. In this area the MST follows a number of old logging rail road grades, made of thousands and thousands of small rocks, about the size of grapefruits. Now, anytime some tells me the trail we will be hiking follows an old rail road grade, I cringe, thinking back of the boot busting, ankle twisting rail road grades of the MST.

After about 0.4 miles, we left the rail road grade behind as the trail gradually began to climb. At a half mile into the hike we crossed the Little Flat fire tower access road. On the south side of the road there were less rocks, but a lot more mountain laurel.

In another 0.4 miles we crossed back over to the north side of the road. Another three tenths of a mile had us emerging at the clearing on Little Flat. We paused here a moment to take a look at the fire tower as well as the vandalism of the picnic table here. It is rumored that DCNR is considering closing the road to the fire tower. After seeing the garbage and destruction here, I hope they make the decision to do so very soon.

Shortly after leaving the fire tower behind, we came across the Tom Thwaites monument, and just a short distance past it, the trail register. We came upon our first vista at 1.7 miles into our hike. This vista is a popular one because of its close proximity to the parking area at Little Flat. We all paused here a moment to wet our whistles and to take in the beautiful view.

At 2.2 miles into our hike we stopped at our second vista. This one was slightly off to the left of the trail, marked by a "View" sign along the Mid State Trail. Again we took a moment to soak in the view before continuing our hike.

Our third vista was at 2.6 miles. This one was off the trail as well, and the side trail out to the vista was quite overgrown. This would be our last vista until we reached Indian Wells.

For the next mile we hiked along the ridge top, following the well-blazed and obstacle free Mid State Trail. We passed an area that was burned by a forest fire sometime around 2000, I believe. Some dead, blackened trees still stand, but the mountain laurel, brush, and small tress are taking back the burnt area. In another 20 years, a young forest will stand here once again.

At 3.7 miles into our hike we emerged from the budding woods into the rock clearing known as Indian Wells. After scrambling across the northern section of the rock field, we paused to look back over our left shoulders to take in the view of Bear Meadows and beyond. On a clear day, you can see over 20 miles to the mountains the close in the eastern end of Penns Valley. Many, including myself, think that the view from the Indian Wells Vista is one of the best views in Central Pennsylvania.

Once we took some photos so we could enjoy the view in the comfort of our homes, we continued our hike, crossing the rest of the rock field. Just a short distance past Indian Wells, we encountered the first of many charcoal flats. This site is a great place to camp, with its close proximity to Indian Wells.

At 4.2 miles we came upon the blue-blazed side trail that takes hikers to Keith Springs. This is one of the only places to get water on these ridge tops. We continued straight ahead, following the orange-blazed MST for another 0.6 miles before we emerged at the junction of North Meadows Road and Gettis Ridge Road.

The Mid State Trail begins a descent to Bear Meadows on the other side of North Meadows Road, but we turned right here, and followed Gettis Ridge Road back to Bear Gap Road. After 0.6 miles we came upon the gated end of Gettis Ridge Road, turned right onto Bear Gap Road, and after a short tenth of a mile, we were at our parked car shuttle. We all climbed in and took a short drive back to the trail head where we all parted and head our separate ways.

If you are looking for a relatively easy hike, this 5.5 mile shuttle hike is a great one to experience. Even though there are some rocky section of the trial, there is little elevation change, making it this hike a manageable after work hike. The biggest attraction to this hike are the numerous vistas you'll encounter, including the Indian Wells Vista, the best in Central PA.

{vsig_c}0|ms24_01.jpg||Hiking on the old Reichley Brothers rail road grade at the start of our hike, just off Laurel Run Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms24_02.jpg||The forest ranger's cabin located near the old fire tower at Little Flat.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms24_03.jpg||Kevin takes in the view at our first of many vistas.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms24_04.jpg||Another vista on this hike, looking down towards Bear Meadows.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms24_05.jpg||Tom snaps this photo of Tim and I enjoying yet another view.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms24_06.jpg||The Mid State Trail passes along a forest fire burn area near Big Flat.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms24_07.jpg||Just about to head out onto the rocky outcropping of Indian Wells.{/vsig_c}

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