Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: Pennsylvania Furnace Road to Ewing Path

I was given the opportunity to maintain a section of the Mid State Trail system. The section that I would be maintaining is located south west of State College, a short section of about 2 miles in length, extending from the intersection of the Pennsylvania Furnace Road and the intersection with Ewing Path. I had never hiked this section of the Mid State before and decided to take a little outing to see what the trail was like. Shari and I put on our hiking boots and headed out to see what condition the trail was in and enjoy the sunshine on one of the last days of winter.

Trailhead:  N 40° 40.99'
W 77° 58.08'
Total Elevation:  270'
Trail Length:  3.8 miles
Hike Time:  2 hours
Hike Type:  Out-and-Back
Difficulty Rating:  43
Near:  South of Pennsylvania Furnace, accessible from route PA26 .


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The Mid State Trail is over 320 miles in length and extends from the Maryland border to the New York border. The southern end of the MST is found on the Mason-Dixon line on route PA326. The northern terminus is located just north of Lawrenceville, PA. The MST is situated on public lands, such as state forests, state game lands and state parks. Closer to the Maryland and New York borders, the Mid State Trail uses private lands by permission.

The trailhead for this hike is located at the top of Tussey Mountain, where the Mid State Trail intersects with the Pennsylvania Furnace Road. The Pennsylvania Furnace Road is a maintained (for the most part) forest road found within Rothrock State Forest. Even though Pennsylvania Furnace Road does extend the entire way from the ridge top to route PA45, the lower section, being on private land and not State Forest land, is not maintained and I do not recommend accessing the trailhead in this fashion. The best way to get to the trailhead is to travel on route PA26 and turn off onto Kepler Road, another maintained forest road. From the intersection of route PA26 and route PA45 in Pine Grove Mills, travel south on PA26 for 1.2 miles. You will then bear right, just past the power line crossing, onto a dirt road. This is Kepler Road. Continue on Kepler Road for approximately 8.5 miles until you get to an intersection of 4 roads. Make a sharp left onto Pennsylvania Furnace Road, and continue up the side of the mountain for 1 mile. Once you crest the mountain, there is ample parking to the left, with the trailhead being on the right side of the road. If you are traveling north on PA26, towards the town of Pine Grove Mills, once you pass Jo Hays Vista at the top of Tussey Mountain, keep your eyes open for Kepler Road on your left, about 0.8 miles from Jo Hays Vista.

Shari and I parked the car at the top of the ridge and noticed, as Pennsylvania Furnace Road descends the other side of Tussey Mountain, a nice vista along side the road. We walked over to the vista to view the valley, ridges, and mountains beyond. We soon found out that we would get many more opportunities to enjoy this view on our hike.

The purpose of this hike was to become familiar with this section of the Mid State Trail as well as to assess the amount of work that would be required in maintaining it. I was told that this section hasn't had an overseer for quite some time, so I wasn't sure what we would come across.

About 500 feet down the trail we came across our first blow down. It wasn't that large, mostly small branches and such, but it would require a chainsaw to clear it. Shari and I were able to easily navigate around it as it didn't block the entire trail.

For the next mile of hiking the trail was relatively clear of debris. There weren't any trees across the trail with only a few small branches laying on the trail that we easily removed. Most of the hiking on this section of the trail was on the south facing side of Tussey Mountain. The trail scrambles over many rock fields. The rocks are large and relatively flat, so the going wasn't that difficult and we also had a great view to our left the for well over a half a mile.

After about 0.75 miles the trail came back to the center of the ridgeline and we lost our view. The trail was now walking across a relatively flat forest floor, with only a few small rocks to contend with, as opposed to hopping from boulder to boulder. We came over to the north face of the mountain, hoping to see the vista as indicated on the map, but were disappointed to find that the views had grown shut.

There was a shorter section of "boulder hopping" that we did on the north side, but not nearly as much as we did earlier. Again the trail found its way back to the middle of the ridge and this is where the blow downs started to become numerous. This section of the trail was in need of quite a bit of TLC.

The first blow downs were noticed about a mile into our hike, and riddled the path for the rest of the way to the intersection with Ewing Path. Loppers and a chainsaw will be a must on my next hike out here. The blazes were visible, but could use a little bit of freshening up. There were even some places along the trail that I thought could use a few more blazes. There were two places in particular where I actually lost the trail because the next blaze was not visible from the previous one. If this would have been during the spring or summer with leaves on the trees, it would have been much worse. This isn't typical of the Mid State Trail as it is usually very well blazed and easy to follow.

Also, at about a mile into the hike, we came across one of the forest's less coordinated creatures; a porcupine. As we were making our way across a small rock field and walking around some large limbs on the trail, my attention was drawn to the side of the trail by a rustling in one of these limbs. Only a few feet from me was this large, black pin cushion. Shari and I backed off a few feet and then just stood there quietly as the large fellow calmed down and put his quills away. We then watched in amusement has he slowly made his way from the trail deeper into the woods. Porcupines are not the fastest nor adept creatures in the woods. This guy seemed to flail his fore paws around wildly in the air as he clumsily stumbled forward. I suppose when you have all those pointy spikes attached to your back, you walk carefully and deliberately. Also, with that type of armor, I suppose he really doesn't have a need to move quickly as there are not many animals that will bother a porcupine. We stood there for about 10 minutes as we watched Mr. Porcupine head off into the woods.

It was nice to get out and do this short hike on one of the last days of winter. The hike took a little longer than usual because of all the trees we needed to either walk around or climb over, but that was OK as we weren't in any hurry. Another option to doing this hike as an out and back would be to hike down Ewing Path to Brady Road, where another car could be waiting for a point to point hike, or you could hike back Brady Road, and up Pennsylvania Furnace Road to the trailhead.

If you do decide to hike this section of the Mid State Trail, be prepared for some great views of Stone Valley to the south. But also make sure you bring along your hiking boots as you're going to need them as you walk across small rock fields as well as hop from boulder to boulder for a good portion of this hike. But then again this is Pennsylvania, so what else did you expect?

{vsig_c}0|ms6_01.jpg||Here's the ol' Suzuki Grand Vitara parked at the trailhead.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_02.jpg||About 600 feet down the trail we encountered this sign, stating that the Mid State Trail is a metric system trail. The guide book lists distances in kilometers and not miles.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_03.jpg||A view from one of the many vistas along the left side of the trail. Though the temperatures were a little cool, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brightly.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_04.jpg||This section of the Mid State Trail is a little rough, as seen in this picture. You will definitely need hiking boots as you walk across rocks and large boulders for the first three quarter mile of this hike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_05.jpg||Our friend the porcupine gave us a little surprise. It was just off the right of the trail and we didn't notice him until we were almost on top of him. He was a rather large fellow and not all that well coordinated.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_06.jpg||This is all that remains of what must have been a very large hemlock on top of the mountain. It is evident that this tree was struck many times by lightning.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_07.jpg||Shari and I horsing around on the trail. An interesting tree, to say the least.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms6_08.jpg||The point of our hike where we turned around and headed back to the car.{/vsig_c}

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