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Mid State Trail - State College: Poe Paddy to Woodward Gap Road

As the Mid State Trail descends from Long Mountain it passes through Poe Paddy State Park. Hiking along the trail for another half mile and you will cross Penns Creek on an old train trestle and immediately after that you'll pass through the only tunnel found on any hiking trail in Pennsylvania. After passing through the tunnel you'll follow the Penn Central Railroad grade as it follows the banks of Penns Creek. All of this was experienced within the first mile of our latest hike on the Mid State Trail. Looking to put more of the Mid State Trail under our belt, Tim and I took some time off work to do our next hike of eight plus miles from Poe Paddy State Park to Woodward Gap.

Trailhead:  N 40° 50.05'
W 77° 25.05'
Total Elevation:  2987'
Trail Length:  8.5 miles
Hike Time:  6 hours
Hike Type:  Shuttle
Difficulty Rating:  145
Near:  Poe Paddy S.P., Bald Eagle State Forest.


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This hike, as most hikes on the Mid State Trail, required a car shuttle. Even though we were only hiking a little over eight miles, the roads did not make it easy for us to do this shuttle. Dropping one car off at the end of our hike in Woodward Gap, it would take us close to 45 minutes and well over 20 miles of driving to get to the start of our hike in Poe Paddy State Park.

As I mentioned, the trailhead for this hike is located within Poe Paddy State Park. To get to Poe Paddy State Park you will have to drive on some dirt mountain roads. We reached Poe Paddy via route PA45 and the Siglerville - Millheim pike. However, if you aren't familiar with the area, you can also reach the park from route US322. On top of seven mountains, you will see signs along route US322 indicating a turn off for the Boy Scout Camp or Poe Valley State Park. If heading west on route US322, this turn off will be on your right. Heading east, it is on your left. Once you turn off route US322, you will soon be on a dirt mountain road. This road is called Sand Mountain Road, but I don't believe you will see any road signs calling it such. Continue on Sand Mountain Road, bearing right at the first "confusing" intersection at about 3.6 miles, bearing left onto Siglerville - Millheim Pike at 6.1 miles, and continuing straight on Poe Valley Road at 7.1 miles. You'll be on paved road for a bit, as you pass by Poe Valley State Park, but the road soon turns once again to dirt. At about 12.9 miles from route US322, you will enter Poe Paddy State Park. Turn left to enter the Park, and then park your car at the parking area on your left, just shy of the bridge crossing Big Poe Creek. This is where your adventure begins.

Tim and I hopped out of the car, sprayed ourselves with insect repellent, and were off on our hike. We got a later start then we had hoped, not hitting the trail until 2:00PM. With over eight miles to hike, we were eager to get this hike going. Knowing that our first couple of miles of hiking would be on flat, railroad grade, I figured we could make up some time during the first part of our hike.

Leaving Poe Paddy State Park, we followed a dirt road north, passing some private campsites along the way. At about 0.6 miles we turned right off the dirt road and onto the old railroad grade. We didn't hike more than 500 feet until we came upon Penns Creek and the train bridge crossing it. The bridge had been redecked for pedestrian traffic, with hand rails and all. Tim and I paused a moment in the middle of the bridge to admire Penns Creek before moving on. Just after leaving the bridge we were then treated to another site; the MST passing under Paddy Mountain. We walked into the dark, cool environment, wondering if we would stove our toes on a fallen rock, and emerged on the other side of the mountain 270 feet later. This was the most pleasant mountain that I've had to conquer on the Mid State Trail and wish there were more tunnels on the trail.

We were now following the banks of Penns Creek on the old Penn Central Railroad grade. This crushed stone railroad bed made for an easy hike where we made up some of the time lost doing our car shuttle. At about 3.4 miles into our hike the Mid State Trail beared left off the old railroad grade. Leaving the relatively flat trail behind, we soon began to climb the southern flank of Paddy Mountain. This gradual climb ended at 3.8 miles, where we cleared a section of private land to our right, and began to descend towards Cherry Run.

We crossed Cherry Run at 3.9 miles and just after the stream crossing on the longest footbridge on the MST we emerged on Cherry Run Road where we turned to our left. We had a little bit of road walking ahead of us and I commented on this fact. It seemed like, up to this point, we did very little hiking on trails but more walking on old railroad beds and forest roads.

After a little more than a half mile we came to the intersection of Old Mingle Road and Cherry Run Road. We turned left here and followed Old Mingle Road to the west. Luckily I was keeping a keen eye open because at 4.8 miles into our hike, the MST turned sharply to the right, climbing away from Old Mingle Road. I did not see any double blazes to indicate this turn and only noticed when I paused to look back at where we had just came.

We were now climbing somewhat steeply on Libby Trail which made its way through a gap between Sawmill Mountain and First Green Knob. The trail leveled off somewhat at 5.1 miles and after about 500 feet of level hiking we crossed Libby Run. There was a large campsite here, and another that I noticed a bit earlier, on the east bank of Libby Run.

After crossing Libby Run our climb began once again. We came across Lick Hollow Trail which was blue-blazed and beared off to our left. We continued climbing on Libby Trail and soon emerged on Rupp Hollow Road. We paused here for a moment to catch our breath and I desperately need a drink of water after our climb. I also decided to open up a bag of trail mix and get a little energy from that as well. I offered some to Tim, but he refused and patiently waited for me to finish up my snack and get my pack back on.

We crossed Rupp Hollow Road at 5.9 miles into our hike and we began our last steep ascent of our hike up the side of Thick Mountain. To climb was steep, but the trail was a constant grade without any obstacles. Putting one foot in front of the other, we were soon to the top of Thick Mountain. There are certain geographical areas that are appropriately named, and Thick Mountain was one of them. The top of the mountain was thick with pine trees and brush. If it weren't for the blazed trail we were following, it would have been difficult to cross the top of the mountain.

At 6.5 miles, after we had crossed the top of Thick Mountain, we came upon our first real vista of the hike. Unfortunately it was becoming quite overgrown, even though we were able to see down into Penns Valley below. We stopped here for a bit to take some pictures before continuing on our way.

We continued our hike across Thick Mountain and at 6.8 miles we started a gradual descent. At about 7.2 miles into our hike, after making our way through a thick brush area of the mountain (kudos go out to the trail maintainers; even though the brush was over four feet high on both sides, the trail was well cleared with plenty of clearance on both sides of the trail) we came upon a unique rock field. Typically rock fields are located on ridge tops, usually on a steep slope. You'll cross many of these on the Mid State Trail as they offer great views across the ridge and valleys of Pennsylvania. This rock field was located on a relatively flat area of the ridge top, surrounded on all sides by trees. There were no openings to steep drop-offs or sharp ridge tops, just a flat rock filed located in the middle of the woods. The trail followed the edge of this rock field for the most part, and crossed it at its northern most section. After crossing the rock field, Tim and I hiked on for another three tenths of a mile where we came upon Bear Run Trail.

We were only on Bear Run Trail for less then a tenth of a mile, and at 7.6 mile into our hike we beared left onto Rock Knob Trail, still following the orange blazes of the Mid State Trail. We had a bit of climb here as we ascended once again to the North Prong of Thick Mountain.

As Tim and I were trudging along with our gradual ascent I began thinking about the name of this trail, Rock Knob Trail. I wondered why the trail was named this. Glancing up from the trail as we reached the top of our climb, a bright white glimmer of light caught my eye to the right of the trail. Looking over I saw a huge pile of sun bleached sand stone rock forming a knob at the top of the mountain, a rock knob. I pointed this landmark out to Tim as we came closer and Tim said that he hoped the trail didn't climb over it. I was about to assure him that it didn't as our trail was continuing straight and the rock pile was now almost directly to our right. At that moment I saw a double orange blaze and noticed the Mid State Trail was leaving Rock Knob Trail and bearing off sharply to our right so that we could have the pleasure of hiking over the knob.

The climb over the knob wasn't all that bad. My major concern was snakes and Tim and I both took our time, watching each deliberate step as we climbed over the rocks. Near the top of the knob we were given a nice view to the south and I took a panoramic picture of it. We didn't dally long as we wanted to get off the rocks as soon as possible. After crossing the rock knob, we had a few other rock fields to cross before we came into a dense area of pines. We were 8.1 miles into our hike and the trail soon began a steep descent down from the ridge top.

Our climb down was slow and deliberate as the trail went straight down the mountain side. It must have been following an old log skid. At about 8.3 miles the trail turned to the right and leveled off for an easier hike. After another quarter mile of hiking, Tim and I emerged onto Woodward Gap road and my car. We had completed the 8.6 mile hike from Poe Paddy State Park to Woodward Gap.

It was great to complete another section of the Mid State Trail. The majority of this hike was rather easy as it followed an old railroad grade and some dirt roads. There was only one vista on the entire hike, but the views of Penns Creek and the hike through the Poe Paddy tunnel more than offset the lack of vistas. Either as a dayhike or a longer, overnight backpacking trip, I would definitely recommend this section of the Mid State Trail to anyone wanting a unique hiking experience.

{vsig_c}0|ms20_01.jpg||The start of our hike near the bridge over Big Poe Creek in Poe Paddy State Park.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_02.jpg||Tim crosses Penns Creek on an old train bridge near Poe Paddy State Park.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_03.jpg||We are about to enter the only tunnel found on the entire length of the Mid State Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_04.jpg||Hiking along Penns Creek on the abandoned railroad grade.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_05.jpg||I believe this bridge is the longest of its kind on the Mid State Trail, spanning Cherry Run.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_06.jpg||Tim was kind enough to snap this picture of me as I stand at the beginning (or end, depending on your point-of-view) of Old Mingle Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_07.jpg||Crossing the headwaters of Libby Run.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_08.jpg||Our first vista on this hike, somewhat overgrown, but better than nothing.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_09.jpg||At the intersection of the Mid State Trail, Rock Knob Trail and Bear Run Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_10.jpg||Looking up at Rock Knob.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms20_11.jpg||Tim emerges from the woods as we finish up our hike along Woodward Gap Road.{/vsig_c}

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