Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: Stillhouse Hollow to Poe Valley State Park

Back on April 17th, 2004, Shari, Mark, Cathey, Jodi and I set out to hike the Mid State Trail from Penn Roosevelt State Park to Poe Valley State Park. This was the first overnight hike that Shari and I had been on in a number of years. The hike took a toll on us and we had to bail from the trip, not being able to finish the hike with the others. On the drive out of the woods that day both Shari and I vowed to come back and finish this hike. We weren't going to let the trail defeat us.

Trailhead:  N 40° 45.44'
W 77° 35.50'
Total Elevation:  1471'
Trail Length:  8.7 miles
Hike Time:  5 hours
Hike Type:  Point to Point
Difficulty Rating:  58
Near:  Poe Valley State Park in Bald Eagle State Forest.


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Turn the clock forward two years with many miles of hiking later. It was Memorial Day weekend and both Shari and I wanted to get out and do an overnight hike. We decided to head back to the Mid State Trail and finish the hike that we started over two years ago. So we loaded our packs and headed to Stillhouse Hollow to finish the remaining 8.5 miles on the hike from Penn Roosevelt State Park to Poe Valley State Park on the Mid State Trail.

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 most easily accessed from route US322. Heading either west or east on route US322, you will want to exit at the top of Seven Mountains, approximately 11 miles south of State College, PA or 6 miles north of Milroy, PA. There are various signs for this exit; there is a private campground located here, signs for Poe Valley State Park, and also signs for a Boy Scout Camp. Once you exit route US322, you will follow a paved road east, which will soon turn to a well maintained, dirt forest road. From route US322 drive for 1.1 miles. You will turn here onto Stillhouse Hollow Road. If you do not have a vehicle with adequate clearance, then I would suggest parking your car here as Stillhouse Hollow Road is quite rough towards its end. Once on Stillhouse Hollow Road you will drive for another 0.8 miles where the road splits and the road to the left, which crosses a stream, is gated. This is where you can park your vehicle and this is the trailhead for this hike.

This hike was to be about 8.5 miles in length. Our original plan was to hike in about 0.75 miles to the campsite where we stayed two years ago, spend the night there, then take the packs back to the car the next morning and then complete the hike out the next day. However, Shari was a little concerned that she wouldn't be able to do an 8.5 mile hike in one day so we were looking for another place to camp so that we could spread the mileage out over two days.

I looked at the Mid State Trail map and saw that there was a place where the trail came along side Greens Valley Stream about 2.5 miles into the hike. This was marked with a 'W' on the map, indicating that it was a place where you could get water. Typically these areas also have campsites nearby, so we decided we would take our chances and hike to this point and see if we couldn't set up camp there for the evening. This would then give us only 6 miles to hike out the next day, something that Shari felt more comfortable with.

At the start of the hike, as we left the trailhead, we walked on an old forest road. After a half mile of hiking on the forest road we followed the trail off the road to the left and hiked along Greens Valley Stream. We soon crossed the stream and in about 0.25 miles we were crossing the stream again. This was the location of our campsite two years ago and our original campsite for this hike. In less than 0.1 mile we crossed the stream for the last time and passed through another, larger campsite.

Over the next 1.5 miles the trail was well blazed but could have used a little maintenance. There were places where the branches of the hemlocks on both sides of the trail reached across the trail and almost touched. If it had recently rained we would have been soaked walking along this section.

At 2.5 miles into or hike we came to the 'W' on the map and saw where you could filter water if it were needed. However there wasn't a campsite to be found. We had thought about making a campsite of our own but decided to push on and see if we came across any other campsites further on. I assured Shari that we would find a campsite along Little Poe Creek, about 6 miles into our hike.

The trail merged with another forest road at 3.5 miles and we were able to walk side by side for awhile instead of in single file. This forest road intersected with another at 4.1 miles. We decided to stop here and take a break. This was our first break where we took our packs off. Typically we try to stop every 2 miles and take our packs off, but this had been a relatively easy hike so far with a gradual ascent that was barely noticeable. After eating a Snickers bar for energy and drinking some gatorade, we put our packs back on and continued on our way.

After hiking for almost another mile on this forest road we came to the maintained Siglerville Millheim Pike. This forest road sees a lot of traffic as it is another way to get across the Seven Mountains and is used quite a bit by locals, including Amish horse and buggies. The trail followed Siglerville Millheim Pike for less than 0.1 miles before we would bear right on the trail off of the road.

We were now beginning a slight descent along the headwaters of Panther Run. At 6.1 miles into our hike, the Mid State Trail made a sharp left and began to cross Panther Run. This section of the trail meandered in amongst some swampy areas and planks were placed down for the trail to navigate through them. The longest section of planks was found as we crossed the headwaters of Panther Run. This area was also marked with a 'W' on the Mid State Trail map and we had hoped that there might be a campsite here. However, once we got here, we saw how swampy it was and realized that a camping area would not be found. Luckily both Shari and I still felt full of energy so we continued hiking on towards Little Poe Creek in search of a place to set up camp for the night.

At 6.3 miles we started our steepest descent of the hike. For the next 0.4 miles we would be climbing down off of Long Mountain into Little Poe Valley, dropping a total of 350 feet. The trail was straight, without switchbacks, and quite rocky in places. As we reached the bottom of the descent we both were feeling a little exhausted and were looking forward to calling it a day. To our dismay, the campsite that we had been looking forward to was already occupied. So we continued on, walking along Little Poe Creek and keeping our eyes open for a campsite that we could call home for the evening. It was also getting well past 8:00 in the evening and if we didn't find something soon we would probably be setting up camp in the middle of the trail because it would be too dark to continue on.

As we were hiking along we did pass another campsite, just to the left of the trail, but it was occupied as well. I guess I should have figured that there would be a lot of people out hiking and camping on Memorial Day weekend. Finally, at seven and three quarters of a mile into our hike, we discovered a nice, grassy clearing about 100 feet off to the right of the trail. There wasn't a fire ring there but with it getting dark and the both of us really starting to tire out, we decided we would make a campsite of our own. Shari began to gather firewood and I told her I was going to try and find Little Poe Creek to filter water to cook our dinner. We couldn't see the stream from the trail, but I knew from the map that is was somewhere to the south of us. After walking about 300 feet I came across a spring that fed into Little Poe Creek. Also, to my surprise, just a few feet away there was a fire ring and campsite. I walked back to where Shari was still gathering wood and we moved our packs down to the campsite I just stumbled across.

We soon had our camp set up, fire wood gathered, a nice camp fire going, water filtered, and dinner cooking. We ate mac and cheese with tuna and sat around the campfire for a little while. We didn't stay up real late as we were both tired, and we headed off to bed around 9:30. I didn't sleep all that well that night, for one reason or another. We were awaken once in the middle of the night by a deafening crash. We discovered the next morning that a large, dead tree had fallen across the trail, only about 100 feet from where we were originally going to set up camp that night. I finally decided to start the day at five minutes till six when I heard a large animal walking nearby. I crawled out of the tent with my camera an spied a deer about 200 feet from our tent. He saw me as well and took off, pausing on the trail, and looking back at us. He made some very loud snorting sounds, which if I didn't know was coming from him, would have had me scratching my head trying to figure out what kind of animal was making that noise. I was told that deer would snort at times but this was the first time that I heard one doing so. I tried to get a picture of him but he took off again, stopping on occasions to snort, and then continuing on.

We packed up camp after our morning coffee and breakfast consisting of hot oatmeal. We headed back to the trail and three quarters of a mile later we came to the intersection with Hunter's Path. The Mid State Trail follows Hunter's Path up to the top of Little Poe Mountain before it will bear to the right across the ridge top. This was our first real climb of the entire hike. It wasn't much of a climb, only 100 feet in less than a tenth of a mile, but it did get the blood flowing.

At the top of Little Poe Mountain we left the Mid State Trail and started on the second descent of the hike down Hunter's Path to the parking lot where we parked Shari's car the day before. This descent was as steep as the one the other day on Long Mountain but was easier to manage since the trail wasn't as rocky. After 8.7 miles of hiking we had finally completed our hike.

This hike could have easily been done in a day, especially if we had not had as much weight in our packs. Shari held up very well and I have no doubt that she had the stamina to do the entire 8.7 miles in one day. The campsite that we found far exceeded our expectations and we now have another site that we can easily hike back into if we just want to get away for an evening. Once again, Shari is right there with me as I try to hike the entire Mid State Trail. She has just as much mileage in as I do except for about a 3 mile section from Little Flat to Big Flat. I think her and I need to do a dayhike on this section of the Mid State Trail very soon.

{vsig_c}0|ms9_01.jpg||Shari is checking her strap on her pack at the trailhead. This is at the intersection of Stillhouse Hollow Road and the Mid State Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_02.jpg||Originally we were going to camp here for the night but we wanted to put in some more mileage on our first day. This was the site where we camped two years ago when we first attempted the hike from Penn Roosevelt to Poe Valley.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_03.jpg||Thanks go out to MRHyker at MidAtlanticHikes for correctly identifing this as a Wild Azalea, also known as Pinkxter.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_04.jpg||The intersection of the Mid State Trail with the Siglerville Millheim Pike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_05.jpg||This is where the Mid State crosses the swampy headwaters of Panther Run. This section of the Mid State had a lot of these plank walkways.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_06.jpg||Here I stand on the rockiest and one of the steepest descents from Long Mountain down into Little Poe Valley.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_07.jpg||After hiking 7.6 miles on Saturday evening we happened to stumble across this campsite. It's about 400 feet off of the trail and was located by a small spring that fed into Little Poe Creek.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_08.jpg||All of the climbs on this hike were relatively easy. This was the only exception, as we climbed up Hunter's Path towards the end of our hike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms9_09.jpg||After the climb up Hunter's Path, looking back the way we came, this was the only vista on the entire hike.{/vsig_c}

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