Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

An Alternate Hike on the Tussey Mountain Trail

Back in 2006 there a was forest fire in Rothrock State Forest. The fire burned up the south face of Tussey Mountain and then spread to the north face. Running across the top of the mountain was the Tussey Mountain Trail which I had snow-shoed just that previous winter, but now was obliterated by the fire. The trail was reopened in the fall of 2006 and I had never been back to see how the trail and the forest were recovering. An urge to revisit the area overcame me during the second week of July, so three years later I decided to hike the Tussey Mountain Trail to see the burn area.

(7/28/2009) I've been told that the red blazed Fillmore Trail, which leads from Bear Meadows Road to Tussey Mountain Trail still exists. I verified this and discoverd that if I would have walked about an additional one hundred feet along the deer exclosure fence I would have stumbled across the trail. You may wish to use the Fillmore trail to climb Tussey Mountain instead of the section of the route I've described here.

Trailhead:  N 40° 45.66'
W 77° 43.97'
Total Elevation:  1280'
Trail Length:  5.4 miles
Hike Time:  3 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  80
Near:  Rothrock State Forest, by Boalsburg PA.

There were a number of options that I could have used for a trailhead for this hike. I decided on parking by a surveyor bench mark just off Bear Meadows Road. There was enough room to park 2 or 3 cars here as well as being shaded so that I didn't have to be concerned with jumping into a stinking hot car after a long hike.

To reach the trailhead you will need to get on route US322. Traveling east, you will see Bear Meadows Road on your right, just after passing Boalsburg. The four lane highway will reduce to two lanes with Bear Meadows Road being 0.65miles beyond this point, on your right. If you are heading east, you will see Bear Meadows Road on your left, directly across from the Elks County Club and golf course. Once you get on Bear Meadows Road, drive for 2.6 miles, staying on the paved road. At 2.6 miles you will see the trailhead parking area just to your left.

Let me start by saying that there was some brush whacking during this hike. Because of the fire and the logging that was occurring in the area, old trails that use to exist in the area are no longer there. Even though this hike goes where there are no trails, the areas were clear, and thanks to some new logging roads, the climb to the Tussey Mountain Trail was rather easy.

At the trailhead I started by following an old, overgrown forest road. This road followed an intermittent stream. There were rhododendrons along the trail and they were in bloom. After a little more then a tenth of a mile of hiking I came across a rather large fire ring. This was also where the old road seemed to end and I couldn't see any sign of a trail. However, off to my right I did see the large clearing, which I assumed to be the burn area of the forest fire. I headed up the hill towards the large clearing only to encounter my first obstacle. The large clearing was a deer exclosure and I had a wire fence now blocking my path.

I turned right at the wire fence and began to follow it south-westward. The nice thing about deer exclosures is that the area right next to them is usually clear of brush as forestry personnel will ride around the perimeters of the deer exclosures to inspect them from time to time. So even though there wasn't a trail, the hiking was quite easy along the fence.

At a little over a half mile into the hike I found what I was looking for; a yellow gate that allowed me to enter the deer exclosure. There was also a dirt road here that was gated. Turning right I could have followed the dirt road back to Bear Meadows Road. This could also be an alternative for a parking area for this hike.

An old topographical map indicated that there was a trail that climbed to the top of Tussey Mountain at this point, and whenever I entered the deer exclosure I kept looking to my right for this trail. But with the fire and the logging I feel this old trail has been completely lost. I continued to hike the dirt logging road and came upon my second obstacle; the other side of the deer exclosure accept there wasn't a yellow gate here. However there was a small break in the fence that I was able to climb through.

At 0.9 miles into the hike I was looking upon the burn area. The deer exclosure was behind me and in front of me was a large clearing that extended almost the whole way to the top of the mountain. There were huckleberry bushes everywhere, so it seems that they came back in the fire area with a vengeance. The only trees that I saw were a few dead trees that were still standing and a couple of taller, scarred pine trees. There were some new logging tracks in the clearing so I decided to follow them up the side of the mountain as far as I could. The tracks ended about 400 feet shy of the ridge top and I had to make my way through the underbrush to get to the top.

After some careful brush whacking, watching where I stepped, I finally reached the ridge top and the Tussey Mountain Trail about 1.2 miles into the hike. I turned left here and after another 0.1 miles of hiking I came across the area where the fire burned over the top of the mountain. This area was marked with loads of huckleberry bushes which were bearing fruit. I stopped to help myself to a couple hands-full of berries before continuing on my hike.

As I hiked the Tussey Mountain Trail across the ridgeline, I was amazed by the number of birds that were calling this area home. In all my hikes this year I have never seen so many song birds in one area. Not only were there song birds, but woodpeckers and other birds as well. If it were a cooler day and if I had more time to spend, I would have liked to have stayed for a while just to watch the birds as they flew around.

About 1.8 miles into the hike I left the forest fire area and reentered the lush, green forest. I was glad to have cover over head again as it was starting to get a bit hot with the sun beating down.

At 2.3 miles I was afforded a nice view to the south as the trail crossed a gas pipeline clearing. I looked across the clearing and was able to discern where the trail reentered the woods. I paused here for a while to take in the view and snap a few pictures before heading on.

The Tussey Mountain Trail came to an end at the intersection of the Tussey Mountain Extension at 2.9 miles. I turned left at the intersection and began a gradual descent down from the ridgetop. The trail makes a sharp left at 3 miles and heads west, intersecting once again with the power line clearing at 3.2 miles. I spent a little more time at the power line clearing this time than I would have liked. Not because I was taking in the views but because I could not find where the trail continued on the other side of the clearing. I ended up turning left, climbing a little up the mountainside when I came across the trail on my right, about 300 feet beyond where I thought it would have entered the woods.

The trail continued an easy descent and I came across a camp and the end of the trail at 4 miles. The rest of the hike would be on a dirt road as I made my way back to Bear Meadows Road. It was a nice hike, shaded by the trees, with a babbling brook flowing alongside the road. There was one stream crossing where the road forded the stream at around 4.8 miles. The stream was low and there were stepping rocks here as well, so the stream crossing was dry and uneventful.

At 5.1 miles into the hike I came upon the paved Bear Meadows Road. I turned left here and after another 0.3 miles of walking I was back to my car and the trailhead for the hike.

This was a nice summer hike and I was happy to see life slowly returning to the forest fire area. The beginning of the hike was a little tough as there weren't any trails to follow, but once I reached the top of the mountain I was treated to a well maintained Tussey Mountain Trail. Perhaps, after the logging in the area has been completed there will be another trail on the north face of Tussey Mountain to access the Tussey Mountain Trail. Until then, if you decide to do this hike, just be prepared for some cross-country brush whacking to reach Tussey Mountain Trail.

{vsig_c}0|tmt2_01.jpg|The trailhead for this hike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt2_02.jpg|After following the deer exclosure fence for a quarter of a mile, I finally came across a way to get in.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt2_03.jpg|This lone tree still stands in the forest fire area on the north face of Tussey Mountain.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt2_04.jpg|Tussey Mountain Trail makes its way through the forest fire area.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt2_05.jpg|A view to the south where the gas line crosses Tussey Mountain Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt2_06.jpg|This beer tap was found at the intersection of Tussey Mountain Trail and Tussey Mountain Trail Extension. I tried it but no beer came out; the keg must have been kicked.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt2_07.jpg|Finishing up the hike on a dirt road with Galbraith Gap Run flowing on my right.{/vsig_c}

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