Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Bear Meadows Trail: A Winter Stroll

Bear Meadows was designated a natural area in 1966. Located in Rothrock State Forest, Bear Meadows is one of the largest fresh water bogs in the east. Unlike the bogs of Canada, the bog at Bear Meadows was not touched by the glaciers of the last ice age supporting a variety of plants over the past 10,000 years. On the day before deer season of 2005, Shari and I decided to take a nice winter hike around this 800 plus acre natural area.

Trailhead:  N 40° 43.90'
W 77° 45.20'
Total Elevation:  262'
Trail Length:  3.5 miles
Hike Time:  2 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  40
Near:  Near Boalsburg, PA, behind Tussey Mountain Ski Resort.
Note regarding hike time and elevation traversed.  

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The trailhead for this hike around Bear Meadows is rather easily reached. Coming from State College, you need to follow route US322 east and turn onto Bear Meadows Road at the entrance to the Tussey Mountain Ski Resort. Follow Bear Meadows road for three miles and you will see a stone monument on your right with ample parking also on the right side of the road. If coming from the east, follow route US322 until you are about 2 miles from Boalsburg. Look for the Elk's Country Club golf course on your right and turn onto Bear Meadows Road on your left.

The temperatures on this late November day was in the low 40s. The ground was still covered with snow from the snow event that occurred over Thanksgiving. With Pennsylvania deer season starting on Monday, Tumbleweed and I decided to take advantage of the relatively warm weather and the lack of hunters in the woods and hiked the trail around Bear Meadows.

The trail that encircles Bear Meadows is about three and a half miles in length. We started our hike at the stone monument and parking area wear Bear Meadows Road crosses Sinking Creek. The first part (and most of the trail) was not blazed. There looked to be a lot of activity here recently, and with the recent snow, the trail was easy to follow, even without the blazes.

In about 1000 feet a sign pointed to the right and directed us to the observation deck. The deck looks like it has begun to sink into the bog but was still stable enough to climb up on. From the observation deck you get a great view of the bog and the basin of Bear Meadows, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Having hiked from Little Flat to Big Flat, it was neat to identify the areas and rock outcroppings from down here on the observation deck.

After spending about 10 minutes on the deck we headed back to the trail and continued on our trek. I noticed on this part of the trail, and somewhat on the trail that goes around the west side of the bog, that there were numerous springs. Since it was winter I am sure the flow from the springs was somewhat low. I would like to come back here in the spring when the water is flowing freely. But then again, when you think about it, I suppose that is what you need to form a bog: an endless supply of large quantities of water.

This unblazed part of the trail continued for about three quarters of a mile where we met up with the Gettis Trail. This trail is blue blazed and branched up the ridge to our left. We followed the part of the Gettis Trail that borders the bog. After less than a half mile the blue blazed trail headed back up the ridge again. At this intersection there is a large clearing, with what looked like a foundation for an old cabin, and where there is now a camp fire ring. As I mentioned earlier, with the fresh snow it was easy to see where the Bear Meadows trail left the clearing, but if you hike this in the spring or fall, you will need to look closely for the trail.

The trail at this point looked to be an old forest road, perhaps one that provided access to the cabin, but was now quite overgrown with rhododendrons. Again this section of the trail is unblazed, but if you look closely you will see some orange blazes on occasion. My guess is that this was once a section of the Mid State Trail.

At about two and three quarter miles the trail emerges onto the North Meadows Road. At this point we headed right descending back toward Bear Meadows Road. After a quarter mile on North Meadows Road we saw the Jean Aron Path on our right and followed it back to the trail head.

The Jean Aron Path parallels Bear Meadows Road which could be seen from time to time. The path takes you along a stand of hemlocks and through a rather thick patch of rhododendrons. I can imagine that this trail offers a peaceful and relaxing stroll during the spring and summer when there are leaves on the trees and the woods are more lively.

The trek around Bear Meadows natural area took us a little over 2 hours and was about 3 and a half miles in length. We had hoped to catch a glimpse of some wild life, perhaps a deer or maybe even a bear (not sure if they would be hibernating or not). Unfortunately we didn't see a thing, only a few deer tracks crossing the trail. The woods seemed to be bereft of any life with the only sounds heard was the wind blowing through the trees. It was peaceful but not what I am accustomed to when hiking through the woods during the rest of the year. I definitely want to make a trip back in the spring or summer, when the blueberry bushes are full of fruit. Maybe then we'll catch a glimpse of a bear in Bear Meadows.

{vsig_c}0|bm1_01.jpg|The stone monument declaring Bear Meadows as a natural area.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm1_02.jpg|Here I stand on the observation deck with the bog of Bear Meadows in the background.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm1_03.jpg|The observation deck at Bear Meadows. The panoramic picture above was taken from this platform.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm1_04.jpg|Shari emerges from the trail as it intersects and follows North Meadows Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm1_05.jpg|Just off of North Meadows Road, this is the start of the Jean Aron path.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm1_06.jpg|The Jean Aron Path that parallels Bear Meadows Road as it returns to the trailhead.{/vsig_c}

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