Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Exploring in Musser Gap

The Shingletown Gap area is a popular place for hiking, biking, or just going for a stroll. The Shingletown Gap area is also a popular starting point for those wanting to explore the Rothrock State Forest. But with popularity comes over use, erosion, and general neglect by those that don't appreciate the trails or the out of doors. In an effort to ease the overuse of the Shingletown Gap area, Clearwater Conservancy jumped at an opportunity to purchase a tract of land just 1.5 miles west of Shingletown. The area, known as Musser Gap, was then transferred to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry and became the latest edition to the Rothrock State Forest. This new access point will provide another gateway to the popular state forest and will hopefully alleviate some of the traffic with in the Shingletown Gap area. Of course it isn't every day that new land is added to the public domain, so Shari and I decided to hike up into Musser Gap to see the new edition to the Rothrock State Forest.

Trailhead:  N 40° 45.30'
W 77° 51.20'
Total Elevation:  1574'
Trail Length:  4.9 miles
Hike Time:  3 hours
Hike Type:  Out-and-back
Difficulty Rating:  80
Near:  Rothrock State Forest Access off route PA45.

The trailhead for this hike is easily accessible from State College. Coming from State College, either via route US322 or business route US322 (South Atherton Street), you will need to turn right onto route PA45 west near Boalsburg. Once you are on route PA45 west heading towards Pine Grove Mills, you will want to travel 3.4 miles traveling through the town of Shingletown. You will notice a dirt road on your left that angles up and away from route PA45. There is also a wooden Rothrock State Forest sign here. Turn at this road, travel about 200 feet up the hill, and you will find a large parking area. This is the access area parking for the Musser Gap area and the trailhead for this hike.

The newly constructed parking area has much more space then the parking located in Shingletown Gap. When we arrived there were already quite a few cars parked in the parking lot. It seems that we weren't the only one that had the idea of exploring Musser Gap on such a beautiful autumn day.

Starting at the trailhead we followed an old road that is gated just a few feet beyond the parking area. The gate was a little difficult to maneuver around, but we managed, and continued to hike back the dirt road, gradual climbing a small knoll. At 0.3 miles we crested the knoll and descended about 50 feet into a picturesque hidden meadow. From the meadow we were able to look up the valley and see Mount Nittany in the distance.

About 0.4 miles from the trailhead we entered the woods and began a steady and gradual climb up into Musser Gap. We were still following the old road which was well maintained with only a few areas that exhibited gullies from a previous downpour.

Twisting first to our left and then cutting back across the face of the ridge to our right, we crossed the small stream that comes down from the gap at about 0.9 miles into our hike. Once we crossed the stream the ascent got a little steeper. We were still following the old dirt road but I did notice a couple unblazed side trails that branched off both to our left and to our right.

This entire trail is as of yet unblazed. Luckily the road is easy enough to follow and I feel pretty safe in saying you won't lose the trail if you decide to take a hike in Musser Gap. At just a little over 1 mile we came across the old reservoir that was constructed here. Similar to Shingletown Gap, these reservoirs use to provide water to State College. However, because of human encroachment into the water sheds, the run off became unsafe to drink and the town began to use wells and discarded the reservoirs. Unlike the small reservoir at Shingletown Gap, this one has been drained and completely deserted.

We explored a bit around the reservoir before we continued our climb back up the trail. At 1.4 miles we emerged from out of the gap and arrived in a power line clearing. Here the old road we were following turns into a newly mowed path that connects to the dirt access road the runs the length of the power lines.

We turned left on the power line access road and followed the power lines for the next mile. At 2.4 miles into our hike we reach a nice vista where the power lines descend from the ridge into the valley below. We paused here to eat our lunch and enjoy the view. Power lines do scar our forests, but they also offer great views where there typically wouldn't be one.

From the vista we did see a trail on top of the front ridge that headed further east towards Shingletown Gap. My guess is that the trail would meet up with the trail system in the Shingletown Gap area. I am sure that this will be used in the future to tie the Musser Gap and Shingletown Gap trail networks together and make it easy for you to hike from one gap to the next.

After enjoying our lunch we headed back the way we came. As we were about to turn off the power line access road we did see some other hikers out enjoying the nice weather. We passed another hiker about half way down the mountain side. After a friendly hello and casual comments about the great weather we were both on our ways.

Currently the trail offerings are somewhat limited in the Musser Gap area, but I am sure that will change over the next year or two. It's nice to have an alternate access to the Rothrock State Forest. I am sure that the Musser Gap region will help alleviate some of the current traffic and over use of Shingletown Gap and become a favorite hiking spot for many. I'll definitely be heading back up this way next year to see what new trails have been blazed.

{vsig_c}0|mg1_01.jpg|The trailhead and access parking are for Musser Gap and the Rothrock State Forest. As you can see, the place is already beginning to become a popular destination.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|mg1_02.jpg|Autumn was in the air on this warm October afternoon. The leaves were well on their way of color change and had begun to fall to the ground.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|mg1_03.jpg|Just prior to enter the woods and beginning our gradual ascent up the side of Tussey Mountain, we caught this great view of Nittany Mountain across Happy Valley.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|mg1_04.jpg|Musser Gap use to be a water source for the town of State College. Here is what remains of the small, concrete reservoir.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|mg1_05.jpg|At the half way point of our hike we paused to have lunch and enjoy the view. Here we look across the valley toward Beaver Stadium in the distance.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|mg1_06.jpg|A good portion of our hike was on this power lines access road. {/vsig_c}

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published