Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Hiking the Trails Around Buck and Brush Ridge

On a recent flight back from Chicago, as my US Airways twin prop airplane was making it's final descent into State College, I glanced out my window to see the mountains of Rothrock State Forest below. I will often look down on these mountains as I fly into and out of State College, recognizing the different ridge lines and streams and recalling the hikes that I've done along both. On this occasion I saw a small body of water that I hadn't noticed before. It was a small pond located at the very top of a ridge. I thought that it would be nice to see if I could hike back to that pond, and that's what I set out to do this past weekend.

Trailhead:  N 40° 43.13'
W 77° 39.60'
Total Elevation:  1908'
Trail Length:  6.7 miles
Hike Time:  4 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  103
Near:  Off route US322 near Milroy, PA.

I pulled out a topographical map and located the pond. It was in the Rothrock State Forest within the boundaries of Mifflin County. There looked to be some trails in that area and I soon had planned a circuit hike of about 6 miles. The hike would involve some climbing, which was good as it had been over a month since I was on the trail and I was in need of a little exercise. It also meandered along a small stream and passed right beside the pond that I had recently seen from the air.

If you ever take a moment to study a map you'll find that various geographical locations have some interesting names. Some areas will be named after people, such as McKinney Spring or Musser Gap. While other areas are named after various attributes, such as Roaring Run or Grass Mountain. I soon discovered that the area that I was hiking on this trip, Brush Ridge, was not named after Mr. Brush.

Located in Rothrock State Forest, the trailhead for this hike is easily accessible from State College via route US322. Coming from Lewistown or locations further south, you will need to follow US322 to the top of Seven Mountains, cross over to the east bound lanes, and begin the descent along Laurel Creek Reservoir. As you descend along the edge of Long Mountain, route US322 makes a somewhat sharp turn to your left. As you approach this turn you will see a run-a-way truck ramp on your right, and just past that, Stone Creek Road. This road takes you back to Penn Roosevelt as well as Alan Seeger. You will need to turn off onto this road an follow it for about 0.8 miles. Keep your eyes open for the first road on your left. It's called Spruce Mountain Road and you will want to take it. Once on Spruce Mountain Road, drive for 1.1 miles and you will see a gated road with ample parking area. Park here as this is the trailhead for the hike.

The hike starts on what seems to be a recent logging road. The road is gated and you will need to park along Spruce Mountain Road. There is plenty of parking area here.

As I hiked down the road I noticed that it came to an end in a large clearing. Standing in the middle of the clearing, I could not see any trails leading from it. I decided to back track a bit and noticed a trail heading south from the road. You will want to keep your eyes open for this trail as it's not marked. You'll find this intersection about 0.35 miles down the road.

After turning off the forest road I soon made my way in a circular fashion around what appeared to be a clear cut area. Soon I was back on what I figured to be the original Brush Ridge trail. After about 0.9 miles from the start of my hike I came to the intersection of Brush Ridge Trail and Indian Trail. I could go down either path as I would be coming back the other once I completed my circuit hike. I had decided to turn left onto Indian Trail and complete the loop hike in a clockwise fashion. This would give me a nice steep ascent about half way through the hike and I was looking for an aerobic workout.

I continued on Indian Trail and made an easy ascent down the southern face of Brush Ridge. This trail was well maintained and a pleasure to hike on. I want to mention that, except for a small section of trail along Lingle Creek, these trails were not blazed. In most cases this wasn't an issue as the trails could be easily discerned from the surrounding forest but in other cases it was a little difficult to follow the trail. You will need to be observant during this hike and keep an eye open for sudden turns in the trail. I highly recommend taking a map along when doing this hike for the first time.

As you approach the bottom of Brush Ridge, the Indian Trail comes to a fenced in deer exclosure. You walk along this exclosure for the next 0.3 miles. It was in this area where I happened to come across a bouquet of pheasants, with about 7 taking flight as I walked along the fence.

Indian Trail merges with Conklin Road and you follow this forest road for about one tenth of a mile as you cross over Lingle Creek. Once you cross the creek and start to ascend Sand Hole Ridge, you will bear off to your right and follow a gated road past one camp and finally coming to the Otter Gap Camp after three tenths of a mile. At this point we are about 2.25 miles from the trailhead and have crossed Lingle Creek twice. The forest road ends here at the intersection of Otter Gap Trail and Lingle Valley Trail. If you are looking for a shorter hike, you can follow Otter Gap Trail for a little over a quarter of a mile where it meets up with Brush Ridge Trail.

I continued to follow Lingle Valley Trail alongside Lingle Creek. The trail crossed the creek and it's tributaries another four times, so be prepared to get wet if you hike this in the spring. Lingle Valley Trail then proceeds to climb out of Lingle Valley at Little Kettle, climbing to the top of Buck Ridge. This is the only steep climb that you will encounter on this hike, ascending 400 feet in about 0.5 miles. Lingle Valley Trail ends at it's intersection with Chestnut Spring Trail 3.4 miles from the trail head.

On this hike I decided to turn off of Chestnut Spring Trail and take a short cut to Brush Ridge Trail. You could continue to hike down to Chestnut Spring and meet up with Brush Ridge Trail there. This would add an additional mile to the hike.

Shortly after getting back onto Brush Ridge Trail I came across the reason for this hike; the small pond that I saw from the sky above. The pond was still frozen over and the Brush Ridge Trail passed along it's banks. I was told that this pond is here year round and supports a wide variety of wildlife.

As I mentioned earlier, the trails of the Brush Ridge Trail Complex are currently lacking blazes. While hiking along the Brush Ridge Trail, as it slowly descended into Otter Gap, there were areas where the trail was difficult to find. However, even without blazes, you can still find the trail by looking for trees that have fallen across the paths over the years. These fallen trees will have sections cut out of them to allow passage. With an abundance of fallen trees in this area, the trail was for the most part easy to follow even if it wasn't blazed.

At 4.6 miles into the hike I reached Otter Gap. There was a small spring here at this intersection of three trails: Otter Gap Trail, Penn Roosevelt Trail, and Brush Ridge Trail. As I continued straight, slowly climbing out of Otter Gap, the Brush Ridge Trail became more difficult to follow. There were blow downs across the trail, but not all had been bisected for the trail. Also I soon learned how this ridge got it's name: there was mountain laurel and brush growing everywhere. During summer time I am sure this section of the trail would be next to impossible to hike.

I got off of the trail a few times, or at least what I thought to be the trail. What helped me along was that someone had recently tied pink pieces of plastic ribbon to some of the tree branches about every 500 feet or so. By following these "blazes" I soon saw the trail begin to emerge again from the brush. For about 0.5 miles the trail was impossible to discern from the surrounding forest and without my map and the pink ribbons I would have had some difficulty finding the Brush Ridge Trail again.

After the bushwhacking as I climbed out of Otter Gap, the trail was once again easy to see and follow. At 5.75 miles into my hike I had completed the circuit hike and was back at the intersection of Brush Ridge Trail and Indian Trail. Another 0.9 miles and I was back at the trailhead an my car.

This hike wasn't very difficult with only a small climb half way through it. The trails for the most part were well maintained without many obstacles to cross over. The only section that was troublesome was the 0.5 miles of Brush Ridge Trail as it climbed out of Otter Gap. Perhaps a different circuit hike that follows Otter Gap Trail and bypasses this section of Brush Ridge Trail would have been better. Hopefully some trail maintenance will be done this year to make the entire length of Brush Ridge Trail passable. Once it is cleared, then I will recommend this hike as being appropriate for all to hike including children. But until then, be prepared to do some trail blazing of your own and make sure to bring along a map the first time you try this hike.

{vsig_c}0|bbr1_01.jpg|Here's me, standing at the trailhead, ready for an adventure in the woods of Rothrock State Forest.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_02.jpg|Things were pretty easy at the beginning, as can be seen by this picture. The trail was like this for the first 0.5 miles.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_03.jpg|Our first intersection. I'll be coming back this way, hiking the Brush Ridge Trail, but for now we are going straight ahead on the Indian Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_04.jpg|On the Indian Trail there was this large log across the trail. Apparently when the logs are too large to completely remove from the trail they do the next best thing; make it into a "stepping log".{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_05.jpg|Here's a shot from a bridge that crosses the Lingle Creek. The water was crystal clear, and at this location below the bridge, about 4 or 5 feet deep.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_06.jpg|One of the new trail markers. This one is at the terminus of the Otter Gap Trail, where it intersects with the Lingle Valley Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_07.jpg|The rhododendrons keep the snow on the ground even during the warmer days. Here the Lingle Valley trail crosses Lingle Creek for the third and last time.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_08.jpg|Taking a break after climbing out of the kettle at the end of the Lingle Valley Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_09.jpg|The pond that I saw while flying over in an airplane. This time I'm seeing it up close and personal.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_10.jpg|The trails on this hike weren't blazed, except for a short section of the Lingle Valley Trail. You need to keep your wits about you when hiking with out blazes, and keep an eye out for trail markers, such as the bisected log pictured above.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_11.jpg|The other end of the Otter Gap Trail. I guess they haven't ventured back the Otter Gap Trail to install another one of those new trail markers.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bbr1_12.jpg|I enjoy playing "Where's Waldo" as much as the next guy, but I had trouble finding the trail on this section of the hike.{/vsig_c}

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published