Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Musser Gap: Hiking on the Musser Gap Trail

Musser Gap is one of the more recent editions to the Rothrock State Forest. Planned as another gateway to the forest, the Musser Gap area has not seen much traffic because of the limited number of trails here. Things begin to change this year as more trails are built in this area. One such trail is the Musser Gap Trail, connecting the Musser Gap area with the Mid State Trail on top of Tussey Mountain.

Trailhead: N 40° 45.30'
W 77° 51.20'
Total Elevation: 2250'
Trail Length: 6.0 miles
Hike Time: 3.5 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 105
Near: Rothrock State Forest
Access off route PA45

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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.

This hike starts at the main parking area at Musser Gap, just off route PA45. It was a warm day and there were already quite a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived at mid-morning. I donned my hiking gear and started off hiking back the entrance trail.

The trail is quite wide and made mostly of crushed limestone at the start. This area saw a good bit of timber cutting last year, and the limestone was placed on the trail to make it easier for the logging trucks to get in and out. At about 0.3 miles into the hike, the trail leaves the rolling meadows and enters into the woods.

Shortly after entering the woods the trail begins a gentle ascent. There are two small stream crossings before the ascent becomes a bit steeper. The climb stops for a bit over 0.8 miles just prior to the largest stream crossing on this trail. A new bridge is being constructed here for crossing the stream, but at the time of this hike, it was not yet complete.

After crossing the stream there is a side trail that comes in from the right. I turned left here, following the main trail, and beginning another climb again, this time in earnest. Soon the trail passes the area where the old reservoir existed. This was removed a number of years ago and trees have been planted here to facilitate the reversal back to a more natural looking spot. The trail begins a sweeping turn to the right, about one mile into the hike, as the climb continues.

A short bit on and the climb lessens as the trail straightens out. At 1.2 miles, take a left off the current trail and begin a meandering trek through the woods. The trail emerges from the woods at a bit past 1.3 miles onto a powerline clearing. The main trail in Musser Gap turns left onto the road following the powerline. We will return on this route. But for now, we will continue straight across the clearing and look for the newly cleared Musser Gap Trail.

At the time of this hike, the Musser Gap Trail was only marked with flagging. However, it has come to my attention that the trail is now painted with blazes and should be much easier to follow. The climb on Musser Gap Trail starts at 1.4 miles, with a switchback to the left at 1.5 miles and then back to the right at 1.7 miles. Another 200 feet on and you will reach to top of the ridge with the intersection at the Mid State Trail.

Turning left on the Mid State Trail, the hike becomes relatively flat across the top of the ridge. That is not to say that the hike is with out challenge. You will have to cross a number of rock fields and maneuver around many rocks on the trail proper. At 2.3 miles into the hike you will come upon the Skyline Vista, with expansive views over the forest to the south.

After taking in the view, continue down the Mid State Trail until you are about three miles into the hike. At this point you will be at the intersection with the Deer Path. The Deer Path leads down off the ridge top and into the Shingletown Gap valley. I turned left here and began a treacherous descent on the still ice covered Deer Path.

I made it down the Deer Path with out incident and turned onto an unsigned trail at 3.3 miles. This trail, marked with blue flagging, meanders through the woods as you head back towards Musser Gap. After 0.6 miles the trail ends as it emerges into the powerline clearing. To the right is a powerline vista looking over State College. If you have the time and energy, then I would recommend venture up to the vista to take in the view. If you opt out of enjoying the vista, turn left here and follow the road down the middle of the clearing.

At 4.6 miles into the hike you will find yourself back in familiar territory. To your left is the Musser Gap Trail and to your right is the main trail. Turn right here and retrace your steps through Musser Gap and back to the trailhead.

This entire hike is about 6 miles in length. Right now, this is the main hike in the Musser Gap area, aside for an out-and-back hike to the vista. As more trails are added to the Musser Gap area, more hiking opportunities will appear. Until then, try this hike and check out the Musser Gap Trail as it climbs the north face of Tussey Mountain.

An informational sign is posted at the trailhead parking in Musser Gap.

The view towards Nittany Mountain from Musser Gap.

Soon there will be a new bridge in the Musser Gap area.

The trail emerges into the powerline clearing.

Climbing the switchbacks on Musser Gap Trail.

At the junction of the Mid State and Musser Trails.

Even in early April there are some rather deep snow drifts on top of the ridge.

View from the Skyline Vista.

At the intersection with Deer Path.

Emerging once again onto the powerline clearing.

Almost finished with the hike as we head back to the trailhead.

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  • At the Whitehall Road entrance to the Trailhead (N 40 46.096 W 077 51.526), was there a farm at one time before all this new housing was built. My husband and I seem to remember geocaching in this area years back and there were a few trails and an old barn, apple orchard, etc. I believe owned by Penn State. Could you tell us anything about this are in its past?

    Karen L. Kohan on

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