Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Old Laurel Run and Spruce Gap Trails in Rothrock S.F.

This hike was a slight modification of the hike I did back on National Trails Day in June of 2006. On that day in early summer of 2006 the temperatures were in the low sixties with overcast skies. On this late April day in 2009, the skies were brilliant blue and temperatures were in the mid to upper eighties. Regardless of the warm temperatures, when you are presented with such a beautiful day so early in the season you have to take advantage of it, and that's exactly what I did with this invigorating hike.

Trailhead:  N 40° 45.86'
W 77° 45.32'
Total Elevation:  2270'
Trail Length:  4.4 miles
Hike Time:  2.5 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  89
Near:  Off route US322 near Bolasburg, PA.

Once again I was able to convince Tim from work to do this hike with me. We tried to get a few more people to join us but we were unsuccessful. So after work we changed out of our work clothes, put on our hiking attire and headed off to the trailhead.

The trailhead for this hike is located at the parking area for access to the Rothrock State Forest in Galbraith Gap. This is located about 0.5 miles beyond the Tussey Mountain Family Fun Center on Bear Meadows Road. 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 1 mile. You will see a stone road as well as a sign to your left. Pull back onto this road and park here: there is additional parking located back in the second parking area.

From the parking area Tim and I hiked for about a tenth of a mile on a trail that is more accustomed to mountain bikes before we turned right on Bear Meadows Road. We crossed Galbraith Gap Run and immediately turned left, then continuing straight for another hundred feet. The trail then turned to the left and followed an old railroad grade along the south bank of Galbraith Gap Run.

At 0.4 miles into the hike the trail pulled up and away from the stream and crossed Laurel Run Road. This is the start of Longberger Path and it begins a gradual climb up the mountain. A half mile into the hike, Longberger Path intersects with Spruce Gap Trail. We turned right here and continued on Spruce Gap Trail until we noticed the Three Bridges Trail bearing off to the right.

We walked back Three Bridges Trail and soon came to a marshy area of the headwaters of a small mountain stream. This is where three bridges are constructed to cross the mountain stream. Shortly past the last bridge there is a spring located to the left of the trail. Tim and I stopped here to refresh ourselves on this hot day with a drink before we continued on.

The Three Bridges Trail soon comes to an end at Laurel Run Road. The Three Bridges Trail is only a quarter of a mile long and acts as a cross connector between Longberger Path and Old Laurel Run Trail.

We then followed Old Laurel Run Trail up to the top of the mountain and the Little Flat area. The trail parallels Laurel Run Road for about a quarter of a mile before it gradually turns to the left and begins a steeper ascent to the top. At 1.8 miles into the hike we emerged from Old Laurel Run Trail onto the forest road that went back to the towers on Little Flat.

A half mile of road walking finally brought us to Little Flat where we paused again to rest and hydrate. We would soon be heading back down to the trailhead via Spruce Gap Trail, but I wanted to take a small detour and show Tim the first vista along the Mid State Trail.

We hiked for 0.15 miles on the MST before coming to the intersection of Spruce Gap Trail. A little more than a tenth of mile past this intersection if the intersection of Kettle Trail and the Mid State Trail. At this junction is the monument erected for Mr. Thomas Thwaites, the father of the Mid State Trail. Hiking on for another another quarter mile we came across the vista that I wanted Tim to see.

We spent sometime at the vista, enjoying the view, before we headed back to the Spruce Gap Trail. Turning onto the trail I was surprised to see that the trail looked to be well used, even if the underbrush was starting to creep onto the trail. After a tenth of a mile of hiking through Mountain Laurel on relatively flat terrain, the tail made its way amongst a stand of hemlocks.

Around 3.3 miles into the hike Tim and I emerged from the stand of hemlocks and was treated to a decent view of Bald Knob. I took some obligatory pictures before we continued on our descent. For the next half mile, the descent on Spruce Gap Trail was somewhat steep. What made the descent even more difficult was the state of the trail. The trail was very rocky and eroded in many places. At 3.8 miles into the hike we passed the Three Bridges Trail and had completed the main part of the circuit hike.

We finished the hike off by walking on Longberger Trail back to the trailhead as the sun began to dip lower on the horizon. The heat was beginning to subside and the cool shade of Galbraith Gap was refreshing.

The total mileage for this hike was 4.4 miles and we completed it in a little over 2 hours. There was a total elevation gain of over 1000 feet making this a good hike for a cardiovascular work out. An even tougher work out could be achieved if we would have decided to hike up the steep Spruce Gap Trail. The close proximity of this hike to State College and the easy access to the trailhead makes this an ideal hike to do after work or when you just want to get out and get some exercise. Both Old Laurel Run Road and Spruce Gap Trails make for easy access to the Mid State Trail, something to keep in mind if you're through hiking or need a place to park your cars for a point to point hike.

{vsig_c}0|lsg2_01.jpg|There were quite a few cars parked at the trailhead.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|lsg2_02.jpg|This is the intersection of Longberger Path and Spruce Gap Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|lsg2_03.jpg|Standing on one of the bridges on the Three Bridges Trail looking downhill.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|lsg2_04.jpg|The old cabin on top of little flat.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|lsg2_05.jpg|The first view at Little Flat looking towards Bear Meadows.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|lsg2_06.jpg|Almost back to the trailhead, the sun shines through the tree tops illuminating the path in front of us.{/vsig_c}

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