Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Tussey Mountain Trail: My First Snow Shoeing Experience

For two weeks prior to doing this hike I had been planning on hiking somewhere. My initial plans went by the wayside when we received over 8 inches of snow only three days before. So I decided to borrow some snow shoes and try a hike a little closer to home. I decided on hiking some of the trails in Rothrock State Forest. There are many trails used by mountain bikers as well as older cross trails from times gone by.

Trailhead:  N 40° 44.36'
W 77° 45.15'
Total Elevation:  1192'
Trail Length:  6.1 miles
Hike Time:  3 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  85
Near:  Near Boalsburg, PA, behind Tussey Mountain Ski Resort.

After looking over some of the maps I decided on a circuit hike around the area of Bear Meadows Natural Area. This hike was to be around seven miles in length with most of the elevation gain being an easy, gradual ascent along the entire length of the hike. So on Sunday morning I packed up the car and headed for the woods.

The trailhead for this hike was at the intersection of Bear Meadows and North Meadows Road. There is a spacious parking area located just off the right side of Bear Meadows Road. To reach the trailhead if you are 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. 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. Once you are on Bear Meadows Road, travel for about 2.7 miles. The intersection of Bear Meadows Road and North Meadows Road is located where Bear Meadows Road levels off and stops climbing. You'll see North Meadows Road on your right with the parking area just beyond. North Meadows Road is typically gated, but the gates are open from mid November to early January.

The hike that I decide upon was to start on the Longberger Path to Kettle Trail and then onto the Tussey Mountain Trail. I would follow the Tussey Mountain Trail and then take Shingle Path Trail across Treaster Valley to John Wert Trail. John Wert Trail would take me back to Bear Meadows, and then a short hike on the Jean Aron Path back to the trailhead. For the most part, this was how the hike played out.

The hike started out with a short walk down North Meadows Road. This was my first outing with snow shoes and I wasn't all that impressed walking on the packed snow road. However, after about 1/10 of a mile, when I turned right onto the Longberger Path I found the snow shoes to be quite helpful in walking through the fresh, powdery snow. After about 0.5 miles of hiking I was soon accustomed to the snow shoes and moving along at a decent pace.

The Longberger Path is blazed with round blue blazes. The section that I hiked was pretty much level. It parallels Bear Meadows Road and passes through a lot of Mountain Laurel. This could cause some problems in the summer months but I believe that this trail is used frequently and well maintained. I did not see any wildlife but did notice a number of deer tracks and also fox tracks crossing and on the path itself.

At 0.72 miles from the trailhead, Longberger Path meets up with Kettle Trail. Kettle Trail extends from the Treaster Kettle Road to the south, over top of Tussey Mountain, and up the side of Second Mountain to intersect with the Mid State Trail by Little Flat. I turned right onto Kettle Trail and hiked the short distance down to Bear Meadows Road, crossing it to continue on up Tussey Mountain. I would like to mention that during this hike, and probably all year round, there was a running spring located in the middle of Kettle Trail approximately half way between Bear Meadows Road and Longberger Path. It wasn't difficult to maneuver around the spring, but be forewarned that you could possibly get wet feet.

I reached the top of Tussey Mountain and the intersection of Kettle Trail and Tussey Mountain Trail at 1 mile from the trailhead. Neither Kettle Trail nor Tussey Mountain Trail are blazed, and there are no signs posted to indicate the intersection of theses two trails. However, there is a rock cairn here, and at least during this hike, I could easily tell where to turn off of Kettle Trail onto Tussey Mountain Trail.

I headed north east on Tussey Mountain Trail with Treaster Valley to my right. The panoramic picture above is from my vantage point on top of Tussey Mountain looking towards Little Mountain and Thickhead Mountain beyond that. This trail intersects with the Reichley Trail around 0.7 miles from Kettle Trail. This trail heads down into Treaster Valley, over Little Mountain and Thickhead Mountain, and comes to an end on the Mid State Trail along Detweiler Run. As with Shingle Path Trail, which I turned onto to descend from Tussey Mountain, Reichley trail goes straight down the mountain without any switchbacks.

At 2.4 miles from the trailhead I came upon Shingle Path Trail. I had a general idea, as far as distance was concerned, about where the trail intersection would be. I wasn't sure if it would have a sign, as did the intersection with the Reichley Trail, but I soon found out that it did. Luckily I was paying close attention because the sign was knocked over and covered with snow except for a small corner. I dug out the sign and tried to set it upright again, bracing it in place with rocks.

The descent from Tussey Mountain Trail on Shingle Path Trail was the steepest part of this entire hike and the most difficult part while wearing snow shoes. While hiking with snow shoes the movement of your foot is somewhat limited. In particular when you place your foot down as the snow shoe want to be flat with the ground, and if the ground is at a steep pitch, then the snow shoes kind of force your body forward when you step down. I tried side stepping but found this difficult as well. I utilized my trekking poles quite a bit on this descent and was happy that the steep part was not all that long, probably a little less than 0.2 miles.

About halfway down the side of the mountain I lost the trail. The one thing that I had going for me was that I knew the trail pretty much went straight down to the Treaster Kettle Road. I could see the trail that I just hiked down, as it ascended Tussey Mountain, and used this as a guide to make sure I was still hiking in a straight line. A word of advice if you hike this trail during the summer months: make sure you bring a map and brush up on your orienteering skills as you may find yourself bushwhacking on this section.

At 2.75 miles I crossed Treaster Kettle Road, just a few hundred feet east of a hunting camp. There was an old forest road that I then followed, across a small stream, and onto the clearing for the pipeline. My original intentions were to continue hiking up Little Mountain on Shingle Path Trail, but I could not find the beginnings of the trail on the other side of the pipeline. I spent about 15 minutes looking for it but to no avail. The John Wert Path and Shingle Path Trail intersect just shy of Thickhead Mountain Road and by looking at the map I also knew that the pipeline crossed the John Wert Path as well. So I hiked up the pipeline. If you are going snow shoeing I would highly recommend hiking on pipelines as this part of the hike, even with the climb up Little Mountain and descent down the other side, was probably the easiest part of the hike.

Once I reached the valley floor between Little Mountain and Thickhead Mountain, about three and a half miles from the trailhead, my next task at hand was crossing Sinking Creek. I turned to the left and followed Sinking Creek downstream for about 300 feet. At this point, not far from another camp, there were logs placed across the creek. I was able to easily cross here with my snow shoes on and was soon across Sinking Creek and heading west on the John Wert Path.

John Wert Path is a nice trail blazed with blue rectangular blazes. The trail has a slight incline as I made my way back to Bear Meadows, and was wide and level enough that it could be skied on. About halfway down the trail I came upon some rather large hemlocks. With snow falling this part of the hike was very peaceful and relaxing.

At 5.4 miles into the hike I emerged at Bear Meadows, leaving the John Wert Path behind, and turning right, headed down Bear Meadows Road. There was some road walking, but only for about a tenth of a mile as I soon beared left onto the Jean Aron Path. I followed this trail back to the intersection with North Meadows Road and then turning right, ended back at the trailhead and my car.

I really enjoyed my first time snow shoeing. I had borrowed a pair of snow shoes to do this hike but will most definitely be getting a pair of my own. The next day my legs were stiff and sore as I came upon the realization that you use different leg muscles snow shoeing than you use when you just hike. The circuit hike that I did was great for snow shoeing (except for the lack of switch backs coming down Shingle Path Trail) and will make a nice hike during the summer. I will have to reinvestigate the Shingle Path Trail to see exactly where it crosses the pipeline clearing and also see just how overgrown it gets in the spring and summer. Looks like I may have a trail maintenance hike already in the works for this spring.

{vsig_c}0|tmt1_01.jpg|Here is where this little adventure started, at the intersections of Bear Meadow and North Meadows Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_02.jpg|The Longberger Path runs from North Meadows Road to Galbraith Pass. Not only is this a nice path to hike, but during summer months it is used by mountain bikers and, as can be seen in this picture, cross country skiers in the winter.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_03.jpg|The intersection of Longberger Path and Kettle Trail. Kettle Trail runs from Little Flat over Tussey Mountain to Treaster Kettle Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_04.jpg|On top of Tussey Mountain, the Reichley Trail intersects with the Tussey Mountain Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_05.jpg|I almost missed the Shingle Path Trail because the sign was buried in snow. Both this trail and the Reichley Trail go straight down the side of the mountain, without switchbacks, so be aware.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_06.jpg|This is a view towards Thickhead Mountain on the gas pipeline from atop Little Mountain. Sinking Creek is visible at the bottom of the hill.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_07.jpg|Shortly after crossing Sinking Creek, this is the John Wert Trail that parallels Sinking Creek back to Bear Meadows.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_08.jpg|About halfway down the John Wert Trail, I took a moment to look back at my foot prints in the virgin snow.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_09.jpg|There were a number of snow squalls while I was out hiking and I tried to capture the serenity of the woods, with the snow falling all around, in this picture.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_10.jpg|Sinking Creek as it flows through a number of hemlocks.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_11.jpg|Bear Meadows Natural Area at the end of the John Wert Trail. I had a small bit of road walking here before I turned off onto the Jean Aron Path.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|tmt1_12.jpg|Signs of more cross country skiers, this time on the Jean Aron Path.{/vsig_c}

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