Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Winter Hiking in Bear Meadows

The first hike of 2011 had Shari, Dan and I doing a winter hike in Rothrock State Forest. We opted for the Bear Meadows Trail that loops around the Bear Meadows Natural Area. With four-wheel drive vehicles, we made it to the trailhead and began our first winter adventure of the year.

Trailhead:  N 40° 44.37'
W 77° 45.16'
Total Elevation:  180'
Trail Length:  3.7 miles
Hike Time:  2 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  40
Near:  Near Boalsburg, PA, behind Tussey Mountain Ski Resort.

The trailhead for this hike around Bear Meadows is rather easily reached. 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. Follow Bear Meadows road for about two and a half miles and you will see a parking area on your right, near the gated North Meadows Road. Park here to do this hike. 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.

The trip back to the trailhead was a little slow going what with the packed snow roads. In places the road was a bit slick, but with our four-wheel drive vehicles we made it to the parking area without any problems or concerns.

We donned our winter hiking gear and began our hike trekking back North Meadows Road. The snow was a bit deeper than I had expected. Where we had about 3 or 4 inches of snow in the valleys, there was easily 10 or more inches here in the mountains. After hardly hiking more than a tenth of a mile, we were all having quite a work out hiking through the snow. I started to second guess myself on not bringing my snow shoes.

After hiking a little over a half mile on the North Meadows Road we came to the intersection with the Bear Meadows Trail, bearing off to our left. We paused here a bit to wet our whistles and remove a layer of clothing or open some zippers. We were definitely feeling the warmth of the hike.

Once on the Bear Meadows Trail, the going seemed a bit easier. The snow was beginning to be packed on the trail from previous hikers. As long as you stayed on the trail (the snow was fluffy and deep if you wandered off) we didn't have to expend to much effort to walk through the snow.

It was quite peaceful, hiking in the woods with snow blanketing the ground. We didn't hear anything except the occasional wind blowing through the tree tops. Shari even commented on the lack of animal tracks, though we did spy some from time to time.

We took our second break at about 1.7 miles into the hike. This was bit short of the halfway point, but the large clearing where the Sand Spring Path joins the Bear Meadows Loop made an ideal place to stop and rest. It seems that we weren't the only one to come to that conclusion as somebody had decided to flop down on the ground here and make a snow angel. It would have been a very nice snow angel except it appears that an overly anxious dog wouldn't let their owner make a snow angel in peace. After some idle chat and quite a few sips from the water bottle we headed on down the trail.

Shortly past the intersection with Sand Spring Path, about a quarter a mile on, we came across the intersection with Gettis Trail. Gettis Trail climbs the ridge to our right, and like Sand Spring Path, intersects with the Mid State Trail. It was around this time that the sun peak out for about 15 minutes and brightened up the dreary winter day.

Around 2.8 miles into the hike we merged from the dense underbrush and pine trees that press in on the Bear Meadows bog. We stepped out right onto the banks of the bog. This is the section of the trail that Shari and I will hike often in the late summer as we pick and enjoy the easily accessible blueberries found here.

After 3 miles of hiking we emerged onto Bear Meadows Road. There was a couple here that were just getting into their car after a short bit of cross country skiing down the John Wert Path. We continued hiking north on Bear Meadows Road and we were getting reading to bear left on to the Jean Aron Path when the couple came past us and then got stuck in a ditch about 200 feet past. Dan and I helped get them out of the ditch and suggested that they go back down to the Bear Meadows parking lot to turn around, getting a running start before they try climbing the small hill again. Shortly after they left a State Forest ranger truck appeared with two forest rangers. We told them about the couple and the fact that I did not think they had all-wheel drive but only front wheel drive. They headed on down the road to see if they needed assistance. Later, after our hike, we would end up following the forest ranger out of the woods as they towed the couples car to less snow covered roads.

A jump off of Bear Meadows Road to our left had us on the Jean Aron Path. To my surprise no one had been on this trail. As it was we had to blaze our own trail through the snow, at times over a foot deep. The Jean Aron Path is only a half mile in length, but that half mile of hiking was the hardest of any that we did on this hike.

Once we emerged triumphantly onto North Meadows Road at the end of Jean Aron Path, we turned right and retraced our steps back to the cars. The entire hike was about 3.7 miles in length and took us about 2 and three quarter hours to hike. Taking into consideration the effort to hike through the snow and the automobile assistance that we provided, I thought we made pretty good time. This was a great way to start the 2011 hiking season and I was happy to be able to get both Shari and Dan out to enjoy winter time in the woods. Hopefully I'll have another opportunity to get out into the woods before the snow melts. If not, no problem, as I am really looking forward to spring and the busy times for hiking.


{vsig_c}0|bm03_01.jpg|The start of our hike, not far from where we parked the cars, heading back North Meadows Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_02.jpg|Dan and Shari follow in the tracks I made. Luckily there had been people here before us and the snow on the trail was already starting to pack.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_03.jpg|The intersection of the Bear Meadows Loop and Sand Spring Path. Sand Spring Path climbs away from Bear Meadows and joins up with the Mid State Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_04.jpg|The Gettis Trail meets the Bear Meadows Trail here.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_05.jpg|Dan pauses to get his picture taken standing by one of the trail's blazes.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_06.jpg|The sun finally came out for a short period of time during our hike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_07.jpg|The sign at Bear Meadows.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|bm03_08.jpg|Finished. The hike back Jean Aron Path was probably the most strenuous of the entire hike since we had to blaze our own track through the foot deep snow.{/vsig_c}


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