Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Scotia Barrens: First Stroll in the Barrens

With it's close proximity to State College and housing developments north of town, the Scotia Barrens is a good place for a casual hike during the weekend or even after work during the week. This was our first venture into The Barrens and Shari and I were not sure what to expect. I had heard many people talk of this location and decided one evening after work that we would head out and do a short hike of 2 to 3 miles. Ten minutes after leaving the house we found ourselves at one of the trail heads, just outside Circle Ville.

Trailhead: N 40° 47.09'
W 77° 54.88'
Total Elevation: 778'
Trail Length: 5.0 miles
Hike Time: 3.0 hours
Hike Type: Out-and-back
Difficulty Rating: 65
Near: Near Circle Ville,
west of State College PA

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The easiest way to reach the trailhead, if you aren't familiar with the State College area, is from route PA26. From route PA26, turn onto Science Park Road. This intersection, if coming from the south, is just past the intersection of routes PA26 and PA45. If coming from the north, you will encounter this intersection shortly after driving through the town of State College. Once on Science Park Road, continue north until you reach Sleepy Hollow Drive. This intersection is in Circle Ville. Turn left on Sleepy Hollow Drive and continue for a half mile. You will see a parking area on your right along with the trailhead used for this hike.

We started this hike after work, figuring on having about 3 hours of light remaining. We were planning on hiking about 2 miles, which should only take us an hour.

Leaving the trailhead we started a gradual ascent up the trail. The trail was well groomed, looking to be the remains of an old dirt road. It was quite wide and looked to be used extensively by mountain bikers. Scotia Barrens are used by hikers and bikers alike, and even though all bikers that I've encountered have been courteous enough to give you a "heads-up" as they approach, you need to be observant while hiking this area.

At 0.6 miles into our hike the trail comes to an intersection. You will want to bear right as turning left takes you to a few houses just over the crest of the hill. After another 0.15 miles you will come to another intersection, a tee in the trail. Turn left here as turing right will once again take you into someone's back yard.

After a mile of hiking we came to the top of our initial climb. There is a large clearing here as the trail makes it's way along the tree line at the left hand side of the clearing. Once we made it through the clearing the trail split once again. To the right the trail looked narrower and not used as much as the one to the left. We turned left and began a gradual descent from the hilltop.

At 2.3 miles we reached Scotia Range Road. So much for our 2 mile hike as we still had to hike back to the car. We turned right onto Scotia Range Road and hiked for about 0.25 miles. I looked at my watch and decided that instead of trying to do a loop hike that we should start heading back in order to make it to the car before dark. There was a gated, paved road to our right, so we followed it. I figured it would get us back to the trail, and if it didn't meet up with the trail, we would be close enough to do some brush whacking in order to reach it.

Just a little after 3 miles we found ourselves in a clearing filled with some sort of abandoned weather instruments. Probably something set up by Penn State at some point in time. From this clearing I could see the trail to our south, just some 100 yards through the woods. We made our way over to the trail and began our climb back up to the clearing and then on to the trailhead.

We made it back to the car just as it was getting dark. I wasn't sure exactly how far we hiked, but I knew it was more than our original plan of a 2 mile outing. I definitely want to head back to the Scotia Barrens to do more hiking. The trails are nice and can be hiked with just sneakers, if you prefer. There is also a lot of history in the region, including an old ghost town whose ruins can be seen from sections of the various trails. The small elevation changes, well groomed trail, and close proximity to State College make the Scotia Barrens an ideal place for an early evening adventure.

The trailhead just outside of Circle Ville.

The trail was wide and well groomed as we made our steady ascent to the top of the hill.

At the top of the short ascent was this small field.

We had a short bit of road walking before we looped around and headed back the way we came.

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