Yesterday I took on the most challenging hike I’ve done so far. It was approximately 3 miles, maybe a little longer with all the switchbacks. It took me from Galbraith Gap up about 1,000ft of elevation to the Little Flat Tower, an old fire tower of the top of Tussey Ridge.
One nice thing about this area is that there are so many trails to choose from that you can basically customize your hike. If you spend a little time studying a map of the Shingletown/Tussey Mountain area, you can decide how much elevation change you want to deal with, how long you want your hike to be, and whether you’d rather do a loop or an out-and-back route. If you’re into mountain biking, many of the trails are multi-use and I ran into several bikers on my hike.
I decided to start at the lower part of the mountain, parking at the Galbraith Gap trailhead. There is tons of parking here, and reasonably nice restroom facilities. Starting here gave me a nice warm-up, because Galbraith Gap is relatively flat and easy going, following a stream up to Laurel Run Road.
Once I crossed Laurel Run Road and got onto Lonberger Path, the uphill climb began. It started off gently, with lots of switchbacks that made the going easier. After a short while I hit Three Bridges Trail. This was a short trail, but a really beautiful one. There are indeed three bridges, which are small wooden walkways over a rocky, tumbling stream flowing down the mountain. The slopes in the area are completely carpeted with hay-scented fern. There is a fire ring near the bridges that would be an amazing place to spend an evening.
After completing Three Bridges, I came to the longest and most difficult trail of the trek: Old Laurel Run. It isn’t very steep for the most part, but it’s very rocky which makes the going difficult. There is indeed quite a bit of laurel, which is blooming right now and made the trail quite lovely. I ran into a couple of bikers making their way down the trail, but otherwise it was just me.
By the time I reached Old Flat Tower Road, I was sweaty and tired. Here I had the choice to hop on the Mid-State Trail to the fire tower or just stay on the road. I decided to stick with the road, which was a straight shot. Looking back, I wish I had gotten on the trail because, well, roads are boring. Before long I reached the clearing where the fire tower stood. Though the stairs have been removed to prevent climbing, it’s still a cool look into history as you consider what it must have been like to sit there for hours on end scanning the forest. There is also a little cabin next to it where I assume the people working there would warm up in the winter. The tower stands in sharp contrast to the cell phone towers a couple hundred yards away.
From the tower, I took a short section of the Mid-State Trail to Spruce Gap and began my descent. Spruce Gap is very steep and rocky, and I did not envy the guy I passed climbing up it. As you descend, you can catch glimpses of the top of the mountain and the neighboring slopes to your left, which makes for a picturesque hike. There is an abundance of blueberries here, which I might come back for when they’re ripe. Spruce Gap eventually meets Lonberger Path, and from there I headed back down Galbraith Gap and reached my car.
All in all, it was a nice hike. It felt good to get a bit of a workout rather than just walking on flat ground. For a slightly easier hike, I would suggest parking at the parking area on Little Flat Tower Road and choosing trails from there. In fact, I’m thinking of doing just that this afternoon. Why waste a beautiful weekend indoors?