On this humid Saturday, I didn’t have to venture far from home for my hike. My destination was just a few miles from State College in Rothrock State Forest. It included approximately five miles of hiking, two very different vistas, and a lot of climbing.
My journey started at the Musser Gap trailhead. Honestly, I wasn’t initially super impressed. The trailhead is surrounded by farmland that quickly turns into old fields. If you like American Goldfinches, this is the place for you. The trail itself was nice but felt unnecessarily large, and it was one of the only trails I’ve encountered that has been graveled. Once I entered the forest I understood why it looked that way: it had been logged fairly recently.. There were stumps, skid trails, and log landings everywhere. While I am generally a supporter of using state land for timber, I can’t say these features added much to the atmosphere of the hike. This whole section of trail sloped gently uphill, which was a nice warm-up before starting the climb.
Things definitely looked up (both figuratively and literally) when the trail met Frog Hollow at a newly constructed bridge across a small stream. I had the option to either continue on Musser Gap or take the steeper Frog Hollow. Since Frog Hollow led more directly to my first planned stop, Lion’s Valley Vista, I opted to take it. The trail was pretty, especially since the birch leaves are just starting to turn and carpet the trail in orange. By the end it was quite steep, and I had to take a few breaks before reaching the vista.
This vista is pretty nice, and gives a good view of the little farms scattered throughout the valley and State College. This morning was hazy, so I didn’t see the vista at its full potential. I took a break here and enjoyed the view.
I won’t go into the details of my route, but I shortly reconnected with Musser Gap Trail and after crossing a huge powerline cut (complete with blackberry bushes for trail snacks), doing another steep section of climbing, and finally traversing a rock field, I arrived at stop 2: Hubler Gap Vista.
To be honest, I enjoyed this vista quite a bit more than the previous one. It overlooked the interior of Rothrock, giving a beautiful view of the neighboring ridge. The morning had also cleared a little by the time I got there which helped as well. I sat at this vista for quite a while to admire the view and catch my breath for the descent.
From there, Musser Gap took me all the way back down to the intersection with Frog Hollow and then my car. On the way I enjoyed the sunshine, and stopped to admire some of the late-blooming wildflowers. Soon the parking lot came into view, and after all those miles on a humid day I was glad to see it! This hike was somewhat difficult, but I will definitely do it again. Goals for next time: pick a clearer day (preferably a cooler one too), and try to visit when the leaves turn. I didn’t see another soul on my whole hike, but I’m sure this hike with its two vistas will be very popular in the fall. Until then, I’ll find other destinations to keep me busy!