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The Hiking Trails and Fall Foliage Vistas at PA’s Rothrock State Forest
Named in homage to Pennsylvania’s “Father of Forestry,” Joseph T. Rothrock, the Rothrock State Forest comprises a near-100,000 acre tract of ridges, forest, and marsh in Huntingdon, Centre, and Mifflin Counties. As clear-cutting rapidly deforested the state, once covered in 95% forest, Rothrock battled desperately to purchase land from lumber companies for use in conservation. It’s through the efforts of Rothrock that Pennsylvania’s second-growth forests are now flourishing.
The beauty of Pennsylvania’s forests are breathtaking enough in the summer, when the expanse of verdant green stretches up and over the rolling hills and mountains, pausing only momentarily for the blue of rivers and lakes. But it’s in the fall that the forests, ironically, seem to come alive. In brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow, Penn’s Woods become fields of living fire until they are swallowed by the hills on the horizon. The Little Juniata River offers the splash of blue to complement the warm fall colors as well as provide an excellent trout fishing location.
Rothrock holds over 30 miles of hiking trails, providing its visitors with numerous opportunities to appreciate and discover Pennsylvania’s natural beauty and the woodlands that have made the state famous. The Pennsylvania Mid State Trail runs 326 miles from the Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland all the way north to the Finger Lakes Trail in New York. It crosses Rothrock State Forest for 42 miles. Take this trail and climb to the top of Tussey Mountain for astounding views of the fall foliage. The Tussey Mountain Trail is a 6.2 mile loop trail of moderate difficulty known for its wildflowers and ridges covered in blueberries. In October, Tussey Mountain also hosts the legendary Mountainback, an ultramarathon 50 miles long on unpaved course through Rothrock. The Mountainback ultramarathon is held on October 8th, when peak fall foliage has just begun. Visit the event’s website for more information, FAQ, and winners from past years. Tussey Mountain also has paddleboats available exclusively for picnickers so take advantage of the special treatment and catch sight of the spectacular views from the water of the catch-and-release fishing pond.
Within the steep valleys of Rothrock State Forest, you will also find a National Natural Landmark, Bear Meadows Natural Area. It is one of seven Natural Areas in Pennsylvania with National Natural Landmark recognition. The ten thousand year old bog, a 320 acre boreal bog within the Natural Area’s 890 acres total, is well-known among scientists for its heavy pollen and spore accumulation which has allowed researchers to track and predict climate change. It’s also helped educate the students of nearby State College for generations, providing them with the rare chance to trace the area’s botanical history, starting with the retreat of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago. It takes centuries to from a bog, with moss growing so thick it can be walked upon, and Bear Meadows (frequented by black bears) is an otherworldly, alien zone complete with the carnivorous sundew. A loop trail 3.5 miles long encircles the bog.
To view more information about Rothrock State Forest, as well as its namesake’s owner, the first forestry commissioner, visit the state’s website And, of course, your Pennsylvania fall foliage adventure wouldn’t be the same without a quality bed and breakfast stay. Plan your visit today.
Rothrock District Office
181 Rothrock Lane
Huntingdon, PA 16652