As the flowers start to bloom and the green returns to the trees, adventure is around every corner. From waterfalls and lakes, to streams and epic views, the trails around Pennsylvania have everything you could want for a hike or ride. In State College, PA you’ll find everything you need for outdoor fun—the best mountain bike trails, amazing waterfall hikes, epic vistas from rocky summits, and a great spot to buy all the gear you need for each.
The Appalachian Outdoors store in State College is the best place to get advice on where to get out and to gear up for your upcoming adventures. The store is run by experts and staffed by knowledgeable locals, many of whom can talk to you firsthand about the best outdoor activities in the area. You are sure to walk out hooked up with the best gear and the best pack to carry it in, like the Osprey Aether pack, which one employee said she thinks is quickly becoming one of the standards of the industry. The comfortable, breathable backing to the Aether is so awesome and comfortable that the staff can’t help but recommend it.
Appalachian Outdoors can also recommend great destinations for all levels of outdoor adventurers, as well as let you know about amazing events in the region. Here are a handful of ideas to get you started.
Not far from Appalachian Outdoors sits the ever-popular and always beautiful Mount Nittany. A jaunt to its peak is an ideal way to kickstart your spring. While nearly everyone knows about the popular routes up to the top, the best way to get your legs active and your sense of adventure flowing is the James Cleveland Trail.
Weaving through gorgeous forests and over wooden bridges, the often-rocky path makes you feel like you are a Hobbit exploring outside of the Shire. The James Cleveland Trail gives you glorious views, solitude in nature, and a chance to see the grave marker and wreckage from a 1931 plane crash. From the grave marker and wreckage, continue along the trail and make a short scramble up the scree field for an unrivaled view of the beautiful Keystone State.
Another easy hike is the classic Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen, which passes by 22 stunning waterfalls in 3.2 miles.
For those who are looking for more of a challenge than Mount Nittany, there is one trail in Pennsylvania that is sure to burn your quads and help get you in shape for an incredible year of adventure. Located an hour south from downtown State College on Highway 22, Jacks Mountain is best known for the Thousand Steps Trail.
The trail is known for being steep, and the elevation gain is unlike anything else in the state. If you love hikes that will leave you tired but rewarded with epic views and bragging rights, this is exactly what you are looking for. Known for its fossils, petrified wood, and beautiful views, the mountains 1,715-foot elevation gain is worth each of the 1,043 steps on the trail. The steps were created in 1936 to help miners get to the mines each and every day, which is something to remember as you stop to catch your breath. The view from the top is stunning, and if you are able, catch it at dawn or dusk as the hills bask in the subtle light.
For those not already in the know, the biking options in central Pennsylvania are also amazing. If you would rather see the landscape on two wheels instead of two legs, numerous mountain biking trails sit just outside of State College. Once you have picked up your Osprey Raptor pack and new hydration system from Appalachian Outdoors, hop on your bike and be ready for a full day of riding.
Located a few miles from campus, there are numerous trails that are perfect for building up your stamina before heading out into the wilds of Pennsylvania for more intense biking. These trails are ideal for longer evenings or a quick weekend trek right out your back door. The best option for rocky and technical biking is Rothrock State Forest, which has 36 miles of trails and is well-loved by those dedicated to finding the perfect routes with all degrees of terrain.
Helena Kotala, an expert on all things mountain biking in Pennsylvania can’t speak highly enough of Rothrock State Forest. She described it as 50+ miles of technical, rocky singletrack in a forested landscape with some killer views. The scenery ranges from rhododendron-filled valleys to ridgetop vistas.
She also explained that there are several different areas of the State Forest known to mountain bikers. Coopers Gap is farther from town but is probably the most diverse section of the State Forest for biking. “It offers a lot of different loop options for varied abilities,” she said.
Tussey Ridge is famous for a ridgetop trail that goes through the site of a forest fire that occurred a little over 10 years ago. The fire cleared the trees creating an alpine-like landscape of small shrubs. Shingletown borders the Tussey Mountain area and is known for its network of extremely rocky trails. This area is also very popular with hikers as it’s the closest section of Rothrock to State College. “It’s usually pretty busy there on weekends and nice days.”
An hour south of State College, the Allegrippis Trails are another amazing and popular mountain biking destination also recommended by Helena. Located along Raystown Lake, the 33 miles of trails are ideal for bikers of all levels, and offer endless routes to explore the largest lake in the state. Arranged as short, stacked loop tails, bikers are able to create their own adventure through the rocky forest tracks along the lake shore.
The Allegrippis are also the location of Dirt Rag’s Dirt Fest, which is the second largest mountain-biking festival in the country. With music, beer, races, and endless cycling to be had, this event at the end of May is a can’t-miss biking extravaganza.