State College: A Mountain Biking Paradise in Central PA

Ride an IMBA Epic or get lost deep in Rothrock on one of these classic mountain bike rides around State College.

Mountain Biking Moderate, Difficult, Severe

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Shingletown Gap
Shingletown Gap Photo: Brendon Voelker

Description

Central Pennsylvania may be one of the most underrated and misunderstood mountain biking destinations on the entire East Coast. But why? Well, when talking about State College, most mountain bikers either think of the aggressively-rocky trails found on Tussey Mountain and within Shingletown Gap, while others revere the fast and flowy Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake. While both do exist in proximity, the stark contrast is hard to decipher when searching online for trail reviews, descriptions, and suggestions – but we’re here to make it easy for you. This guidebook breaks down six of the best rides in central PA, ranging from State College to Huntingdon, and mostly encompassed in the greater Rothrock State Forest.

Named after an early conservationist, Rothrock State Forest is a go-to area for locals. Explore the Rothrock Epic, aptly named for a 33-mile tour loaded with rocks, ridges, and rhododendron, or break the ride into smaller bite-sized pieces with the classic Tussey Mountain Loop or Shingletown Gap Tour. In particular, Tussey Mountain boasts a rocky ridgeline with stunted new growth trees and shrubs—the result of a wildfire that devastated the area in ’06. Though unfortunate, the trail has since become a local favorite and should top your list if you’re visiting State College. In contrast, nearby Shingletown Gap hosts rocky and sandy singletrack through seas of ferns, plus the added bonus of views from Bald Knob Ridge.

If you’re looking for a wet-weather and shuttle-friendly ride, then pedal your way up the gravel to Old Laurel Run. Though short, the steep, rocky trail is one of Rothrock’s most notorious downhills and the perfect trail to session over and over. Squeeze in a quick ride before or after work, and don’t hesitate to hook a left at the bottom of the trail and head back up for another round! Of course, the end of the ride follows the Three Bridges Trail to Lonberger, two beautiful sections of singletrack that offer access to many other popular rides in the area. Just remember to open your suspension before you begin the rowdy descent down.

If flow trail is more your style, then grab your bike and head deeper into the forest to Coopers Gap. Following part of another IMBA Epic Route, you’ll enjoy short and punchy climbs, fast and narrow singletrack, and mellow terrain that’ll have you begging for more by the end. There is also no wrong answer when it comes to bike choice on Coopers – hardtail, full suspension, fat bike, or even a single speed — can all have their share of fun riding these trails. Just remember to download an offline map or upload the GPS to your preferred device before you visit since the trails can be difficult to navigate and cell reception is limited.

Rounding out this list are the iconic Allegrippis Trails on Raystown Lake. Designed by mountain bikers and constructed by IMBA, a series of stacked loops tour the hillsides along the lake, allowing you to ride as little – or as much – as you’d like in a day. In fact, one source notes how one "could come back time after time and have the opportunity to use a new route each time." The flowy singletrack offers few rocks features, just be sure to keep an eye out for trees that may be closer to the trail than you’d expect. This ride also begins at the Seven Points Campground, the site of the infamous Dirt Rag Dirt Fest, held annually until its final year in 2019.

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