10 Must-Do Trail Runs near State College, PA

Enjoy epic mountaintop views, dark and quiet streams, or explore unique wetlands with one of these must-do trail runs near State College, PA.

Trail Running Moderate, Difficult

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Bear Meadows Loop
Photo: Nicholas A. Tonelli

Description

Central Pennsylvania is home to some of the best trail running in the Appalachian Mountains, with endless options within an hour's drive of State College. State College has a unique beauty that cannot be understated. Massive forests, game preserves, and parks dot the map, and there’s no shortage of classic trail runs or backcountry adventures for trail runners to explore. Stunning bogs and wetlands hide deep in the mountains, fire lookout towers offer a glimpse into the past, and the rocky singletrack will test your footing. Whether you’re looking for a classic 5-miler near town or an epic all-day adventure like the Allegheny Front Trail, these are 10 of the best runs in central PA.

Named after one of the area’s early conservationist, there is no better place to start than the Tussey Mountain Loop. Ask any local what their favorite run is, and you’ll find few that will disagree. Devastated by a wildfire in 2006, the long ridgeline offers epic views along the way, and the rocky singletrack will give you a hefty serving of the infamous Pennsylvania rocks. Nearby, Bald Knob Ridge is an excellent tour of the Shingletown Gap trails, or head further into the forest and explore other classics like Bear Meadows or Detweiler Run to have the trail to yourself. There are no wrong choices—just remember to download an offline map before you head out since reception is very limited in the forest.

If you’re near town and looking to fill in an hour or two of your day with some dirt therapy, the Mount Nittany Blue Loop and the Jackson Loop are both just a short drive from Penn State. Towering over town from the east, Mount Nittany offers six defined overlooks packed into a 5-mile run open to foot traffic only, meaning you won’t encounter any bikes, equestrians, or dirt bikes along the way. Similarly, the Jackson Trail Loop offers views of town from a convenient access point and overlook on PA-26. Utilizing part of the Mid-State Trail, you could make the run as long as you’d like by following the MST further down the ridgeline. The overlook is also a great place to enjoy the sunset, no matter the time of year.

About 30 minutes northwest of town, Black Moshannon State Park is centered around a reconstituted bog and dam impounded in the 1930s. Once a string of beaver dams dating back to the 1700s, rare wildflowers and wildlife thrive in the unique habitat, while massive spruce, pine, and hemlock grow in dense stands throughout the park. The Black “Mo” Loop is a great way to tour the lake, though you will likely get your feet muddy along the way. If you’re looking for an even longer adventure, the Allegheny Front Trail is a 40+ mile loop running along the perimeter of the park. Some of the fastest times recorded on the loop were under 8 hours as of 2021.

Other runs to make this list include the beautiful Stone Valley Vista Loop in Greenwood Furnace State Park and the iconic Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake. While these are a bit further from town than the rest of the runs to make this list, Stone Valley Vista is one of the more notable overlooks along the 80+ mile Standing Stone Trail, a newer long trail that runs run along a series of ridgelines through the center of the state. If you’re looking for a break from the Pennsylvania rocks, then make your way down to Raystown Lake for a beautiful 13-mile run along groomed singletrack with plenty of signage. A series of stacked loops, the Allegrippis Trails are a go-to area for anyone in the Huntingdon area, and there are countless options to change things up if you were to come back again.

Sources: White Dot Adventures | Running Tours & Vacations

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