Rothrock Epic

Rocks, ridges and rhododendrons -- this route is classic central Pennsylvania.

Mountain Biking Severe

Distance
53 km
Ascent
1.4 km
Descent
1.4 km
Low Point
399 m
High Point
732 m
Gradient
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Rothrock Epic Map

Description

This 30+ mile route winds through some of the more popular areas of Rothrock State Forest and showcases classic central Pennsylvania riding, from ridgetop rocks to rhododendron-lined streams. About a third of this route is on gravel roads or doubletrack, including most of the major climbs. But that uphill gravel grinding is not without the reward of vistas that overlook the expanse of rolling, tree-covered mountains that is the 97,000-acre Rothrock State Forest.

The beginning of this ride winds through Shingletown Gap, known to be one of the rockier areas of the forest, boasting gardens of irregular, pointy tombstones just waiting to stop your front wheel in its tracks and toss you over the bars if you aren’t paying attention. But those who love technical riding will delight in the many puzzles that these first few miles of trail offer, especially Bald Knob Ridge Trail.

The next 10 miles of the route alternate between the long climbs on gravel and chunky doubletrack and fast singletrack descents on New Laurel Run and Croyle Run Trails.

At mile 19, Tussey Mountain Trail offers challenging ridgetop rock gardens and passes through a section of forest that has not fully rejuvenated after a 2006 wildfire, which has created a landscape reminiscent of the alpine rather than lush Pennsylvania woods. This trail is a local favorite and one of the most popular in Rothrock State Forest.

You’ll then drop down the eastern side of the ridge in a fast descent that ends with a section of smooth, machine-built berms. Keep staying left at each intersection for the most direct route to the road and the most uninterrupted downhill.

The last road climb of the day up Thickhead Mountain Road will drop you off at John Wert Path, locally infamous for rock jumbles with no clear line. Cleaning this trail is a feat, so get the mop ready. Once you pop out on the road at Bear Meadows, it’s mostly downhill on Lonberger Path all the way back to the car, after you get through a few tricky rocky sections at the top, that is.

If you’re looking for some refreshment after the ride, check out Happy Valley Brewing Company, located just 7 minutes from the trailhead and home to craft beer brewed by a fellow mountain biker and a menu of delicious food. For mechanicals, spare parts or bike shop socializing, check out Freeze Thaw Cycles in downtown State College (closed Sunday and Monday).

Difficulty

Severe

Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Technical
  • Road sections
  • Roots
  • Rock Gardens

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area