Trail Review: Mid-State Trail

thThe Mid-State Trail (MST) is the longest trail in PA. It is a linear trail stretching from the Maryland border near Rocky Gap State Park north to Blackwell and the Pine Creek Gorge. There are plans to extend the trail north into New York and connect it to the Finger Lakes Trail.

From the MD border, the trail follows long, very rocky ridges with countless exceptional vistas and rock outcrops. The terrain is very rugged and water is scarce. The MST drops passes small towns like everett and bedford. At williamsburg it picks up the lower trail, a very popular rail-trail along the scenic frankstown branch of the juniata river. Between the MD border and the village of water street is the southern extension of the MST. in the late 1990s the trail was extended south from water street to become the state's longest trail. Traditionally, backpackers begin at water street and head north.

The MST proceeds north, passing through beautiful little juniata water gap, known for its scenery and excellent trout fishing. The trail ascends the ridge again with excellent vistas (one of my favorite sections of the trail). The MST follows the ridge all the way to PA 26 near state college with many more vistas.

The trail enters the seven mountains region with more vistas, isolation and great scenery, including some excellent natural areas, such as bear meadows (bog) and detweiler run (old growth and rhododendron thickets). The trail passes through small penn roosevelt state park and again ascends with more vistas. The MST crosses underneath US 322, continuing along the ridge with more views. Poe Paddy State Park is reached along scenic penns creek and its winding gorge, more great trout fishing. The trail crosses the creek and goes thorugh an old RR tunnel, follows a RR grade and again ascends. R.B. Winter State Park is reached and the trail continues north and passes under I-80 along scenic streams, vistas, isolation and great scenery.

After another ascent, the MST reaches Ravensburg State Park. Another ascent with more vistas and the trail decends to and crosses the West Branch Susquehanna River and passes the Woolrich Outlet Store.

The trail now enters the awesome pine creek gorge region. At 50 miles in length and 1400 feet deep, it is the largest and among the deepest canyon/gorge systems in the eastern US. The trail features very steep climbs, incredible vistas of the gorge, scenic mountain streams with cascades. The ascent of Houselander Mtn. is especially difficult. The trail continues north, passing Bark Cabin Natural Are with old growth and finally reaches Blackwell after climbing Gillespie point with more vistas. Cross Pine Creek and ascend the gorge, passing bohen run falls and joining the West Rim Trail, where the MST ends.

It is tough to describe a trail of this length. It is rocky, rugged, difficult, has countless vistas, many waterfalls and cascades, steep climbs, isolation, wildlife, great camping spots and passes varied habitats. The MST qualifies as one of the premier trails in the Eastern US.

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