Agency Spotlight: Rothrock State Forest
Rothrock State Forest is named for Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock, a native of Mifflin County and the Commonwealth’s first forestry commissioner. He is recognized as the “Father of Forestry” in Pennsylvania. Rothrock State Forest comprises 95,786 acres that spread across the rugged ridges of Huntingdon, Centre and Mifflin counties.
In 1903, the forested area now known as the Rothrock had been virtually stripped bare of trees to provide wood to make charcoal for the iron furnaces located at Greenwood Furnace in Huntingdon County. When two of the Greenwood Furnace hearths closed that year, forestry commissioner Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock was instrumental in helping the Commonwealth purchase approximately 35,000 acres of the company’s land. Other purchases followed until most of the Seven Mountains area became state forest reserves.
In 1933, newly-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the US Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a work program for able-bodied and unemployed males. Approximately 93 resident work camps, each consisting of 174-200 young men, were built on Pennsylvania's state forests. Six of these camps were located in the present day Rothrock State Forest. Today’s Penn Roosevelt State Park was one of these sites employing men of color. State forestry personnel planned and supervised work projects for the CCC which included construction of roads, fire trails, workshops, park and picnic area development, tree planting and fire suppression. All CCC camps in the Rothrock closed by early 1942.
The Rothrock State Forest contains nearly 300 miles of hiking trails.
Mid State Trail: The Mid State Trail (MST), a 326 mile cross-country trail running from the Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland to a spur of the Finger Lakes trail in New York, crosses the Rothrock State Forest for about 42 miles. The MST is a rugged and demanding mountain top trail, and hikers must carefully assess their own ability to cope with the difficulties and possible dangers involved. A detailed trail guide to the MST, including maps, is available for a small fee by contacting the Mid State Trail Association at PO Box 885, Huntingdon, PA 16652.
Standing Stone Trail: In addition to the MST and miles of local hiking trails, the Rothrock includes roughly 16 miles of the 70+ miles long Standing Stone Trail (SST). The SST connects the Tuscarora Trail at Cowans Gap State Park with the Mid State Trail at Greenwood Furnace State Park, hence its original name of the “Link” trail. The SST follows scenic ridgelines in Huntingdon, Mifflin, and Fulton counties. The trail offers rugged hiking, outstanding views, unusual geologic formations and glimpses into the history of Pennsylvania’s collier, timbering, and brick making industries. Maps and trail guides are available from the Standing Stone Trail Club, Inc., c/o Rich Scanlon, 27 Sandy Lane Suite 206, Lewistown, PA 17044-1236 or visiting the SST web site.
Two state forest picnic areas are contained in the Rothrock. The Pine Hill Picnic area is located along the Diamond Valley Road, northwest of Petersburg. Visitors will find two picnic pavilions, picnic tables, grills, and toilet facilities. The Alan Seeger Picnic Area is situated at the site of CCC camp #59, a few miles east of McAlevys Fort. The chimneys in the picnic pavilions are the last remaining remnants of the camp. This picnic area has four pavilions, picnic tables, grills, toilet facilities, proximity to hiking trails, and fishing in Standing Stone Creek.
Motorized camping is permitted at eight designated locations throughout the Rothrock State Forest. These sites provide for off road parking, a campfire, and a picnic table. Camping permits required for these sites are available from the District Office.
Backpackers may camp overnight anywhere except in designated Natural Areas, within 200 feet of a forest road, within 25 feet of a trail, or within 100 feet of a stream or any open water. Permits are required if camping more than one (1) night. Overnight campers are still encouraged to register with the District Office. Further guidelines and ethics can be found in our camping brochures available here.
Hunting for deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels, rabbits, and black bear is a popular use of the forest during designated seasons. Other than a few safety zones around buildings and picnic areas, hunting and trapping are permitted throughout the state forest.
Fishing and Boating
The area in and around the Rothrock State Forest provides multiple and varied fishing opportunities. Various coldwater trout streams flow through the forest, notably the Little Juniata River, Spruce Creek, and Standing Stone Creek. Special fishing regulations may apply, check with the most current Summary Book. The Juniata River and its branches provide an outstanding warm water fishery, particularly smallmouth bass. Raystown Lake is noted for its population of large striped bass.
Boating opportunities abound in the area. From canoeing or kayaking on the Little Juniata or the Raystown Branch, to running your jon-boat on Whipples or Greenwood Lakes, to cruising in your cabin cruiser on Raystown Lake. Raystown Lake is an 8,300-acre flood control reservoir operated by the Corps of Engineers. It provides flood control, fisheries enhancement, water quality, and recreational opportunities. Nestled between the ridges of Huntingdon County, adjacent to the southern portion of Rothrock State Forest, the visitor to this 29,300-acre Federal facility can participate in hiking, fishing, camping, recreational boating, hunting, picnicking, and many other outdoor activities.
Vistas or scenic overlooks are a major attraction for many forest visitors. The best known and most easily accessible in the Rothrock is the Jo Hayes Vista atop Tussey Mountain along PA Route 26 at the Centre/Huntingdon County line. The view overlooks the State College area and several surrounding townships in Centre County.
Other significant sightseeing overlooks for the hiker include several spots atop Tussey Mountain that can be reached only by walking along the Mid-State Trail. The Standing Stone Trail, atop Stone Mountain and Jacks Mountain, also offers several great views for the hiker.
Additional breathtaking views can be found at Indian Overlook above the parking area at Colerain trailhead, and Penn Valley View, near the junction of Detweiler Trail and Thickhead Road.
A trip to the Trough Creek area can also be rewarding to the scenic vista lover. The hike along the crest of Terrace Mountain provides some spectacular views of the Raystown Lake area.
The auto traveler can obtain good views from overlooks along the following roads: Colerain, Pennsylvania Furnace, Bear Gap, Wampler, North Meadows, Kettle, Beidleheimer, Allensville, and Turkey Hill.
Horses may be ridden on most of the state forest roads and trails, except in the Natural Areas, on the Mid State Trail, and on the Standing Stone Trail. Some trails are not suitable for riding due to limited clearance and steep or rocky terrain. Motorized campsite #8, in the Trough Creek area is designed for horse camping and has a series of trails leading from the site. The trail system off of the Broad Mountain Road is also popular for riding.
The Rothrock State Forest has become one of the premier mountain biking areas in the state. The Rothrock contains over 100 miles of trails open to mountain biking in addition to the 190 miles of roads. Trail riding ranges in difficulty from easy to extreme; from gently sloping forest and logging roads to rocky ridge-top trails and steep side-hill climbs. A number of organized rides are held each year on the forest.
There are no trails open to All-Terrain Vehicle riding within the Rothrock State Forest. Please visit the ATV Information web pages for more information on riding opportunities within the State Forest system.
Snowmobiling: The Rothrock offers about 200 miles of roads and trails for snowmobiling. Some trails are better suited for these activities than others. The Colerain, Stone Creek, Alan Seeger, Pine Hill, Galbraith Gap, and Kepler Road trailheads are plowed for winter access by recreational users. Please visit the Snowmobiles Information web page for more information on riding opportunities within the State Forest system.
Cross-country Skiing: All of the trails on the Rothrock are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
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