July 7, 2018

PA: Rothrock SF: Tussey Mtn. & Cooper's Gap

My eyes were playing tricks on me. It was almost mid-July in eastern Pennsylvania and the forecast for Saturday was sunny, 0% chance of rain with a high of 81º. Pinch me. This was so astounding to me, especially because I had ride plans for Saturday!! Growing up back east the weather always seemed to mess things up when outdoor activities were planned. I had hit the proverbial jackpot. To make matters better, I was heading towards State College, in central PA and it was only going to be 78º up there!!
I had heard & seen many good things about the riding here, time to experience it firsthand.
I had reserved a rental bike, a full suspension Devinci Django, 27.5 and had plans to meet a friend for a local tour of Rothrock State Forest. Unfortunately, she became ill and I was on my own for the ride. No worries. A slick waterproof map from Purple Lizard Maps, the Trailforks app and two hand-drawn routes from the bike shop perveyor at Rothrock Outfitters and I was set for the day. The fella doing the route drawing asked me how much riding I planned to do, my reply: 'What time do you close?' He nodded and got to drawing. I also mentioned that I didn't mind driving to a second trailhead if the trails were worthy, so he provided two routes, but they were separated by a bunch of miles and at least one mountain range.
Rothrock Outfitters in Huntingdon, PA.

Beautiful gravel roads inside Rothrock SF stretched on for miles.
I made my way to the designated starting point and had taken note of the 45 minute drive to get there. It was now near 11am and I had hopes of knocking out both rides laid out for me. The car was showing 68º!!
That's a nice looking rig!!

Right out of the gate I was introduced to the famed PA rock gardens. Rad!!

This bike ate 'em up, kinda wished I was on this bike at Port Jervis.

The rocks did relent. Can you spot the deer? As soon as I rounded the bend, three deer ran across the trail only a few feet in front of me.

Tunnel of trees.

Or is it a black hole of greenery??

This took some serious man power!! This section was easily 3x longer that the pic shows.

Not a soul around either. Perfect.

Rhododendron in bloom.

I was more than happy to stay on the paved section here, of course the pic makes the gravel road practically look flat.

There were a few homes tucked in the woods along the way.

I was gradually climbing towards Tussey Mtn. trail.

The dirt road gave way to singletrack, but the climbing grade never really kicked up.

What is this?!? Cool meeting place, but alas no beer floweth.

The start of the Tussey Mtn. trail. I was promised ridgeline riding and views...

PA ridgeline, different, but very cool!!

Eventually the trees gave way and I could see the neighboring mountains.

It's rare in PA to see very far, more rare to see far without a sign of civilization. I was really enjoying Rothrock SF.

The trail mostly flowed well and was generally downhill.

Plenty of rock areas to keep you alert.

The more I rode it, the more I loved it!!

Rock armored switchback. Nice.

One final downhill back to the car.
I ended up seeing 4 riders total, all on the Tussey Mtn. trail. It was now a little after 1p. I took a short break at the car then loaded up and made my way to the next ride spot.


It took a solid 30 minutes to get to the trailhead. It was a little after 2p when I got rolling on ride #2.
Drawn out route starting at the P in the far left.

This ride would be in the Cooper's Gap area of Rothrock SF.

The moss was camouflaging the trail.

I overshot one faint turnoff, but soon found well defined singletrack.

Now hours into my day, I was still hardly breaking a sweat!! Inconceivable!!

The east coast canopy is so different than our west coast pine forests. Both equally rad!!

A short dirt road connector brought me here. Snack break. I was careful not to sit down in the jungle, didn't need any ticks or poison ivy to take home with me.

For the most part, the Sassafrass trail was a 2 mile land speeder cruise over loam and ferns. Amazing.

Thistle. The east coast's answer to catclaw. I only stumbled through one patch, that was enough.

I could've spent the entire weekend riding these trails.

Perhaps the Transylvania Epic stage race is creeping farther up the 'must ride' list??

Not all of the forest was choked with green.

Deer Tick Trail?? Ominous name.
I began to run out of time. The Deer Tick trail wound around on itself as it gradually climbed. It was generally slow going, but I thought I might be able to get back to the car by my self imposed 4pm cutoff. The minutes kept sliding by and I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere. I came to a 2-track and broke out my map. Hmmm. I was still miles away from the car, I needed to bail off the singletrack and take the forest roads back. Of course they ended up being mostly uphill!!! My cutoff of 4pm came & went, still a mile or two out...dammit. I finally reached the car at 4:10. I figured I had at least a 40 minute drive back to the shop, which closed at 5pm!! Gonna be close.

As soon as I gained cell coverage I called the shop and asked them to keep the door open!! The guy laughed and told me not to worry. I strolled in at 5:02. Full day of riding complete. Such a fun day too. I'm really looking forward to another romp around Rothrock in the coming visits to PA. If you're in the area, check it out.

One of these days I'll have myself an all-mountain trail bike!!


Some scenes from the drive back to Allentown:
Central PA mountains.

Some cycling humor.

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