Public Lands Rides: Rugged Trails & Great Views in Trough Creek State Park

July 14, 2020By: Helena Kotala
PEC Blog

The goal of the 2020 Pennsylvania Environmental Council Virtual Public Lands Ride is to showcase state parks and forests across the greater central region of the state. Throughout the month of September, cyclists are encouraged to ride as many of the suggested routes as possible and share their experiences on social media for a chance to win swag from one of our partners. You can find more details about this virtual event here.  


Trough Creek State Park/Raystown Lake

 
Overview
This route is shorter in distance than some of the others in our Public Lands Ride lineup, but it packs a lot of punch into its 45 miles with steep climbs, lake views and a lot of sections that can hardly be called roads. You’ll definitely want your wider tires and low gears for this ride. The route features a disjointed southern section of Rothrock State Forest that a lot of people don’t realize exists, and also passes through Army Corps property along the edge of Raystown Lake. A portion of this ride also takes riders through rural southern Huntingdon county on local roads to connect back into the forest. It is a true mix of surfaces and experiences! 

Crossing over Great Trough Creek from the picnic area at the beginning of the ride.

Route Description
The ride begins from Picnic Area 5, near the end of Trough Creek Drive and has ample parking. Just a couple hundred feet down the paved road is the “Ice Mine,” which is worth a quick side trip either at the beginning or end of the ride. 

The first climb of the route on Old Forge Rd.

From the parking lot, head across a wooden foot bridge over Trough Creek and begin the first climb up Old Forge Rd. Towards the top, beautiful rock outcroppings line the gated road and on your left, you’ll see some of the hiking trails that transect the Trough Creek Gorge on the western side of the creek. At the end of Old Forge Rd. and the top of the climb, turn right on the paved Little Valley Rd., which will take you southward to intersect with Rt. 994 for a short, windy descent towards Raystown Lake. Just before a bridge over the lake, you’ll make a left at the entrance to Lake Raystown Resort and pass the marina and conference center. Turn left at the guard shack and follow signs for the campground. Just before the campground entrance, you’ll stay left again and begin climbing once more before passing through a gate and entering the Terrace Mountain Trail (TMT). 

The Terrace Mountain Trail as it climbs up the ridge away from the lake.

The TMT is a 30-mile long path that runs the length of Raystown Lake and ranges from a gravel road to rugged singletrack at different sections. The section from the Resort southward is all readily passable on any gravel bike, though it is slightly more rugged than a traditional gravel road. The trail undulates from near lake level to partway up Terrace Mountain several times on this 5-mile section, and one of the climbs is particularly brutal. Shift down and just keep spinning, and it will be rewarded with a fun descent and views of the lake. 

Hard effort is rewarded with a view on Bunn Mountain Rd.

At the end of the TMT, a paved climb and then descent will bring you to Rt. 913, which you’ll climb gradually for just under a mile before making a left on Little Valley Rd. The shoulder on this stretch isn’t the best, so use caution. Little Valley Rd. trends uphill for a while but it provides plenty of breaks before the real climb begins on Bunn Mountain Rd. There’s no sugar coating it — Bunn Mountain is a beast. It’s steep and relentless, especially for the last half mile. It turns from paved to gravel and back to paved throughout its length, and it is paved for most of the steepest section. After cresting the top, you will be rewarded with a great view of layers of mountains looking northeast, mountains you’ll soon be in. 

At the bottom of Bunn Mountain, after another very short stretch on Rt. 994, you’ll make a left in the “town” of Newburg on Paradise Rd. It quickly turns to gravel the setting becomes more and more forested. You’ll pass back into Rothrock State Forest and descend back into Trough Creek State Park. 

Re-entering the state forest on Paradise Rd.

After a sharp right turn and crossing over Trough Creek once again, you’ll see Paradise Furnace and remnants of a CCC camp that was at this site. Take a moment to read the interpretive signage and learn about the history of the area before continuing on Trough Creek Drive headed southeast, staying right at two different forks in the road. Trough Creek Drive climbs gradually along the river and is lined with small rock outcroppings. 

Old Elias Rd. is hardly a road at all.

After about three and a half miles, you’ll turn left onto Old Elias Rd., which is actually a grassy snowmobile trail. You’ll follow a series of such trails gradually up the ridge, some of which have funny names like Over There and Down Under. Though the surface offers a bit more of a challenge, this is the easiest way to get to the top terrain-wise. Some sections are very grassy and some have a couple rocks here and there, but it’s generally not too rough. Just expect that it’ll be a little slower going than smooth roads.

Horse Knob Fire Trail is fern-lined for much of its length.

At the end of Over There Trail, you’ll pop out on John Bum Rd. and climb just a little more. At the intersection with Fink Rd, the route follows another off-road section known as Horse Knob Fire Trail, which is slightly more technical than the snowmobile trails, though very doable on a gravel bike. If this sounds good to you, make a right on Fink Rd., go through the gate, and then look for the Horse Knob Fire Trail entrance on the left. The habitat on top of Horse Knob is favorable for upland birds such as grouse and turkeys, which you’re likely to see.

The end of Over There Trail on John Bum Rd.

If you’ve had enough of the chunk you can always stay straight on John Bum Rd. and intersect the route again to descend all the way to Tar Kiln Rd. At the bottom, you’ll pass Paradise Furnace once again and follow Trough Creek Drive in the opposite direction back towards the main day use area of the park. A winding, flat spin along the creek finishes up the ride. 

In The Area
Trough Creek State Park also features hiking trails and several natural and man-made attractions such as a suspension bridge, Copperas Rock and Balanced Rock, a giant boulder that appears to be balanced on a cliff ledge, the result of millenia of erosion. 

Lake shore views on the Terrace Mountain Trail.

The Park borders Raystown Lake, an 8,300-acre lake open for all types of boating and fishing. While there isn’t a launch area at Trough Creek, Tatman Run is just down the road and offers a spot to launch motorized and non-motorized craft as well as a beach.  

The Allegrippis Trails are on the other side of the lake and about a half hour drive from Trough Creek. The system features about 35 miles of swoopy singletrack that is fun for all levels of rider, as well as a mountain bike skills park at the Seven Points Recreation Area. 

The nearest town to Trough Creek is Saxton, which has all the essentials, but for more food and libation options you may want to head into Huntingdon, which is about a half hour to the north. Check out Boxer’s Cafe for great food (including plenty of vegetarian and vegan options) and interesting craft brews. 

Creekside rolling on Trough Creek Drive.

Where to Stay
Trough Creek State Park has a campground with 29 sites for both tent and RV camping. The campground has electric hook-ups and a rustic restroom with no showers. You can also rent the Trough Creek Lodge via the DCNR reservation system, and there are a plethora of other campgrounds and vacation houses in the area available for rent due to its proximity to Raystown Lake.

 

The Route

Get the map! 
For alternate route options and additional exploring in the area, grab the Purple Lizard Maps Raystown map. It includes the greater Raystown Lake area including the Allegrippis Trails. 

Support the Parks
While there is no registration fee to go ride, we do encourage donations to the Friends of Trough Creek and Warriors Path State Parks.

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