|The Mid State Trail System (MST) is Pennsylvania’s longest hiking and backpacking trail, traveling 261 miles, and rising, through the Seven Mountains and Pennsylvania Wilds Regions. The system also features several lengthy side trails. The main route of the Mid State Trail is marked by 5-by-15-centimeter rectangular orange blazes. Side trails are marked with blue blazes.
Monument dedicating the Mid State Trail to Dr. Thomas Thwaites.
he original section of the trail, heading northeast from Alexandria on US 22, was built beginning in 1969 by the Penn State Outing Club and other groups. The Mid State Trail was the first major hiking trail in America to be laid out and measured with the metric system. The MST guidebook and all its maps are described with metric measurements.
The southern end of the MST now connects with Maryland’s Green Ridge Trail at the Mason-Dixon line, providing a connection to the C&O Canal Towpath trail and the Great Allegheny Passage. At the time of this writing, the official northern end of theMST is at theWest Rim Trail in Pine Creek Gorge, Tioga County. A northern extension to the New York state line is under construction, however, and will connect the MST to New York’s Finger Lakes Trail, thus creating a continuous three-state backpacking route. The northern extension will traverse Tioga-Hammond Lakes, Hills Creek State Park, and State Game Land 37.
The MST is almost entirely on public land and passes through one roadside rest, two scout camps, four state wild areas, four state forest picnic areas, five state forests, eight state natural areas, and nine state parks. Other points of interest are Stone Valley Recreation Area in Centre County and theWoolrich Factory Outlet Store in Clinton County. A portion of the route in Blair County currently follows the Lower Rail-Trail, but a relocation has been planned through State Game Land 118. From the Little Juniata River to Centre County, the MST consists largely of rocky ridgetop trail that makes for a rugged and demanding hike, with many outstanding vistas. Beyond Centre County, the MST follows many old trails and road or railroad grades, making for easier hiking, but with less frequent views and greater possibility of incursions by horses, bikes, and allterrain vehicles. The trail also crosses several major rivers, usually via road or railroad bridges, including the Raystown Branch of the Juniata at Everett, the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata at Alfarata, the Little Juniata at Barree, the West Branch of the Susquehanna at McElhattan, and Pine Creek at Ramsey.
The rocky ridges and thick forests provide an illusion of remoteness and solitude that is surprising for the second most industrialized state in the nation. The MST is rarely more than 1.25 miles (two kilometers) from the nearest road, however. The level of usage on the MST is still low, and if you hike alone, you may meet more bears than people. The MST also intersects more than seventy-five side trails, over thirty of which are blue-blazed. One notable side trail is Greenwood Spur in Centre and Huntington Counties, which connects to the Standing Stone Trail, which leads south to the Tuscarora Trail, which in turn ultimately leads to the Appalachian Trail.
State park campgrounds along the Mid State Trail are available for a fee at Greenwood Furnace, Penn Roosevelt, Poe Valley, Poe Paddy, Reeds Gap, R. B. Winter, Little Pine, and Hills Creek State Parks. Primitive camping is available in many areas along the trail, and state forest camping rules apply. Camping is not permitted in any state game lands, state forest natural areas, or along Penns Creek between Poe Paddy and Cherry Run. Camping permits are not required for one-night stays by backpackers on state forest lands, except in Pine Creek Gorge. If you wish to camp more than one night at the same location, contact the relevant state forest office to obtain a permit. Public-use maps for the state forests traversed by the MST—Buchanan, Rothrock, Bald Eagle, Tiadaghton, and Tioga—illustrate the trail’s route. You can obtain a full trail guide and map set for the MST from:
Mid State Trail Association, Inc.
PO Box 885
Huntingdon, PA 16652
►Mid State Trail "Home" Page
►DCNR Mid State Trail Information
►PAHikes Trip Reports on the Mid State Trail