Bear Meadows-Indian Wells Loop

Description: The Rothrock State Forest is named for the late Dr. Joseph Rothrock, a native of Mifflin County, who is recognized as the Father of Forestry in Pennsylvania.  Through his guidance the state purchased thousands of acres of barren forest to protect them from future abuse. These lands eventually became Bald Eagle and Rothrock State Forests. What exists today was made possible by men and women like him. Located just south of State College the forest has become a retreat for students and teachers as well as local residents and distant adventurers like us. It supports a well maintained trail system as well as a portion of the Mid State Trail (MST) which runs from Greenridge SF, MD in the south to the New York Border above the PA Grand Canyon. 

Described here is a strenuous 13.3 mile day hike or overnight backpack trip. It features the ever popular Bear meadows, the Tom Thwaites Monument, Blueberries in season and vista after vista as you hike along the ridge of Greenlee Mt. It can be added to other hikes in the region that will be posted on this site for more mileage. Due to the steep hills and, in some areas rocky terrain, high top leather boots are recommended.

Google Maps Custom Driving Directions

The hike starts at the kiosk at the Bear meadows parking area on the road of the same name.

The Mid Sate Trail is part of the Great Eastern Trail (GET).






Printable/Downloadable Map

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GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users



Trail Notes: From the kiosk take the yellow blazed Bear meadows Trail to the left. Enjoy the views of the meadows as you will soon be surrounded by dense Rhododendron thickets and Hemlock trees. After a while more hardwoods will become mixed in with the forest. At 1.07 miles pass a junction with the Gettis Trail on the left. The two trails run concurrently until the Gettis trail leaves again on the left in another 0.25 miles. Cross a stream and enter a grassy area with a fire ring. (Note: Camping is not allowed in any Natural Area in PA.) The Sand Spring Path goes off to the left. Bear right to continue. In another 1.24 miles the trail ends on North (Bear) Meadows Road. Turn right. In 0.39 miles pass the Lonberger trailhead on the left. Turn onto it and begin a long gradual descent towards Galbraith Gap. In 0.75 miles cross the intersection with the Kettle trail. Shortly thereafter continue straight on an old woods road that comes in from the right. At 2.16 Miles from joining the woods road turn left onto the Spruce Gap trail but only for a few steps as you then turn right onto the Three Bridges Trail. Pass a small campsite and a piped spring before reaching Laurel Run Road. Immediately turn left onto the blue blazed Old Laurel Run Trail (The sign was missing when we were there but the trail was obvious.) Climb the rocky grade for 0.92 miles to Fire Tower Road. Turn left onto it and follow it for 0.54 miles to the tower and its restored cabin. This is a good break spot.


After resting turn right onto the orange blazed MST which is adjacent to the tower. If it is July and you like Blueberries the hiking will be slow along this stretch. If you also like vistas it will be even slower. In 0.37 miles pass the Tom Thwaites Monument on the right and the end of the Kettle Trail on the left. The next 2.20 miles feature all the Blueberries and Huckleberries you can eat, very rocky terrain and wonderful vista after vista, the final and best being the Indian Wells vista. You will pass a trail or two but stay on the MST. Shortly after Indian Wells arrive at an old charcoal flat that has been converted to a campsite. Continue on the MST for 0.67 miles as it descends passing two more smaller flats and a side trail to another piped spring. These are the last good potential camping spots. Cross North Bear Meadows Road and continue a steep descent on the MST. In 0.28 miles the MST makes a 90 degree right turn. Stay straight on the Gettis Trail that you passed earlier in the hike. In 0.37 miles find yourself on familiar ground as you arrive at the Bear Meadows Trail. Turn right and follow it back to your vehicle.

Critique This Outing



Name: Loic & Pascale                                                                                                            Hike: Bear Meadows-Indian Wells Loop
Date: 01/15/2012                                                                                                                 Rating: 5

Critique: Great Hike. We did it in the middle of a cool winter. Just enough snow to be a winter hike without having to use our snowshoes and - considering the rocks on the ridge - that was better without those anyway.

We did it the other way: From the parking to Keiths Spring, then we climbed and followed a very scenic ridge (Indian Wells vista is breathtaking and was also perfect for lunch).
Considering the snow, the road conditions and the very early sundown, we shortened the hike, and came back using Kettle trail (very steep and with the snow it was better to go downhill).
Leaving at 10.30, we reached the top of the ridge around noon and were back to the car at 4.30 pm.
That way, it was a perfect moderate hike for a perfect sunny (but short) winter day. Thanks for your indispensable website.


Name: Tom O'Donnell                                                                                                           Hike: Bear Meadows-Indian Wells Loop
Date: 3/26/11                                                                                                                        Rating: 4

Critique: I hiked the loop with Jason D. and Kyla (The Dog) on 3/26/11. We had planned for an overnight backpack and expected night time lows in the mid-teens with some snow possible. Arrived at the Bear Meadows trailhead around 0900 in bright sun, but temp. in the 20's. Found the trail in good condition and well marked. Rocky and wet in spots. Rhododendrons had a light coating of ice. Good spring as marked on the map. Had lunch at the first campsite indicated on the map, with it's nice piped spring. Other than the spring close by this is not what I would call a great campsite. Might change my opinion with vegetation in leaf.
Hit the trips one big uphill. Looks like old RR grade, very rocky and covered with a light coating of ice/snow for some slippery spots. Reached the ridge line to find all the vegetation covered with a coating of crystal-clear ice. Weather continued sunny, but still cold. As a result we did not linger at any of the fine vistas, as we would have had the weather been milder. Trail on the ridge line is very rocky, but level. Saw KTA trail crew returning to their vehicles after some maintenance on this section. We reached the campsites and Keith Spring (which we did not investigate) early in the afternoon. We didn't relish the prospect of crashing around in the ice covered vegetation looking for firewood so we resolved to press on back to the truck and call it a day.
Finished the loop in about eight hours.I'd hike the trail again, and would like to see it in June with the laurel and rhododendron in bloom. The campsites near Keith Spring are nice if you don't require a fire since gathering wood would take some effort.


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