After being cooped up for the last several months, I'm ready to get out of the house and start spending more time outdoors! I know my dogs are going stir crazy as they experience cabin fever too. Winters are nice for spending lazy days curled up on the couch with a good book, but I can only take that for so long before I start getting antsy and long to stretch my legs and move my body. If you're wondering where are some great local places to hike with your pups, you've come to the right place! Below are a few of my favorites as well as a couple new ones I've yet to explore.
If you live in Happy Valley, hiking Mt. Nittany is a must! Located in Lemont, the trailhead is easily accessible by car or bus if you don't have transportation. Hike times vary depending on which trail you take, but if you just want to hike to the top and spend some time overlooking the valley, you'll only need about 2 hours. If you choose to do the whole loop, then plan 4 - 5 hours to see the whole mountain. Dogs are welcome as well, but must be leashed. Spring is a wonderful time to go when the azaleas, mountain laurels, pink lady slipper orchids and other foliage are in bloom!
Shingletown gap is popular among the locals and you'll find lots of dogs with their people hiking here, especially in the summer months. Located off of Route 45 in the town of Shingletown, there is plenty of parking at the end of Mountain Road. Hiking the relatively flat terrain will take you about 1 1/2 hours on this 2.3 mile loop. While dogs are allowed, they are required to be on a leash. One thing I love about this area is the cool air coming from the creek, which feels especially good on a hot and muggy summer day.
I've been on a small part of the Bellefonte Centre Rail Trail but only recently learned that this trail is a part of the master plan for the arboretum at Penn State. To access it, head over to College Heights and park at Sunset Park off of McKee St. Walk down the paved bike path and turn right to get on the trail. Currently it's only 1.3 miles long, but is proposed to become 5 miles. Dogs are allowed as long as they are leashed. If you're up for stopping at the Arboretum, I highly recommend it, though dogs are not allowed on the grounds.
Musser Gap is a fairly new trail and also one that I've explored just a little. Part of the Rothrock State Forest, access to the trailhead is off of PA 45 west near Pine Grove Mills. A sign on the road indicates where you can park your car and begin the hike. With a slight ascent at the beginning, this 6 mile loop will take about 3 1/2 hours to hike. It eventually connects with the Mid State Trail on top of Tussey Mountain.
Bear Meadows located in Boalsburg is also a part of Rothrock State Forest. It's a beautiful 320 acre bog surrounded on all sides by mountains. A gentle, shady 3.5 mile hike will take all of 2 hours to complete. It's perfect to visit during all seasons with plenty of mountain laurel and rhododendron. Access is off of Bear Meadow Road, just past Tussey Mountain Ski area. You might want to bring waterproof shoes or wear something you don't mind getting wet or muddy as you'll be walking through small streams and swampy areas. And definitely bring your dogs!
And finally, perhaps, is my favorite, Black Moshannon State Park. While it's a bit of a drive, I think it's worth it! With plenty to do and explore, you can make this an afternoon adventure or stay for a week or weekend. Hiking trials range from less than a mile to 8 miles, so there's something for every fitness level. No matter which one you pick, there's lots to see and explore including the 250 acre Black Moshannon Lake that flows through a bog. Summers can be more crowded, but don't shy away from visiting anytime of the year. Dogs are allowed in most of the park, but must always be on a leash. Located near Philipsburg, it'll take just about 40 minutes to get there.