No wonder they call it Happy Valley. On separate occasions State College has been called one of the least stressful and safest places to live in America. But good times in this Central Pennsylvania borough aren’t just limited to cheering on Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions and enjoying the local music and cool cafes that come with progressive college town culture. Pennsylvania has over two million acres of state forests and parks, and State College is surrounded on all sides. Rugged Appalachian splendor is only minutes away from downtown.
The pinnacle of Pennsylvania fat tire action is the Rothrock Ride, a 30-mile beast that has earned IMBA Epic Ride status. Located just 10 miles south of State College in the 90,000-acre Rothrock State Forest, the lengthy stretch of singletrack and dirt roads climbs 4,500 feet and breathtakingly winds through the oldest and largest grove of hemlocks in the country. Watch out for the tire-grinding “Tombstones” section.
Spin your wheels right out of town and take on the Bald Eagle Mountain Ridge Ride. The 25-mile rolling jaunt has some steep climbs to get your heart pumping, as well as a rewarding ridge ride section that offers amazing Allegheny views.
The Nittany Lions are actually named after Mount Nittany, which looms over the Penn State campus. School alumni once had to rally to save the peak from a private sale to timber interests. A hike on the 2,077-foot mountain, which
affords great views of town, can be as short as two miles or as long as eight. For a weekend backpacking excursion, stop by <a href=”http://www.appoutdoors.com”>Appalachian Outdoors</a> for some maps and gear, and try the east loop of the Allegheny Front Trail, where a 30-mile stint will take you through the hardwoods, rhodo thickets,
and hemlock groves of the Moshannon State Forest.
Waterways for flatwater exploration are abundant near State College. North of town boaters can access a 60-mile stretch of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, which can be sectioned into a day trip or an overnight. <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.tusseymountaionoutfitters.com”>Tussey Mountain Outfitters</a> in nearby Bellefonte will rent kayaks and canoes and provide shuttle service. For a shorter trip closer to town connect Spring Creek with Bald Eagle Creek or join locals on their afternoon workouts at the Sunnyside Paddling Park, which holds a class I-II slalom course.
After a day of action there’s no need to visit a chain restaurant in State College. The town is packed with original fare, including longtime institutions like <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.thetavern.com”>The Tavern</a> and <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.thediner.statecollege.com”>The Diner</a>, where you can grab a famous Stickie cinnamon roll. After you pack back on some calories, grab an award-winning pint at <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.ottospubandbrewery.com”>Otto’s Pub & Brewery</a> or dive into the local music scene at <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.zenospub.com”>Zeno’s</a>. If you have a sweet tooth, visit the Penn State University Creamery, the largest university creamery in the U.S., and also the spot where Ben and Jerry learned how to make ice cream.
If you want to stay in the heart of downtown action, get a room at the <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.athertonhotel.net”>Atherton Hotel</a>. Rather sleep under the stars? Grab a primitive site at <a href=”http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/exit.php?url=http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/”>Bald Eagle State Park</a>.
BY THE NUMBERS
4/Days a week you can shop at a farmer’s market in the area.
50/Maximum miles a Pennsylvania resident is from a state park.
125,000/People invade State College for the Central Pennsylvania Arts Festival.