Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — November 2011

Yellow Arrow: An Interesting Fall Experience

by Helena Kotala

Yellow Arrow Trail Overlook

Yellow Arrow Trail overlook · Photo supplied by Helena Kotala

Fall is an excellent time to go hiking. Not only are the leaves changing and turning vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange, but the cooler temperatures and crisp sunny days are conducive to wandering in the forests and ridges of central Pennsylvania. The Yellow Arrow Trail, a spur of the Mid-State Trail in Rothrock State Forest near Spruce Creek, combines spectacular views and interesting terrain for a great fall hike.

The trail itself is only approximately a mile in length, but it goes up the side of Tussey Mountain and is fairly steep in areas. There also are a few areas that require scrambling over rocks.

You can choose to go out and back on this trail, or use Colerain Road, a gravel State Forest road, to make this hike into a 3-mile loop. There are parking areas at both the top and the bottom of the trail, so a hiker can choose where to start.

From the Colerain Picnic Area, off of State Route 45, hike up the mountain on Colerain Road for approximately 2 miles. There will be some steep drop-offs and ravines to your right, as well as a few great views of the valley below, and Brush Mountain/Bald Eagle Mountain to the west. The best view is from an overlook at a tight hairpin turn in the road.

At the top of the mountain, look for a small gravel parking area to the right of the road and some large rocks marking the entrance to the trail on the left. The trail is marked the entire way with blue blazes. Shortly after turning onto the trail, you will come to Indian Overlook — yet another spot with spectacular views. This is a great area to stop for a break or for lunch.

Continue on Yellow Arrow Trail in a southwesterly direction, and it will begin a series of switchbacks down the steepest part of the mountain. Take time to notice the various rock outcroppings along the narrow trail. Various species of conifers reside on the mountainside, including hemlock, table mountain pine (notice the spiky pine cones), white pine, and pitch pine.

After a while, the trail levels out a bit and begins a more gradual and less rocky descent. Before you know it, you will find yourself in a dense hemlock forest, a sign that the picnic area is once again nearby and the hike is complete. You will come out on Colerain Road, but the trail continues for a short distance across the road to emerge at the Colerain Picnic Area parking lot where you began. When you cross the road, there are no visible blue blazes marking the trail, but you will notice some large rocks marking the entrance to the trail, just likethe ones at the top of the mountain.

If you go: To find Yellow Arrow Trail from State College, take State Route 45 south for approximately 20 miles to Colerain Road. Turn left, cross a bridge over Spruce Creek, and you will be in the picnic area parking lot.


Helena Kotala is an undergraduate student in Geography at Penn State University and Outings Co-Chair for the Sierra Club Moshannon Group.