Though it’s a little bit of a haul from State College (almost an hour and a half) and even more so from the rest of Centre County, Trough Creek State Park is worth the drive. It’s rhododendron-filled gorge, sun filtering in through the pines, and rushing of the rocky stream combine to create a vibe of serenity.
Meanwhile, the enchanting swinging bridge, curiosity-inducing Ice Mine, and gravity-defying Balanced Rock instill a sense of wonder. There is something to be seen in this 554-acre park year-round. Spring brings higher water flows to the iconic Rainbow Falls, flowers to the hillsides, and perfect hiking weather.
In summer, the shaded gorge, Ice Mine, cool water of Great Trough Creek, and nearby Raystown Lake provide relief from the scorching heat. Fall, of course, is characterized by stellar views of multicolored foliage.
There are a multitude of hiking trails to occupy nature-lovers for a full day or weekend in the park. The most popular route is Balanced Rock Trail, which takes visitors past all the must-see sights, including the suspension bridge, Rainbow Falls, and of course, its namesake, the Balanced Rock.
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Balanced Rock is an erosion remnant that is precariously perched on a cliff high above the gorge. Though the rock looks like it will fall over at any minute, it’s been there for many years, and has barely moved from its original position.
Past these more popular tourist attractions, hikers can find solitude and lesser-seen gems on Ledges Trail, Rhododendron Trail, and Copperas Rock Trail, all of which traverse the western side of the gorge. They all are very aptly-named for the features which they highlight. Copperas Rock is located right along the park road (at the end of its namesake trail), and is a large, overhanging, copper-colored rock face above the Creek.
On the eastern side of the gorge, Boulder Trail and Laurel Run Trail take hikers along the side of Terrace Mountain. The park can also be used as a trailhead for the Terrace Mountain Trail, which runs along the ridge the entire length of Raystown Lake.
At the moment, some sections directly north of the park on this 30-mile trail are being logged and are not ideal for hiking, but south of the park and farther up towards the dam, the trail is newly-revamped and ready for traffic.
Trough Creek State Park offers primitive camping, open from mid-April to mid-December, and is bordered by Rothrock State Forest and Raystown Lake Recreation Area, creating an even larger outdoor playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Spend a weekend and check it out — it’s worth the visit.