Though little-known compared to other popular rail-trails in Pennsylvania, the Penns Creek Path is worth the effort of visiting for a scenic bike ride or hike in the forest. Pretty in all seasons, it is especially picturesque in June when its mountain laurel bushes abound with beautiful white blossoms.
The trail forms part of the Mid-State Trail, a 319-mile cross-country hiking trail that traverses five state forests and eight natural areas in the ridge and valley region of central Pennsylvania; with its firm surface, the Penns Creek Path is more suitable for cycling than most other sections.
Penns Creek Path is tucked away in Poe Paddy State Park at Poe Mills, a former lumber town dating from the timber industry boom in the late 19th century. The trail follows the path of a small timber railroad that once threaded through this mountainous region to transport lumber to State College.
Starting out from the roadside trailhead near Poe Mills, you soon come to a narrow, rustic footbridge that crosses Penns Creek. It's best to walk your bike across the bridge since the wood planks run lengthwise, leaving gaps that may catch bike tires. Look down to the water as you cross, and you are likely to see fly-fishers hoping to snag a trout with the Green Drake fly (a fishing fly especially popular at Penns Creek in late May and early June).
Just beyond the bridge is the next thrill, a former railroad tunnel carved into the rock face. It curves just enough to block any light from the other end, making it pitch-black for a short distance inside. A headlight or flashlight makes it less creepy and helps you avoid stepping in the rubble spilling into the pathway from the inside walls.
Beyond the tunnel the trail delivers a serene woodland experience. At mile 1.5 Penns Creek becomes visible again through the foliage. From here to the end of the trail, larch and pine trees share space with the deciduous trees lacing the sky. The crushed stone surface gradually fills with equal amounts of grass, giving the impression of being less-traveled. Near the end of the trail at Cherry Run, the Mid-State Trail breaks off to the left heading uphill.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Poe Mills trailhead, take US 322 to Potters Mills and turn east (right if you are traveling north on US 322) on Decker Valley Road. Continue about 10 miles, following the signs to Poe Valley State Park. Stay on this road through Poe Valley State Park to Poe Paddy State Park (an additional 3 miles from Poe Valley State Park). Most of this route from US 322 is unpaved. Turn left into the park, cross a one-way bridge, stay straight and continue about 0.5 mile. On the right is a small sign for Penns Creek Path. Park beside the road.