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Better pack a bucket, or at least keep your mug handy, when crossing Thickhead Mountain on Pennsylvania’s Mid State Trail. You’ll want to drop down to Bear Meadows Natural Area, an alpine bog brimming with succulent blueberries. Just don’t be surprised if you have four-legged, berry-munching company; they don’t call it Bear Meadows for nothing.
The ridge-hugging, 257-mile Mid State boasts more vistas than any other trail in Pennsylvania. The central section, near State College, harbors some of the path’s wildest sights: towering old-growth hemlocks, tunnels of rhododendron, and a top-of-the-world view from the Greenwood Fire Tower.
But the best summer hike isn’t up high-it’s down low. Descend on the half-mile Gettis Trail to squishy, swampy Bear Meadows. The 325-acre bog, a National Natural Landmark, is home to yellow-fringed orchids, red-spotted newts, some 58 species of dragonflies, and, of course, a lot of blueberries.
Follow the 3.5-mile Bear Meadows Trail around the swamp for the best picking. Bear Meadows berries are high-bush blueberries (as opposed to less-flavorful low-bush blueberries found at higher elevations along the Mid State Trail), and require a little extra effort to reach. You’ll get wet, and you may even stand in line behind a black bear or two.
From State College, travel east on PA 322. Turn right at the sign for Skiemont Lodge. Follow the signs 9 miles to Bear Meadows Natural Area. Continue on Bear Meadows Road for 1 mile to reach the Mid State Trail.
Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Pennsylvania Mountains, by Greg and Karen Czarnecki (Longstreet Press, 800-927-1488; $18.95).
Rothrock State Forest, (814) 643-2340.