For the past few weeks, I’ve been really stoked on this loop in Rothrock State Forest—up Tussey Mountain Trail and along the ridge, then back down to Thickhead Mountain Road and John Wert Path. It’s about 11 miles, doable in 2-3 hours, and is full of stunning views and challenging rock gardens.
And, only about 20 minutes from home. To go on a tangent for a minute here, I am so happy to be living in such close proximity to Rothrock now. Until a few months ago, I’d usually only get up there to ride once a month or less. Now, it’s every week. The more difficult trails are making me a better rider, and there is so much area to explore, so many trails I’ve never been on yet. I stare at the map on a regular basis, plotting the endless ride possibilities.
But anyway. Back to the Tussey loop. I didn’t just discover this. Far from it. The Tussey Trail was one of the first rides I did when I got into biking. I’ve just recently rediscovered how great it is, and how, combined with John Wert, is the perfect loop to challenge me and still be a super chill, fun time.
It begins by winding up to the ridgetop, a long but very gentle climb. The hardest part about it is the uphill technical sections, most of which are totally rideable. There are a couple short stretches that still allude me, but with every ride, I can feel myself coming closer to cleaning them. Once on top, the trail goes through the site of a wildfire in 2006, which created an open landscape allowing for incredible views.
Tussey Trail ends at the “Beer Tap,” a stump in the middle of the woods with a tap in it. From there, it’s all downhill to the road on Leniency and Bailout Trails—newer additions to the area, built for bikes, with flowy turns and smooth lines.
A relatively short and painless (I did say relatively) climb up Thickhead Mountain Road takes you to the trailhead of John Wert Path, which completes the loop. During the climb, the rhododendrons start to populate the landscape in the moist valley. This theme continues for much of the trail. Rhododendrons and rocks, rocks and rhododendrons. And…some more rocks.
I love John Wert, but it’s also my nemesis. My first experience on it was at the end of last winter, when everything was covered in ice, and consisted of a lot of cursing and several epic crashes, followed by more cursing. Since then, my experiences have all been much less frustrating and much more positive. Someday, maybe I’ll be able to ride the whole thing without a dab.