Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: Following the Ridgeline from Jo Hays Vista to Shingletown Gap

Living in Central PA, I am lucking to have many of Pennsylvania's finest hiking trails within a short drive of less than 2 hours. One of these fine hiking trails is not even 15 minutes away: the Pennsylvania Mid State Trail. I've hiked almost all of the MST in Central PA and it is one of my favorite hiking trails. Not only do I enjoy hiking the Mid State Trail, but I also enjoy sharing its wonders with those that haven't hiked it. And once you start hiking the trail, you'll soon find your self wanting to discover all of its wonders and hike as much of the trail as you possibly can.

Trailhead:  N 40° 42.98'
W 77° 53.65'
Total Elevation:  1170'
Trail Length:  5.4 miles
Hike Time:  3.0 hours
Hike Type:  Shuttle
Difficulty Rating:  77
Near:  Jo Hay's Vista, route PA26, south of Pine Grove Mills, PA.


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I introduced the MST to a fellow coworker of mine about 18 months ago. Since then we have been trying to get as many miles of the MST under his belt as we can. Scheduling hikes after work, we are in the process of logging as many miles in the Centre, Mifflin, and Huntingdon counties that we can. On April 1st, the Mid State Trail was the destination for another after-work hike, this time hiking along the rocky Tussey Mountain ridgeline from Jo Hays Vista to the Shingletown Gap area.

The trailhead for this portion of the Mid State Trail is located across from Jo Hays vista on route PA26, just south of Pine Grove Mills. You'll need to find your way to Pine Grove Mills which sits at the western intersection of routes PA26 and PA45. Once in Pine Grove Mills, continue to follow PA26 south for exactly 2.0 miles. You will come to the crest of the mountain and see a large parking area on your right. This is Jo Hays Vista with the trailhead for the Jackson Trail, and the first leg of our hike, on the opposite side of the road.

We opted to hike north-bound on the Mid State Trail and ending up at the Shingletown Gap parking area. This gave us a relatively flat hike with a descent to finish up our hike. If you'd like a more strenuous hike, you do this hike in the opposite direction. The trailhead in Shingletown Gap is easily accessible from State College. Coming from State College, either via route US322 or business route US322 (South Atherton Street), you will need to turn right onto route PA45 west near Boalsburg. Once you are on route PA45 west heading towards Pine Grove Mills, you will want to travel 1.8 miles where you will reach the town of Shingletown. Here turn left onto Mountain Road and travel another mile where you will come to the parking area and the trailhead for the trails in Shingletown Gap.

Not only was Tim from work doing this hike with me, but I was also able to get Shari out on the trail as well. Shari had not hiked since the previous summer and was a little concerned about the distance of this hike. After I reassured her of the easy hike (little to no climbing) and along with her desire to get outside to hike and enjoy the early spring weather, she agreed to accompany Tim and I on this hike.

After dropping off Tim's car at Shingletown Gap, we all headed to Jo Hays Vista where we parked my car and began our hike. There were quite a few cars parked both at Shingletown Gap and at Jo Hays Vista. We were having an unusually warm start to spring, and it seemed like everyone was out taking advantage of the fine weather.

Doing this hike is pretty straight forward: literally. For 4 miles you will hike across the top of Tussey Mountain. A few words about the hike should be given, aside for telling you to hike in a straight line.

The first part of the hike is on the blue-blazed Jackson Trail. This is a side trail of the Mid State Trail and provides a shorter route than following the Mid State Trail proper. The MST drops down to Shaver Creek for those that are through hiking and need to replenish their water supplies. For those that start their hike at Jo Hays Vista, the Jackson Trail offers a shorter, rockier, picturesque route.

On the Jackson Trail you will be treated to many fine vistas, with the first, David's Vista, at about three quarters of a mile into the hike. David's Vista looks south, and only a hundred feet past it is another vista looking to the north. You'll encounter three more views as you continue north on the Jackson trail, with the breath taking view of the "Top of the World" vista the last one encountered on the blue-blazed trail.

At about 2.8 miles into the hike, the Jackson Trail terminates as it meets up with the orange-blazed Mid State Trail. If you are looking for another hike, you can follow the MST down off the ridgetop and follow it back to the trailhead at Jo Hays Vista. This hike however continue along the ridgetop, following the MST northward towards the Shingletown Gap area.

At about 3.2 miles you will encounter the Musser Trail coming in from your right. This blue-blazed trail starts along Pine Swamp Road in Hubler Gap and climbs to the top of Tussey Mountain. Perhaps sometime in the near future, this blue-blazed trail will continue down the north face of the mountain to connect the Musser Gap trails with the rest of the trails in Rothrock State Forest.

At 3.7 miles the trail comes out on the last vista of the hike. This is called the Skyline Vista and offers a long, unobstructed view from the Mid State Trail across Laurel Run Valley towards Greenlee Mountain. You should stop here for a bit and enjoy the view. But then again, that goes without saying as I hope you stop and take a moment to enjoy all the views on this hike.

After 4.4 miles of hiking, across some rather rocky sections at times, our adventure on the Mid State Trail across the top of Tussey Mountain came to and end. At 4.4 miles the Deer Path climbs up from Shingletown Gap to intersect with the Mid State Trail. This is where Tim, Shari and I turned left and began our descent from the ridgetop.

For the next two tenths of a mile we had a pretty steep descent, but it soon leveled out, and our descent was much more gradual. We followed Deer Path down to Cruiser Run where we then continued down to the parking area, with the small stream flowing swiftly on our right. We crossed Roaring Run on the large log bridge and after 5.4 miles we were at the end of our hike. We climbed into Tim's car to make the trip back up to Jo Hays Vista to get my car.

If you'd like to experience some of the great views available on the Mid State Trail, then I would highly recommend doing this hike. Aside for the hike from Little Flat to Big Flat, this section of the Mid State Trail has one of the highest density of views for miles hiked. And if you are looking for a challenge, try doing this hike in reverse, with the steep climb up out of Shingletown Gap as your first experience as opposed to an easy descent at the end of the hike. But be warned, if you hike this in reverse, you will definitely feel it in your legs and feet by the time you make it to the end at Jo Hays Vista: Tussey Mountain, with its steep sides and rocky top, is not know for taking it easy on hikers.

{vsig_c}0|ms23_01.jpg||Our hike starts on the Jackson Trail near route PA26.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms23_02.jpg||David's Vista is the most photographed view on the Jackson Trail, but this view, just a few hundred yards past David's Vista, offers a nice view north, looking down into Happy Valley.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms23_03.jpg||Tim and Shari make their way across the rock field at the Top of the World Vista (sometimes called Old Pine Vista).{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms23_04.jpg||The Mid State Trail climbs to the top of the ridge to intersect with the Jackson Trail at this point.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms23_05.jpg||At the intersection of the MST and Musser Trail. The blue-blazed Musser Trail can be followed down to a spring near Pine Swamp Road if you are in need of water.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms23_06.jpg||The Mid State Trail follows along the edge of a rock outcropping here. This section of the trail is often called the Skyline Vista.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms23_07.jpg||Our hike is almost finished as we walk along Cruiser Run on our way to the parking area at Shingletown Gap.{/vsig_c}

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