Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Mid State Trail - State College: From Indian Steps to Jo Hays Vista

Tim and I have been trying to hike the entire section of the Mid State Trail within the State College Region. We had a rather large hole in our plans, namely the MST from Indian Steps to Jo Hays Vista. Our first after work hike of the year had us filling that hole. So with a car parked at Jo Hays Vista, Tim and I headed down to the start of Indian Steps and filled in this section of the Mid State Trail.

Trailhead:  N 40° 41.45'
W 77° 56.12'
Total Elevation:  828'
Trail Length:  3.2 miles
Hike Time:  2 hours
Hike Type:  Shuttle
Difficulty Rating:  48
Near:  Harry's Valley Road, off route PA26.


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This shuttle hike starts along Harry's Valley Road and climbs the Indian Steps. After the climb we turn right, following the Mid State Trail across the top of Tussey Mountain. Along the way we encountered a number of nice vistas, including the one at the power line crossing. Not a long hike, but the climb at the start of the hike is enough to knock the wind out of you.

The trailhead for this hike is located along a dirt forest road known as Harry's Valley Road. To reach Harry's Valley Road from State College, you need to find route PA26. Take route PA26 south through the town of Pine Grove Mills, turning left and following the road over the mountain. After cresting Tussey Mountain, route PA26 descends and makes a sweeping left turn. At this bend in the road you'll see a dirt forest road on your right. This is Harry's Valley Road. Follow Harry's Valley Road for about 1.9 miles and keep an eye open on the right side of the road for the trail marker to Indian Steps. Just a short distance past the trail marker is a small parking area on the left. Park your car here as this is the start of the hike.

Tim and I parked his car at Jo Hays Vista and parked mine at the bottom of Indian Steps. Indian Steps is actually part of the Ironstone Loop. The Ironstone Loop is a spur of the Mid State Trail that leaves the ridge line of Tussey Mountain and descends to Lake Perez. From there it follows Shavers Creek east until it meets back up with the Mid State Trail near the Beaver Pond.

We started our ascent up the south face of Tussey Mountain following the blazed Ironstone Loop. At first we came across steps made of logs but before long we came across a rock field and the Indian Steps. We followed these steps to within two hundred feet of the top of the ridge. The last 200 feet was very steep and I was quite winded and parched by the time we got to the top. We climbed approximately 600 feet in about 0.4 miles.

Once we reached the top of the climb, and after a short break, we turned right onto the Mid State Trail. The orange blazes here looked as if they were fading and would probably require a fresh coat of paint in a year or two. Regardless of the faded blazes, the trail was quite easy to follow along the top of the ridge.

There were quite a few vistas on this section of the trial. The majority of vistas were on the southeast facing side of the mountain. There was one view to the northwest but it was quite overgrown, and if there would have been leaves on the trees, I'm not even sure you could call it a vista. The vistas to the southeast were quite nice and allowed you to view all of the valley below and mountains beyond.

After turning onto the Mid State Trail we hiked a little over a half mile when we came across the Campbell Trail coming up the north face of Tussey Mountain. This trail looked to be recently cleared and well maintained. Campbell Trail merges with the Mid State Trail for a couple hundred feet or so before it descends down the south face of the ridge. This section of the trail did not look as well maintained as the previous section and I was wondering if it was cleared the entire way the Harry's Valley Road, or if it had grown shut.

As we approached the end of our hike, about 0.5 miles from the parking area at Jo Hays Vista, we came upon the MST register. I stopped here and signed Tim and I in, as well as taking a moment to look at some of the more recent entries. Just past the trail register we came upon the power line clearing. At this point you have an obstructed view, aside for the power lines themselves, the the south and also to the north. We paused here to enjoy the views. There was a young gentleman sitting here counting hawks as they migrated north, following the Tussey mountain ridge line. This was the last day of counting, which started back on February 25th, and he had seen 3 bald eagles and 2 golden eagles. He said it was a good way to end a season of bird counting.

Tim and I followed a dirt access road for the last half mile back to Jo Hays Vista. Along the way we passed a number of communication towers. This section of the ridge line, because of the easy access from route PA26, is full of these towers. After a short walk on the dirt road we found ourselves at the end of our hike. Hopping in Tim's car we headed back to the start of our hike and picked up my car. It was a good after work hike, short, but with the steep climb, a decent work out. After this short hike I was definitely ready for more after work hikes.

{vsig_c}0|ms28_01.jpg||Looking back at the start of the hike.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_02.jpg||Tim begins his ascent of the Indian Steps.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_03.jpg||Our first vista to the southeast.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_04.jpg||This sign marks the intersection of Campbell Trail and the Mid State Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_05.jpg||We approach the one vista to the northwest, which with leaves on the trees, would not be much of a vista.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_06.jpg||Another good view towards Harry's Valley and Stone Mountain beyond.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_07.jpg||The Mid State Trail emerges from the woods into the powerline clearing.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_08.jpg||The view from the powerline.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_09.jpg||Hiking back the dirt access road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms28_10.jpg||Almost done with the hike. We turn left off the Mid State Trail here as it crosses the road to head down off the ridge.{/vsig_c}

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