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Mid State Trail - State College: Jo Hays Vista and Jackson Trail

I had an overnight backpacking event coming up with some fellow hikers. We were planning on doing a hike on a section of the Mid State Trail and the Greenwood spur. Since I lived the closest, it was up to me to scout out our campsites. I was familiar with one of our campsites, but the first night's site was on a section of the MST that I had not hiked yet. So on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, Shari and I headed out to Jo Hays Vista to trek down the south side of Tussey Mountain and see what camping areas were available.

Trailhead:  N 40° 43.00'
W 77° 53.65'
Total Elevation:  1810'
Trail Length:  6.4 miles
Hike Time:  4 hours
Hike Type:  Loop
Difficulty Rating:  100
Near:  Jo Hays Vista on route PA26 south of Pine Grove Mills.


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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.

We parked at Jo Hays Vista and headed to the south side of route PA26 where the Mid State Trail begins its descent from the ridge top. This is also the trailhead for those that want to hike the Jackson Trail. As a matter of fact this hike turned out to be a loop hike with us returning back to our car following Tussey Mountain's ridge top on the Jackson Trail.

This section of the Mid State Trail was just recently reopened towards the end of last summer (2007). It had been closed because of a number of downed trees as a result of Hurricane Ivan and the resulting timber sale that took a little while to conclude. Even though I had hiked the Jackson Trail as well as long section of the Mid State Trail north and south of here, this would be my first hike on this section.

Shari and I began our descent of 700 feet from the ridge top to the valley below. The descent was a gradual and constant one, making for rather easy and comfortable hike. At approximately 0.5 miles into our hike the trail made its way between two deer exclosures. I was about to comment to Shari that if there were any wildlife traveling through this section of the woods, we were sure to see them. Before I could say anything we scared two deer and only got a glimpse of their fluffy white tails as the bounded down the mountainside away from us.

At 0.7 miles into the hike the trail came upon a large open area and crossed a newly created shale road. This was the access road to the deer exclosures and the logging that was occurring here. Just another tenth of a mile and we came to the bottom of our descent. At this point the Mid State Trail turned to our left and the blue-blazed Ironstone Loop trail continued down to our right.

After turning to our left we only hiked about 200 feet when we came across a nice campsite. This was located on the northern bank of Shaver's Creek and just within site of the old Beaver Pond. The trail continues along the northern bank of Shaver's Creek following a long abandoned forest road. This made for an easy hike as the trail was wide, well blazed, and obstacle free.

For the next 1.6 miles the trail was broad and well maintained. It slowly climbed as it followed Shaver's Creek. I came across three other campsites along this section of the trail and felt rather confident that one of these would work for our upcoming backpacking trip. I had originally planned on doing an out-and-back hike but Shari had suggested that we continue hiking the trail, following it back up to the top of Tussey Mountain, and then following Jackson Trail back to our car.

At 2.4 miles the trail began to climb more steeply as it headed up the mountainside away from the stream. The trail also became more rockier and I knew that I was still on the Mid State Trail. We got a little spoiled with our last mile plus of hiking. Of course with the climb and the rocks our hiking speed decreased as well.

At 2.6 miles our ascent gave pause as we traversed along the mountain side. We did view a wild turkey on this section of the trail. We caught a glimpse of it as it walked across the trail ahead of us and into the undergrowth to the left of the trail. However, as we got closer, we were not able to get a better view. I was hoping to get some wildlife photos to post. We soon passed the deer exclosure and site of the 2001 forest fire that burnt up to the top of the mountain and partially down the other side. Looking to our left I could see the "Top of the World" vista that we would soon visit on our return hike on the Jackson Trail.

After a rocky but fairly level stretch of trail, we began our climb in earnest at 3.25 miles as the trail turned sharply to our right. We ascended about 500 feet in the next quarter mile, climbing over some very rocky sections of the trail. At a little over 3.5 miles into our hike we found ourselves back on top of Tussey Mountain at the intersection of the Mid State Trail and the Jackson Trail.

We paused for a moment after our climb to catch our breath and wet our whistle. A bone chilling wind was blowing on the ridge top so we didn't rest long. We had a rather easy and uneventful hike back along the rocky ridge top on the Jackson Trail. We paused a few times at the many vistas to enjoy the scenery. The sun was just beginning to come out, but it did little to ward off the chill from the wind. After 6.4 miles of hiking we found ourselves back at our car and Jo Hays Vista.

{vsig_c}0|ms16_01.jpg||The MST trail that leads down off of Tussey Mountain is located south of the trailhead at the Jo Hays Vista. Just off route PA26, here's a look down the trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms16_02.jpg||Hiking down the Pine Grove Trail, the Mid State Trail continues off to our left and the blue-blazed Ironstone Loop Trail heads off to our right.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms16_03.jpg||The MST parallels Shaver's Creek, on the northern side. The trail is wide and easy to navigate.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms16_04.jpg||Climbing up the south face of Tussey Mountain, the trail crosses this rock field before reaching the ridge top and intersection with Jackson Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms16_05.jpg||Heading back to the trailhead on Jackson Trail, here's a view from the first vista we encountered.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms16_06.jpg||Almost back to our car, I had to stop at David's Vista to take in the view of Stone Valley. {/vsig_c}

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