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Mid State Trail - State College: The Jackson Trail

The Jackson Trail is located on top of Tussey Mountain where route PA26 crosses, so access to the trail is very easy. The trail continues for approximately 3 miles across the ridge line of Tussey Mountain. The Mid State Trail descends Tussey Mountain at the trailhead of Jackson Trail and meets back up at the end. If you are hiking the Mid State Trail and don't need water, I would recommend hiking the Jackson Trail. As of September 2005, the Mid State Trail is temporarily rerouted on the Jackson Trail because of major blow downs in the valley below caused by Hurricane Ivan last year. Hopefully these blow downs will be cleared and the Mid State Trail will be reopened next spring.

Trailhead:  N 40° 43.00'
W 77° 53.65'
Total Elevation:  438'
Trail Length:  5.6 miles
Hike Time:  3 hours
Hike Type:  Out and Back
Difficulty Rating:  65
Near:  Jo Hays Vista on route PA26 south of Pine Grove Mills.


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The Mid State Trail is over 320 miles in length and extends from the Maryland border to the New York border. The southern end of the MST is found on the Mason-Dixon line on route PA326. The northern terminus is located just north of Lawrenceville, PA. The MST is situated on public lands, such as state forests, state game lands and state parks. Closer to the Maryland and New York borders, the Mid State Trail uses private lands by permission.

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 on the opposite side of the road.

As I mentioned earlier, the Mid State Trail is temporarily rerouted on the Jackson Trail. You'll find that most people hiking the Mid State Trail will stick to the Jackson Trail unless they are in need of water. With it's easy access from Jo Hays Vista, most people will use this as a starting point for hiking and will be fully stocked with water.

However, you don't need to be hiking the Mid State Trail to enjoy the Jackson Trail. The trail is an out and back hike unless you incorporate the descent into the valley by following the Mid State Trail proper. However, at this point in time, a circuit hike of this nature is not advisable with the inaccessibility of this section of the Mid State Trail. I would even suggest hiking the Jackson Trail, at least the first mile, as your first hike or even a hike suited for children. Once you get out past the first two vistas, however, the trail is little more challenging with many rock fields to traverse.

The trailhead is clearly marked by a sign, located to the left of a gated mountain road. You will hike back this road for about 0.3 miles back to a number of radio towers. At the last radio tower the trail begins. It's a little rocky, but flat and wide, so hiking in sneakers is possible.

You will continue along this flat, wide part of the trail for about 0.75 miles from the trailhead. At this point you will enter a stand of pines and the trail will turn slightly to the right. This is where you will encounter your first vista; David's Vista. Directly across from David's Vista, on the northern side of the mountain is another vista. If you are looking to do a simple day hike or are hiking with children, take a moment to enjoy this two beautiful vistas, and then head back the way you came to the trailhead. If you are looking for a longer, more challenging day hike, continue on.

I had an agenda for this hike, aside from enjoying the out of doors. At the end of the Jackson Trail is a section that was devastated by a forest fire about 4 years ago. With the lack of trees, this section of the trail gets quickly overgrown with underbrush and saplings. I was also hiking the trail just to get an idea of any blow downs or trees that may have fallen across the trail and needed to be cleared.

I noticed that someone had recently reblazed the trail, so you will have no problem following the trail across the mountain top. Continuing on the hike you will encounter a number of vistas, almost exclusively on the southern side of the mountain. The trail is somewhat challenging in places as you will need to traverse some larger rocks and boulders. Hiking boots are a must for this section of the hike.

Once I reached the area of the trail that had been burnt by the forest fire I began to clear the trail where it was needed. There were many section where you couldn't walk on the trail without needing to push aside limbs and undergrowth. I'm happy to announce that the trail is now a little easier to navigate but this section is going to need constant maintenance for a number of years to come.

If you're looking for an easy day hike, then I definitely recommend hiking out to and enjoying David's Vista. If you want something a little more challenging, then try hiking the entire Jackson Trail. However, if you are looking for a circuit hike you're going to have to wait until the Mid State Trail that descends to the valley below has been cleared and is passable. All in all, the Jackson Trail makes for a nice hike, and located only a few minutes from downtown State College, should make it onto your list of hikes to do in Central PA.

{vsig_c}0|ms4_01.jpg||The trailhead for the Jackson Trail just off route PA26, directly across from Jo Hays Vista. Trust me, you can't miss it.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms4_02.jpg||The first vista you'll encounter on this hike (and there are a lot of them). The panoramic picture above is taken from David's Vista.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms4_03.jpg||Only 500 feet from David's Vista, here is another vista on the northern face of the mountain.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms4_04.jpg||Some of the ridge top hiking that you do on this trail. Rocky and a steep descent on both the right and left side of the trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms4_05.jpg||And yet another vista. This one is on the southern face of the mountain looking towards Hubler Gap with Greenlee Mountain visible through the gap.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms4_06.jpg||The last section of the Jackson Trail, about a quarter of a mile before it meets up with the Mid State Trail proper. This section was burnt by a forest fire in 2001 and quickly becomes overgrown with brush and saplings.{/vsig_c}

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