Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

James Cleveland Trail: Revisiting the Plane Wreck

The best way I've found to beat cabin fever is to get outside and take a hike. And when the temperatures are close to sixty in the middle of January, spring fever compels you even more to get outside and enjoy that nice weather. Thus when a balmy January day presented itself, we took advantage of the opportunity and took a short hike to the top of Mount Nittany on the James Cleveland Trail.

Trailhead: N 40° 53.05'
W 77° 40.64'
Total Elevation: 1251'
Trail Length: 2 miles
Hike Time: 1.5 hours
Hike Type: Out and Back
Difficulty Rating: 44
Near: Off PA144 between
Pleasant Gap and
Centre Hall, located
on Greens Valley

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In order to reach the trailhead for the James Cleveland trail, you need to take PA route 144 over what locals call Centre Hall mountain, but it's actually Mount Nittany. Coming from the south, PA 144 begins in Potter's Mills, where it intersects with US route 322. From the North, take the new I-99/US 220 route to the Pleasant Gap exit, follow US route 26 south to Pleasant Gap, where it intersects with PA 144, and follow it south over the mountain. Just a bit shy from the summit of the mountain (or a little past, if you are coming from the south) there is a road called Greens Valley Road. Follow this road and where the pavement ends you will see a sign welcoming you to the Bald Eagle State Forest. Continue on Greens Valley Road for another 2.2 miles and you will see a sign for the James Cleveland trail on your right. Follow the dirt road that bears off to the right down the hill for about 1500' and you will find the trailhead with a nice large parking area.

In case you didn't read my narrative regarding my first hike on the James Cleveland trail, the trail is named for an Air Mail pilot. Mr James Cleveland crashed his plane at the top of the mountain and this trail leads you up to his crash site. At the top you will find a small monument erected in honor of James Cleveland as well as a few remains from is wrecked plane.

The James Cleveland trail is a short hike of only two miles round trip. As you approach the summit the ascent up the mountain does get a little steep, but easily manageable. The last 50 feet of climbing is quite rocky so be careful if it's wet or the ground is snow covered.

The trail is blazed with blue rectangles. Trail maintenance is done by a local Boy Scout group and they do a good job at keeping the blazes fresh and evenly spaced. During this hike in January there was a lot of trees and limbs down across the trail and some of the blazes did look like they needed freshened up. It looked like the Scouts were going to have their work cut out for them in the spring.

Not much to say about the trail. A short mile to the top, with a few switchback once the trail gets steeper. You will cross over Little Fishing Creek on a nicely constructed bridge. There is a small stone field that you hop across as well, but most of the hike is on a nice, even forest floor.

Once you reach the top, make sure to spend a moment at the monument and looking at the remains of the wrecked plane. There are a number of log seats here where you can rest before beginning the descent back down. Also, make sure to follow the blazed trail on past the mountain top clearing to the far side of the mountain. From there you will have a nice view of Penns Valley below.

All in all this is a nice little hike that gets your blood flowing. There are some rocky challenges and hiking boots are recommended. Once at the top you'll be treated to a little local history as well as a nice vista. This hike was just what the doctor ordered for a case of cabin, as well as spring, fever.

Shari stands on the bridge that crosses over Little Fishing Creek. The stream was high as the recent warm temperatures melted most of the snow pack.

Part way up the trail you cross a forest road. The continuation of the trail on the other side of the road is clearly marked with blazes and a sign.

At the top Shari pauses to take a look at the remains of James Cleveland's plane.

The monument to Jimmy Cleveland.

Shari walks towards the Penns Valley vista, passing between two rock cairns.

A nice view of Penns Valley.

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  • Just to let you know you can use the trail from the Centre Hall side. You just have to park along Rt. 192 and walk in from there to the trail head

    Doug on
  • As of 5/31/20 the blazes are now yellow for this trail.

    Beth A Eckert on

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