Experience the Trails of Pennsylvania

Venturing Up the James Cleveland Trail

On May 24th, 1931, a US Mail pilot by the name of James Cleveland apparently was disoriented or had plane problems and crashed his plane onto the top of Mount Nittany. This trail is named for that pilot and a memorial is erected for him at the end of the trail on the top of the mountain. Oddly enough, and not knowing the date of his crash until I reached the summit, I did this hike on May 23rd, one day prior to the 74th anniversary of his crash.

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.

This was a solo hike that I did on the evening of May 23rd, 2005. It was overcast with spotty showers, but the temperature was right for a hike. I parked my car in the parking area provided and took in my surroundings. The parking area is bordered by some very large limestone boulders. It seems that there was once a road that continued down the hill towards Little Fishing Creek, but access to this road is now blocked by some of these boulders.

The trail is blazed with blue blazes and trail upkeep is credit to a local Boy Scout group. The trail is very well maintained and seems more like a well traveled woodland strolling path, at least until you get closer to the top of the mountain, where it more closely resembles a mountain goat path.

The hike was fairly easy to start off with. Shortly after starting on the trail you will come to a nice foot bridge that crosses Little Fishing Creek. You continue on a nice gradual incline through the peaceful woods of Bald Eagle State Forest. When I hiked the trail, there were a number of trees fallen across the path. You can see that there were many other trees fallen, but someone was slowly making their way along the trail cutting the fallen trees and removing them from the path.

After about 30 minutes into the hike you will reach the most strenous part of the hike: the ascent to the summit. All and all, it isn't that bad. It is important to make sure that you have good hiking boots because you will be travelling across many rocks, and on the day that I hiked, they were a little slippery from the falling rain.

Once you reach the summit you will see the memorial to "Jimmy" Cleveland. There is also a small stone pedestal with a number of remenants from James crashed plane placed on top.

If you continue past the memorial anoter 500 feet or so, you will come to a nice view of Penns Valley on the other side of Mount Nittany. The trail does continue down this side of the mountain, but due to the late hour during my hike, and the fact that my car was parked behind me and not in Penns Valley, I turned around and went the way I came.

I strongly recommend this hike if you have 2 hours to kill and would like a nice little workout and an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. The last few hundred feet that you need to climb to reach the summit will definitely make you break into a sweat, and the scenery is just beautiful, even on a rainy day.

The James Cleveland Trail trailhead.

Local porcupine that was not too happy to clear the trail so that I could pass.

A handy footbridge for traversing Little Fishing Creek.

Memorial to James 'Jimmy' Cleveland at the top of mountain.

A view of Penns Valley on a foggy day.

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