Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — March 2012

Tussey Mountain’s Jo Hays Vista

by Helena Kotala

As we begin to feel the hint of spring in the air, many of us feel the overwhelming urge to get outside and explore nature, whether it’s someplace new or an old favorite spot. One excellent close-to-home spring hike can be found at the top of Tussey Mountain, at Jo Hays Vista, right off of State Route 26. From the vista parking lot at the top of the mountain, there are several different hikes that can be accessed, depending on how ambitious you feel like being.

If you’re up for a longer hike, there is a 6-mile loop that includes a section of the Mid-state Trail. For this hike, you’ll need to cross State Route 26, and then either go straight down the mountain first on the Mid-state Trail (you will see a trail sign) or go left and hike along the ridge top. If you go downhill first, you’ll go approximately a mile before coming to a crossroads. If you do this hike during the summer, this downhill section can get somewhat overgrown, but in the winter and spring it is generally vegetation-free. At the crossroads at the bottom of the mountain, make a left to continue on the Mid-state Trail. Going right will take you on the Ironstone Trail, which ends up at Shavers Creek Environmental Center.

Here, in the valley, the trail runs parallel to Shaver Creek for a while. There are some nice spots along to trail to stop for a break, admire the beauty of the forest and explore the stream before continuing on. Soon you will encounter a private cabin right next to the trail, and it looks as if the trail ends, but just continue straight and the trail will pick up again on the other side of the camp. The trail will begin to gradually climb the mountain for about a mile and a half before going straight up the mountain for a short, but steep, portion of the hike.

At the top, you are rewarded with a great view for much of the hike back along the ridge to Jo Hays Vista. When you get to the top of the mountain, you will make another left on Jackson Trail to complete the loop. If you feel like hiking further, you can always make a right and continue along the ridge top on the Mid-state Trail. The hike along the ridge top is quite rocky, so make sure you wear sturdy hiking boots.  The top of Tussey Mountain is also an excellent place to see various species of hawks, as well as black vultures, which are a rarer cousin of the common turkey vulture.

Jackson Trail will lead to a narrow dirt road, which will take you back to the parking lot and the starting point. Another option for a hike would be to do an out-and-back hike in the opposite direction, heading southwest from the Vista parking lot (on the same side of Rt. 26 as the parking lot). This trail also offers excellent views, and you can go as far as you’d like before turning around and heading back. Whichever hike you choose to do, make sure you enjoy the view of State College from Jo Hays Vista before you leave.

If you go: From State College, take State Route 26 south up Tussey Mountain. The Jo Hays Vista parking lot will be on your right at the top of the mountain.

Helena Kotala is an undergraduate student majoring in Geography at Penn State University. She also serves on the Moshannon Group Executive Committee as Outings Chair.