The Other Mount Nittany
The James "Jimmy" Cleveland Trail

Visit the memorial for Air Mail pilot James Cleveland,
who died in a plane crash in May of 1931

Location: Between Centre Hall,
and Pleasant Gap, PA
Virtual Hike: Click here
Getting there: Click here
4 steep and rocky in spots
Vertical Rise/fall: 595 feet up 947 down
for the full hike (one way)
Length: 2 miles for short hike
4 miles for full hike
Special needs: trekking poles
shoes that won't hurt your toenails on the downhill

Lots of loose rocks and some wets spots call for proper footwear. Use something that will dry quickly if you hike this in the spring
Why?: The "Other" Mount Nittany
James Cleveland Memorial
View of Penn's Valley
Not too popular

Trail Map in Relief

Overview - 142k

Close-up - 93k

Click for full size images

Elevation Profile
from parking and trailhead on Green's Valley Road, up to the
James Cleveland Memorial, down to the dead end entering Penn's Valley.

Click to enlarge

Getting there


There are two good ways to get to this trail.

1) From State College, take route 26 past the Nittany Mall to Pleasant Gap. Make a right onto PA 144 towards Centre Hall. Just before the ridge, stay in the left lane and look sharp for a sign for Green's Valley Road. Turn left (heading east)

2) From State College, take PA 322 east (south on Atherton Street)  towards Boalsburg. After Boalsburg, take PA Route 45 towards Centre Hall. Turn left at the light in Centre Hall onto route 144. After the Mount Nittany Inn and a sign for the summit, look sharp for a sign for Green's Valley Road.

Both -

Take Green's Valley Road 3 miles or so. It will turn into a gravel road about halfway. A clear sign for the James Cleveland Trail will present itself on the right. Park in the grassy lot - do not drive down the dirt road.

The hike

The hike starts out along the dirt road. Follow the 'vivid' blue blazes. This trail is maintained by the local Boy Scouts, and they get a little 'blaze happy' at the beginning. I think they have a lot of fun with this . . . and they deserve kudos for a job well done.

After a few hundred feet, the trail leaves the road and heads into the woods. Soon it crosses the road you left near a clear sign pointing the way. This is the real start of the hike.

Although it may not look like it, you are really in a high valley (1759 feet), in the saddle of Mount Nittany, which the locals call "Centre Hall Mountain". It is really a part of the same Nittany Ridge you know from Penn State. Behind you at this point, the lower of the hills bordering the valley is invisible, but if you hike this in the winter or early spring, you can plainly see the other mountain as you continue.

The hill in front of you is your destination, and the hike starts out gradually, passing some nice flora and fauna. If you listen, you might hear a Barred Owl trying to scare you away, or a Pileated Woodpecker staring down at you.

One of the first landmarks is a sturdy footbridge constructed by a crew under the direction of Eagle Scout Andrew Canich. In early May, you'll find a blooming tunnel of Rhododendron near the little stream which is the headwaters of Fishing Creek. The footway around here can be very wet in the spring and after a rain in the summer. In the fall it dries out.

After crossing a number of mossy rock fields you will see a campsite on your right. In the summer, all that is visible is the fire ring peeking over the ferns. Just beyond the site is a board stuck in between two trees--apparently, this has been there for quite some time.

A number of rocky switchbacks lead you ever steeper up the hill. Watch your footing since many of the rocks are loose. In winter, some instep crampons and some trekking poles would be very helpful.

At the top of the hill, you will find the memorial of the James Cleveland crash site.

On May 24th, 1931, James (Jimmy on the memorial obelisk) Cleveland died in a plane crash. he was an early air mail pilot. In addition to an inscribed obelisk, there is a stone tower upon which rest some of the wrecked parts of his plane--an aging memorial in aluminum and steel.  There is a generally solemn feeling here, and you can't help but feel something of what the first rescuers must have felt, having climbed the same hill to this lonely spot. Take a few moments on one of the benches.

A little further past the memorial is a scree slope (broken rocks from the old knife edge of the mountain) bounded on the north and south with rocky "gates". Pick your way down the stone steps piled here, and just a little farther downhill is the Penn's Valley Vista. In the distance you can see Tussey Mountain and the ridges beyond it, including the gap through which Route 322 passes, commonly called "Seven Mountains". The 10th edition of the MId State Trail Guide offers a nice treatise on exactly what the seven mountains are, but there is no agreement, even in this definitive sourcebook.

After taking in the view, you will probably want to return the way you came. The trip down the hill, which once led to a trailhead (still prominently marked) on Route 192 about a mile east of Centre Hall. Sadly, the trail dead ends onto private property now, and unless you want to risk a run-in with an electric fence, mad cows, and possible a shotgun, you will not want to make a shuttle hike out of this.

If you do want to stretch your legs a bit, there is a good trail heading down towards Penn's Valley, but it may be, despite the clear blazes, private property now. The best advice is to return to your car after taking in the vista.

It seems as though the Penn's Valley side of the trail was the "original" trail, since the trailhead sign look solder, and the trail itself shows a great deal of work, but no recent use. Huge rocks are set aside of the trail, and crews must have spent many, many hours clearing the footway.

Perhaps an investigative or knowledgeable reader can email us some of the history of the older trail . . .

Heading back to your car is as simple as scrambling back up the scree slope and heading down the hill you just came up. It seems a good deal longer on the way down than it did on the way up :-)

Virtual Hike

Jimmy Cleveland Trail
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