The 5 Best Scenic Overlooks Near State College

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A summer afternoon at David's Vista near State College PA

When most people think of sightseeing in State College their thoughts turn immediately to Penn State University.

The Nittany Lion Shrine.

The Nittany Lion Shrine at Penn State University.
The Nittany Lion Shrine at Penn State University.

Old Main.

Old Main at Penn State University
Old Main at Penn State University

Pattee Library.

Pattee Library at Penn State University.
Pattee Library at Penn State University.

But surrounding State College and Penn State University are the mountains that make Happy Valley a valley.

And there are some incredible views to be found in those mountains, if you know where to look!

Lions Valley Vista overlooking State College and Penn State.
Lions Valley Vista overlooking State College and Penn State.

So that’s what I’ll be showing you here – how to find the 5 best scenic overlooks near State College and Penn State University.


Mike Lynch Overlook on Mount Nittany

We’ll start with the most famous scenic overlook near State College, the Mike Lynch Overlook on Mount Nittany.

Beaver Stadium as viewed from the MIke Lynch Overlook.
Beaver Stadium as viewed from the MIke Lynch Overlook.

Hiking Mount Nittany is a virtual rite of passage for any Penn Stater or visitor to Happy Valley, and I did a complete write-up on this hike which you can view HERE.

Mount Nittany information kiosk at trailhead.
Mount Nittany information kiosk at trailhead.

Where to park, which trails to take, and what you can expect to see – it’s all right here!

Penn State campus as viewed from the MIke Lynch Overlook on Mount Nittany.
View from the Mike Lynch Overlook on Mount Nittany near State College.

Jo Hays Vista

The easiest scenic overlook to get to near State College is Jo Hays Vista.

The view from Jo Hay Vista looking into State College and Penn State.
The view from Jo Hay Vista looking into State College and Penn State.

Jo Hays Vista is literally roadside along Route 26 near Pine Grove Mills.

Map to David's Vista and Jo Hays Vista near State College.
Map to David’s Vista and Jo Hays Vista near State College.

There is a large parking area at the vista, and several benches to sit and take in the view.

The roadside Jo Hays Vista near State College PA
The roadside Jo Hays Vista near State College, PA.

The vista is named after a former State Senator and is part of the Rothrock State Forest.

Jo Hays Vista sign along Route 26 near State College.
Jo Hays Vista sign along Route 26 near State College.

With a long lens or a pair of binoculars, you can clearly see many of the landmark buildings on the Penn State campus from here.

The view of Penn State campus from Jo Hays Vista.
The view of Penn State campus from Jo Hays Vista.

The view to the west from Jo Hays Vista is of the pastoral farmland of Ferguson Township.

The view from Jo Hays Vista near State College.
The view from Jo Hays Vista near State College.

Recently (July 2020) Jo Hays Vista was also a front-row seat to watch the spectacular Comet Neowise streaking high above the skies of State College.

Comet Neowise over Jo Hays Vista in July 2020.
Comet Neowise over Jo Hays Vista in July 2020.

The GPS coordinates for Jo Hays Vista are 40.71683, -77.89399.


David’s Vista

Also utilizing the Jo Hays Vista parking lot, the next scenic overlook I’d recommend visiting is David’s Vista, along the Jackson Trail.

Blue skies over David's Vista near State College.
Blue skies over David’s Vista near State College.

This 0.75 mile hike along the flat but rocky (they don’t call it Rocksylvania for nothing!) Jackson Trail brings you to this magnificent spot overlooking Huntingdon County and the Rothrock State Forest.

The Jackson Trail to David's Vista near State College PA
The Jackson Trail to David’s Vista near State College, PA.

As you cross Route 26 from Jo Hays Vista and start down the Jackson Trail, you’ll soon pass a series of cell phone towers and satellite dishes.

Cell phone tower along the Jackson Trail near State College.
Cell phone tower along the Jackson Trail near State College.

Just beyond the last cell phone tower the trail transitions from gravel road to a rocky singletrack.

The Jackson Trail leading to David's Vista in the Rothrock State Forest.
The Jackson Trail leading to David’s Vista in the Rothrock State Forest.

3/4 of a mile after starting down the trail, you’ll arrive at David’s Vista.

David's Vista sign along the Jackson Trail near State College.
David’s Vista sign along the Jackson Trail near State College.

The 180 degree views here are outstanding.

David's Vista overlooking Huntingdon County in the Rothrock State Forest.
David’s Vista overlooking Huntingdon County in the Rothrock State Forest.

The GPS coordinates for David’s Vista are 40.72172, -77.88182.


Hubler Gap Vista

The most challenging vista to reach of the 5 mentioned in this write-up is Hubler Gap Vista.

Hubler Gap Vista in the Rothrock State Forest.
Hubler Gap Vista in the Rothrock State Forest.

Reaching Hubler Gap Vista requires a 1.5 mile hike with 900 feet of elevation gain over the course of the hike along the Musser Gap Trail.

Map to Hubler Gap Vista and Lions Valley Vista near State College.
Map to Hubler Gap Vista and Lions Valley Vista near State College.

Trailhead parking can be found just off of Route 45 at GPS coordinates 40.75476, -77.85309.

Musser Gap Trailhead near State College
Musser Gap Trailhead near State College

The first 1/3 of the hike is a gentle uphill grade along a gravel path.

The last 2/3 of the hike is more steep and rocky along a singletrack trail.

The View from Hubler Gap Vista near State College.
The View from Hubler Gap Vista near State College.

The payoff at the top of the mountain is a panoramic view of the Rothrock State Forest and Huntingdon County.


Lion’s Valley Vista

A terrific side destination on the return hike from Hubler Gap Vista is Lion’s Valley Vista, just off the Musser Gap Trail at GPS coordinates 40.74142, -77.84998.

The view of State College and Penn State from Lions Valley Vista
The view of State College and Penn State from Lions Valley Vista

A map near the trailhead parking will show you exactly which trails to take to reach Lion’s Valley Vista (take a cell phone picture of the map before starting up the mountain), but basically you’ll veer off of Musser Gap Trail onto Mountain Mist Trail, then Huckleberry Loop, and finally Lion’s Valley Vista Trail.

Lions Valley Vista trail near State College.
Lions Valley Vista trail near State College.

Sounds complicated, but the side trails are well-worn and well-blazed, and you’re only on each of them for a few minutes.

The view from Lion’s Valley Vista is of the farmland of Ferguson Township in the foreground, and the ever-expanding State College and Penn State in the background.

Looking into State College from Lions Valley Vista.
Looking into State College from Lions Valley Vista.

Nearby Attractions

Looking for more awesome outdoor adventures near Happy Valley?

Then be sure to check out “The 5 Best State Parks Near State College”.

Sunset over Black Moshannon Lake

40 minutes west of State College, in Huntingdon County, is the incredible Indian Lookout in the Rothrock State Forest.

Exploring Indian Lookout in the Rothrock State Forest.
Indian Lookout in Huntingdon County.

There are also 2 fantastic roadside vistas near Indian Lookout.

The roadside Colerain Road Vista in the Rothrock State Forest.
The roadside Colerain Road Vista in the Rothrock State Forest.

Did you know there are several remarkable waterfalls within an hour of State College?

Rosecrans Falls near Loganton Clinton County on a summer morning.
Rosecrans Falls near Loganton, Clinton County on a summer morning.

You’ll find the best ones in my write-up 8 Must-See Central Pennsylvania Waterfalls.

A young hiker takes in the scene at Yost Run Falls.
A young hiker takes in the scene at Yost Run Falls in Centre County.

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