This famous natural feature in Centre County, Pennsylvania, near Penn State University offers 8 miles of hiking trails  

Mount Nittany in Centre County, Pennsylvania, (photo courtesy of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau)

Mount Nittany rises over State College, Pennsylvania, and stands as the most iconic natural feature of this part of Centre County. The Big Ten college town is home to Penn State University and has long been known as Happy Valley, a name coined because the presence of the college allowed the community to be largely unharmed by the Great Depression. 

The mountain figures prominently in the State College environment — the university’s mascot is the Nittany Lion (named after the eastern mountain lion) — and the geographical feature serves as a backdrop to daily life here. Although many travelers visit during the fall to take in a football game at Beaver Stadium, State College also offers a thriving downtown, great local breweries and nearby hiking trails that are fun to explore. 

Some of the area’s best-known trails are at Mount Nittany, less than 5 miles from campus in the neighboring town of Lemont. Fair warning, the trailhead doesn’t have the type of parking lot one might expect. There is a small parking area less than a quarter mile down the road, and hikers frequently park along the berm of Mount Nittany Road between that lot and the trailhead kiosk.  

The Mount Nittany Conservancy preserves more than 800 acres, and hiking accessible from the Mount Nittany Trailhead includes more than 8 miles of trails and many scenic views, including those of the campus and the community. 

The blue-blazed trail offers a 4.6-mile round trip around the entire mountaintop, while the white-blazed trail that sits within it offers a 3.5-mile round trip. (You can download trail maps in advance to plan your route.) The trail is well maintained and suitable for a variety of ages, but the hike requires a rocky and steep climb to the flat mountaintop and has an elevation gain of 650 feet. 500 Mount Nittany Rd., Lemont, Pennsylvania 16851,