State College Weekend Itinerary

Looking for the perfect State College itinerary? Check out this list of amazing things to do in this adventure town!

A beautiful sunrise from a State College overlook. Where? Keep reading!
Table of Contents
- Why Visit State College
- Where to Stay in State College
- Outdoor Adventures Near State College
     - Hike Mount Nittany
     - Great Hikes Near State College
     - Visit Black Moshannon
     - Visit a Scenic Overlook
     - Camp at Reed's Gap State Park
- Where to Eat in State College

Why Visit State College

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of State College? Penn State University? Football? College town? Add outdoor adventures to the list! State College, PA is a beautiful town in central Pennsylvania that is a great place to use as a home base for an outdoor adventure weekend. I’ve visited State College multiple times on my trips through Pennsylvania and it is one of my favorite places to visit.

Read on for the best adventurous State College itinerary!

As always, follow the principles of leave no trace when you're out exploring! Pack out all trash, leave wildlife alone, and generally leave it better than you found it - for more information visit the Leave No Trace Center.

Where to Stay in State College

I’ve stayed at multiple places when visiting State College and it’s hard to go wrong with so many options! Whether you want to rough it or stay in nicer digs, check out my recommendations.

Camping

If you really want an outdoorsy itinerary, check out staying at a state park campsites. I highly recommend Reeds Gap, but the following state state parks also have reservable spots:

  • Black Moshannon State Park
  • Greenwood Furnace State Park
  • Penn Roosevelt State Park

There are also private campgrounds near State College if that is more up your alley. The Dyrt has some great recommendations for spots in the area!

Hotels & Home Rentals

While I haven’t stayed at the Graduate in State College, I’ve stayed at this chain in other locations (Berkeley & Annapolis) and have loved my experience every time.

Airbnbs and VRBOs are also really reasonable during the summer (aka, not football season). We rented an airbnb during an extended family trip that would have slept 10 people for super cheap in summer 2022! It was in a great location and good for kids.

Below are some potential places for accommodation during your State College itinerary!

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Outdoor Adventures Near State College

Add any of these awesome outdoor adventures to your perfect State College weekend itinerary!

Hike Mount Nittany

This iconic state college hike is absolutely worth the hype! The trail is tough but goes to some amazing scenic overlooks.

There are two paths to get to the top – a shorter out and back trail at 1.4 miles and a longer five mile loop. The shorter version goes out and back from the trailhead to the Mike Lynch Overlook, which gives great views of Penn State College. However, I recommend the longer loop as there are tons of overlooks to give you great views of all parts of State College below. Both hikes have a steep climb to the top of the mountain, so this isn’t a great hike for beginner hikers. The five mile loop clocked in at just under 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Local Tip: If you’re visiting during the school year, go early! The trailhead parking lot is small and it fills up fast.

Overlooking State College from Mount Nittany

Great Hikes Near State College

While Mount Nittany is the most popular hike in the region, there are other great hikes near State College. Here are some of my favorites!

Little Flat Fire Tower

This 3.6 mile loop in Rothrock State Forest is a moderate hike that passes by an old fire tower. This trail shares a path with a section of the Mid State Trail, a 323 mile long trail that bisects the state from northern to southern border. I recommend going clockwise to go up the steep part instead of down.
Unfortunately, the fire tower is not able to be climbed, as the stairs along the bottom are gone

Colyer Lake Loop

This 2.6 mile loop in Rothrock State Forest is amazing and beginner friendly. It’s a super quiet trail at sunrise and one of my favorite hikes in the area.

Whipple Dam Lake Trail

This is a two mile trail that will knock another state park off your bucket list! This is a great loop for families as it has minimal elevation gain. Need proof? I did it with my three-year-old nephew in summer 2022. After your hike, be sure to check out the beach area on a nice day. It was a great place to picnic and relax.

Want to visit more state parks? Check out my list of all of the state parks in Pennsylvania, with guides to the ones I've visited!

Visit Black Moshannon State Park

This park is one of my favorites in Pennsylvania and definitely my favorite park close to State College. “Black Mo” (as the locals call it) comes from a combination of the Iroquois word “moss-hanne” (meaning moose stream) and “black” referring to the color of the lake water. This park offers hiking trails for hikers of all abilities. Black Mo is only thirty minutes from downtown State College.

View from the Bog Trail at Black Moshannon State Park

There are multiple great options for hiking at Black Moshannon! Pick the trail that best suits your abilities.

  • The half-mile long Bog Trail is an iconic Black Mo hike and is great for hikers of all abilities. It is wheelchair accessible and has a boardwalk with informational signs about wildlife for lifelong learners. 
  • The Tent Hill and lake loop trail is 1.2 mile and circumnavigates the lake for hikers who love a water view and maybe want to incorporate a boat rental into their trip. 
  • If you’re really looking for a challenge, the Allegheny Front Trail goes through the park. This 43 mile trail is a popular backpacking trail in Pennsylvania.
Love backpacking? Check out the best places to backpack in Western Pennsylvania!

Visit a Scenic Overlook

State College is home to some of the most epic scenic overlooks in Pennsylvania.

  • Jo Hays Vista – I literally stumbled across this one by accident it’s so easy to get to. This vista is right off of Route 26. The GPS coordinates for Jo Hays Vista are 40.71683, -77.89399.
  • Penns View, Ingelby View and Ravens Rock are all scenic overlooks along Poe Paddy Drive in Centre County. They are all worth visiting since they are so close to each other! (These may be hard to visit in winter with minimal road maintenance).

Pro tip: do not let Google maps tell you that you can go from Ravens Rock to Poe Paddy State Park. This is listed as a “driveable trail” – I promise you it is NOT driveable. We got about five minutes into the one mile drive and turned around because it was so rocky. I am thankful my car survived!

Camp at Reed’s Gap State Park

When I first visited Reeds Gap State Park on a day trip, I wasn’t impressed. It’s not that big of a park and there’s really only one hiking trail. However, when I came back and camped, I loved it. This park only has non-electric sites so there’s limited noise. The spots are flat and well maintained. The bathrooms are modern (no pit toilets!) and campers can shower for a fee. Falling asleep to the sounds of the Honey Creek was incredibly relaxing. The fact that I loved camping here and it was both rainy and super humid shows how awesome Reeds Gap was – because conditions were not ideal!

view of creek surrounded by trees with beams of light
Honey Creek running through Reed’s Gap State Park
Love visiting state parks? Check out my guide to the Nine State Parks near State College!

Where to Eat in State College

Make sure there are no hanger meltdowns by adding these awesome places to eat to your State College weekend itinerary!

Treat Yourself at the Berkey Creamery

The Penn State Berkey creamery is one of the best, if not the best, places to eat ice cream in the entire state. This creamery, located on Penn State’s campus in University Park, aims to support the programs in Penn State’s Department of Food Science, provide quality dairy products to the students in on-campus housing, and to maintain an economically viable retail outlet for dairy products. The portions are insanely large. Come hungry (and with Lactaid or Tums at the ready if you need!) The line is always crazy long but moves relatively quickly. If you decide you can’t live without Creamery ice cream, you’re in luck! They ship to 48 states.

Enjoying ice cream almost as big as our heads

Eat at Happy Valley Brewing Company

Happy Valley Brewing is a great place to fill up after adventures. This fun brewery offers classic pub eats like burgers, grilled cheese, and pulled pork but also offers in farm to table from local Centre County farms. This is a great place to eat after a Mount Nittany hike as it literally only five minutes from the trail head.

Other Places to Eat in State College

Mexican Food

We’ve also had takeout from Plaza Mexican. Food was great and reasonably priced, at least compared to Pittsburgh’s mexican food scene.

Breakfast

The Corner Room is a great casual eatery for breakfast. Portions are generous and you can never go wrong with unlimited coffee. I highly recommend their omelets!

For a true foodie's recommendations of where to eat in State College, check out Pittsburgh based food blogger Alex (aka @alexeatstoomuch)'s recommendations on the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau website!

I hope that this State College itinerary is everything you need to have a great weekend! The Happy Valley community is amazing and absolutely worth a visit.

Updated April 4 2024

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