Hike to Pennsylvania's Piper Cherokee N32777 Crash Site
A stone's throw from downtown Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, on the rocky slope of Bald Eagle Mountain, rests the remains of a 1986 plane crash known as N32777. The single engine Piper Cherokee departed William R Piper Memorial Airport July 16, 1986 with only Hazelton, Pennsylvania resident John Yatso on board. Yatso was in Lock Haven for a Piper Airplane reunion and was attempting to fly home. Shortly after takeoff, due to poor visibility and strong wind, the Piper Cherokee flipped upside down and crashed into the side of the mountain leaving Yatso unconscious for some time. After regaining consciousness, Yatso, who has suffered spine and eye injuries, managed to walk several miles before a passing car noticed and picked him up. Miraculously, he survived his injuries and went on to lead a normal life.
Today, the plane lies surprisingly well intact compared to some others that we've been out to, possibly due to its relative inaccessibility. N32777 sits about 900' from the base of Bald Eagle Mountain and there are no hiking trails leading to the crash site. It's not terribly easy to reach, but by no means out of the question.
Those interested in visiting the site have two options and both require some, if not all, off trail hiking. Either way you shake it you'll need the GPS coordinates of the crash (continue reading). The first and much longer option is hiking the roughly 8.5 mile Bald Eagle Mountain Trail from Zindel Park. A lot of people hike this expecting to see the plane along the trail, but the site is actually located about a quarter mile off trail.
To clear up any confusion on how to reach the site from the Bald Eagle Mountain Trail, you'll follow it for four miles and once at the top of the Winchester Trail, one of the multiple trails that make up the Bald Eagle Mountain Trail, enter GPS Coordinates 41.129646, -77.373703 into Google Maps. From here you'll hike off trail through a very rocky and heavily wooded forest for roughly a quarter mile. The plane will be located on a downward slope at those coordinates.
The second and much shorter option is parking on the berm of Rt 220 at 41.1390285, -77.3766882 and hiking uphill to the crash site at 41.129646, -77.373703. The overall distance of this route is roughly 0.75 miles and packs in healthy 875' in elevation gain. About 250' uphill from the berm you'll encounter a metal fence, but as you can see in the photo below there's a gap to pass through.
From here the slope of Bald Eagle Mountain steepens and the terrain becomes increasingly more rocky. There isn't any bushwhacking involved, but the rocks really slow things down. If there's snow on the ground or it's recently rained hiking poles can make a world of difference on the way back down.
In the winter months the plane blends in with snow, so you'll likely spot its red vertical stabilizer before anything.
The pilot's cabin has been scavenged quite a bit, but it's still in pretty good shape. One of the plane's wings is still attached to the fuselage, albeit a bit wrapped around an oak tree. The other wing broke off during the crash and is up there somewhere, but it was tough to locate after a heavy snow the night before. The fuselage has quite a bit of jagged metal so use caution when checking it out.
After you're done exploring return the way you came regardless of which route you've decided to take.
Before venturing out make sure to download offline Google Maps since there's very little cell service on Bald Eagle Mountain. Without offline maps you're really handcuffing yourself. The Bald Eagle Mountain Trail has a short rock scramble not suitable for those with an extreme fear of heights. Also, the area in general is known for its high population of rattlesnakes, so you may hear a rattle or two regardless of which route you take. Super cool crash site, but it'll work you a bit.
If visiting plane crash sites is interesting to you check out our article on the Allegheny Airlines Flight 371 crash site. That site is about forty-five minutes from here and worth a stop.
Have a blast and be safe out there!