In Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors region, hikers and cyclists will find hundreds of miles of trails from rugged backcountry paths to wide, smooth rail-trails crisscross the region, and the area’s natural scenery and rolling hills offer endless variety for trail users of all types.
Cross-country skiers, ATV and dirt-bike riders, snowmobilers, hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders can find trails designed for their specific sports as well as multi-use trails that accommodate more than one type of activity.
In Cook Forest State Park, hikers will want to make sure to explore the majestic Forest Cathedral, a National Natural Landmark filled with giant ancient pine and hemlock trees, with some dating back to the 1600s. The 1.2-mile Longfellow Trail passes through some of the tallest, oldest, and largest eastern white pine in the northeastern U.S. Nearby, Seneca Trail leads to the Fire Tower and the Seneca Point overlook that feature commanding views of the Clarion River Valley. Just upriver from Cook Forest in Clear Creek State Park and Beartown Rocks that is known for house-sized boulders sprawled across several acres. Kids and adults alike enjoy hiking around the rocks, some of which have trees growing on them.
Another noteworthy rail-trail, the Redbank Valley Trail, from Brookville to East Brady, earned the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ first “Trail of the Year” designation in 2014. The 51-mile trail runs along Redbank Creek over several bridges and stone arches and through a tunnel, with a spur that extends from Lawsonham to Sligo. Make sure to explore the trail’s 608-foot Climax Tunnel near New Bethlehem that reopened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic after an extensive renovation in 2018.
From Ridgway to Brockway, the 18-mile Clarion-Little Toby Trail follows the path of a former rail line through the Clarion River and Little Toby Creek Valleys. Along the way, visitors can see what remains of half a dozen ghost towns, a flooded dam, and a train wreck, and take a fun detour on a swinging bridge over Little Toby Creek. In eastern Elk and northern Cameron Counties, the new four-season West Creek Trail spans 18 miles between St. Marys and Emporium, giving hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers a place to stretch their legs.
The Mahoning Shadow Trail in Punxsutawney and the Black Cherry Trail in the Allegheny National Forest have been designated National Recreational Trails, and they showcase some of the region’s industrial heritage as well as its natural beauty. The Allegheny National Forest features hundreds of miles of trails offering a variety of trail lengths and difficulty levels to accommodate any hiker. Come explore the ever-popular Buzzard Swamp Trail System, which provides some of the best wildlife and bird watching opportunities in the forest. The Twin Lakes Trail north of Ridgway, the Beaver Meadows Trail System near Marienville, and Minister Creek Trail near Tionesta are also great ways to explore all the ANF has to offer visitors.
The 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail, one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the country, runs right through this region on its route between North Dakota and the New York/Vermont border. More than 100 miles of the 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail run through Clarion and Forest Counties here, and this section features several Adirondack-style shelters for multi-day hikers. The new Clarion Loop Trail is a three-mile spur added to North Country Trail connecting the town of Clarion to the Clarion River that winds through hemlocks and hardwoods, passing over creeks and rocks until you reach the river.
Rail 66 Country Trail is a non-motorized, 4-season trail that currently extends 20.1 miles through the scenic countryside of northern Clarion County, from Marianne (Paint Township) to Vowinckel, on the historic Knox-Kane railroad bed. Community organizers in the Forest County town of Marienville are developing the Knox-Kane Trail along the same line. Plans and funding are in place for Marienville to develop several more miles of trail on the Knox-Kane corridor and create a recreational hub at the historic train station in the heart of Marienville. Ultimately, trail organizers hope to unite the two developed sections and create a longer-distance recreational route.
In the winter, cross-country skiers can enjoy the Laurel Mill and Little Drummer Trails in the Allegheny National Forest. The Sand Springs Trail in Elk State Forest offers an additional 2.3 miles of slopes and curves for skiers, and the Hunters Run Trail System in Cornplanter State Forest features nested loops for hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers to explore depending on their abilities and interests.
Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors region features hundreds of additional miles of trails, and you can access maps by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197. Trail maps are also available at state park and national forest offices.