Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Allegheny National Recreation Area

Allegheny National Recreation Area

Pennsylvania

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest

24,145 acres

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/allegheny/specialplaces/

Overview

Allegheny National Recreation Area was created by Congress in 1984 under the Pennsylvania Wilderness Act.  It is managed as three separate parcels of land within Allegheny National Forest.  The first is named Cornplanter after an Iroquois warrior and leader during the American Revolution and it has two boat launches and no developed trails on the federal lands west of the Allegheny Reservoir.  The second is Tracy Ridge to the east of the reservoir, which we will discuss below.  Farther south, the third parcel is the Allegheny Front on the east side of the Allegheny River from Charlie Run to South Slater Run, bordered on the west by Highway 62.

Highlights

Willow Bay Recreation Area, Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System, North Country National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

Tracy Ridge is easily accessible from scenic State Highway 321 and it has an extensive system of hiking trails, including a 10-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail.  Further north, Willow Bay Recreation Area (day-use fee) is the most developed portion of Allegheny National Recreation Area.  The waters of the Allegheny Reservoir between Cornplanter and Tracy Ridge are also considered to be part of the National Recreation Area with three developed boat-in campgrounds (fee). 

Best Trail

In addition to the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System, the undeveloped Allegheny Front parcel contains a three-mile segment of the Tanbark Trail.  These areas are popular with hunters, so remember to wear fluorescent clothing during hunting seasons.

Instagram-worthy Photo

While having lunch near the dock in Willow Bay Recreation Area, we saw a bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk, ravens, and a flock of Canada geese.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

There is an entrance fee at Willow Bay Recreation Area, but it is half price with an America the Beautiful pass.  Even if you hike in to Hopewell and Handsome Lake Campgrounds on the shores of the Allegheny Reservoir, you need to pay the overnight camping fee.  Based on the signs, we think that backpacking in Tracy Ridge is free.

Road Conditions

We did not come across any unpaved roads while driving through Allegheny National Recreation Area, but they probably exist.

Camping

Willow Bay Recreation Area and Tracy Ridge have drive-in campgrounds, plus Hooks Brook, Hopewell, and Handsome Lake are accessible by boat.  Dispersed camping is allowed for no more than 14 consecutive days at one site and not within 1500 feet of the Allegheny Reservoir.  The same goes for backpacking sites on the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System where hanging bear bags or using bear-proof containers is recommended.

Related Sites

Allegheny National Forest (Pennsylvania)

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Nearest National Park

Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)

Explore More – When it is completed, how long will the North Country National Scenic Trail be in its entirety?

Allegheny National Forest

Allegheny National Forest

Pennsylvania

Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region

742,693 acres (513,175 federal/ 229,518 other)

Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny

Overview

The only National Forest in Pennsylvania was created in 1923 utilizing the federal government’s ability to purchase land under the Weeks Act of 1911.  However, they could not afford the subsurface or mineral rights, which has created issues in this oil-producing area.  Before it became Allegheny National Forest, most of the hillsides were clearcut to feed the area’s wood chemical plants, allowing black cherry and early successional species to dominate the second growth forests.  The National Forest contains two Wild and Scenic Rivers: the Clarion River (51.7 miles) and Allegheny River (87 miles in three separate sections).

Highlights

Allegheny National Recreation Area, Hearts Content Scenic Area, Willow Bay Recreation Area, Old Powerhouse, Timberdoodle Flats Interpretive Trail, Minister Creek, Buzzard Swamp Hiking Area, Clarion Wild and Scenic River, Allegheny Wild and Scenic River, Buckaloons Recreation Area, Hall Barn Wildlife Viewing Area, North Country National Scenic Trail

Must-Do Activity

A good place to start exploring Allegheny National Forest is by driving the Longhouse Scenic Byway, a 36-mile loop, which includes views of the Allegheny Reservoir and Kinzua Dam, plus a side trip up to Jakes Rocks Overlook.  We drove in from the east and found the easy walks on the Timberdoodle Flats Wildlife Interpretive Trail to be a good introduction to this region.  This is one of the few places in Pennsylvania with old-growth forests, so be sure to stop at Hearts Content Scenic Area or Tionesta Scenic and Research Natural Areas. 

Best Trail

Huge eastern hemlock and eastern white pine trees up to 400 years old can be found in the 20-acre Hearts Content Scenic Area.  This National Natural Landmark has a picnic area constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and is located across from a nice campground.  There are two short, flat loop trails located here, but you can also connect into 7.8 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing routes.  Other popular hiking destinations include Rimrock Trail and a 10-mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail within the Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail System (see our post on Allegheny National Recreation Area for more information).

Watchable Wildlife

As hard as it is to believe given their prevalence now, low populations of white-tailed deer in the 1920s allowed this new National Forest to grow back quickly.  Campers should exercise caution with their food and trash since black bears are in the area.  Turkeys, bald eagles, barred owls, Canada geese, black-capped chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers are common bird species.  Hall Barn Wildlife Viewing Area is known for its summer population of 1,000 roosting bats.  There is also evidence of beavers on the Timberdoodle Flats Wildlife Interpretive Trail.  Allegheny Reservoir has walleye, trout, bass, catfish, northern pike, and muskellunge, and small native brook trout can be found in the Farnsworth Stream and other creeks. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Kinzua Dam was completed in 1965 and stands 179 feet tall and 1,897 feet in length.  Kinzua is a Seneca Indian word that translates as “place of many big fishes.”  Watch for fish that gather in eddies at the edges of the Allegheny Reservoir near the dam, but remember that fishing and feeding the fish is prohibited at this spot.

Peak Season

Summer

Fees

There is an entrance fee at both Willow Bay and Buckaloons Recreation Areas, but it is half price with an America the Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved to Willow Bay Recreation Area and Hearts Content Scenic Area, which are popular with RV campers. 

Camping

Allegheny National Forest contains 15 campgrounds with more than 1,000 sites, and Willow Bay Recreation Area also has cabins for rent.  We enjoyed our stay at Heart’s Content Campground, but found Buckaloons Campground to be too crowded.  Allegheny Islands Wilderness has seven islands that can be used for boat-in dispersed camping.

Wilderness Areas

Allegheny Islands Wilderness

Hickory Creek Wilderness

Related Sites

Allegheny National Recreation Area (Pennsylvania)

Grey Towers National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Nearest National Park

Cuyahoga Valley (Ohio)

Conifer Tree Species

eastern hemlock, eastern white pine

Flowering Tree Species

sugar maple, black maple, red maple, striped maple, silver maple, mountain maple, yellow birch, sweet birch, black walnut, bitternut hickory, shagbark hickory, sycamore, American beech, white ash, tulip-poplar, green ash, cucumber magnolia, quaking aspen, bigtooth aspen, black cherry, pin cherry, choke cherry, northern red oak, basswood, American elm, slippery elm

Explore More – Timberdoodle is a local nickname for which native bird species that nests in this forest?

Steamtown National Historic Site

Overview

In downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, 52 acres have been turned into a dreamscape for railroad enthusiasts by the National Park Service (NPS).  Specifically, the site is dedicated to steam engines, which truly got started in 1830 with the South Carolina Railroad and lasted more than century before being fully replaced by diesel locomotives.  A unique opportunity at this park is the chance to take one of several steam train excursions (additional fee) that leave from the site.

Highlights

Museum, film, turntable, tours, steam train excursions

Must-Do Activity

Steamtown National Historic Site is located on the grounds of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, which relied on the region’s cleaner-burning anthracite coal.  The park includes a theater, multiple museums, a 90-foot-diameter operating turntable, restoration shops, locomotives, and a collection of railroad cars.  A highlight is one of the few Union Pacific “Big Boys” built to haul freight trains through the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.  Guided tours are included with your admission fee, although there is enough to read and watch in the extensive museums to keep you busy all day long.

Best Trail

There is no trail, but you will get your daily steps if you tour the entire facility.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The turntable is surrounded on one half by the glass-fronted NPS visitor center and history museum, which makes for some cool photographs.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/stea/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and ample parking is available.

Camping

See our blog post on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for a list of State Parks and State Forests with campgrounds in the area.

Related Sites

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (New York-Pennsylvania)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

Explore More – What year was the park’s oldest locomotive built for the Chicago Union Transfer Railroad Company?

Flight 93 National Memorial

Overview

One of the most emotionally difficult places we have ever visited is the Flight 93 National Memorial in southwest Pennsylvania.  Most readers remember the details of September 11, 2001 vividly and the feelings of that day still resonate.  Thanks to the courage of the 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93, the airplane crashed only 18 minutes short of its target in Washington, D.C.

Highlights

Museum, Memorial Plaza, Wall of Names

Must-Do Activity

Even if you never saw the Hollywood film, the story of Flight 93 is well known.  The National Park Service (NPS) has put together a high-quality museum near the airplane crash site and the memorial itself is simple yet strong.  One wall is inscribed with this excellent quote: “A common field one day.  A field of honor forever.”  The focus is on the bravery of the 33 passengers and seven crew members that stood up to the four hijackers that tragic morning.  Since it is essentially a mass grave, the actual crash site is off limits except to family members of the victims, but it is marked by a large boulder visible from the Memorial Plaza.  We left after our visit feeling both saddened and empowered.

Best Trail

An allée (formal walkway) leads from the NPS visitor center past the 40 Memorial Groves of trees (planted in 2012) to the Memorial Plaza and the Wall of Names.  You can also drive to the parking lot at the visitor shelter next to the Memorial Plaza.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The names of the Flight 93 passengers and crew are on the 40 marble panels of the Wall of Names (the NPS visitor center is visible in the background).

Peak Season

Summer and the September anniversary

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/flni/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

We camped on state forest land near Stoystown, Pennsylvania.

Related Sites

Johnstown Flood National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – Where was the United Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey bound for on September 11, 2001?

Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Overview

May 31, 1889 was the infamous day when a dam broke sending a 40-foot wall of water downstream, leveling multiple towns and killing more than 2,200 people.  The earthen South Fork Dam was designed for a lower lake level, was poorly maintained since 1853, and was completely ignored by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club (with wealthy members such as Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon).  Clara Barton’s newly formed American Red Cross sent a staff of 50 doctors and nurses to assist with recovery efforts, which took years.

Highlights

Museum, film, South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Historic District, Grandview Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the National Park Service (NPS) museum at the dam site in South Fork, Pennsylvania.  The 35-minute film shown there is not appropriate for young children.  A driving tour leads around the dry lakebed to the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Historic District.  Much of the Little Conemaugh River downstream is not accessible by roads, but be sure to drive downstream to Johnstown to visit the Grandview Cemetery and, if you have time, the Johnstown Flood Museum (admission fee). Every year since 1989 on the anniversary, the NPS lights 2,209 luminaria in memoriam.

Best Trail

There is a trail that follows a portion of the Little Conemaugh River and leads to Staple Bend Tunnel, part of Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A memorial to the unidentified victims of the May 31, 1889 flood stands in Grandview Cemetery in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/jofl/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None, except at the unaffiliated Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Road Conditions

The main access roads are paved, but some of the smaller roads to the Little Conemaugh River may not be.

Camping

Prince Gallitzin State Park offers a campground with showers 20 miles northwest of Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Related Sites

Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania)

Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Pennsylvania)

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

Explore More – Where did the miles of barbwire that wrapped around the flood debris originate?