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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?

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Overview

If you did not know there was a National Park in Ohio it is understandable since Cuyahoga Valley National Park was not officially designated until 2000.  It is centered around the historic Ohio and Erie Canal, which opened in 1827 to connect Akron to the port of Cleveland on Lake Erie.  Cuyahoga is an American Indian word meaning “crooked” and you will see why if you walk or bike down the 19-mile Towpath Trail where mules once pulled line boats through a series of locks (be sure to stop at Canal Visitor Center at Lock 38).  If you plan it right, you can take your bike on board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad for a cheap one-way ride.

Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Brandywine Falls, Lock 38, Hunt Farm, Everett Road Covered Bridge, Gorge Parkway

Must-Do Activity

In the park’s southern end near Akron-Canton, you will find a great blue heron rookery and beaver marsh along the crooked Cuyahoga River.  In the central section, you must stop to see the cascades of Brandywine Falls (see it depicted below in our original logo).  Closer to Cleveland, discover the Bedford Reservation along Gorge Parkway, including beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.  For a little culture in the outdoors, look up the summer schedule for Blossom Music Center or Porthouse Theatre.  Fall is an especially popular time to visit when the leaves change, but with over 100 miles of trails within the park, there is plenty to explore in every season.

Best Trail

We highly recommend a hike on the two-mile Ledges Loop Trail where mossy sandstone cliffs are cloaked by a dense forest of hemlock and hardwood trees.  Once a popular destination on the trail, Ice Box Cave is closed to protect the resident bat population, but similar spots nearby still offer a chance for exploration.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In the southern end of the park, Everett Road Covered Bridge has been rebuilt to demonstrate this once common construction method.

Peak Season

Fall

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is no official campground in the park, but there are a variety of other lodging options including the historic Inn at Brandywine Falls.

Related Sites

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Ohio)

First Ladies National Historic Site (Ohio)

This design we created to celebrate Cuyahoga Valley National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Who manages the Hale Farm and Village where costumed re-enactors bring history to life?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Wupatki National Monument

Overview

In the open plateau northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona lies 35,000 acres set aside in 1924 to protect a collection of archaeological sites.  A 35-mile drive through Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and adjacent Wupatki National Monument passes through ponderosa pine forests and sunflower-filled meadows on its way to an arid, rocky high desert.  Archaeologists theorize the Ancestral Puebloan people were attracted to this place by the fertile volcanic ash deposited by the contemporaneous eruptions at Sunset Crater. 

Highlights

Wupatki Pueblo, Lomaki Pueblo, Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos, Wukoki Pueblo

Must-Do Activity

The most famous of the ruins is named Wupatki Pueblo, a three-story, 100-room house inhabited by Sinagua around AD 1100.  At the height of its occupation, the structure was three stories tall and contained 100 rooms.  Its location near a spring allowed villagers to farm the volcanically-enriched soil, plus the leisure to build an amphitheater and ball court.  Here there is more than just crumbling ruins and pottery shards behind glass in a museum; there is a palpable feeling that this was a place where people lived.

Best Trail

The paved walking loop from the visitor center at Wupatki Pueblo is a half mile long and there are short interpretive trails at several additional ruins (see Highlights above), most located not far from parking lots.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Next to the ball court, do not miss the small opening to a larger cavern (or earthcrack) that breathes in or out depending upon the change in barometric pressure.  It is not hard to imagine kids playing here hundreds of years ago.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

$25 per vehicle (or America the Beautiful pass), which also covers entrance to neighboring Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Road Conditions

All roads to ruins are paved, but there is one dirt road that leads to the Little Colorado River, which forms the border with the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Camping

The U.S. Forest Service runs the Bonito Campground across from the Sunset Crater visitor center between May and October.  Dispersed camping is allowed in portions of Coconino National Forest.

Related Sites

Walnut Canyon National Monument (Arizona)

Tuzigoot National Monument (Arizona)

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Explore More – What were the two main types of sedimentary rock used to construct the pueblos?

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Overview

The 2,320-mile long Mississippi River is legendary in our nation and well-known worldwide.  Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) covers 72 miles of the famous river’s course through Minnesota, from busy metropolitan sections in the Twin Cities to secluded stretches of water.  Along this section it changes from its shallow headwaters to a powerful force at its confluence with the St. Croix River.  Established in 1988, the National Park Service (NPS) owns only 35 acres of the 54,000 acres protected within the NRRA.

Highlights

St. Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Coldwater Spring, Indian Mounds Park, Mississippi Gorge Regional Park

Must-Do Activity

Near downtown Minneapolis is St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River’s entire length.  The falls powered gristmills and sawmills on both banks that drove the settlement of Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Opportunities for walking, biking, boating, fishing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife watching (especially at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge) abound along the river depending upon the season.

Best Trail

In winter, urban trails along the Mississippi River are very pretty under a layer of white snow, and it can be very quiet and peaceful.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We enjoyed Minnehaha Regional Park where we found the 53-foot tall waterfall celebrated in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but there is no free parking available at the NPS visitor center located inside the lobby for the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Camping

There are no campgrounds managed by the National Park Service within the NRRA, however, there are many places to camp in the area.

Related Sites

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (Minnesota-Wisconsin)

Missouri National Recreational River (Nebraska-South Dakota)

Pipestone National Monument (Minnesota)

Explore More – What did the city of Minneapolis do to make sure Minnehaha Falls was flowing for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit during the 1964 drought?