As you know, COVID created a gigantic barrier to travel – borders closed, events cancelled, plans forgotten. Workspaces moved home and meetings went digital. The roads were empty (I really enjoyed the highway on my daily commute to work) and everyone stayed inside. While many people developed new at-home hobbies (I definitely did), others embraced the opportunity to get outside into nature, away from the hustle and bustle of busy cities. Tucked away in northern Pennsylvania, near the New York border is a town called Wellsboro where the 47-mile long Pine Creek Gorge starts. It’s commonly called the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.
It’s accessible from any direction, but we drove up from Maryland (a roughly 4-hour drive) as we passed a whole lot of fields, fields, adult video stores, fields, adult video stores, fields, then finally some forest and we knew we were close.
We pulled up to our cabin and unloaded everything before venturing to Leonard Harrison State Park. Here, you can stroll along the 0.5 mile Overlook Trail for an incredible view of the gorge or climb down the 2 mile roundtrip Turkey Path to the water below along some switchbacks. Unfortunately for us, the latter was closed due to heavy rains the couple days prior. Leonard Harrison offers plenty of camping options, as well, for those of you who want to bring a long a camper.
The next day we drove up the road to Pine Creek Outfitters who offer canoes, bikes, and rafting. We opted for renting some bikes and heading over to the old Pine Creek rail trail. We really wanted to get some new bikes of our own, but they were virtually unobtainable in 2020, so fingers crossed for being able to find some this Spring.
We rode along US-6 for about a half mile until we crossed an old bridge and began our ride along the creek. It is a gorgeous ride with plenty of animal sightings (big birds make nests along the ridge on the opposite side of the water) and small waterfalls that act is tributaries to the creek. Rachel and I kept wondering about several houses that popped up along the water, wondering who lived there and how they got stuff to their houses. One house even had a gondola that ran over the water to their entrance! The trail has an ever-so-slight gradient so the ride back might be a little harder.
After a little lunch break back at the cabin, we brought Griffin, our adventure chihuahua, and headed out to the other side of the canyon and entered Colton Point State Park. This is much more ‘parking lot for campers’ style than the first park, which had a large, paved walking area. The sun from our first day dried up a lot of the rain and the Turkey Path on this side (they don’t connect at the bottom of the gorge, unless you wade across the creek which is probably frowned upon by the state.) The path down is beautiful and you pass a few small waterfalls that are pretty tranquil and offer solid photography practice.
The miles of biking and hiking we did took a toll on our legs, so we wanted to take it easy the rest of the night. Back at the cabin, we wandered the grounds and relaxed for a bit before heading into the town of Wellsboro for the evening. It’s a quaint little town of 3,000-some with a bit of history for those interested. There’s a main street with an old art deco style theater and some restaurants. We stopped in one for a bottle of wine and some dinner to cap off our night.
If you’re traveling back south from Wellsboro, there’s two places I recommend checking out – Cherry Springs State Park which is said to have some of the best star-gazing in the area or Little Pine State Park, where we decided to get one more hike in.
Little Pine is a perfect place to enjoy a little picnic and if you pull up a map of the park, you’ll see a trail called Lake Shore Trail, which sounds like a simple stroll along the water right? Nope. It was 5.5 miles of steep inclines and mud. After just a few minutes of walking, you’re up along the ridgeline, nowhere near the calm waters below.
Once you’ve finished trudging through the increasingly muddy paths, you’ll come across a grassy meadow where we found several deer bouncing around. The walk is easy here, just be mindful of the direct sun with no shade, and the tall grass that you’ll be exposed to (check for ticks before getting into the car).
If you live in the mid-Atlantic region and want to remain cautious as it seems like more states and businesses are reopening in 2021, I think a nature trip up to Wellsboro and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon would be well worth it.
Have you been or do you want to? Let me know in the comments section.