Time for another road trip. The destination would be an amazing area known as the Pennsylvania Wilds.
The Pennsylvania Wilds region is made up of over 2 million acres of public land. It contains 29 state parks and is home to the largest elk herd in the Northeast.
Waking up bright and early, we left our home not long after the sun came up. We planned to take the scenic route (of course) and ended up seeing some beautiful farms and countrysides thanks to the beautiful state of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania never stops impressing us with her beauty.
The first stop on our trip of the Pennsylvania Wilds was Black Moshannon State Park. The first thing that we noticed when we entered the park was how it reminded us of photos that we had seen of Canada. The visitor’s center wasn’t open, but it was small enough that we could peek inside and see what it had to offer.
We found a park map so we could take a short hike. We discovered Star Mill Trail, a two-mile easy hike past the lake and through the coniferous forest. We saw birds, red squirrels, and a few toads.
After our hike, we had lunch overlooking part of Black Moshannon Lake.
We left the park with our bellies full and ready to take on our next adventure. Of course, cell phone coverage is non-existent here, so we had to break out the paper map to navigate our way.
Along our route, Aaron stopped to look at the map and we found a rail trail, with some interesting signage. Turns out, it’s THIS.
Our next stop was Elk Country Visitors Center.. We hoped to see some elk while we were here, but it was the middle of the day, so our chances were very low. We did anticipate adding another state park to our list though.
The visitors center was not busy, so we enjoyed wandering around the grounds and the museum to learn more about the area and the elk that lived there. We did not see elk or any other type of wildlife that day, though.
We left and decided to stop by Elk Mountain Winery. Known for their cleverly-named wines, we tasted a few and picked up two bottles: Jack Ass Red and One Eyed Stag. Highly recommend stopping by here and checking the place out!
We made it to our final destination for the night, The Royal Inn.
We settled for dinner at Foxes Pizza and stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a few things for breakfast and snacks. Then it was lights out so we could prepare for our amazing Sunday. we stopped at the local grocery to pick up some lunch beforehand.
We woke up early Sunday morning so we could start our day. After a nutritious breakfast consisting of Golden Grahams, we drove to our next destination, Bendigo State Park.
The park was basically empty and we HIGHLY enjoyed wandering around, exploring the park. The air was cool and the scenery was beautiful.
We got lost.
Yes we did.
We went looking for state park number 19, Elk State Park, and thought we were lost in bumf*** Pennsylvania. But we did find a whole lotta abandoned oil well fields in the area and did think that was pretty cool. Also, train tracks. Everywhere.
The road that leads to this state park is kind of rough and make sure you keep a look out for the sign or you’ll miss it!
There isn’t much to this park. The lake was low, there was no one else there. We decided to have lunch and just chill out and watch for wildlife.
We didn’t spend that much time here, as there wasn’t that much to see or do. So we headed towards Kinzua Bridge State Park to see the photos that we had “ooohhh’d” and “ahhh’d” over and see it in person.
This 301-foot high railroad structure was destroyed by a tornado in 2003. Yes, a lowly F1 tornado ripped this railroad bridge apart. We could only imagine what it sounded and looked like as it passed through the valley and flung these steel beams apart like NOTHING. Believe us when we say-it’s worth it to make the drive here to check it out!
There is also a trail, that is less than a half-mile, that leads down below the bridge so you can check out the supports and the fallen towers below. But DO NOT enter the debris field. We didn’t hike the trail this time around-but will definitely be doing it the next time we head up here.
There is also an interactive museum that you can visit at Kinzua Bridge State Park. It’s one of the nicest ones that we’ve ever been to.
Then it was onward into Allegheny National Forest.
First stop: Rimrock Overlook.
Tip: Make sure you are paying attention to the signs when driving through Allegheny National Forest and looking for this place. Apple Maps says it’s 10 miles further than where it actually is. If coming from the east, it’s before you reach Kinzua Point. If you reach the lake before you see Rimrock Overlook, you’ve missed it and will have to turn around.
Then we drove past some very stunning views.
On the way, we passed Kinzua Dam, which seemed pretty busy but we didn’t partake in viewing it, besides using the bathroom facilities. The rest of our Sunday afternoon consisted of driving through scenic Allegheny State Forest and attempting to drive on PA Route 666 which was cut short due to road construction. We made it back to our hotel to have dinner and relax for a bit. Then decided to head back towards the Elk Visitor Center to see if we could stop any elk.
We were not disappointed.
After waiting for over an hour, we started to spot some elk. I believe it was somewhere around 6:30 PM-7:00 PM when we spotted the first cow. Soon after, we started driving to the other overlooks and started to see a ton more elk and whitetail deer. I think that best moment was when Aaron stated, “we’ve seen quite a few cows, it would be awesome if we saw a big bull.”
Low and behold (and I forgot the zoom lens. DOH!)
On the way back to our motel, we saw tons more elk and whitetail deer. Please be careful when driving through here, and DO NOT park in the roadway or on other peoples’ personal property!
The next morning, we took our time getting ready to check out of our motel. We planned on taking a more northern route on our way back to Cumberland County and visit a few more state parks. We stopped at the local grocery store to stock up on lunch items and then got gas. Our first stop was Sizerville State Park.
This park is not big at 386 acres. The butterfly garden at the visitors center certainly was a pretty sight, though. We stopped to check out the information booth and took a few photos before we went on our way.
Then onto an odd state park, Denton Hill State Park.
We didn’t realize that this park is basically a ski resort. We were the only ones here, so we had lunch. It was quite chilly, with the wind making it worse than what it really was. Thank goodness the sun was out!
There is also a Rest Area and Lumberjack Museum across the road from this state park. We didn’t explore either of those this day.
Continuing along Route 6 took us through Susquehannock State Forest and Tioga State Forest. This section was quite beautiful and you could see that the leaves were already starting to change colors although it was only the end of August!
Then it was onto Colton Point State Park, on the West Rim of the PA Grand Canyon.
Of course, we were here on a Monday and it was not busy (thank goodness!) The views was quite lovely and reminded us of Hawk’s Nest State Park in West Virginia. You could also see Pine Creek Rail Trail which ran through the canyon. We would definitely be back to ride that one!
It was about mid-afternoon, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to hit up Leonard Harrison State Park or head home.
So we decided to drive the extra 16 miles the wrong way and add our 25th Pennsylvania State Park to our list.
Closer to the park, there were a few abandoned buildings that looked like they were a major attraction back in their day. There is also a campground around here and also at the entrance to the state park.
If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon (yes, the real one) they seem to be trying to add some of the same touches that the Grand Canyon of the west has to it. Will it be the same? No. But it’s pretty impressive and just adds to the overall beauty that the Pennsylvania Wilds region has to offer.
For the leaf peepers, this would be the place to go to see the leaves changing into their brilliant colors!
The drive home was uneventful, and we even stopped at one of our favorite chain restaurants for old farts like us, Bob Evans. Man, we were tired! But the banana bread and biscuits were warm and our bellies were full of coffee and delicious food.
Our trip to the Pennsylvania Wilds was amazing. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful areas we’ve explored.
We visited 10 Pennsylvania State Parks in 3 days.
It was all TOTALLY worth it.
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Freelance Graphic Designer based in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. I enjoy creating digital art, illustrations and photography. I also enjoy hiking, birding, cooking, reading, traveling and a nice bourbon or two.