Top 10 Things to do in the Allegheny National Forest

By: Moses Greenspan

1. Kinzua Sky Walk

The Kinzua Bridge was once the longest and tallest railroad bridge in the world, measuring 2,053 ft. long and 301 ft. high.  In 2003, a tornado destroyed the majority of the bridge.  In 2011, the remaining portion was converted into a pedestrian walkway which stretches 600 ft. out over the Kinzua Gorge with views for miles around.  The floor at the end of the skywalk is made of glass, allowing the bold and daring to look 300 ft. straight down past their feet into the valley below. This is a must visit destination if you are in the Allegheny National Forest.

2. Hiking in the Allegheny National Forest

The Allegheny National Forest has a staggering 1,600 miles of hikeable trails many of which lead to stunning views and vistas.  The ANF includes nearly 100 miles of the historic North Country Trail which travels south from the northern NY border, down across the Allegheny Plateau on the eastern side of the Allegheny Reservoir.  A particularly nice section of the trail is Hemlock Run which starts at the parking area off of PA 59.  

Take Tom’s Run trail to hike through PA’s largest stand of ancient forest.  This section of woods is part of the Tionesta Research Natural Area and has unique preservations of flora and fauna.

The Trails at Jake’s Rocks were developed for mountain biking, but can also be enjoyed by hikers.  There are over 30 miles of trails in this system offering wonderful views and lots of unique rock formations.

3. Kinzua Dam

The Kinzua Dam holds the water of the Allegheny Reservoir.  A masterful work of engineering finished in 1965, the 1,897 ft. dam is one of the largest dams east of the Mississippi.  The dam was built to prevent flooding in Pittsburgh and the lower Allegheny Basin and also provides hydroelectric power.

4. Allegheny Reservoir

The Allegheny reservoir is 27 miles long and has over 90 miles of shoreline.  This large body of water provides all sorts of water related activities.  You can swim from the beaches, kayak, canoe, sail, or use a motorized boat.  Stop by the Wolf Run Marina to rent a boat, grab a bite to eat, or to enjoy live music every Sunday.

5. Historic Towns

When oil was discovered in the late 1800s, the small town of Bradford grew exponentially.  Lots of money flowed through the town which resulted in some impressive architecture.  Today, you can take a walking tour of Bradford’s National Historic District.

You can also walk through the town of Kane and see The Depot.  If you go inside, you can learn about the famous Lobo Wolves and how Dr. McCleery saved an entire species of Great Plains Buffalo Wolves.  After visiting you will understand why it is called “a star in the forest”.

The Smethport Mansion District in Smethport, PA showcases Victorian mansions from the region’s opulent past.  If you walk through the area you can see 32 different mansions and notable buildings.  Not necessarily what you might expect in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wild.

6. Museums

Located in Bradford, PA, the Zippo/Case Museum draws in over 100,000 collectors and visitors each year.  Learn about Zippo, the famous lighter company which has impacted American pop. culture and about W. R. Case and Sons, the producers of the most collectible knives in the world.

To learn about the history of the forest and its commercial use, visit the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum.  After a multi-million dollar renovation and expansion, the museum offers large outdoor exhibits like a recreated 20th century logging camp, a 70-ton Shay geared-locomotive, and a 1910 Barnhart log loader.

If you want to know more about the original inhabitants of the ANF, visit the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca, NY.  The museum features art markets, art shows, workshops, and a 400 seat amphitheater. 

7. Food 

As the two biggest towns in the ANF Bradford and Kane are the main places to go for a bite to eat.  If you’re in Bradford, make sure to stop by Bradford Brew Station and maybe finish up by trying one of Foster Brook Creamery’s 30 plus flavors of ice cream!  In Kane grab a burger at Table 105 or sit down for a cup of coffee and some pastries at the Keystoned Care and Natural Shoppe.  Another notable stop is the Westline Inn located in Westline, PA.  Rated “the number one coziest restaurant in Pennsylvania” by Travel and Leisure, the 19th century inn is the perfect place for fine yet rustic dining.

8. Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries

The Allegheny Plateau has a number of celebrated breweries, distilleries, and wineries.  If you want to see a distillery at work check out CJ Spirits-Distillery in Kane which uses fresh local ingredients to make vodka, gin, whiskey, and rum.  Visit Bear Creek Wine in Kane for some unique fruity wines.  For beer made with extremely local ingredients, head over to Logyard Brewing also located in Kane.  For a winery with variety and excellent food, go to Twisted Vine Beverage which boasts 20 different wines and 16 beers on tap all in a 5 star restaurant.  Twisted Vine is located in…you guessed it, Kane.  Look forward to the opening of Wilds Sonshine Factory in the summer of 2021 which will serve distilled spirits through locally sourced ingredients.

9. Scenic Drives

A great way to see a large portion of the forest is to go for a scenic drive.  The Longhouse National Scenic Drive goes around the Kinzua Creek Arm of the Allegheny Reservoir and is a 36 mile loop from Kane.  Scenic Route 6 and the Kinzua Byway are also beautiful drives which take you through the many sites and historic towns that the Allegheny National Forest has to offer.

10. Winter Recreation

Allegheny National Forest is a great destination year round.  The trails that are used for ATVs in the warmer months are popular for snowmobiles in the winter.  You can also bring cross country skis or snowshoes on the multitude of hiking trails.  However you make your way through the forest, the ANF takes on an entirely different yet still beautiful look in the snowy winter.