The “Crown Jewel of Pennsylvania” is the Pine Creek Gorge, commonly known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (or, in deference to the slightly more famous one in the American West, “the Little Grand Canyon”). By any name, this scenic gem sits atop the must-see lists of many visitors to Pennsylvania, and it tops the itinerary of many visitors to the Penn Wells Hotel & Lodge, which sits in downtown Wellsboro, just 10 miles from some of the best Pennsylvania Grand Canyon overlooks.
Pine Creek Gorge / Pennsylvania Grand Canyon
The 47-mile-long, 1,000-foot-deep Gorge winds its way through a vast wilderness landscape of breathtaking beauty. The Canyon is surrounded by 165,000 acres of Pennsylvania State forestland, leaving an unspoiled view as far as the eye can see. Two State Parks located 10 miles from the Penn Wells offer stunning views of the Canyon and hiking trails from which you can descend into the Canyon or discover secluded overlooks along the Canyon rim. The area is so gorgeous and pristine that the 12-mile section near Wellsboro was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968.
Within the Canyon lies Pine Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. Entering the Pine Creek Gorge, the West Branch Pine Creek and Marsh Creek join and flow the length of the Grand Canyon. Canoeing, rafting, and kayaking are popular ways to enjoy the PA Grand Canyon from the water. Fishing is also popular along Pine Creek. Also near the floor of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon lies the Pine Creek Rail Trail. With trains no longer running through the Canyon, the conversion of the trail to a cycling path also used for walking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing, has provided an increasingly popular way to enjoy the beauty of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Other visitors enjoy a peaceful horse-drawn covered wagon ride through the entrance to the Canyon. In short, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon provides many means for enjoyment, and as we like to say at the Penn Wells, a chance to “Get Lost” in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Pine Creek Rail Trail
The Rail Trail offers year-round recreation for visitors and locals alike. The trail was voted by USA Today as one of the “10 great places to take a bike tour.” Whether you bike, walk, horseback ride, or ski the trail, you’re sure to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the great outdoors. The trail is flat with a 1% overall grade. The Penn Wells can refer you to an outfitter who will rent you a bike if you don’t bring your own, and also offers a shuttle service to bring you back to town after you ride south of Wellsboro following the trail through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.
Leonard Harrison State Park
On the east rim of the canyon, the 585-acre Leonard Harrison State Park has modern facilities, picnic area, gift shop, a Visitor’s Center that is open in season, and most importantly, the most famous scenic views of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Leonard Harrison is the starting point for the Turkey Path, a steep one-mile descent into the Canyon. The Turkey Path offers wonderful scenery, including an overlook built by the Youth Conservation Corps in 1978, but take care — the steep climb down provides a challenging hike, not to mention the return trip back up the Canyon wall! For a more leisurely hike along the rim, take the 0.6-mile Overlook Trail loop to Otter View for a magnificent southern view of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Prior to Otter View, even this trail does steepen, so proper footwear is recommended.
Colton Point State Park
On the west rim of Pine Creek Gorge, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the 368-acre Colton Point State Park resonates with the rustic charm of the Civilian Conservation Corps era of the 1930s. The rugged overlooks offer great views of the canyon. The Colton Point Park side also offers hiking trails. The Turkey Path into the Canyon from Colton Point is 1.5 miles down and passes a 70-foot waterfall. Once you reach the bottom from either side, there is no bridge to cross Pine Creek. The Colton Point side also offers a one mile, mostly flat, overlook trail along the PA Canyon rim. The scenic West Rim Trail, a 30-mile trail that follows the western edge of Pine Creek Gorge from Ansonia to Blackwell passes through Colton Point State Park, offering additional hiking opportunities (don’t worry, you don’t have to do all 30 miles to see some beautiful vistas!).