Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
- Colton Point State Park
- Leonard Harrison State Park
We drove 5 hours from Cleveland to “The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” More of my thoughts on that moniker later. There are 2 state parks on opposite sides of the canyon: Colton Point State Park on the west and Leonard Harrison State Park on the east. It takes about 25 minutes to drive from one to the other.
Our first stop was Colton Point and we did the Canyon Rim trail (1 mile loop, mostly flat). There is another trail called the West Rim Trail – don’t confuse them as that one is many miles long. We didn’t think the Rim Trail was worth it to be honest – there are several viewpoints along the edge of the canyon and those are really all that’s worth seeing. I think you’re best off parking at the “Overlook” on Google Maps, which is a small loop at the end of the road into the park (well marked), and taking the short walk from there north along the rim to the viewpoints. You probably only need 15-30 minutes here. The Turkey Path (3 miles RT, around 700 ft elevation) takes you down to water level but we didn’t do it.
The best viewpoint on this side, and the whole area in my opinion, is Barbour Rock. You’ll pass the parking lot on your way to the Overlook so you can do it first or hit it on the way out. Parking is on the west side of Colton Road and the trailhead starts directly across it on the east side. There’s an accessible trail and another one that goes through the woods to form a lollipop loop. It’ll be a 1 or 1.25 mile RT flat hike depending on which trail you take. There are 2 areas that have the best views and they’re about 1 minute from each other – you can’t miss them while walking along the trail. You can go down to the edge (careful with kids) for an unobstructed view of the canyon.
We then drove over to Harrison State Park. This one has a visitor center (Colton does not) and views start right beyond the parking lot. There’s a short trail to Otter Point – we went there and right back the way we came down (about 0.5 miles total), along the canyon rim, but you can loop around into the woods for about a mile. There’s also another Turkey Path on this side of the canyon that goes down to the water level, but it was closed before you get to the water.
My wife and I both were a bit underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon of PA. We hadn’t heard of it, and I’d say there’s a reason for that. There were some nice views but for that drive time West Virginia is better with more things to do (see my trip reports for the New River Gorge here and Blackwater Falls and Seneca Rocks here).
We stayed at the rustic, historic Penn Wells Hotel in nearby Wellsboro. Would have preferred to stay at the newer Penn Wells lodge but they didn’t have any rooms available. We had a really good dinner at Red Skillet.
Day 2: Kinzua Bridge State Park
It was raining the whole morning so we went swimming at the Penn Wells Lodge (had access since we were staying at the Hotel) then drove 1 hour 45 minutes west to Kinzua Bridge State Park. Now this was worth the drive. This is where in 2003 a tornado ravaged what was once the highest railway in the world. Part of the bridge remains and they converted it into a walkway where you can venture out on the part that is still standing. There is an awesome view overlooking the valley from the end of the walkway. I think the neatest part is that the mangled steel and concrete has been left at the bottom, as a testament to nature’s power. You can hike down to the valley floor and walk around, which I would say is a must-do. It’s just under a mile roundtrip, and while it does include somewhat steep areas with stones and steps, there were people of all ages and abilities doing it. We really enjoyed walking around the ruined support beams and looking up to get a different perspective of how high the bridge was.
A few tips:
- If you’re at the visitor’s center looking at the bridge/walkway, make sure to take in the view from the platform to the right of the walkway (called the “Overlook” on the map).
- Go directly underneath the bridge towards the top for an awesome view looking through the steel beams.
- Spending time in the visitor’s center is definitely worth it. They have a movie, exhibits, and a lot of interesting information on the history of the bridge.
After spending a couple hours there we drove the rest of the way home. Neat fact – none of these 3 state parks have entrance fees.
Traveled in October 2021
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