EXPLORE: Cameron County, PA

Abandoned Nuclear Jet Engine Testing Bunkers
Location: Quehanna Wild Area, PA

Website: https://pabucketlist.com/exploring-the-abandoned-nuclear-jet-engine-bunkers-in-the-quehanna-wild-area/

Situated amid one of northcentral Pennsylvania’s most beautiful natural areas are remnants of two pieces of Pennsylvania history. Two abandoned nuclear jet engine testing bunkers can be found off the Quehanna Highway just north of the intersection with Wykoff Run Road. These bunkers were constructed and used between 1955 and 1960. The nuclear jet engine testing complex was born out of the “Atoms for Peace” program, proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 and created by the United States Congress in 1954. The goal for the project was to develop nuclear-powered jet engines for the United States Air Force. The contracts were cancelled in 1960 and the project and bunkers were abandoned. Bring binoculars for birding, flashlights for the bunkers, and keep your eyes peeled for rattlesnakes.

Bucktail Path
Location: Sinnemahoning, PA

Website: https://www.kta-hike.org/bucktail-path.html

The Bucktail Path is a 33.5-mile hiking trail in north-central Pennsylvania, through portions of Elk State Forest. Most of the trail is in Cameron County, with its northern end in Potter County. The Bucktail Path is often described as one of the most isolated and least hiked backpacking trails in Pennsylvania, with a path that can be difficult to follow even for experienced hikers; and it has experienced long periods of under-use with little maintenance. It is also known for several challenging climbs and bridgeless stream crossings. The trail starts at Sizerville State Park and ends in the village of Sinnemahoning. The trail is orange blazed. Highlights are mountain vistas, varied terrain, former railroad grades and the Johnson Run Natural Area.

Bucktail State Park Natural Area
Location: Emporium, PA

Website: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/BucktailStateParkNaturalArea/Pages/default.aspx

Bucktail State Park Natural Area provides a beautiful 75-mile scenic drive along PA 120 from Emporium, through Renovo, to Lock Haven. It stretches through a narrow valley known as the Bucktail Trail, named after the famous American Civil War regiment of Woodsmen, the Bucktails or Bucktail Rangers. This also is the old Sinnemahoning Trail used by American Indians on their way to and from the eastern continental divide between the Susquehanna and Allegheny rivers. Aside from the three towns named above, the valley is mostly forested land with an occasional small village or isolated farm. This beautiful area has also been called the Bucktail Canyon because of the steep mountains that form beautiful forested walls along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Sinnemahoning Creek.

Elk State Forest
Location: Emporium, PA

Website: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateForests/FindAForest/Elk/Pages/default.aspx

Elk State Forest derives its name from the great numbers of elk that once thrived in the area. It encompasses almost 217,000 acres of northern hardwood and mixed oak forest. Today, visitors can once again see elk in the meadows and openings scattered throughout the state forest.

Fred Woods Trail
Location: Driftwood, PA

Website: https://pahikes.com/blogs/quehanna-trail/fred-woods-trail-a-rock-city-and-awe-inspiring-vistas

The Fred Woods Trail is a 4.5-mile loop trail near the small town of Driftwood, perched high atop the surrounding mountains. The trail was built in honor of forester Fred Woods who died from a heavy machinery accident while on the job in 1975. The trail meanders through huge boulder that make a “rock city” in the woods, as well as visiting two breathtaking vistas.

Hicks Run Wildlife Viewing Area
Location: Driftwood, PA

Website: https://visitpago.com/listings/hicks-run-viewing-area/

This viewing area with blind overlooks high-quality elk forage. Elk are commonly present there early and late in the day all year. It’s a great stop to tie into a fall foliage ride and the viewing blind offers fine photography opportunities. The viewing area is along Route 555 about 12 miles east of Benezette, near Hicks Run Road. Off-highway parking is available. Please park with care and be respectful of the cemetery.

Hoover Farm Wildlife Viewing Area
Location: Driftwood, PA

Website: https://visitpago.com/listings/hoover-farm-elk-viewing-area/

The Hoover Farm Viewing Area of Moshannon State Forest has a viewing blind (handicapped-accessible) overlooking food plots and wildlife openings maintained by the Game Commission. Located at the intersection of Wykoff Run Road and Quehanna Highway, the viewing area is owned by the DCNR and annually draws elk from the nearby big woods. It’s a fascinating area to visit with loads of potential.

Johnson Run Natural Area
Location: Driftwood, PA

Website: https://visitpago.com/listings/johnson-run-natural-area/

Johnson Run Natural Area is a 216-acre nature preserve located in Cameron County, Pennsylvania. The topography consists of a rugged, bouldered plateau dissected by steep-sided streams and covered with somewhere from 26 acres to 50 acres of old-growth forest containing Eastern Hemlock and Eastern White Pine. Some of the white pines are nearly 4 feet in diameter at breast height.

Lower Jerry Run Natural Area
Location: Sinnemahoning, PA

Website: http://docs.dcnr.pa.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/document/DCNR_003283.pdf

The Lower Jerry Run Natural Area comprises 892 acres near the Cameron/Clinton County line. This natural area is in the headwaters and drainage area of Lower Jerry Run. This Natural Area has a 32-acre stand of large, old growth white pine and hemlock. This stand is between the two forks of Lower Jerry Run. The remaining forest is comprised of mixed oak and northern hardwoods. This is a remote area where access is limited to foot traffic.

Pepper Hill Trail System
Location: Sinnemahoning, PA

Website: http://docs.dcnr.pa.gov/cs/groups/public/documents/document/DCNR_20030301.pdf

This 6.4-mile trail is a hiking-only trail and marked in yellow. According to a legend, Pepper Hill was named when a shanty log raft made a sharp turn in the river just below the hollow and dumped the pepper shaker off the table. Part of this trail crosses private lands, so please stay on the trail and respect both private and public property. Before the trail turns and follows switchbacks into Pepper Hill Run, there is a short spur trail which takes you to Survivor Rock. This is the rock where three Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC Corp members took refuge and survived while fighting the Pepper Hill Fire of 1938.

Quehanna Wild Area
Location: Driftwood, PA

Website: http://elibrary.dcnr.pa.gov/GetDocument?docId=3698241&DocName=FD09%20and%20FD13%20Quehanna%20Wild%20Area%20factsheet.pdf

The Quehanna Wild Area is a protected wildlife area, well known for serious wildlife watchers, and home to hiking trails and off-the-beaten-path waterfalls. Nearly 50,000 acres, the Quehanna Wild Area is a protected wildlife area, home to several species of birds and other animals including elk, deer and coyotes.

Sinnemahoning State Park
Location: Austin, PA

Website: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/SinnemahoningStatePark/Pages/default.aspx

Sinnemahoning State Park, located near the center of the Pennsylvania Wilds’ scenic steep valleys region, encompasses 1,910 acres of beautiful scenery and outstanding wildlife habitat. Situated in Cameron and Potter counties, the park is nestled between the green-shouldered ridges of Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest and Susquehannock State Forest. The park is long and narrow and includes lands on both sides of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek — a major tributary to the Sinnemahoning Creek. At the southern end of the park, a 145-acre reservoir created by the George B. Stevenson dam provides excellent fishing and water recreation opportunities. The abundance of wildlife within the park provides visitors with opportunities to view bald eagle, coyote, elk, and bobcat.

Sizerville State Park
Location: Emporium, PA

Website: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/SizervilleStatePark/Pages/default.aspx

The 386-acre Sizerville State Park is nearly surrounded by Elk State Forest and is close to one of the largest blocks of state forest land in the commonwealth. Sizerville has many recreational and natural opportunities and is a good base for exploring nearby public lands.

Wykoff Run Falls
Location: Quehanna Wild Area, PA

Website: https://uncoveringpa.com/wykoff-run-falls-quehanna-wild-area

Wykoff Run Falls is a popular roadside waterfall in Cameron County, located midway between the Quehanna Highway and the village of Sinnemahoning along Wykoff Run Road. Parking for the falls is at an unmarked but obvious pull-off along Wykoff Run Road at GPS coordinates 41.26790, -78.15301. Wykoff Run Falls is not a large waterfall by any means – probably 6 feet tall max. Despite its short stature, it makes for a pleasant photo-op any time of year.

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Updated: October 2022, compiled by Beth Clark, certified Pennsylvania Master Naturalist volunteer