EXPLORE: Elk County, PA

Allegheny National Forest

Website: www.fs.usda.gov/Allegheny

Established in 1923, the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is Pennsylvania’s only National Forest. Situated on the Allegheny Plateau, the forest is comprised of 514,029 acres in the northwestern corner of the state. The Allegheny offers a wide variety of recreation activities including boating, camping, hunting, fishing, ATV riding and snowmobiling that result in about 4 million recreation visitor days annually. The 12,000-acre Allegheny Reservoir provides boating, camping, and fishing opportunities. About one-third of the world’s supply of black cherry furniture veneer is provided by the Allegheny National Forest. In addition, numerous oil and gas wells are located throughout the forest. Abundant fish and wildlife provide a variety of hunting, fishing, and viewing opportunities. The changing colors of the hardwood leaves each fall provide spectacular views from the many overlooks around the forest.

Beaver Run Dam Wildlife Viewing Area
Location: Weedville, PA

Website: https://maps.roadtrippers.com/us/penfield-pa/nature/beaver-run-dam-wildlife-viewing-area

The Beaver Run Dam Wildlife Viewing Area is located near the intersection of Quehanna Highway and Beaver Run Road, with the parking lot located at GPS coordinates 41.26117, -78.25802. 350 yards from the parking area, down a flat, forested trail, you’ll find a waterfront viewing blind where it’s not uncommon to see wild birds of all sorts, including nesting osprey in the spring.

Bendigo State Park
Location: Johnsonburg, PA

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

The 100-acre Bendigo State Park is in a small valley surrounded by picturesque hills. About 20 acres of the park is developed, half of which is a large, shaded picnic area. The forest is predominantly northern hardwoods and includes beech, birch, cherry, and maple. The East Branch of the Clarion River flows through the park. This beautiful waterway was once polluted by abandoned mine drainage. It now provides excellent fishing and is stocked with trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Clarion Little Toby Trail
Location: Ridgway, PA

Website: http://www.tricountyrailstotrails.org/trails/clarion-little-toby-trail/

The Clarion-Little Toby trail meanders along the wild and scenic Clarion River and Little Toby Creek.  The first few miles of the Ridgway section contain lofty shale formations and waterfalls among great stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron. Wetlands and wildflowers abound, and visitors often spy deer, otters, raccoons, hawks, turtles, and scampering chipmunks. The trail is open year-round for non-motorized use (motorized wheelchairs are allowed). Biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing are all popular. The surface consists of well-packed fine gravel and is flat except for one short hill near Ridgway. The Little Toby Swinging Bridge is located at mile 12.2 of the trail and spans Little Toby Creek between the ghost towns of Blue Rock and Ellmont.

Dents Run Elk Viewing Area
Location: Benezette, PA

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

The Dent’s Run Elk Viewing Area is one of the most popular sites for elk viewing in the state. Many people come in September and October to hear the bulls bugle and watch them compete for dominance. Each fall, the PA Game Commission conducts presentations on elk natural history in the covered amphitheater. A handicap-accessible walkway leads to an overlook where interpretive displays teach visitors about PA’s elk herd. To keep this area a popular vantage point for elk, the PA Game Commission plants crops of winter wheat, oats, grasses, and clovers in the fields every spring and fall.

Elk Country Visitor Center
Location: Benezette, PA

Website:  https://elkcountryvisitorcenter.com/

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is proud to partner with the Keystone Elk Country Alliance in the creation of the Elk Country Visitor Center. The Center opened in September 2010 and is an ongoing example of a true public and private success story. Together, the DCNR and KECA are committed to sustaining Pennsylvania’s majestic elk habitat, as part of the overall preservation and enhancement of our state’s natural resources.

Elk State Park
Location: Wilcox, PA

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

The 3,192-acre Elk State Park is in the rugged mountains of northern Pennsylvania. The 1,160-acre East Branch Lake is large enough for unlimited horsepower boating and is great for waterskiing. The lake and nearby streams are stocked with warmwater and coldwater fish.

Marion Brooks Natural Area
Location: Weedville, PA

Website: http://elibrary.dcnr.pa.gov/GetDocument?docId=3816711&DocName=FD11%20Moshannon%20Marion%20Brook%20Natural%20Area%20factsheet.pdf

The Marion Brooks Natural Area covers over 900 acres and is known for its white birch trees. While white birch is an abundant tree in the US, northern Pennsylvania is the furthest south they grow. This strand of white birch is not only one of the largest in the state, but it’s also one of the most beautiful and accessible. There is a short trail into the white birch grove behind the stone monument to Marion Brooks, a local environmentalist. Walking this 100-yard-long trail offers the best chance to see these birch up close from the middle of the forest.

Table Falls
Location: Quehanna Wild Area, PA

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

Table Falls is located on Paige Run. This small stream flows from the Marion Brooks Natural Area and doesn’t carry much water, so it’s best to visit this waterfall when water levels are high. Table Falls is located about 1.5 miles off of Quehanna Highway along Red Run Road.

West Creek Rail Trail
Location: St. Marys, PA

Website: https://www.traillink.com/trail/west-creek-recreational-trail/

The West Creek Recreational Trail connects St. Marys and Emporium in a forested area of northern Pennsylvania known as elk country. The 19.5-mile trail follows the route of the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad that began serving the area in the 1860s. It was later acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad and then became one of the many short-line railroads: the Allegheny and Eastern Railroad, owned by Genesee & Wyoming. In 2008 that company hammered out an agreement to deed the corridor to the West Creek Recreational Trail Association. Work on the trail proceeded in stages over the years until it was completed in 2017.

Winslow Hill Elk Viewing Area
Location: Benezette, PA

Website: https://visitpago.com/listings/winslow-hill-elk-viewing-area/

The Winslow Hill Elk Viewing Area is a popular spot for elk viewing. Offering a walk-up viewing area atop a spectacular mountain, guests can overlook a large meadow where elk often gather. There are also numerous trails and dirt roads to explore, and you might even spot some white-tailed deer, fox, and even wild turkeys.

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