Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania is situated on the Allegheny Plateau, the great highlands of the western Appalachian Mountains. It's a "mountainous" land of steep reliefs – a dissected plateau carved by rivers and creeks into the uplifted terrain. The rolling, steep hills and deep ravines are forested with mostly Oak and Northern Hardwoods including Black Cherry, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Black and Yellow Birch, Tulip Poplar, Quaking Aspen, Norway Spruce and Hemlock. The stands of primeval, virgin Beech-Hemlock forest found here are some of the oldest in the eastern United States.
While the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is within a three-hour drive of Pittsburgh PA, Buffalo, NY, and Cleveland, OH – the surrounding area is rural with scattered residential areas and small farms along the highways. For urban grid dwellers and adventure seekers region wide, the forest's half million acres is an essential part of their life worlds.
There are designated wilderness areas (Hickory Creek and Allegheny River Islands), Scenic Areas listed on the National Registry of Natural Landmarks (Heart's Content and Tionesta) and the Wild and Scenic Rivers (Allegheny and Clarion). Kinzua Beach on the Allegheny River Reservoir lakefront is the central focus for water activities including swimming.
There are also about 200 miles of Hiking Trails, 53 miles of XC Ski Trails, 108 miles of ATV/OHM/Dirt Bike Trails and 18 miles of Interpretive Trails. Over 185 miles of multi-use trails are open to mountain biking including a 30-mile Mountain Bike purposed trail system on the Allegheny River Plateau for MTB Skills practice.
WPA-built Recreation Areas (CCC)
Whether you are bike-packing, car camping or RVing it with your mountain bike, the Allegheny National Forest offers options ranging from dispersed trail camping to Recreation Areas built by the CCC in the 1930's that feature mixed camping styles and cabin rentals.
Built by the CCC and designated as a National Natural Landmark. It is split by State Route 2002, with the campground on the south side of the road and a scenic area on the north side. There is easy access to the Hickory Creek Wilderness, the Rocky Gap and Willow Creek ATV-Bike trails.
15 miles southwest of Warren, PA. U.S. Route 6 Mohawk Exit. Pleasant Drive (SR 3005) for 11 miles. At the curve, turn left onto the gravel road. It's 4 miles south to the campground.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area was once a busy logging town established in 1889. The distinctive quality of CCC workmanship is evident today in the dam stonework and the log construction of the old bathhouse.
The 11.2 mile Buzzard Swamp Wildlife Management Area Mountain Bike Trails are located just five miles to the south.
Six miles south of the village of Marienville via South Forest Street.
Allegheny National Forest Trail Connections
MTB Skills Area
Jakes Rock Mountain Bike Trails
Mileage / Blaze: 30+ miles, Beginner to Advanced
The Allegheny Reservoir was created when the Kinzua Dam was constructed in 1965 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the upper Allegheny River. It spans the border between Pennsylvania and New York. In Pennsylvania, the Reservoir Recreation Area is completely surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest.
The trail system was designed primarily for mountain biking in partnership with Trail Solutions, a sister company of IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association). It is a popular all season MTB regional sports destination. Trails travel through upland forest and lead to scenic viewpoints and overlooks of the Reservoir, Jackson Bay and the Kinzua Dam.
The trail system is a series of stacked, hard-packed single-track loops. There are over 19 named trail segments that provide diverse experiences for riders of all skill levels. Get the handles on slick-rock, rock causeways, extreme rock boulder challenges, drops, berms, elevated bridges, extended downhills and more.
From downtown Warren, PA: South for 2 miles on Route 6 / Crescent Park Drive. Turn left onto Route 59. I about 10 miles, turn left onto Longhouse National Scenic Byway. Go 1 mile and turn right on Forest Road 492. Go 1 mile and where the road splits, bear right and look for the parking area in about 1 mile.
Kinzua Valley Rail Trail
Mileage / Blaze: 10 miles within the Allegheny Forest, Beginners
Linear trail spanning from Westline to the Red Bridge Campground; Westline to US Route 219 (Tally Ho) in the Allegheny National Forest. The 8 Ft. wide, crushed and semi smooth limestone trail winds alongside the Kinzua Creek following the old narrow gauge rail-bed of the Valley Railroad Company.
It's a quiet ride through dense forest bordered by a lush understory of ferns, rhododendron and a carpet of trillium, spring beauty, jack-in-the-pulpit, hepatica, trout lily, asters and other wildflowers. There are several creek crossings over trail bridges. A trail highlight is the Westline covered bridge and handicapped-accessible fishing dock over the Kinzua Creek at the old village of Olivedale.
The Kinzua Valley Trail Westline parking area and trailhead can be accessed from the north and south by U.S. Route 219 & from the east or west by PA Route 59 or U.S. Route 6.
Mountain Biking Allegheny National Forest
Over 185 miles of multi-use trails, a MTB purposed trail system and existing Forest Service roads including gated roads are open to mountain biking within the Forest. The following suggested mountain bike rides offer different experiences in terms of scenery, terrain, interactivity and degree of difficulty. Expect that segments of these trails will not provide the best mountain biking experiences. Listed below are some suggested rides.
Disclaimer: Plan ahead and know the rules, bike with a trail buddy or two, wear and bring proper gear, know your ability level, close gates behind you, wear blaze orange during hunting season, respect the rights of private landowners of travel-ways and watch out for other trail users.
Brush Hollow Cross Country Ski Trails
Mileage / Blaze: Gray Diamonds, 7.7 miles, Beginner to Intermediate
The Brush Hollow Trail System includes three stacked loops – the Elli, Brushy Gap, the Challenger and the point-to-point Mill Creek Trail. The trails are marked with "YOU ARE HERE" signs at trail intersections and other key points.
A tornado in 2017 wreaked havoc on the classic hemlock, spruce, and pine lined trails. A diverse new growth forest is regenerating that is managed for recreation and wildlife habitat. The terrain is a mix of abandoned railroad grades used for logging at the turn of the century and rugged ungroomed sections. Scenic overlooks of the Big Mill Creek Valley are located on the more difficult Challenger and Elli Loops.
The 5.6 mile Mill Creek Trail connects the Brush Hollow Trails with the Twin Lakes Trail near Forest Service Road 138. Big Mill Creek is also a popular trout fishing stream.
From Ridgeway: Main St. to PA-948 N/Montmorenci Ave. Travel north on PA-948 N for 9.9 miles. Look for the trailhead on the right side of the road. The t railhead offers accessible parking and a restroom.
The Marienville Area Trails are designated for ATV, motorized dirt bikes and motorcycles. It's a system of three stacked interconnecting loop trails (Timberline, Marienville and Penoke) that traverse the scenic, forested hills of the southern section of the Allegheny National Forest.
Twin Lakes Recreation Area Trail
Trail Length: Gray Diamonds, 15.8 miles
One-way multi-use grass and dirt surfaced trail that runs west for 15.8 miles from the Twin Lakes Recreation Area to the 96.3 mile-long hiking only North Country National Scenic Trail in the Tionesta Scenic Area. Mountain bicyclists of all skill levels will find the trail a challenge as it climbs from creek beds to plateaus and crosses several streams. It's especially scenic along Crane Run, a designated Wilderness Trout Stream.
Twin Lakes Trailhead: Located eight miles southeast of Kane, PA. Take State Route 321 from Kane, turn right onto Forest Road 191. You can also access the trail from the Brush Hollow XC Ski Trailhead (see above).
Trail Highlights and Nearby Points of Interest
The Old Powerhouse
An operable, former South Penn central power house (ca. 1939), has been restored as an Historic Interpretive Site within the Allegheny National Forest. The powerhouse was once an active part of the oil industry. Now it serves as a reminder of times gone by and the need to learn from the past.
Travel south on Route 6/Crescent Park Drive for 2 miles. Turn left onto Route 59. Go for 17.8 miles. Turn right onto PA-321 S. and travel .8 miles. The Old Powerhouse Histirc Site is located on the left.
Kinzua Bridge State Park: Kinzua Viaduct Skywalk
Nearby, the Kinzua Viaduct is a National Engineering Landmark. When the viaduct was built in 1881, it was the world's highest and longest railroad bridge at 301 feet tall and 2,100 feet long. In 2003, a tornado whipped through the area and the central towers of the bridge collapsed into the gorge. In 2011 the bridge was re-envisioned as a pedestrian Skywalk and the remaining support towers were reinforced.
Today, visitors can walk out for for 600 feet above the Kinzua Gorge. A partial glass viewing platform embedded in the skywalk at the end provides a downwards periscope view into the canyon. The views across are great for viewing chromatic fall foliage which usually peaks the first two weeks of October.
Kinzua Bridge Scenic Byway (Route 3011)
The park can be accessed from the Allegheny State Forest using a combination of bicycling friendly state routes and the Kinzua Bridge Scenic Byway (Route 3011), a designated shared use hike / bike corridor.
Kinzua Bridge State Park is four miles north of US 6 at Mt. Jewett on SR 3011.
From downtown Warren: Travel south on Route 6/Crescent Park Drive for 2 miles. Turn left onto route 59. Travel east on Route 59 for 17.8 miles. Turn right onto PA-321 S. and travel .8 miles. The site is located on the left.
Scenic Viewpoints, Fall Foliage Bike Rides
No matter what your itinerary is at the Allegheny National Forest, you are likely to find that perfect spot for Scenic Viewpoints in all seasons.
Jakes Rock & Morrison Trails & Overlooks
The Allegheny National Forest's smorgasbord of tree species offers fall foliage eye candy in lots of places. Some of the best scenic viewpoints are from the mountain bike trails that wind through and circle the Reservoir (Jakes Rock and Morrison Overlooks). The steep hillsides are topped with the warm autumn hues of red, orange, gold and yellow. A series of huge rock boulders are interspersed with deep forest greens – all of which ripple in the reservoirs' pool below.
The series of overlooks at Jakes Rocks and Rimrock can also be accessed from the Longhouse National Scenic Byway.
Bikes & Waterfalls
Many scenic waterfalls are present within the Allegheny National Forest. Some popular favorites are Hector Falls, north of Tionesta Scenic Area; Morrison Run and Hemlock Run just off the multi-use Morrison Trail and Logan Run near Forest Road 180B.
Bikes & Beaches
Features restrooms, a picnic area, pavilions and boat ramp marina. As the summer bicycling season heats up, the beach offers lake front swimming. After chillin' in the lake, loll on the grassy hillsides to warm up and fuel up for your next mountain bike ride.
Located across Route 59 from the Marina
Allegany State Park is adjacent to Allegheny National Park along it's southern border, Together, the two parks form a vital wildlife corridor. Black bear, whitetail deer ,wild turkey ruffed grouse, racoon and grey fox are often seen on both sides of the New York | Pennsylvania border. Less common are the fishers and river otters that were reintroduced into the national forest in 1990.
Much of the northeastern end of the Allegheny National Forest is classified as an Important Bird Area. Interior forest representatives include the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Black-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker, the Northern-Saw-Whet Owl, Common Nighthawk and a large assemblage of Wood Warblers in a variety of intense colors.
The Allegheny Reservoir is a resting stopover for waterfowl, including large numbers of Tundra Swans. Bald eagles can be spotted on the Allegheny Reservoir near the Kinzua Dam throughout the year. Bald Eagles and Opreys nest and feed along the shores of the Allegheny Reservoir and Allegheny River.
Buzzard Swamp Wildlife Management Area has 11.2 miles of interconnecting trails that provide mostly easy, level mountain biking. An amazing parade of waterfowl can be seen all year round. Early spring and fall are the busiest times. During the spring migration, over 20 species of waterfowl and wading birds can be spotted.
Bike & Fish
Red Bridge Recreation Area & Fishing Area
The Red Bridge Recreation Area and Campground was constructed in the late 1960s as part of a Recreation Development Plan analgous to the Kinzua Dam and the Kiasutha Recreation Area. The Red Bridge Bank Fishing Area is adjacent to the Recreation Area.
From downtown Warren: South on Route 6 / Crescent Park Drive for two miles. Turn left on Route 59 and go 10 miles. Turn right onto the Longhouse National Scenic Byway and travel for 11.3 miles. Turn left onto PA-321 N. Go for 0.9 miles.
Allegheny National Fish Hatchery
Located on the Allegheny River, the hatchery is one of 11 National Fish Hatcheries throughout the Northeast Region working to restore, enhance and maintain heritage fisheries. There are two public parking areas for anglers, birdwatchers and those arriving for hatchery tours. Adjacent to the hatchery, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides a fishing platform and comfort station.
The Allegheny National Fish Hatchery is located at the northern base of the Kinzua Dam and is only accessible by Hemlock Road at 6616 Hemlock Road, Warren, PA.
Allegheny Historic Site: The Old Powerhouse
Ten thousand acres of Pennsylvania’s only national forest have given way, tree by tree, over the last 70 years to an oil drilling operation unique in its scope in the northeastern United States.
Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the petroleum industry, signified by the drilling of Edwin Drake's first commercial oil well near Titusville in 1859. Many widely used techniques of drilling and pumping oil were first developed here in the effort to recover high-quality "Pennsylvania Grade" oil. One widely used method was the "Central Power" pumping of numerous wells, a technique which flourished between 1890 and 1950 to economically recover small amounts of oil.
Today, while there are only scattered remains of the once common pumping powerhouses, an operable former South Penn central powerhouse (ca. 1939), has been restored as an Historic Interpretive Site within the Allegheny National Forest. Along the forest roads, in forest clearings and dotting grassy fields like wildflowers you can still see the remnants of thousands of older, abandoned conventional oil and gas sites!
The Allegheny National Forest covers a large area so there isn't one particular access point. Directions to specific trailheads are included above.
For More Information
National Forest Service: Bradford and Marienville Ranger Districts
Website: Allegheny National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/allegheny