The Allegheny Plateau which encompasses much of northwestern Pennsylvania has the shortest summer season, and the most intense winter season in the state. It is a rugged landscape carved by rivers, streams, waterfalls and creeks. The rolling and sometimes steep hills and ravines are forested with eastern hardwoods such as black cherry and maple. The stands of primeval, virgin beech-hemlock forest found here are some of the oldest in the eastern United States.
Facilities in the Allegheny National Forest include over 16 campgrounds, six boat launches, six canoe access sites, two Nationally Designated Wilderness Areas, Two Designated National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the Allegheny River, the Clarion River and a vast network of hiking, biking, cross-country ski and snowmobile trails to explore.
Biking has become an all season sport in the mid Atlantic states and some of the best mountain biking trails are in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). Over 600 miles of trails within the Forest are open for exploration by mountain bike. These include the Buzzard Swamp Wildlife Management Area Trails which offer a 9.6 mile trail system, miles of ATV trails, XC Ski Trails, Snowmobile Trails and most Hiking Trails. There are currently 1, 270 miles of Forest Service Roads within the Allegheny Forest System. Mountain biking is permitted most places in the Allegheny National Forest where a Forest Service travelway exists such as gated and open roads. These forest roads will provide some of the easiest mountain biking experiences. Respect the rights of private landowners of travelways, and obtain permission prior to using these private roads.
Biking is prohibited in the Hickory Creek Wilderness, Hearts Content and Tionesta Scenic Areas, Tionesta Natural Area, the Allegheny National Recreation Area east of the Reservoir, Laurel Mill Cross County Ski Trail and the propagation area of the Buzzard Swamp Wildlife Management Area.
The Allegheny National Forest covers a large area so there isn't one particular access point. Directions to some trailheads are listed below or are provided on our Best Trails For Mountain Biking In The Allegheny National Forest pages (see list above).
For the more adventurous, detailed Allegheny National Forest road maps, topographic maps, trail brochures, and hiking guides can be found at the Allegheny National Forest Ranger Stations. There are two. One in Marienville, Pennsylvania, located in Forest County, and the other in Bradford, Pennsylvania, located in McKean County.
Many Allegheny National Forest Trails are also open for winter biking when weather and trail conditions allow. Be aware that these trails are used heavily in the late fall and spring by hunters. It is a good idea to wear bright fluorescent colored clothing if biking during these time periods.
Be prepared for sudden cold, windy or rainy weather conditions. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions. Bring warm clothing, rain gear, food, insect repellent, water, emergency first aid kit, bike repair tools and a good map. Let someone know where you are going and expected time of return.
These unmaintained trails are open for hiking, skiing and mountain biking. Closed to motorized vehicles, ATVs and snowmobiles. A combination of logging roads, railroad grades, and pipelines can be combined to form a variety of loop rides. These trails are wide and since you won't find any cross-country skiers during prime mountain biking season, there will be little user conflict.
The Brush Hollow Trails offer three loops totaling 7.7 miles for cross-country skiing, hiking and mountain biking. Scenic overlooks of the Big Mill Creek valley are located on the Challenger and Elli Loops. Portions of the trail system are located abandoned railroad grades that were used for logging at the turn of the century. In the spring many of the trails are decorated with wildflowers. This area is also a good place to view wildlife.
Mill Creek Trail: (5.6 miles) Connects the Brush Hollow Trails with the Twin Lakes Trail near Forest Service Road 138. The trailhead offers accessible parking and a restroom. This area is managed for recreation and wildlife habitat, mainly turkey and bear. Big Mill Creek is a popular trout fishing stream.
Located at the intersection of Tollgate Road and US 6 just east of Sheffield, PA. Wildlife is abundant in this area; watch for turkey, deer, squirrels and birds, particularly down along Deer Lick Run.
Reservoir Loop: (2.0 miles)
This is the easiest Loop and offers a scenic view of the Deer Lick Reservoir as you come down Deer Lick Run.
The following two route options are suited for experienced mountain bikers.
The Deer Lick Loop: (2.9 miles) Forms a loop inside the Pipeline Loop and is more of a challenge.
The Pipeline Loop: (3.6 miles) The Pipeline Loop is the most difficult as it climbs to the headwaters of Deer Lick and Roystone Runs.
Rimrock Access Road: (4 mile loop)
This access road is an easy ride with a connecting trail that goes east to the Morrison trail head. Off State Route 59, east of Warren & Kinzua Dam (no trail map available).
Much of this trail is located on roads that are open in summer and snow covered in winter. The trail is marked with orange diamonds. The many side trails intersect the route heighten your sense of adventure and invite exploration. Several small towns are located along trail.
These trails are best suited for more experienced mountain bikers. The best time to ride the ATV trails are during the off-season. Of course, you can opt to bike when the ATV Trails are open, but expect frequent encounters with speedy ATV's, lots of noise and to eat dust.
Trails are closed to motorized use April 1 to the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, and September 24 to December 20 of each year.
A system of 35 miles of interconnecting trails, located along State Route 66 about 15 miles southwest of Kane and 11 miles northeast of Marienville. You can access the trail anywhere it crosses a public road.
Rocky Gap ATV Trail
A 20.8 mile loop located along the Warren to Tidioute Road, at the intersection of Forest Road (FR) 155 (6 miles south of Warren, PA). You can access this trail anywhere it crosses a public road.
Timberline ATV Trail
A system of 38 miles of interconnecting trails located on FR 232, one mile south of SR 948 and SR 66 intersection. You can access this trail anywhere it crosses a public road. This trail also connects to the Marienville ATV Trail.
Trail Length: 10.8 mile Loop Trail
Located along Forest Road (FR) 137, approximately two miles south of SR 346 and 11 miles west of Bradford.
Most hiking trails in the Allegheny National Forest are also open to mountain bike use. Considering the rugged terrain, expect that many segments of these trails will not provide the best mountain biking experiences. Listed below are some suggested rides.
Trail Length: 0.8 mile Loop Trail
Buckaloons Seneca Interpretive Trail is a 0.8 mile loop trail located at Buckaloons Recreation Area 6 miles west of Warren, at the intersection of US Route 62 south and US Route 6.
The Trail winds along the Allegheny River and Irvine Run, circling around the picnic area and the campground. After your ride, enjoy a picnic or stay overnight in the Buckaloons Recreation Area campground. This trail is a popular family ride.
For easy, mostly level bicycling. Buzzard Swamp Wildlife Management Area has 9.6 miles of interconnecting trails located on Forest Road 157, 1 mile south of Marienville on Loleta Road. The northern trailhead is located on Forest Road 376, 2.5 miles east of Marienville on Lamonaville Road.
Trail Length: 15.8 miles
One-way multi-use grass/dirt surfaced trail 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. It is blazed with white diamond markers. Riders of all skill levels will find the trail a challenge as it climbs from creek beds to plateaus and crosses several streams. Its 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 Trailhead (see above).
Trail Length: 18 miles
One of the most scenic rail-trails in Pennsylvania. Easy, flat trail ideal for a family bike ride. Connects Ridgway and Brockway. Trailheads are at Water Street in Ridgway, at Croyland (near Portland Mills) and at Taylor Park in Brockway.
Other Area Attractions
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 Morrison Hiking Trail; and Logan Run near Forest Road 180B.
Black bears, whitetail deer and wild turkeys are plentiful and often seen. Less common are the fishers and river otters that were reintroduced into the forest in 1990. Bald eagles can be spotted on the Allegheny Reservoir near the Kinzua Dam throughout the year.
A herd of 50 majestic elk were transported from Yellowstone National Park, by train and reintroduced to Pennsylvania in 1913. Today, the region is home to the largest free-roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi.
The best elk viewing areas are the The Elk State Forest near Hicks and Dents Run. Elk are often seen in the fields on Winslow Hill in the town of Benezette. Located along State Route 555 in Elk County. To reach the public elk viewing area, start at the Benezette Hotel and travel north along Winslow Hill Road 3.5 miles. Follow the signs to the viewing area. Elk can also be viewed by the observant mountain biker travelling on the many trails and gated logging roads that wind throughout the elk range.
Note: Elk are best observed at dawn and dusk. Please remember that elk are wild animals and can be dangerous. They should be appreciated and viewed from a safe distance.
Historic Scenic Rail Excursions
Tioga Central of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania
Operates excursion trains, dinner trains, romantic moonlight dessert trains. The line passes through several tiny towns and miles of spectacular, mountainous scenery. Dessert trains feature a romantic evening excursion with premium service. Reservations are recommended.
Knox & Kane Railroad
Gorgeous vistas of the thickly wooded hills and valleys of the Allegheny National Forest. You may even choose to spend a night with family or friends in the Overnight Caboose.
Kinzua Bridge State Park
Home to the Kinzua Viaduct, 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. A tornado has knocked down much of the bridge.
Where To Stay
There are 16 campgrounds with over 600 camp sites within the Allegheny National Forest. Some are developed and offer hot showers and other amenities while others provide a more primitive camping experience. Backcountry camping along most trails and forest roads is allowed. There are some exceptions.
Hearts Content Campground
Hearts Content Recreation Area is split by State Route 2002, with the campground on the south side of the road and the scenic area on the north side. Surrounded by wilderness, it has everything your heart could desire. Gorgeous scenery; peace and quiet, easy access to backcountry hiking, biking, or skiing trails; and wildlife viewing to your hearts content. Each of the 26 family campsites contains a picnic table, fire ring, and tent pad.
Area Lodging & Amenities
You will find many unique towns and villages surrounding the Forest where you can find lodging, shops, restaurants, sports outfitters and museums.
A quaint village and the gateway to the Tionesta Scenic Area, the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Allegheny National Forest.
hHistorically the starting point for traveling via canoe on the Allegheny River. Take the time to shop in Port Allegany's unique shops.
A charming Victorian village located along Scenic Route 6 in McKean County.
A recreational hub. Many of the National Forest roads and trails lead into and out of Westline.
For more information
Allegheny National Forest:
Phone: (814) 723-5150