Have you heard of PA’s grand canyon in Tioga State Forest?


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The Grand Canyon in Arizona has long been a bucket list item for many Americans. Known for its stunning views, national parks and hikes, it’s one of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks. But 2,000 miles away lies the East Coast’s own “grand canyon” in the Tioga State Forest of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, which is officially named the Pine Creek Gorge, reaches from Ansonia to Jersey Shore. The 47-mile gorge is part of the Allegheny Plateau, measuring 1,450 feet deep in some areas.

The area was registered as a National Natural Landmark in 1968 and is a popular fishing, hiking and cycling destination. Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Park sit on either side of the gorge with trails and scenic overlooks down into the canyon, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

In the late 19th century the area was popular for lumber, but clear-cutting the forests caused heavy ecological damage, resulting in landslides, forest fires and loss of animals in the area. The logging and railroad industry had decimated the area by the early 1900s, according to a research study on forest fires from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

After a 1908 fire that destroyed most of the area, the land was sold to the state. In the century since, new growth has returned to the forest, making it home to black bears, bald eagles and river otters once again.

PA Grand Canyon.jpg
A view of Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, stretching 47 miles across central Pennsylvania. Edge of The Woods Photography Photo provided

Several trails follow the canyon and surrounding forests, maps for each can be found on the DCNR website.

One of the most famous trails is the Turkey Path in Leonard Harrison State Park, which includes an 800-foot descent into the canyon and then back up. The two-mile trail is considered one of the most difficult hikes in the canyon, so only experienced hikers should attempt it.

One of the area’s most versatile trails is the Pine Creek Rail Trail, which covers most of the canyon. The 62-mile trail is mostly flat and can be used for walking, biking, horseback riding and cross-county skiing, according to the Visit Potter-Tioga travel site. You can even ride the trail in a covered wagon.

There are also several companies that specialize in water activities on Pine Creek, including rafting, paddle boarding and river floats.

Visitors can also take a scenic drive along the canyon by following Route 6 near Ansonia or Route 414 north near Jersey Shore.

What to bring: Make sure to bring decent hiking shoes and clothing. If you are planning to do any extra activities like horseback riding, biking or river rafting, bring appropriate supplies and book ahead of time.

How to get there: From State College take I-80 to Route 220 to Jersey Shore, the southern end of the gorge.

What to do nearby: Leonard Harrison State Park, Nomad Distilling Co., Pine Creek Outfitters

A view of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon on October 19, 2021. Abby Drey Photography Photo provided

Keely Doll is an education reporter and service journalist for the Centre Daily Times. She has previously worked for the Columbia Missourian and The Independent UK.

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