Northeastern Pennsylvania is home to quaint towns like Wellsboro and expansive farmland. But, it is also an outdoor paradise, with expansive state parks, rivers and the famous Pine Creek Gorge.
Dubbed the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the gorge runs an impressive 47 miles through the Allegheny Plateau of the region. At its deepest point the canyon is a staggering 1,450 feet. In many other areas, including Colton Point State Park, the canyon is more than 800 feet deep and spans 4,000 feet from rim to rim.
Unlike the “other” Grand Canyon, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is lush with trees which make for great hiking, camping and exploring. But that hasn’t always been the case.
The history of Pine Creek Gorge
In the late 1600s, before William Penn colonized the region, up to 90% of Pennsylvania was covered in trees. Early colonists used these trees to build log homes, barns and fences. The rise of the Industrial Revolution created a demand for large wooden ships — and the tall, straight, hardwood trees of the Pine Gorge area were perfect for the task. Over several decades, the canyon was stripped bare — with nothing left for wildlife or to prevent fires and erosion.
Since the end of the lumber era, the gorge has been re-established (with help from locals) and visitors will find 100 year old trees, wildlife and plenty to do. It’s become a year-round attraction for outdoor enthusiasts.
Visiting the Gorge
The Gorge has surged in popularity in recent years, in no small part to all the different ways to explore. Here are just a few of my favorites!
Ole Covered Wagon Tours. It seems only fitting to list this first. After all, the original settlers came through these woods by covered wagon. Following along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, the comfortable, horse-drawn wagons take guests along the river as guides share the history of the area — the good and the bad. The wagon makes stops along the way so visitors can get a good look along the way. This is an easy way to explore the canyon — suitable for people of all ages.
Hike or Ride Colton Point State Park. This park was built largely by the Civilian Conservation Corps workers of the 1930s, evidenced by the rustic charm of stone pavilions and stairways. The park’s many trails challenge people of all skill levels, rewarding them with stunning views of the gorge.
And our favorite a Canyon Flight Ride. It’s hard to beat the aerial view of the canyon — the only way to really appreciate how wide and very long the Pine Creek Gorge really is. Words — and photos — don’t do it justice, so please trust me. It’s stunning!