Cook Forest State Park is located in Western Pennsylvania along the eastern border of Clarion County and extends into Forest County and Jefferson County. It is a beautiful area to go camping in. One of the major draws is the Forest Cathedral which is an area of 250 to 300 year old trees. Most of them are white pines and eastern hemlocks with straight trunks, upwards of 200 feet tall.
In the 1920s the Cook Forest Association was formed to preserve what was left of the majestic trees. The area was once known as the Black Forest. During the 19th century many woodland areas in Pennsylvania were logged for shipbuilding and building construction. Cook Forest was the first Pennsylvania State Park obtained to preserve a natural landmark with the Forest Cathedral now a National Natural Landmark.
Campers can pitch a tent
in the primitive
camping style or rent a rustic cabin
. There are also sites with electric hookup
s. Be sure to keep your food sealed overnight. I made the mistake of leaving one of my food containers on the picnic table
overnight. I woke up about 4 a.m. to the sound of food wrappers being opened. I got up and shined my flashlight toward the table and three large racoon
s headed for the woods
. One of them was carrying a bag in its mouth.
I got up and went over to the table to inventory the damage. They had bitten into everything looking for what they wanted. They decided on the "100% white corn" tortilla chips. The combination of corn and salt was too much to resist.
The 7,182 acres of the park offer many outdoor activities. There are dozens of hiking trails, many through the Forest Cathedral and three other old growth areas. Baker Trail and the North Country Trail pass through Cook Forest. Baker Trail is 140 miles long within northwest Pennsylvania. The North Country Trail covers over 1000 miles in the Northeast U.S.. When complete it will extend from upstate New York to North Dakota. There are 11 miles of bike trails and a swimming pool.
The Clarion River makes up part of the eastern boundary. Canoeing and rafting are very popular during the summer months. When we were floating down this summer the dragonflies were mating. A young couple floating on innertubes beside me were commenting on this happening.
"They're doing it on your leg," she said to him.
"We'd better not drink the water," he said.
After a moment she said, "Maybe we should drink the water."
Fishing is available in a few areas and hunting is permitted on 4,000 acres of the park. You can ride on 4.5 miles of bridle trails. There are two places with scenic views to take in. One is the old fire tower which is 80 feet high and a few dozen yards away is Seneca Point which overlooks the Clarion River valley. Bring your camera.
In the winter there are 12 miles of snowmobiling trails. Most of the other trails are open for cross country skiing. There is a small pond for iceskating and some great sled riding hills too.
Pennsylvania State Parks (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us)