Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Cook Forest State Park, PA

  • Published 2023/03/10

Cook Forest State Park is one of the best state parks in the United States.

It has some of the tallest trees in the northeastern United States, known as “America’s Best Old-Growth Forest.”

The park is home to the magnificent Clarion River, which flows through a scenic gorge and provides panoramic views from Seneca Point.

If you need a place to stay, there are various hotels, cabins, and other activities such as horse stables and kid-friendly activities.

Cooks Forest is one of the best state parks in America because of the various activities held at Sawmill Center for the Arts.

Here are the best things to do in Cook Forest State Park, PA:

Go Fishing at the Clarion River

Lush trees surrounding Clarion River

K Steve Cope /

Fishing is your number one activity in Clarion River.

The Clarion River is one of the most beautiful places in the state.

Besides fishing, there are enjoyable activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and rafting.

Rope swinging at Clarion River

Piper VanOrd /

You can bring your kayak with you or rent one from the locals.

You can fish for trout, warm-water game fish, and panfish along the park’s border in the Clarion River.

Children 12 years old and younger can fish in a unique trout-stocked pond near the park office.

Aerial view of Clarion River

grendel|khan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hike the Forest Cathedral

The Forest Cathedral is a must-see attraction in Cooks Forest, Pennsylvania.

This 2,000 acres attraction was designated a National Natural Landmark because of its magnificent old-growth forest.

Thrill yourself with the gigantic trees, which protect the nearby area from floods.

Parking is not a concern because it is close to other Cooks Forest destinations such as the Birch Trail.

The forest leads to the swinging bridge, where you may see the view from above.

Hunt at the Hidden Henry Run Sawmill Dam

If you’re looking for something new to do, Henry Run Sawmill Dam Falls is a terrific place to go.

This is a little-known portion of the park that you may access from either the Cooks Forest Fire Tower area or Gravel Lick Road.

While Henry Run Sawmill Dam Falls is not a natural waterfall, the historical significance of the dam and the natural beauty of the area make it worth checking out.

The Baker Trail runs alongside Henry Run Sawmill Dam Falls, just a few feet upstream from the Clarion River.

This is a little-known area of the park that is almost hidden, making it even more intriguing for visitors.

View Century-Old Trees at Cook Trail

Tall trees along Cook Trail

Zack Frank /

Start your Cook Trail adventure at the River Cabin and end it near the River Picnic Area, where you eat snacks with your family.

You can also access the trail through the Cemetery Road, adjacent to other beautiful tracks such as the Joyce Kilmer and Bridle Trails.

This trail is unique among the various pathways in Cooks Forest.

Stone steps along Cook Trail

K Steve Cope /

You may admire the majestic century-old trees that have stood there since 1800.

Other trees from 1900 include eastern white pines, oaks, black gums, and many others.

Before visiting this location, bring your hiking equipment and prepare for a pleasant, healthy adventure.

Trees along Cook Trail

Steve Cope /

Visit Ancient Trees at the Longfellow Trail

Look no further than the Longfellow Trail for a hike that will offer you the most bang for your buck.

The trail gets its name from the poet and naturalist Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Even though he never visited this location, his poetry prompted many others to come here to witness the trees he described.

Developed in 1930, this trail will take you to majestic white pine and hemlock trees estimated to be 300-400 years old.

The good thing about Cooks Forest trails is that they are adjacent to each other, giving multiple tourist destinations in a single day.

Drive slowly when you are going on the rocky road.

Visit Multiple Trails through the Swinging Bridge

Just north of the Cooks Forest State Park headquarters, you can relax at the beautiful sight of the Swinging Bridge.

The closest hike is about a half-mile roundtrip from the park’s office.

You can also hike the Ridge Trail or the Loop Trail to get there.

Both are challenging climbs, but they are well worth it when you see this magnificent structure up close.

Rainy weather is ideal for visiting this bridge because it swings more than usual.

Bring Your Friends to the North Country National Scenic Trail

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NST) is an excellent way to explore the Cooks Forest, Pennsylvania Wilds.

The NST runs through seven northern states, offering breathtaking scenery in various settings.

The 265-mile Pennsylvania section of the path winds primarily through the hardwood woods.

While wandering with your friends or family, you can refresh yourself here.

You can do a short day hike or an extended backpacking trip.

Appreciate the Memorial Fountain

The Memorial Fountain is an excellent choice if you want to relax and take in the natural beauty of Cook Forest State Park.

The Cook Forest Association’s founding members were honored with a fountain in 1950.

The founding members helped build the well-known attraction.

The water comes from the hillside’s natural spring.

The massive stone walls of the fountain are pretty lovely, making it a worthwhile stop even if you don’t intend to trek farther up the trail.

Enjoy a Morning Walk at the Emerald Paved Trail

The Emerald Paved Trail is ideal for those searching for a simple, handicapped-accessible trail through Cooks Forest State Park’s Forest Cathedral.

You can start your adventure near the Sawmill Center for the Arts.

The trail connects to other beautiful attractions, such as the Black Bear Trail, which is estimated to stretch 1.1 miles.

The moss grows thicker if you plan to visit during the wet season, but park maintenance regularly cleans them off.

This path can give you a relaxing vibe, even on rainy days.

Try Sight-seeing at the Seneca Point Overlook

A fire tower at Seneca Point Overlook

Piper VanOrd /

The highest point in Pennsylvania’s Cook Forest is a tower that gives breathtaking views of the Clarion River Valley.

Built in 1929, the Fire Tower in Cooks Forest stopped operations in the mid-1960s.

Nonetheless, the tower offers visitors an excellent perspective of the valley below.

You can only reach this landmark, now known as Seneca Point Overlook, on foot, from the tower.

It’s worth the effort, though.

You can reach the Seneca Point Overlook from any parking spot along State Route 556.

Travel 0.4 kilometers to the tower for breathtaking views of the Clarion River Valley from 1,600 feet above sea level.

Hike the Wilderness at the Browns Run Trail

Cooks Forest has more trails than you could imagine.

If you prefer a more elevated hiking experience, the Brown Run Trail is perfect for wilderness trekking and hunting.

Prepare yourself for this tremendous outdoor challenge.

This challenging trek begins at Toms Run Road and concludes at Browns Run Trail.

There’s more to wilderness trekking than just seeing black bears, squirrels, and wild turkeys.

Stuff your backpack and make plans for your next adventure right here.

Join the Annual Cook Forest River Ride

The Cooks Forest River Ride is a stunning one-day ride that takes bicycles through Western Pennsylvania’s forests and along the Clarion River.

You’ll be joining hundreds of other people, having a great time while being safe.

There are two routes with fully supported SAG vehicles, bike technicians, and rest stops.

After your ride, come to the Finish Line Celebration to celebrate and enjoy excellent food and festivities.

Due to park parking restrictions, walk-ons will not be guaranteed a shirt for this ride.

Explore the Woodland at the Mohawk Trail

Begin your journey on the Mohawk Trail in Cooks Forest at PA36 and Forest Road intersection, and end it near Ridge Camp Campground on PA36.

This trail also features an old-growth forest, which provides a unique woodland experience.

Ancient hemlock, chestnut oak, and red maple trees dominate the Mohawk Trail.

A massive fire destroyed the path in 1880, followed by a strong tornado in 1976.

Nonetheless, the gorgeous hemlock trees remain, providing fresh air and a safe environment in the area.

Ride a Pony at the Pine Crest Cabins

The Pine Crest Cabins in Cooks Forest is a beautiful spot to unwind, breathe fresh air, and enjoy nature.

It’s also a fantastic spot for some outdoor activities.

Horse and pony rides, bumper boats, and go-karts are just a few of the activities at Pine Crest.

The place will provide you with a fantastic package and discount, whichever is convenient.

The go-karts were old, but they can give you an excellent experience.

Check Out the Giant Trees at Corduroy Trail

Are you looking for a challenging trail in Cooks Forest?

Corduroy Trail is your next fantasy trail destination, complete with squirrels and owls luring you in.

Ridge Camp Campground is the starting point for this trail, which leads to Liggett Trail.

You can observe massive and century-old trees here, like the Cook Trail.

Prepare your camera and photograph huge American beech and eastern hemlock trees.

Learn at Cooks Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts

If you’re looking for a unique, amusing, and educational experience, the Sawmill Center in Cooks Forest is the place to go.

You can join seminars, workshops, and festivals highlighting the best of traditional crafts like weaving and woodworking.

Likewise, check out their theater in the round, a famous attraction.

You can attend performances by local community theater groups or your favorite performers.

If you’re looking for something entertaining to do on vacation or need a break from your busy life, the Sawmill Center has everything you need.

Go Hunting at the Bridle Trail

If you don’t feel like walking, the Bridle Trail in Cooks Forest might be the best option among the area’s various trails.

Horses can travel the 4.1-mile trail and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Your journey begins on Toms Run Road and concludes on Forest Road.

This area is also open to hunting, where black bears and white-tailed deer abound.

Come here in groups to get the most out of your vacation.

Try Steep Hiking at the River Trail

The River trail, which begins at the Fire Tower and ends on Fire Tower Road, is another steep trail in Cooks Forest.

Hike in the summer to see the mountain laurel and rhododendron in blossom.

What else is there to see in this place?

There is a flat section of the path next to the Clarion River, where you can rest and cool off in the river.

You might see some turtles, bobcats, or coyotes during your hike.

Spruce up Your Home with Briar Hill Rustic Furniture

Briar Hill Rustic Furniture has operated in the Cooks Forest area for 66 years.

Briar Hill is between two stunning natural areas.

Likewise, Briar Hill’s rustic ambiance will show you a good time while you search for furniture to fill out your home.

The furniture store has a combination of modern and traditional beds, couches, and other furniture designs.

This furniture store also sells Allegheny Cellar wines.

See the Birds at the Liggett Trail

Enjoy the level Liggett Trail in Cooks Forest as a break from the steep trails.

The Toms Run Road route begins at Forest Road and ends at Toms Run Road.

This 2.2-mile round-trip track provides an excellent birding excursion suited for your family.

There are no age limitations at all.

Bring your family together and tell them about this beautiful trail where you can all relax.

Enjoy the level Liggett Trail in Cooks Forest as a break from the steep trails.

The Toms Run Road route begins at Forest Road and ends at Toms Run Road.

This 2.2-mile round-trip track provides an excellent birding excursion suited for your family.

There are no age limitations at all.

Bring your family together and tell them about this beautiful trail where you can all relax.

Drop by the Cook Forest State Park Office

A recommended first stop before you explore the park is the Cook Forest State Park Office on Route 36.

Here, you’d be able to get more details about the park and the ways and means to get around the park with safety measures.

You can ask for brochures and maps before going around the park to make sure you know where you’re going to.

Also, if you prefer to stay at the park overnight, there are rust cabins available for rental from April to December, which you can book through the office.

The Cook Forest State Park Office will provide you the dos and don’ts at the state park.

Check Out the Log Cabin Environmental Learning Center

Originally built as a living quarter for the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Log Cabin Environmental Learning Center now displays different artifacts from the logging era.

It was built in 1934 by the corps and later became a restaurant.

Today, the center showcases rafting tools, artifacts, models, lumbering tools, and taxidermy during the historic logging era.

It also hosts different programs and exhibits.

So, as soon as you’re in the park, make time to drop by the Log Cabin Environmental Learning Center for some resourceful learnings from its past.

See the Remains of the Historic Bracket Dams

On your hike on Tom’s Run Trail, keep an eye on the old Bracket Dams stone foundations.

These are still visible along the banks of the creek from the Swinging Bridge.

Today, only the remnants prevail, and you can also see a set of them upstream from the bridge.

You can also take a photo of the historic Bracket Dams’ remains for documentation.

Enjoy Challenging Walks on Indian Trail Loop

One of the most challenging walks to take in the park is on Indian Trail Loop, which offers mostly downhill and steep.

This is a great spot for those who like thrill and adventure while taking nature walks and enjoying the natural beauty of the park.

The trail is about 2 miles of beautiful native plants, old-growth trees, mushrooms, wildlife, and more.

There can be boulders to climb, so make sure that you’re geared up for hiking before exploring Indian Trail Loop.

Keep an eye on the wonderful transition of second to the old-growth forest!

Bring the Kids to the Children’s Fishing Pond

Clarion River offers amazing fishing opportunities, but not all ages particularly kids, can take advantage of it.

However, the Children’s Fishing Pond is a designated fishing area for kids ages 15 and below.

This part of the river is stocked with trout, panfish, and warm-water game fish.

Kids will be able to learn how to fish here if it’s their first time as the structure itself is designed for the little ones.

The Children’s Fishing Pond is also ADA-accessible and is located by the park’s office.

Final Thoughts

Cooks Forest has everything you’ll need for your next fantasy holiday.

The friendly locals will show you around and ensure you’re never bored during your trip.

Join the area festivities with your friends and family!

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