Allegheny National Forest is Pennsylvania’s only national forest, encompassing 513,000 acres (208,000 hectares) of virgin hardwood forests, gushing streams, pleasant beaches and campgrounds. Engage in a diverse range of outdoor activities, from cycling in the summer to snowmobiling in the winter.
Many of the recreation areas are concentrated around the Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir, which sit at the heart of the forest. The reservoir is a wonderful spot for fishing, with typical catches including northern pike, brown trout, walleye and channel catfish. Swim on one of the two beaches and rent a canoe, kayak or motorboat to take out on the reservoir.
The forest has plenty of trails, geared towards hikers of all levels. Many trails are also open to all-terrain vehicles, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers. Plan a multi-day hike on the 96-mile (155-kilometer) North Country National Scenic Trail, the longest trail in the forest. This scenic route passes through old-growth forests and offers gorgeous views of the Allegheny Reservoir.
For something a little less strenuous, follow the 2-mile (3-kilometer) Shawmut Trail, which runs through open meadows and wooded areas. An all-season trail, Shawmut can also be used for biking, snowshoeing and skiing.
Spend a night or two on one of the forest’s 16 developed campgrounds. Some cabins include heated swimming pools, hot tubs, playgrounds and free Wi-Fi. If you prefer a more down-to-earth camping experience, choose one of the primitive reservoir campgrounds accessible only by boat. Backcountry dispersed camping is allowed in most areas.
Drive along the beautiful Longhouse National Scenic Byway, which stretches for 29 miles (46 kilometers) through the park. One of the state’s most scenic roads, the byway offers a number of stunning viewpoints that are particularly lovely during autumn when the leaves turn bright shades of red, orange and yellow.
Allegheny National Forest is located in northwest Pennsylvania, 129 miles (208 kilometers) from Pittsburgh and 111 miles (179 kilometers) from Buffalo. It is best reached by car. The forest is free to enter, although there may be additional fees for camping and other activities.