Though much different than the breathtaking landscapes at the Grand Canyon that probably comes to mind first, the PA Grand Canyon has plenty to do and see.
Two State Parks, Leonard Harrison on the east rim and Colton Point on the West Rim, offer nearly 1,000 acres for outdoor recreation and are separated by the 47-mile-long Pine Creek Gorge. The Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, is 800 feet deep in the area of the parks.
We’ll offer suggestions for the best time to visit and all the activities available at the PA Grand Canyon!
Where is the PA Grand Canyon?
Tioga County and the Tioga State Forest are home to the Pine Creek Gorge. Located in north central Pennsylvania, the PA Grand Canyon is often referred to as the crown jewel of the state.
Here are some approximate driving times from major cities in the region:
- Buffalo, NY: 3 hours
- Pittsburgh, PA: 4 hours
- Philadelphia, PA: 4 hours
- New York City, NY: 4 hours
- Cleveland, OH: 4 hours 45 minutes
- Washington DC: 5 hours
- Boston, MA: 7 hours
- Detroit, MI: 7 hours
- Chicago, IL: 7 hours 45 minutes
When is the best time to visit the PA Grand Canyon?
The PA Grand Canyon areas are open year-round. Each season has its own pros and cons. A few that could help steer you in the right direction, depending on your preferences:
Spring in the PA Grand Canyon
- Waterfalls likely are flowing at their strongest.
- Wildlife viewing can be at its best.
- Trout fishing season begins in April, and plenty of great streams can be accessed from the parks.
- Trails can be covered with snow into the spring, and muddy from snowmelt.
- Spring weather conditions can bring a significant amount of rainfall, limiting the amount of time you may want to spend outside.
PA Grand Canyon in Summer
- Weather and trail conditions are at their best.
- The longest days of the year offer the most time for exploring.
- Experience the Gorge from the water with a kayak or tube.
- Most activities and attractions are open, offering the most variety of things to do during your stay.
- Campgrounds and trails can be crowded, especially on weekends.
Fall in the PA Grand Canyon
- Beautiful fall foliage is viewed at peak times, usually in October.
- Trails can become crowded during peak visit times.
- Cabin and hotel accommodations are more expensive during high visitation season.
PA Grand Canyon in Winter
- Least crowded time of year.
- Beautiful views of bare hillsides, uninhibited by trees/foliage.
- Some trails, ie. Turkey Paths and Leonard Harrison Overlook Trail, can be closed due to icy/slippery conditions.
- The access road to Colton Point has no winter maintenance, so unless you have a 4WD (+ chains) or a snowmobile, you will not be able to access lookouts like Barbour Rock without long hikes.
- Experiencing the water is not an option.
Where are the best places to stay at the PA Grand Canyon?
Endless options for lodging in the area include everything from backcountry primitive camping to hotels and motels. With such a wide variety of options, there is something to offer anyone the amenities they expect.
If you are interested in camping more off the grid and backpacking, the West Rim Trail through Colton Point and the Midstate Trail near Leonard Harrison offer opportunities for primitive camping. No fee or permit is required here for stays of only one night.
Full Hookup Camping
Canyon Country is open from mid-April to the end of October. They offer everything from no hookup tent sites to full-service electric, water, and sewer sites. Their 50+ sites and 7 cabins can be reserved up to a year in advance here. Canyon County also has a hiking trail leading to a PA Grand Canyon overlook.
Stony Fork offers over 200 sites of the same range, 114 of them being full hookup sites. Cabins are also available, but you’ll need to bring your own linens. Though a few minutes further from Pine Creek Gorge, this campground is larger and offers more variety in amenities.
Cabins and Cottages
Endless options for cabins can be found along Route 6 and the surrounding areas.
Options like this cozy little cabin in the woods offer everything that you would need for a getaway. Everything is conveniently located within a short drive.
Many of the cabins are beautifully situated along the water. Pet-friendly and group options are plentiful as well.
Bed & Breakfasts
If staying in a Bed & Breakfast is more your style, downtown Wellsboro has two great options.
La Belle Auberge is Victorian Style and quite luxurious. The rooms are beautiful and guests rave about the Spa Experience.
131 Main Street is more of a nontraditional style B&B with 2 room options.
Hotels & Motels
Smaller, independent motels and lodges can be found in close proximity to the PA Grand Canyon along Route 6.
If you are looking for more of a chain hotel experience or if you are brand loyal, the town of Mansfield, 30 min away, is home to options such as a Quality Inn, Hampton Inn, and Microtel.
What are the best things to do near the PA Grand Canyon?
It depends on what season you plan your visit. There are plenty of things to do, but these are a few of our favorites.
Hiking the PA Grand Canyon
Everything from short strolls on ADA-compliant paths to 30 miles of backcountry hiking and backpacking can be found at Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks.
Overlook trails at both parks are quite short, with easy trails ending in rewarding views. The trails are well-marked from beginning to end.
The Turkey Path trails in both parks are short but quite steep, taking hikers to the bottom of the gorge. See Pine Creek up close, and catch a glimpse of some waterfalls at the bottom.
If backpacking is your style, check out the West Rim Trail. This 30-mile trail can be covered in 2-3 days with primitive campsites along the way. No fees or permits are required if only spending one night at any given campsite.
Also of note: the trails around the PA Grand Canyon are dog friendly! Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome, as long as they are cleaned up after.
Whether bringing your own or renting from one of the local sporting goods outfitters, bicycling opportunities are plentiful near the PA Grand Canyon.
Hop on the 62-mile-long Pine Creek Trail and bike for hours along the banks of the creek. Approximately 18 miles of the trail travel through the Gorge. Located on the eastern side of Pine Creek, one mile of the trail passes through Leonard Harrison State Park.
The Pine Creek Trail is accessible for hiking, as well as for cross-country skiing in the winter.
Rafting & Boating Through the PA Grand Canyon
Bring your own kayak, canoe, or tubes to float down Pine Creek. Various trip lengths are available, from just a few hours to multi-day endeavors. Campsites are available at multiple sites along the river but must be registered (for free) ahead of time.
The water flowing through the Pine Creek Gorge can be at times considered Class II rapids. Upper Pine offers a more leisurely float trip, for those wanting a relaxing adventure.
For all of your outdoor adventures in the area, if you do not have or did not bring your own equipment, check out Pine Creek Outfitters. They do offer rafts for up to 6 people, 2-person canoes, single kayaks, or tubes for rent!
A few words about the conditions and water levels, for safety! Safety recommendations for temperature advise wetsuits for air temperatures under 75 degrees. Don’t fall victim to hypothermia! You can also rent these from Pine Creek Outfitters.
The water levels can change quickly in the summer and fall, so prepare to be flexible with your intended itinerary. Sometimes, floating in a tube is the only option due to the low water.
Catch a ride on a Train or Old-fashioned Wagon
The Tioga Central Railroad offers trips both during the day and at sunset times to view the Pennsylvania countryside. Enjoy both enclosed and open-air cars to take in the scenery. Tickets for these train rides range from $20-$25 for adults and $12-$15 for children up to age 11. Ages 4 and under are free here.
Alternatively, Hop on an “Ole Covered Wagon,” a horse-drawn wagon tour, to catch views of the Gorge and other scenic points of interest along the way. Tours are tailored to some of the more seasonal attractions, and they travel along the Pine Creek Trail.
Rides are offered seasonally in Spring, Summer, and Fall. Depending on the trip, rates per trip range from $25-$45 per adult, $15 to $22 per child aged 4 to 11, and 3 and under are free!
Tyoga Country Club, just a few minutes down the road in Wellsboro, is probably the most challenging course in the area, but still remains public. Rates here range from $35-$55, depending on the season and day of the week, for 18 holes and a cart.
Corey Creek Golf Club can be reached via a 30-minute drive to Mansfield. This course is public and said to be somewhat challenging. An 18-hole round with a cart here will cost $40-$50.
About 30 minutes in the opposite direction, River Valley Country Club in Westfield, PA, is also a public course with a relaxed atmosphere. The small town course has the most reasonable fees, around $35-$45 for 18 holes and a cart.
Don’t forget to take in the countryside views as you play your round at any of these courses!
If wine tasting is on your list of things to do, drive about 1.5 hours north, and you will find yourself at one of the most popular and most recognized wine regions in the US: The Finger Lakes, NY!
Though the southern tip of Seneca Lake is closest, the Finger Lakes are home to hundreds of wineries and beautiful views, depending on how far you want to drive.
Begin your beautiful tasting trek in Watkins Glen, and spend as much (…or as little) time as you’d like sampling!
The Pine Creek Gorge is a four-season fishing destination.
If trout fishing is your forte, plenty of trout streams can be found throughout the PA Grand Canyon area.
Panfish and smallmouth bass can also be caught in Pine Creek.
Ice fishing on many of the small lakes in the area, such as the one in Hill Creek State Park, is a great option if winter angling is your idea of fun.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Just a little over 20 miles or a half-hour drive from the PA Grand Canyon is a spot to enjoy a snowy winter day on the slopes.
Sawmill Resort, though a small ski hill, offers plenty of options for outdoor winter entertainment. Four lifts service twelve runs on the mountain for skiing and snowboarding. A terrain park is available for the more daring winter sports enthusiasts.
The four-lane tube hill has its own lift and offers an opportunity for everyone to enjoy a snowy activity!
The PA Grand Canyon Snowmobile Club offers plenty of resources and maps for miles and miles of snowmobile adventures. The club has access to over 200 miles of trails, which are groomed and maintained. The club website and Facebook page have plenty of updates regarding special events, trail conditions, and weather updates.
Wrap-up: Are you ready to visit the PA Grand Canyon?
The Pine Creek Gorge and its surrounding areas have so many activities. There is truly something for every visitor here, of any age. The PA Grand Canyon offers beautiful views and natural areas just awaiting your visit!