It was the hallmark call of an eagle that finally broke the silence and the apparent trance that had come over me as I stood on the edge of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, staring slack jawed into the impossibly lush and expansive forest that rolled out beneath me. A second call rang thought the canyon, and I ripped my eyes away from the breathtaking view to catch a glimpse of the majestic bird playing in the thermal updrafts high above me, undoubtably enjoying the newfound sunshine and drying its wings.
The rain had come hard and heavy the night before, and lasted well into the morning, but I was in no mood to complain as the moisture had cleared the air and brought even more life to the driving forest I now stood within. Leveling my eyes again to take in the seemingly endless rolling hills, I grew a deep and refreshing breath, and snugged down the straps of my pack to continue hiking along the canyon’s rim.
The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, more properly known as Pine Creek Gorge, sits squarely in the midst of 165,000 acres of the beautiful and lush Tioga State Forest, and averages roughly 1,000 feet deep over its 47-mile long expanse. Bookended by Leonard Harrison State Park on the east and Colton Point state park on the west, there are a variety of trails along the length of the canyon that vary in difficulty for hiking, as well as the expertly maintained cycling and equestrian Pine Creek Trail that runs along the river at the bottom of the canyon. While all afford spectacular views, the West Rim Trail lends itself best to long day hikes or backpacking for multiple days, sweeping in an and out of the dense forest along the canyons rim.
Hiking a 10-mile stretch along the West Rim Trail, there were few rare moments I was not under a comforting canopy of trees and surrounded by a ferns and mountain laurels. As I hiked, the forest embraced me, the foliage providing a sense of security, calm, and tranquility, only broken by the occasional gap in the hardwood trees to a breathtaking overlook before the trail gently curved back into the hardwood forest. The sound too was muffled by the forest, and while I was never too far from a road or access point, I heard no noises other than the wind and the gentle rustle of woodland creatures along the forest floor. It was only the grumble of my stomach after a full afternoon of hiking that once again broke the silence, and implored me to seek out a hot meal. A short jaunt and a single creek crossing returned me to my car, with a sense of serenity and a grin on my face I knew would be around for days to come.
A twenty-minute drive from the north entrance to the Grand Canyon I found the small, quaint town of Wellsboro. With its Main Street lined with American flags and Bed and Breakfasts, the town’s charm is surpassed only by that of the locals, all of whom passed with a nod or greeted me with the warmth of an old friend. My stomach continued to growl ever louder as I strolled Main, beckoned in all directions by the smell of delicious food wafting through open restaurant doors. By the time I pulled up a stool at the Timeless Destination, a welcoming Italian lounge, I had already be-friended a local with whom to share a meal. Our talk of the town’s rich and vibrant history hastened the delivery of a much needed meal. Fed, happy, and exhausted, I bid my newfound companion goodnight and walked out into the calm, warm evening. Main Street, now illuminated by the soft glow from within local shop windows, offered everything an outdoor traveler could desire, from good food to knowledgeable outfitters to stocked gear shops, and of course, what I now desired most, places to rest your weary head after a long day of enjoying Tioga County’s great outdoors.
I set my sights on the Penn Wells Hotel, a fixture of the Wellsboro Main Street and history, picked up my room key, dropped my bags, and started pouring over maps to pick the next day’s adventure. From cycling to fly fishing to rafting, and so much more, my only regret in visiting northern Pennsylvania is that I could not stay longer. But, with a trip picked out and an alarm set, I fell asleep, grin still on my face.
Discover your own adventure in Tioga County.