Pine Creek Gorge – Wellsboro, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Pine Creek Gorge

This lush forest valley was once mined for lumber to the extent that it was once nicknamed "The Pennsylvania Desert." 


Today Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge is often referred to as “The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” but in early 20th century the lush area was so clear-cut of its trees in the early 20th century that it was called “The Pennsylvania Desert.”

Pine Creek Gorge is a 47-mile long, 1,000-feet deep valley stretching north to south from near Wellsboro to Waterville. Prime overlooks for the gorge are at Leonard Harrison State Park and Colton Point State Park on opposite banks. Covered by the Tioga State Forest for most of its length, Pine Creek Gorge is a popular spot along the Pennsylvania Route 6 corridor for fall foliage viewing.

At the early part of the 20th century, however, the forests were razed for lumber. The hemlock, white pine, and hardwoods were very attractive for the lumber needs of the burgeoning country, and the forests here were harvested until the lands were barren. Fires consumed what little wood was left and baked the ground, turning the valley into a wasteland. In the hellish landscape landslides and flooding were common, and the wildlife was scattered.

However as is often the case, time has healed things, and the forest eventually regrew. Today, the trees are second-growth and cover the gorge, allowing for long views of fall foliage. Harvests are carefully managed, trails allow hikers to walk the forest, and even black bears and bald eagles have returned to where the land above Pine Creek was once laid bare.

Know Before You Go

State routes 44 and 414 run up the Pine Creek Valley from Rt 220 northward. There are villages every 5 miles or so with stores, taverns and hunting and fishing supplies. The NY Central railbed was converted from Rails-to-Trails in the 1980s, so the whole valley can be hiked and biked. Over 80% of the land is PA State Forest.
The most popular overlooks are at Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks. The West Rim Trail also has vistas.

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