The Allegheny Mountains boast some of the most beautiful landscapes within the commonwealth. Within these mountains there are many unique and alluring settings for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, biking, boating, canoeing, running, and camping are plentiful across PA, but in the Alleghenies, they are particularly spectacular to enjoy.
Several years ago I experienced my first taste of the Alleghenies when I traveled west to a stretch of abandoned turnpike located in Bedford County. In use from 1940 to 1968, this 8.5-mile section of turnpike, located off the Breezewood Exit on Tannery Road, was eventually abandoned and bypassed due to traffic and bottleneck issues. More recently used as a testing ground for road reflectors and rumble strips, the Pike 2 Bike trail is not open officially; however, bikers can ride the trail at their own risk. Bring a headlamp to see through the Ray's Hill and Sidling Hill tunnels, which are the shortest and longest tunnels, respectively, on the turnpike.
For those not up for the risk of exploring abandoned places, mountain biking enthusiasts may find joy at Dirt Fest, a time for fellow velocipedes to enjoy camping, music, and entertainment in Huntingdon County on the Allegrippis Trail System. From May 17 to 19 this year, the area expects over 2,000 bikers to traverse trails that range from beginner to expert in difficulty. Register at dirtragdirtfest.com or general trail information can be found at allegrippistrails.com
Paddling is another popular sport in the Alleghenies. In Raystown Lake, an 8,300-acre lake designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rothrock Outfitters provides canoe and kayak rentals, shuttle service, and even guided overnight trips. If you're in town for Dirt Fest or to cycle the Allegrippis Trails, you can also visit them for bicycle rentals.
Juniata River Adventures provides similar services along the Juniata River, which flows 104 miles in central Pennsylvania from Dauphin to Somerset counties. Besides paddling excursions, visitors can also try out fishing and river tubing outings.
Two state parks in the Alleghenies are considered by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to be amongst their top 20 parks. Canoe Creek State Park in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, is home to a lake and wetlands, and it even boasts one of the largest bat populations in Pennsylvania. Bird lovers will also particularly enjoy this park.
James Creek in Huntingdon County is home to Trough Creek State Park. Here you will find mountains, waterfalls, and spectacular hiking trails that lead to a scenic gorge that eventually runs into Raystown Lake. This park and surrounding lands are all part of recreational areas open for public use.
Hiking is plentiful in these parks and in several other public recreation areas in the Alleghenies. Buchanan State Forest, in Franklin, Fulton and Bedford counties, protects over 69,000 acres of wooded scenery, and trails. Both the Mid State and Tuscarora foot trails permeate the forest, offering ascents, vistas, and descents well worth the effort. ATV trails and cross country trails are also available.
When William Penn originally named Pennsylvania "Sylvania" for its expansive woods, he put the past, present and future of the commonwealth in its very name. Woods, including some spectacular old growth forest found sparingly in the Bear Meadows, Alan Seeger and Detweiler Run Natural Areas in the northern part of the Alleghenies (near State College) are still a prominent feature across much of Pennsylvania. They are the highlight of any hike, bicycle ride, and paddle down shaded, tree-lined rivers and lakes. The Alleghenies help outdoor pioneers to get acquainted with the memorable nature of Pennsylvania.