By Morgan Christopher Spring 2018
There’s a fact that scores of outdoor enthusiasts are quick to share whenever possible: Along Pennsylvania’s northern tier, the counties of Potter and Tioga offer visitors majestic vistas, pristine trails and mountain streams that provide recreationalists a vast playground filled with natural beauty.
The topography of the area, connected by historic Route 6 as the main east-west traffic artery, features miles of lush forests filled with woods that for generations have distinguished the region as the heart of Pennsylvania’s lumber industry. The canyons, lakes and annual bloom of the state flower, the mountain laurel, attracts visitors to the region each spring to celebrate the season.
Opportunities for outdoor recreation are perhaps the most popular attractions throughout both Potter and Tioga counties, home to 10 state parks, two federal parks and more than 400,000 acres of state forest. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, fishing, bird watching and a wide spectrum of activities are available for visitors when staying in the area’s cabins, campgrounds, inns, and hotels. The area is highlighted by the landmark Pine Creek Gorge (better known as the 47-mile-long Pennsylvania Grand Canyon) and home to unparalleled stargazing, which has earned an international reputation. Pennsylvania’s northern tier is where one visits to take a deep breath of fresh mountain air, kick back, unwind and forget about the pressures of day-to-day urban life. A spring visit to Potter and Tioga counties as the landscapes blooms makes for a perfect getaway to consider!
Each May, Ole Covered Wagon Tours kicks off the annual ride season offering visitors an authentic way to experience Pine Creek Trail, the 62-mile trail that runs along the floor of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Tour guides fluently share the rich history of the canyon dating back to the 19th century. As the team of horses winds its way along Pine Creek Trail, visitors ride comfortably in open air wagons designed for a two-hour tour. Following the ride, some visitors take the opportunity to make their way to the canyon rims of either Leonard Harrison State Park or Colton State Park on opposite sides of the canyon. Here the bird’s-eye views often leave visitors awestruck from atop the canyon.
Throughout both counties, small towns like Mansfield, Blossburg, Wellsboro, Galeton and Coudersport offer visitors thriving business districts where merchants, artists, and artisans welcome visitors to unique shops, family-style department stores and treat shops where a sweet tooth can always be satisfied with locally made specialties like chocolate confections, freshly baked goods and maple products. Families will delight in the region’s restored movie houses where first-run films receive the small-town cinema treatment.
Looking to learn more about the region’s lumber history? Stop in at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in Galeton. This state museum is open year-round, offering programs as well as special events where the public can explore the museum’s working historic sawmill, lumber camp, exhibits, and collections to discover the relevance of lumber history in the present time.
Family fun is on the menu as well, at two spots just off historic Route 6 in Potter County. Rainbow Paradise Trout Farm, operating for more than 50 years, features nine acres of fishing waters teeming with rainbow, brook, and golden trout, novice and experienced anglers will delight in casting off for an afternoon at Rainbow Paradise for a memorable family fishing experience. Farther along Route 6, the Coudersport Ice Mine is a popular tourist attraction located on the side of a hill completely sheltered from the sun. Ice begins forming in April and melts by October. The tour tells the story of the mine’s creation, offering visitors lessons in history and natural science while entertaining them with the quirky story of its origin. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop where souvenirs, trinkets, and gems will delight visitors of all ages.
Named the best place on Earth for stargazing by the Travel Channel and designated a Gold Level Dark Sky Park, Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County draws visitors from around the world to experience the phenomena of being able to see thousands of stars with the naked eye. From the Night Sky Viewing Area, visitors can spend a few hours watching the sky or make a night of it and camp out at one of the designated campsites at the park. Local guides in the region offer stargazing tours for those who prefer a more structured tour, while local photographers lead themed tours for those looking to capture this amazing natural show in the sky.
In the town of Coudersport, visitors will want to check out some of the local attractions awaiting them in the spring. The Hotel Crittenden offers great food and lodging and is best known for being the spot where the renowned G-Man Eliot Ness finished his popular book “The Untouchables.” A new festival in 2018 will celebrate Ness and his careers as federal agent and author. The Potter County Artisan Center features original works by local artists and artisans. Children and adults will delight in the sweet treats offered at Cream ‘N Sugar, including ice cream, candies, coffee and gift items.
Close to many urban areas but far from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life, a visit to Potter and Tioga counties offers a hidden gem where visitors will discover world-class outdoor adventure in a friendly setting. The area boasts great lodging, restaurants, shopping, attractions and year-round events. The Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival held in June is a multi-day annual event bringing together all of the great assets of the region for a welcoming weekend celebrating the natural beauty of both of the counties.
Whether visitors seek to hike a leisurely nature trail, enjoy the beauty of a scenic driving tour or bask in the glow of the stars, a visit to Potter and Tioga counties has everything you’ve been looking for in a getaway destination!
If you like this story, please share.