The 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park lies in scenic northwestern Pennsylvania. Once called the “Black Forest,” the area is famous for its stands of old growth forest. Cook Forest’s “Forest Cathedral” of towering white pines and hemlocks is a National Natural Landmark. The Clarion River connects Clear Creek State Park to Cook Forest State Park along a scenic 10-mile stretch of river which is popular for canoeing and rafting.
From the east, take Exit 78 off of I-80, then PA 36 north directly to the park in Cooksburg.
From the west, take Exit 60 off of I-80, then take PA 66 north to Leeper. From Leeper, follow PA 36 south, seven miles to the park.
Clear Creek State Park
Clear Creek State Park encompasses 1,444 acres in Jefferson County. The park occupies a scenic portion of the Clear Creek Valley from PA 949 to the Clarion River.
The park is accessed from PA 949. From I-80 west, take Exit 78 and from I-80 east, take Exit 73.
Make online reservations at: www.visitPAparks.com or call toll-free 888-PA-PARKS, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, for state park information and reservations.
Spend the Day
Cook Forest: 29 miles of trails
From the depths of the Forest Cathedral to the heights of Seneca point, the trails of Cook Forest State Park explore diverse landscapes and habitats. A brochure of trail descriptions is available at the park office. Part of the 140-mile Baker Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail pass through Cook Forest. Baker Trail runs from Freeport, in southern Armstrong County, to the Allegheny National Forest. The North Country Trail is under development and will connect the Missouri River in North Dakota with the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Overnight camping within the park is only permitted in the campground or cabin areas.
Clear Creek: 25 miles of trails
The trails begin in the scenic Clear Creek Valley and follow the Clarion River and wander across the surrounding hillsides to several scenic overlooks.
Biking: At Cook Forest State Park, bikes are permitted on all one-way, dirt roads within the park. Biking on hiking trails is prohibited except on the part of the Heffern Run Trail that is part of the Bicycle Route. The Bicycle Route is 13 miles long and follows lightly traveled roads within the park and Heffern Run Trail. The route is of moderate difficulty with long flat areas and rolling hills. Highlights are a leisurely four-mile flat ride through scenic Toms Run Valley, CCC-era red and white pine plantations along Forest Drive and a challenging descent along the Heffern Run Trail. A description of the bicycle route is available at the park office.
Horseback Riding: At Cook Forest, equestrians can enjoy a two-hour loop trail that begins at a small parking lot on Forest Drive, connects to Old Logging Road Trail, and winds through beautiful pine plantations. Another equestrian trail begins at the trailhead, follows Hefren Run Trail and connects to Toms Run Road. The one hour loop next to the organized group camping area is heavily used by a vendor, and not recommended.
éPicnicking: Picnic tables and charcoal grills are available throughout both parks. Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cook Forest has three large picnic pavilions. Clear Creek has five picnic pavilions, one of which is ADA accessible.
Fishing: The Clarion River flows along borders of both parks and provides fishing for trout, warm-water game fish and panfish. PA Fish and Boat Commission laws apply.
At Cook Forest State Park, about 2.5 miles of Toms Run is stocked with trout. A special fishing pond stocked with trout is by the park office and is available for use by children 12 and younger and people with disabilities. An ADA accessible pier provides access.
At Clear Creek State Park, native trout inhabit Clear Creek and trout are stocked seasonally.
éSwimming: At Cook Forest, the swimming pool is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, unless posted otherwise. Depths range from 2.5 feet to 5 feet. A circular wading pool is adjacent to the large pool. The pool area is ADA accessible, and the pool is equipped with a lift. Vending machines have snacks and beverages.
At Clear Creek, the 180-foot sand beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. Please read and follow posted rules. The swimming beach is in a small man-made lake. Soda machines are nearby.
Canoeing: The Clarion River provides excellent canoeing especially during the spring and fall. The river is rated Class C (beginner) with an average downward flow of four miles per hour.
Two popular canoe trips, 4 and 10 miles in length, are a popular attraction. Rental canoes are available from commercial sources outside of the park. Both parks offer public canoe launches.
éHunting and Firearms: About 7,000 acres of Cook forest and about 1000 acres of Clear Creek are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, squirrel, bear and turkey. Over 10,000 acres of adjacent state forests and over 500,000 acres of Allegheny National Forest are also open to hunting.
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.
Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner’s car, trailer or leased campsite. The only exception is that law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may carry said firearm concealed on their person while they are in the park.
Scenic Views: Two scenic views are in the southeastern corner of Cook Forest State Park. From the rock ledges of Seneca Point Overlook you can see the Clarion Valley. An 80-foot climb up Old #9 Fire Tower gives a breathtaking view of the entire area. On a clear day you can see 15 to 20 miles.
Do not walk or climb on the rock outcroppings outside of the fenced area. These rock ledges are very hazardous.
Sawmill Craft Center and Theater: At Cook Forest, a local, non-profit craft organization housed in the historic sawmill offers traditional crafts on display, a gift shop and classes. Demonstrations and classes on various crafts are presented throughout the summer and fall seasons for children and adults. The Verna Leith Sawmill Theater presents plays, musicals and other entertainment throughout the summer season. 814-927-6655
Stay the Night
Visitors can stay the night from the second Friday in April to late December.
The wooded campsites at each park have a picnic table and fire ring. Access is not guaranteed during severe winter weather.
Cook Forest State Park has 210 campsites, including some that are tADA accessible. Modern restrooms with showers are available late May through early October. There is a sanitary dump station and coin-operated laundry facilities. Pets are permitted at designated sites for a fee.
Clear Creek State Park has 53 campsites, two are ADA accessible. Showers and flush toilets and a sanitary dump station are available. Near the campground are a nine-hole disc golf course and a concrete basketball court.
Clear Creek State Park offers a canoe/kayak camping area at the southern end of the campground. This area is for individuals and groups traveling on the Clarion River by canoe or kayak. Use of these sites is limited to one night and are for tent use only. Maximum group size is eight and the cost is $4 per person for a Pennsylvania resident and $5 per person for a non-resident.
éCabins: The rustic cabins are minimally furnished. Each cabin has beds, mattresses, refrigerator, table and chairs and is heated by a wood fireplace or gas heater. Occupants must provide their own bedding, cookware and tableware. Cabins sleep 4, 6 or 8 people. Extra cots are not available. Frost-free water faucets are outside. A showerhouse is nearby. One cabin at each park is ADA accessible.
The cabins must be rented for one week, except in the spring and fall rental season. Firewood is not provided. Alcoholic beverages and pets are not permitted.
At Cook Forest, the 13 River Cabins are on a hillside overlooking the Clarion River.
The 10 Indian Cabins are along Toms Run behind the park office.
At Clear Creek, the 22 rustic cabins are near the Clarion River.
Yurts: The two round, Mongolian-style tents at Clear Creek State Park are on wooden decks and sleep four people in bunk beds. Yurts have a cooking stove, refrigerator, countertop, table, chairs, electric heat and outlets, fire ring, picnic table and are adjacent to a water pump.
Organized Group Tenting: Organized groups can rent this rustic area at Cook Forest from the second Friday in April to late December. The five sites each accommodate 20 people.
Enjoy the Winter
Ice Skating: At Cook Forest there is a lighted ice skating pond along River Road.
Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing:
Snowshoeing is permitted on all trails. Cross-country skiing is recommended on selected trails on the maps. Cook Forest has three groomed trails: Fire Tower Road, Toms Run Road and part of Forest Drive.
Sledding: At Cook Forest there are three
acres of slopes by the River Cabins. At Clear Creek, there is a two-acre slope on the pipeline near Pavilion 3.
Feeding Wild Animals
Black bears are native to this area. All food should be put away after use and kept in a tight, secure container in the trunk of a car or in a camper. Feeding wild animals is prohibited. When wildlife loses its fear of people, these animals can become pests, and dangerous situations can result.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office.
At Cook Forest State Park programs are offered year-round. The park has an environmental learning center in the Log Cabin Inn at the Main Picnic Area. The Historical Room displays logging and rafting tools, models and artifacts.
At Clear Creek State Park programs are offered spring through fall. A visitor center with logging and nature exhibits is open spring through fall. The Ox Shoe Self-guiding Historical Trail takes one hour to hike and reveals the logging history of the Black Forest of Pennsylvania.
History of Cook forest and Clear Creek
John Cook was the first permanent American settler to the area. He arrived in 1826 to determine the feasibility of building an east to west canal along the Clarion River for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John purchased 765 acres and settled here with his wife and 10 children in 1828.
At the mouth of Toms Run, present day Cooksburg, John built his one-story cabin and the first of many water-driven sawmills. He worked his mills, logged with oxen, rafted logs to Pittsburgh and also engaged in flatboat building through the years.
John’s son, Andrew, bought 36 acres from his father, then gained the rest of his acreage when his father died in 1858. Anthony erected three sawmills, one flouring mill, one planing mill, a boat scaffold, several dwellings and a store. About 1870, he built the Cook Homestead at the corner of land where PA 36 and River Road intersect. Many of the large homes on River Road are still maintained by the Cook Family and descendents. After Anthony’s death, the business was managed under A. Cook Sons Company.
The Cook Forest Association formed in the 1920s to save the few areas of surviving old growth timber. Endorsed by national natural resource groups and Governor Gifford Pinchot, the association raised $200,000, which helped the Commonwealth purchase 6,055 acres from A. Cook Sons Company in 1927 for $640,000. Cook Forest became the first Pennsylvania State Park acquired to preserve a natural landmark.
The first public campsites at Clear Creek were opened in 1922. In May 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) greatly expanded the recreational facilities. By the time they departed in 1937, they had built the cabins, the swimming area, the food concession building, restrooms, trails, bridges and roads.
Old Growth Timber Areas
From the area of Cook Forest State Park came the famous Pennsylvania cork pine, so named because of the white pine’s thick, cork-like bark.
There are nine old growth areas in the park, totaling over 2,200 acres. Some stands contain ancient red and white oaks, red maple and black cherry. Other areas consist of white pine, eastern hemlock and American beech trees.
Many white pine and hemlock in these areas approach 350 years old. Scientists believe these old growth areas began growing following a large forest fire in 1644. Some trees survived the fire and are almost 450 years old.
Forest Cathedral Natural Area
At Cook Forest State Park, the Forest Cathedral Natural Area is home to the finest eastern white pine in the northeastern U.S. Many of these magnificent pine and hemlocks exceed three feet in diameter and approach 200 feet tall. It is fitting that this forest remains in the midst of the area that saw the greatest logging boom in the history of Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s, thousands of acres of old growth forests were cut for the shipbuilding and construction industries. The Forest Cathedral is a National Natural Landmark and has been set aside for protection as a state park natural area.
River corridors are natural transportation routes and so the Clarion River corridor has a great diversity of plants and animals. Great blue heron, mergansers, kingfisher and bald eagle are common river residents.
The Clarion River is designated a Wild and Scenic River for its scenic beauty, water quality, and archaeological significance.
Historic Areas at Cook Forest State Park
Log Cabin Inn: Cook Forest’s environmental learning center is a large log building built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The center contains displays, taxidermy animals and logging tools from early lumbering days. The center is at one end of Longfellow Trail.
River Cabins, Indian Cabins, Log Cabin Inn and the Old Contact Station: In the 1930s, the CCC constructed these buildings from salvaged American chestnut killed by blight. These buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
CCC Camp: On March 31, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The purpose of the CCC was to provide employment and restore our nation’s natural resources.
In 1934, CCC Camp SP-2 was built in the present-day River Cabins area along River Road. A typical CCC camp had barracks, a mess hall, bathhouses and other structures. This camp housed 200 enrollees and staff until 1937 when it closed, and the buildings were razed and used to construct CCC Camp SP-6 at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County.
Work of the CCC in Cook Forest still remains. Indian and River cabins were built, trails and roads constructed and forest resources preserved by these hard-working men.
Memorial Fountain: Built in 1950 on Longfellow Trail, the fountain was dedicated to the original Cook Forest Association. The association was instrumental in raising additional funds needed to purchase the land from the A. Cook Sons Company.
Cook Forest Fire Tower/Seneca Point Overlook: The 80-foot fire tower, built in 1929, gave firefighters a 15- to 20-mile view of the area. The tower was retired from service in 1966. Periodically, the cab on top of the tower is open during interpretive programs.
American Indians used the sandstone of the area to grind seeds and grains. Look for unnatural indentations in the stone used for these “Indian mills.”
Cobbtown and Bracket Dams: Stone and earthen foundations of bracket dams can be found along the banks of Toms Run. Bracket dams created an artificial flood to raise the water level for floating logs to the Clarion River. Three miles up Toms Run are the scant remains of Cobbtown, one of many temporary logging boomtowns.
For information on nearby attractions, contact: Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, 800-348-9393.
Cook Forest Area Vacation Bureau. www.cookforest.org
Allegheny National Forest. 814-927-6628
Explore Pennsylvania Wilds
Pennsylvania Wilds is two million acres of public lands for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, hunting and exploration in northcentral Pennsylvania. Within the twelve-county region are: 29 state parks, including Cook Forest and Clear Creek; eight state forest districts (1.3 million acres); 50 state game lands and Allegheny National Forest (500,000 acres).
Highlights of the area are: elk watching, scenic PA 6, Pine Creek Gorge (PA Grand Canyon), the darkest skies in the east at Cherry Springs State Park, and hundreds of miles of trails, bike paths and trout fishing streams. For the more adventurous, whitewater rafting through Pine Creek Gorge and hang-gliding at Hyner View State Park offer exciting challenges.
Nearby State Forest
Clear Creek State Forest: Adjacent to Clear Creek State Park, this 10,113-acre area provides hunting, fishing, hiking and general recreation. Scenic views of the surrounding area may be seen from Bear Town Rocks. 814-226-1901
Access for People with Disabilities
éThis symbol indicates facilities and activities that are accessible. This publication text is available in alternative formats.
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
Protect and Preserve our Parks
Please make your visit safe and enjoyable. Obey all posted rules and regulations and respect fellow visitors and the resources of the park.
• Be prepared and bring the proper equipment. Natural areas may possess hazards. Your personal safety and that of your family are your responsibility.
• Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
• Firewood Advisory: Firewood may contain non-native insects and plant diseases. Bringing firewood into the park from other areas may accidentally spread pest insects and diseases that threaten park resources and the health of our forests. Campers should use local firewood. Do not take wood home and do not leave firewood - Burn It!
In an Emergency
Contact a park employee or dial 911. For directions to the nearest hospital, look on bulletin boards or at the park office.
Nearest Hospital to Cook Forest State Park:
1 Hospital Drive
Clarion, PA 16214
Nearest Hospital to Clear Creek State Park:
100 Hospital Road
Brookville, PA 15825
Pennsylvania State Parks Mission
The primary purpose of Pennsylvania State Parks is to provide opportunities for enjoying healthful outdoor recreation and serve as outdoor classrooms for environmental education. In meeting these purposes, the conservation of the natural, scenic, aesthetic, and historical values of parks should be given first consideration. Stewardship responsibilities should be carried out in a way that protects the natural outdoor experience for the enjoyment of current and future generations.