Fun in Tioga County: Pa. Grand Canyon is 1,450 deep, 50 miles long

Gwen Woolf

Pine Creek travels through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, also known as Pine Creek Gorge.

The rhythmic clip-clopping, jingling, and creaking of the horse-drawn covered wagon on a trail ride reminds you of life in a past era. Early settlers must have marveled — just like modern visitors — when experiencing Pine Creek Gorge, known today as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Unlike its rocky Arizona counterpart, this attraction in north-central Pennsylvania’s Tioga County is heavily forested. However, it certainly delivers spectacular views, whether seen from the bottom or the top.

Ole Covered Wagon Tours offers a two-hour ride on part of the 62-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail that passes through the canyon floor. Seated on a padded bench in the open-sided wagon, you watch pleasant scenes of woods, streams, and canyon walls roll by as a guide relates the canyon’s history, which included a once-flourishing lumber business.

Pine Creek travels through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, also known as Pine Creek Gorge.
Pine Creek travels through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, also known as Pine Creek Gorge.

For a bird’s-eye perspective, overlooks at Leonard Harrison State Park and Colton Point State Park give expansive views.

Naturalists explain the glacial formation of the canyon, which is 4,000 feet across and up to 1,450 feet deep. Each season brings a different shade of picturesque.

Canyon Country Cabs offers guided canyon tours. Some hiking trails go past waterfalls. Bicycling, horseback riding, kayaking, camping, and picnicking are among other activities available.

Pick up information at the Tioga County Visitors Bureau, which is near the canyon on Route 660 off Route 6.

Arts to chocolate

Wellsboro, a 255-mile drive from Washington, D.C., is the county seat and a good base of operations for exploring the area.

The Penn Wells Hotel on Main Street is a local landmark. Built in 1869, the hotel was revived by stockholders in 1926 and continues to delight guests. Groucho Marx and Joan Crawford were two of its more famous visitors. A U.S. flag made from 1,438 Corning Glass Works ornaments is in the lobby. Vintage photos line the dining room, where Sunday brunch with live music is a tradition. The hotel also operates the Penn Wells Lodge.

A walking tour of the gas-lit streets includes “The Green,” the town square with a charming Wynken, Blynken, and Nod statue. The Lincoln Door House sports a red front door that was a gift from Abraham Lincoln.

Other downtown highlights include the 1921 art deco-style Arcadia Theatre, which still shows films, and Dunham’s Department Store, run by the Dunham family since 1905 and a trip back to the way department store shopping used to be. The Deane Center for the Performing Arts is one venue for the annual two-week Endless Mountain Music Festival, where world-class musicians serve up classical and contemporary music. This year’s festival is July 22–Aug. 6.

Downtown, Emerge Healing Arts & Spa offers chocolate body wraps, while Highland Chocolates offers a tour. Its gift shop has many choices, including pretzel bark, the facility’s specialty. The nonprofit trains adults with disabilities to make chocolate products and snack mixes.

Dining spots include Native Bagel, open all day with meals made in-house, and Timeless Destination, which has everything from pizza to steaks.

Outdoor recreation

Three large lakes — Hammon, Tioga, and Cowanesque — offer swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, hunting, fishing, and camping. Rainbow Paradise Fishing Park has 9 acres of waters.

The Tyoga Country Club has golf and Tyoga Running Club organizes trail-running events. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling also are available in the area.

In addition, some of the accommodations have recreational possibilities. Tanglewood Camping has a 5-acre lake and mountaintop setting. Colton Point Motel, located near the canyon, has a 2-acre lake, and Arvgarden Bed & Breakfast, a Swedish-style bed-and-breakfast, has walking paths and panoramic views on its 118-acre farm. Those who prefer to do their walking downtown will find Sherwood Motel a convenient location.

Maple production is so significant in Tioga and Potter counties that there’s an annual Maple Festival. Patterson’s Maple Farms and Brookfield Maple Products are among15 businesses in operation.

If you like things made of wood, the family-owned Woodland Craftworks LLC turns out beautiful wood and fiber items, including vases, bowls, boxes, toys, and wall hangings. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum interprets the area’s timber era.

The area also boasts a liberal arts school, Mansfield University, where night football had its beginnings.

Learn more:

Tioga Co. Tourism: visittiogapa.com

 

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