What to do in Cook Forest State Park

Cook Forest State Park encompasses 6,668 acres in northwestern Pennsylvania. Bordered by the picturesque and historic Clarion River, the park is most known for old growth white pine and hemlock timber stands. Classified as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service, Cook Forest State Park is often referred to as the "Black Forest" of Pennsylvania.

There are three virgin timber areas that are preserved at this state park. The area is alive with man-made and natural geological history. It is literally an outdoor classroom for science and history. Family camping, organized group tenting and log cabins are available. Environmental education, fishing, picnicking, swimming and canoeing are popular summer activities. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding and ice skating.

Cook Forest State Park encompasses 6,668 acres in northwestern Pennsylvania. Bordered by the picturesque and historic Clarion River, the park is most known for old growth white pine and hemlock timber stands. Classified as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service, Cook Forest State Park is often referred to as the "Black Forest" of Pennsylvania.

John Cook was the first permanent white settler to this area in 1826. He came to determine the feasibility of building an east to west canal along the Clarion River for the State of Pennsylvania. John purchased 765 acres and settled here with his wife and 10 children. John and his descendants built a thriving community which included an Inn, sawmills, flouring mill, planing mill and several other dwellings.

In the 1920's the Cook Forest Association was formed with the intention of saving the few areas of surviving virgin timber. Money from the association, with the endorsement of Governor Gifford Pinchot, helped purchase the land in 1927 to become the first state park acquired to preserve a natural landmark. The Civilian Conservation Corps was instrumental in building many of the cabins, trails and roads that remain today.

There are three virgin timber areas that are preserved at this state park.
The Swamp Area which lies in the extreme northeastern section of the park and consists mainly of large growth hemlock and some white pine.
The Seneca Areas which lies on the hillside northwest of the Clarion River and southeast of Fire Tower Road. Along with white pine and hemlock, some large pitch pine nearly 300 years old is also present. Tornado damage from 1976 can also be seen here. And lastly, the Cathedral Area which is the most popular and accessible virgin timber tract. It is located behind the Log Cabin Inn Visitor Center. Many large white pine and hemlock grow along the gently sloping hillside trail. A memorial fountain commemorating the Cook Forest Association is at the trail entrance.

This area is alive with man-made and natural geological history. It is literally an outdoor classroom for science and history.

Recreation
Cook Forest State Park is open year-round. A trail system of 27 miles reaches magnificent timber stands. Family camping, organized group tenting and log cabins are available. Fishing, picnicking, swimming and canoeing are popular summer pursuits. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding and ice-skating.

A local craft organization housed in the historic sawmill offers traditional crafts on display, a gift shop and classes. Demonstrations of various crafts are presented throughout the summer and fall seasons. For those people interested in learning a craft, classes are available for both children and adults. A 200 seat theater, Verna Leith Sawmill Theater, adjacent to the sawmill was opened in 1984. Plays, musicals and other entertainment are presented every weekend throughout the summer season. Information on craft classes and the theater can be obtained by contacting the Cook Forest Saw Mill Center for Arts, P.O. Box 6, Cooksburg, PA 16217, telephone (814) 927-6655.

During the summer season there are environmental interpretive programs presented nearly every Friday and Saturday night. Trail walks are also held during the summer season and a weekly interpretive schedule is available at the park office. The park has a visitor center in the Log Cabin Inn at the main picnic area. One of the main attractions is the Historical Room, in which logging and rafting tools, models and artifacts are displayed.

Over 4,000 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs. With the exception of: (1) hunting of woodchucks also known as groundhogs is prohibited and (2) dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day to March 31 in designated hunting areas. Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations are in effect for all activities in the park. Common game species are deer, squirrel and turkeys. Exercise EXTREME CAUTION with firearms at all times. This is a public park. It is used by hikers, fishermen, campers and others throughout the hunting season.

Note: All campers are reminded that 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 your camper. Feeding wild animals such as bears, raccoons and skunks is strongly discouraged. When wildlife loses its fear of people, these animals can become pests and dangerous situations can result.

Location
The park is located in Clarion, Forest and Jefferson counties. From the east take exit 13 off Interstate Route 80 then PA Route 36 North, directly to the park in Cooksburg. From the west take exit 8 off Interstate Route 80 then take PA Route 66 North to Leeper. From Leeper follow PA Route 36 South, 7 miles to the park.

Climate
Pennsylvania generally has a moist climate with cold winters and warm summers. The Cook Forest State Park area has cold winter months with temperatures averaging around 22 to 24 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 to -4 degrees Celsius). The area's average summer temperatures range around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius).

Address
P.O. Box 120
Cooksburg, PA 16217

Phone: 814-744-8407

Email: cookforest@dcnr.state.pa.us
  • Cook Forest State Park Travel Q&A

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