We headed north into the Allegheny National Forest, the only national forest in Pennsylvania. I used to spend a lot of time there. While it may not have towering mountain peaks or huge waterfalls, I’ve always enjoyed this national forest. It has a special feel to it with its pristine streams flowing through valleys with hemlock and rhododendron, jumbled house-sized boulders, and the vast Allegheny Reservoir. The forest is also home to the Tionesta Creek and Clarion River, two beautiful places to paddle.
Our next destination was Hearts Content Scenic Area. Like Cook Forest, it protects an old growth forest, however, it is much smaller in size. The trees here are over 160 feet tall, and 300-400 years old. Nevertheless, the forest is just as beautiful with huge hemlock and pine trees. Unlike Cook Forest, Hearts Content has much more undergrowth and the beech trees were in full Autumn splendor. The short trails were a pleasure to hike as they explored this primeval forest with small streams, carpets of moss, and decaying logs with colorful mushrooms. This is a great trail to take kids, since it is easy and beautiful. Hearts Content is a National Natural Landmark. It was preserved and given by a logging company to the forest service. Maybe it is a bit ironic, but the only reason why the old growth forest at Hearts Content was spared was because the family that owned the logging company had a home there; I guess they didn’t want a logged forest surrounding their home. Sometimes irony can do positive things.
Hearts Content is described as Hike 22 in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.
We continued our hike on the Wheeler Loop. The trail started off nice, but soon degraded as it explored plantations of red pine. The trail was hard to follow and several dead or dying trees appeared to be marked to be cut down. I wouldn’t hike it again. Our journey continued on to the Kinzua Dam, Bent Run Waterfalls, Allegheny Reservoir, and Kinzua Bridge State Park…