Best Hikes in the Allegheny National Forest


Bent Run Waterfalls, Allegheny National Forest

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is a big place, it covers 514,000 acres.  It has several beautiful areas and the forest is known for its giant boulders, cliffs, old growth forests, scenic streams, and the Allegheny Reservoir.  Where should you hike?  Here’s a list.

Allegheny National Forest hiking website, with maps and guides for some trails.

Hiking the Allegheny National Forest  guidebook (now available only for download).

1. Minister Creek
This is the most popular and arguably the most scenic hike in the ANF. A 7.3 mile loop that features massive rocks, cliffs, boulders, chasms, and rock formations. There is one view and several beautiful streams and campsites. The North Country Trail connects to the northern part of the loop.

2. Morrison Trail
An 11 mile loop with a cross-connector, this trail is probably my favorite in the ANF because it offers a taste of everything this region has to offer. The trail provides views of the reservoir, cascading streams, great camping, and huge boulders. Do not miss hiking the cross-connector trail, which is the most scenic part of the Morrison Trail.

3. Clarion River Rapids/Lily Pond Trail
The gem of the southern ANF, this 2.5 mile linear trail follows the stunning Clarion River along its rapids, known as X, Y, and Z rapids. There are huge boulders, deep pools, a small beach, and excellent camping. Start at Irwin Run. The trail ends where it is washed out at Crow Run. I’ve known this trail as the Clarion River Rapids, but a recent ANF recreation map calls it the Lily Pond Trail.

4. Hearts Content
A stunning old growth forest with towering trees, Hearts Content is a must-see. Some of the tallest trees in Pennsylvania are along this trail. The trails are easy with rolling terrain and are a little more than a mile long.

5. Rimrock Overlook
The finest view in the ANF from huge cliffs. You can see the reservoir far below. The view is great for sunsets, or in the morning to see the mist over the reservoir. You can both drive or hike to the overlook. A new 1.3 mile trail climbs up from the Kinzua Beach area. Be sure to hike to the base of the cliffs to see crevasses, huge boulders, and cracks in the rock that blow out cold air in summer.

6. Hector Falls
The ANF doesn’t have many waterfalls, but it makes up for it with Hector Falls. While only 22 feet tall, it is surely one of the most unique waterfalls you will ever see. The creek flows over the 90 degree sides of a square boulder, creating an impressive visual effect. Huge boulders and cliffs are below the falls. It’s about a one mile hike in from FR 258 near Ludlow; the falls are isolated.

7. Tracy Ridge Hiking Trail
These trails are famous for its streams, campsites, and great views of the undeveloped Allegheny Reservoir as rolling green mountains rise over the blue water. The trail system is extensive, maybe a little too extensive, as some trails are rarely hiked and maintenance is an issue. The most popular trails is a loop along Tracy Run, Johnnycake Run, and the reservoir. The trail along the shore to Polly’s Run is also very scenic. Nelse Run area is also beautiful.

8. Tanbark Trail
A 9 mile linear trail, this trail offers scenic forests, huge boulders, a crevasse, and cascades along Boardinghouse Run.

9. Hickory Creek Wilderness
A 12 mile loop through a wilderness of streams, meadows, campsites, and forests. This trail is known for its isolation and is most popular with backpackers. The large boulders common in the ANF are largely absent from this trail. Experienced hikers like to go off trail and explore the Middle and East branches of Hickory Creek, creating a larger loop.

10. Jakes Rocks
Another short hike, with trails less than a mile, Jakes Rocks are impressive with its views of the reservoir, huge cliffs, overhangs, and boulders. Be sure to take the trail to the base of the cliffs. A new mountain biking trail system now surrounds Jakes Rocks.

11. Bent Run Waterfalls
Located near the impressive Kinzua Dam, a trail leads up along Bent Run with its many cascades and waterfalls over mossy boulders. A short hike, but very beautiful.

12. Marilla Trails
Located on watershed property next to the ANF, these trails feature big rocks, streams, and old growth pine trees. The trail along the scenic Marilla Reservoir is a must-do. The White Pine, Marilla Rocks, and Hidden Valley Passage Trails are also worth hiking.

13. Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail/Dewdrop Run
I don’t know if the trail itself exists anymore, it was in tough shape when I hiked it last. Regardless, Dewdrop Run is a beautiful glen with huge boulders and cascades. Located across the road from Dewdrop Campground.

14. Beaver Meadows
I don’t know why Beaver Meadows isn’t more popular, the 6 miles of trails feature a serene lake, floating boardwalk, savannas, spruce and pine forests. It is perfect for birdwatching or seeing wildlife and offers forest types not common in the ANF. The trails remind me of Black Moshannon State Park in central Pennsylvania.

15. Logan Falls
An isolated ten foot falls in a glen with large boulders, Logan Falls is serene and beautiful. It’s a half mile trail from FR 180.

16. Pigeon Run Falls
Another isolated falls in the Spring Creek valley with a nice campsite, reached by a mile long trail from FR 130, east of Marienville. The falls are about 15 feet tall.

17. Anders Run Natural Area
Not in the ANF, but located right next to it, this is a state forest natural area known for its old growth forests and tall trees, located west of Warren.

18. Hedgehog Run
This is an off trail excursion for intrepid hikers, located north of the Tanbark Trail. Hedgehog Run is known as a beautiful stream and its upper reaches feature massive boulders, cliffs, rock mazes, and boulder cities. Clark and Slater Runs, located to the south, have similar scenery.

19. North Country Trail (Willow Bay to PA 321)
The North Country Trail (NCT) is the longest in the ANF at about 100 miles; this trail goes from North Dakota to New York. This section is one of the most scenic with streams, great camping, and views of the reservoir. Nelse Run is particularly beautiful. This section is about 9 miles long. As a linear trail, a shuttle is required.

20. North Country Trail (PA 59 to PA 321)
Another beautiful segment of the NCT, it is best to hike this north to south. Enjoy beautiful scenery along Hemlock Run, and the bridges, wetlands, and meadows at Chappel Fork. This section is about 7 miles long. As a linear trail, a shuttle is required.

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