Sunset over the Allegheny Reservoir from Willow Bay.
The Allegheny Reservoir is the centerpiece of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) and is one of the most scenic lakes in the country. The reservoir is 24 miles long, covers over 12,000 acres, has almost 100 miles of forested, undeveloped shoreline, numerous bays, and mountains that rise 800 feet over the water. Large boulders dot the shore. The reservoir also has several campgrounds. The water is very clean and clear.
The reservoir was created in 1965 with the completion of the massive Kinzua Dam, one of the largest in the east. Any visit must include the dam.
After hiking the Marilla Trails, I needed a place to stay for the night and luckily Willow Bay Campground had a few sites open. I was treated to an incredible sunset across the reservoir as the dark mountains rose over the water.
There is so much to see and do in and around the reservoir, whether it be hiking and mountain bike trails, scenic overlooks, camping, waterfalls, kayaking, boating or fishing. This is truly the perfect getaway.
The North Country Trail passes along the eastern shore of the lake offering great camping, streams, and deep woods, not to mention views over the water. The Morrison Trail is an excellent loop with cascades, great camping, streams, and giant boulders. The Tracy Ridge Trail system offers the most views along the shore, passing two campgrounds that can only be reached by hiking or boating. There is also a trail from Kinzua Beach to Rimrock Overlook.
The Bent Run waterfalls near Kinzua Dam are beautiful as the water tumbles over giant moss covered boulders.
Do not miss Rimrock and Jakes Rocks overlooks. Both feature giant cliffs, overhangs, picnic tables, and great views over the reservoir.
There is a new, world class mountain biking trail system at Jakes Rocks that cannot be missed. It features giant boulders, streams, and has trails that are easy to difficult. The trail system is being extended and has attracted riders from all over.
The reservoir features four developed campground with restrooms and showers: Willow Bay, Dewdrop, Kiasutha, and Red Bridge. They tend to be very popular. Willow Bay has the best sunsets, while Dewdrop and Kiasutha are good for sunrises. If you like to hike, Dewdrop and Willow Bay are closest to trails. Dewdrop is closest to the mountain bike trails at Jakes Rocks.
There is one more primitive, and quiet, campground, Tracy Ridge. It has water and pit toilets. The sites are wooded. It is on the mountain away from the reservoir, but it is close to several hiking trails.
Boat-in and hike-in campgrounds
The reservoir is unique in having five primitive campsites that can only be reached by hiking or boating: Hopewell, Handsome Lake, Pine Grove, Hooks Brook, and Morrison. They tend to be small, with anywhere from 13 to 38 sites. Only three can be reached by hiking trails: Hopewell, Handsome Lake, and Morrison. They are known for their beauty. All have water.
The scenery and undeveloped shoreline makes the reservoir an ideal kayaking destination. There are many bays and large boulders to explore. The reservoir is also perfect for an overnight trip, where kayakers can stay at one of the boat-in campgrounds.