Pine Creek Gorge
Pine Creek Gorge is one of six National Natural Landmarks to be visited on this tour of Pennsylvania old-growth forests. There are several small true old-growth stands scattered along the steep walls of the Gorge, but the primary attraction of the area is the impressive size of the deep, nearly straight gorge cut down about 1,000 feet by Pine Creek into the flat-lying Paleozoic sedimentary rocks of the area. The cutting of the gorge must have been accelerated by drainage from the huge ice sheets that covered the entire countryside just north of here during the glacial periods. The gorge is now covered with 100-year-old secondary hardwood forest, having been largely cut over in the late 19th century. Views from the two state-park overlooks at the north end of the gorge give a good idea of what the original forest must have looked like to early explorers, trappers and finally settlers.
The Gorge is protected within the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area over a length of 12 miles within the Tioga State Forest, but the entire gorge is almost 40 miles long. A rail-trail opened in 1996 through the bottom of the Natural Area, taking over an abandoned railroad bed. The trail ends at Jersey Shore, a total of 62 miles.
With its size and natural area protection, this watershed is poised to become a "specimen" old-growth area in the next centuries. In the meantime, it is a very special place on its own merits.
Pine Creek Gorge can be reached at the north end from US Rt 6, at Leonard Harrison State Park, on the east side of the Gorge by PA Rt 660 west from Wellsboro and Colton Point State Park on the west side of the Gorge, following Colton Road south from the tiny cross-roads of Ansonic on US Rt. 6, about 11 miles west of Wellsboro. Most of the Gorge itself is only accessible by an excellent but fairly open rail-trail along Pine Creek inside the Tioga State Forest, but PA Rt 414 follows Pine Creek for many miles down to Jersey Shore, much of that distance in the Tiadaghton State Forest.