Cook Forest State Park
The 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park and 3,136 acre Clarion River Lands lie in scenic northwestern Pennsylvania. Known for its stands of old growth forest, the park’s Forest Cathedral of towering white pines and hemlocks is a National Natural Landmark. A scenic 13-mile stretch of the Clarion River flows through Cook Forest State Park and is popular for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing.
Clear Creek State Park is only 11 miles away.
Hiking - Biking - Horseback Riding - Picnicking - Canoeing - Fishing - Hunting - Scenic Views - Snowshoeing - Cross-country Skiing - Sledding - Ice Skating - Sawmill Craft Center and Theater - Environmental Education - Organized Group Tenting - the Inn at Cook Forest - Cabins - River Camping - Camping
Seasons and Hours: The park is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset. Day use areas close at dusk. The park office is open specific hours. The pool, overnight areas, and other areas are open specific seasons and hours. Contact the park office for facility seasons and hours.
Picnicking: Picnic tables and charcoal grills are throughout the park. Two large picnic pavilions and one small pavilion may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Picnic pavilions 1 and 2 are ADA accessible, as are the nearby restrooms.
Canoeing: The Class 1 Clarion River provides excellent canoeing and kayaking, especially during the spring and fall. The average downward flow is four miles per hour.
Two popular paddling trips are four and 10 miles in length. Rental canoes are available from businesses out-side of the park. There are public boat launches at both Cook Forest and Clear Creek state parks.
Go to the U. S. Geological Survey Web site for the water level of the Clarion River at Cooksburg. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/pa/nwis/uv/?site_no=03029500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00010
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. Complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
The following concessionaries offer canoe, kayak and tube rentals:
Fishing: The Clarion River provides fishing for trout, warmwater game fish, and panfish.
About 2.5 miles of Toms Run is stocked with trout. A special fishing pond stocked with trout is located by the park office and is available for use by children ages 12 and younger and people with disabilities. An ADA accessible pier provides access.
Go to the U. S. Geological Survey Web site for the water level of the Clarion River at Cooksburg. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/pa/nwis/uv/?site_no=03029500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00010
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Hunting and Firearms: About 12,000 acres of Cook Forest State Park and Clarion Rover Lands are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, turkey, bear, and squirrel. Over 10,000 acres of adjacent state forests and over 500,000 acres of Allegheny National Forest are also open to hunting.
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.
Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner’s vehicle or enclosed trailer. Exceptions include: law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms are authorized to carry a firearm concealed on their person while they are within a state park.
Complete information on hunting rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site.
Hiking: 47 miles of trails
Biking: 13 miles of trails
Horseback Riding: A loop trail begins at a small parking lot on Forest Drive, connects to Old Logging Road, and winds through beautiful pine plantations. Twenty-four miles of additional trails are located downstream of Gravel Lick Bridge in the Clarion River Lands. The one hour loop next to the organized group camping area is heavily used by a vendor, and not recommended.
Scenic Views: Two scenic views are accessible from Fire Tower Road, about 1.5 miles from Route 36. From the rock ledges of Seneca Point Overlook you can see the Clarion River Valley.
Do not walk or climb on the rock outcroppings outside of the fenced area. These rock ledges are very hazardous.
An 80-foot climb up Historic Fire Tower #9 gives a breathtaking view of the entire area. On a clear day, you can see points up to 15 to 20 miles away.
Do Not Feed Wild Animals: 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 a camper. Feeding wild animals is prohibited. When wildlife loses its fear of people, these animals can become pests, and dangerous situations can result.
Sawmill Center for the Arts: A local, non-profit craft organization housed in the historic sawmill offers traditional crafts, a gift shop, and classes. Demonstrations and classes on various crafts are presented throughout the summer and fall. The Verna Leith Sawmill Theater presents plays, musicals, and other entertainment throughout the summer season. 814-927-6655 www.sawmill.org.
Visitors can stay the night from the second Friday in April to the third Friday in December.
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, full service hook-ups, electric hook-ups
Explore camping for more information.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 3 host positions
River Camping: A canoe/kayak camping area with three sites is located at Thompson Eddy, downstream of Gravel Lick Bridge. This area is for individuals and groups traveling on the Clarion River by canoe or kayak. Use of this site is limited to one night and is for tent use only. Maximum group size is eight.
Rustic Cabins: The River Cabins are on a hillside overlooking the Clarion River. The Indian Cabins are along Toms Run behind the park office.
The cabins are available for rent from the second Friday in April to the third Friday in December. The rustic cabins are minimally furnished. Each cabin has beds, mattresses, stove, refrigerator, table and chairs, and is heated by a wood fireplace or gas heater. Occupants must provide their own bedding, cookware, and tableware. Cabins sleep 4, 6, or 8 people. Extra cots are not available. Frost-free water faucets are outside. A showerhouse is nearby. Two cabins are ADA accessible. Up to two dogs are permitted in River Cabins 11, 14, and 15 for a fee.
The cabins must be rented for one week, except in the spring and fall rental season. Firewood is not provided. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Explore cabins for more information.
Organized Group Tenting: Organized groups can rent this rustic area year-round. Access in the winter months may be difficult. The five sites each accommodate 20 people.
Explore organized group tenting for more information.
The Inn at Cook Forest: Closed for renovations - The Cook Family homestead is now open as a bed and breakfast. Rent a room or the entire inn for access to canoeing and kayaking on the Clarion River, over 40 miles of hiking and biking trails, and some of the oldest trees in the state.
Snowshoeing and Cross-country Skiing: Snowshoeing is permitted on all trails. Cross-country skiing is recommended on selected trails on the maps. Cook Forest has three groomed trails: Fire Tower Road, Toms Run Road, and part of Forest Drive.
Sledding: A slope is available for sledding near the Henrys Run Day Use Area.
Ice Skating: A lighted ice skating area is along River Road. Ice thickness is not monitored.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Through hands-on activities, guided walks, and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding, and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources. Programs are offered year-round.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office.
The Log Cabin Environmental Learning Center offers indoor space for programs and displays historic logging and rafting tools, models and artifacts.
Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of events from today forward.
Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.
Access for People with Disabilities
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
Old Growth Timber Areas: From the area of Cook Forest State Park came the famous Pennsylvania cork pine, so named because of the white pine"s thick, cork-like bark.
There are eleven old growth areas in the park, totaling over 2,300 acres. Most stands are dominated by ancient hemlock and white pine, but also contain ancient under-story trees like white and chestnut oak, black cherry, red maple, and cucumber tree. Many white pine and hemlock trees in these areas approach 350 years old. Scientists believe these old growth areas began growing following a large forest fire in 1644. Some trees survived the fire and date back to the early 1500s.
Forest Cathedral Natural Area: The Forest Cathedral Natural Area is home to the finest stand of tall white pine and hemlock in the entire Northeastern U.S. Many of these magnificent pine and hemlock trees exceed three feet in diameter with the tallest pines approaching 200 ft. It is fitting that this forest remains in the midst of the area that saw the greatest logging boom in the history of Pennsylvania. In the late 1800s, thousands of acres of old growth forests were cut for the shipbuilding and construction industries. The Forest Cathedral is a National Natural Landmark and has been set aside for protection as a state park natural area.
Explore natural areas for more information.
Clarion River: Thirteen miles of the Clarion River flows through the park. The river corridor contains plants such as cardinal flower, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and many species of old growth trees. Possible wildlife sightings include deer, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, river otter, muskrat, porcupine, and black bear. Great blue heron, mergansers, kingfisher, and bald eagle are also common.
The Clarion River is designated a National Wild and Scenic River for its scenic beauty, water quality, and archaeological significance.
Sections of the river provide a glimpse into the past. The river was used as a transportation route and signs of settlements are located along the river banks. The most prevalent signs that can be seen are bracket dams and log landings from the logging era.
Geologic History: The bedrock of Cook Forest is mainly sedimentary rock, deposited by an ocean that once covered western Pennsylvania. Heavy erosion of the mountains to the east deposited thick layers of sand, resulting in massive, coarse beds of sandstone. Movements in the earth’s crust eventually lifted this ocean floor to an elevation of 1,200 to 1,600 feet.
Sandstone is unusual because it has few cracks. When the sandstone is exposed, like at Seneca Point, it cracks in large pieces, some as large as a house.
Bird Checklist: The bird checklist is a comprehensive listing of all birds found in the park, their season, their habitat, and the likelihood of being seen. Bird Checklist of Cook Forest State Park (.pdf) (1,748 kb, 7/16)
Video of Blooming Rhododendron in Late June
When Europeans arrived, the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy used this area as hunting grounds. In 1757, the Proprietary Council of Pennsylvania sent Moravian missionary Christian Frederick Post to convince the Seneca to join the British in the French and Indian War, but the Seneca sided with the French. The English won the war and eventually purchased the land from the Iroquois.
John Cook was the first permanent American settler to the area. He arrived in 1826 to determine the feasibility of building an east to west canal along the Clarion River for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. John purchased 765 acres and settled here with his wife and 10 children in 1828. At the mouth of Toms Run, present day Cooksburg, John built his one-story cabin and the first of many water-driven sawmills. He worked his mills, logged with oxen, rafted logs to Pittsburgh, and also engaged in flatboat building through the years.
One of John’s sons, Anthony, bought 36 acres from his father and then gained the rest of his acreage when his father died in 1858. Anthony erected three sawmills, one flouring mill, one planing mill, a boat scaffold, several dwellings, and a store. About 1870, he built the Cook Homestead, now known as the Inn at Cook Forest, at the corner of land where PA 36 and River Road intersect. Many of the large homes on River Road are still maintained by the Cook Family and descendants. After Anthony’s death, the business was managed under A. Cook Sons Company.
The Cook Forest Association formed in the 1920s to save the few areas of surviving old growth timber. Endorsed by national natural resource groups and Governor Gifford Pinchot, the association raised $200,000, which helped the commonwealth purchase 6,055 acres from A. Cook Sons Company in 1927 for $640,000. Cook Forest became the first Pennsylvania state park acquired to preserve a natural area. It was later designated a National Natural Landmark.
Civilian Conservation Corps
On March 31, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The purpose of the CCC was to provide employment and restore our nation's natural resources.
In 1934, CCC Camp SP-2 was built in the present-day River Cabins area along River Road. This camp with barracks, a mess hall, and bathhouses served 200 enrollees and staff until it closed in 1937. The buildings were razed and used to construct CCC Camp SP-6 at Raccoon Creek State Park in Beaver County.
Work of the CCC still remains. Indian and River cabins were built, trails and roads constructed, and forest resources preserved by these hard-working men.
For more information on the CCC explore the CCC Years.
Log Cabin Inn: This large log building was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was used as living quarters and then as a restaurant. The building is currently the environmental learning classroom with displays, taxidermy animals, and logging tools from early lumbering days.
River and Indian Cabins: In the 1930s, the CCC constructed these buildings from salvaged American chestnut killed by blight. These buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Memorial Fountain: Built in 1950 on Longfellow Trail, the fountain was dedicated to the original members of the Cook Forest Association who were instrumental in raising additional funds needed to purchase the land from the A. Cook Sons Company.
Cook Forest Fire Tower/Seneca Point Overlook: The 87.5-foot fire tower, built in 1929 by the commonwealth’s Department of Forest and Waters gave firefighters a 15-to 20-mile view of the area. The tower was retired from service in 1966. Periodically, the observation cabin on top of the tower is open during programs.
Look for bowl shaped depressions in the stone, known as “Indian Mills.” They are believed to be made by predecessors of the Seneca Indians to grind seeds and grain. Cook Forest State Park is home to six known sites of American Indian significance. These sites contain petroglyphs and stone carvings.
Cobbtown and Bracket Dams: Stone and earthen foundations of bracket dams can be found along the banks of Toms Run. One set of remains can be observed upstream from the Swinging Bridge. Bracket dams created an artificial flood to raise the water level for floating logs to the Clarion River. Two and a half miles up Toms Run Road are the scant remains of Cobbtown, one of many temporary logging boomtowns of the area. This town was in operation from 1861 to the 1890s.
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Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation
Believing that each generation is responsible for leaving behind a better legacy of good conservation, the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation (PPFF) was created in 1999 to give supporters and users of Pennsylvania's parks and forests a positive way to contribute to the conservation of our publicly-owned properties. The Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation welcomes the support of individuals and businesses who share a commitment to conserving, protecting, and enhancing the natural, scenic, and recreational areas of this commonwealth. www.paparksandforests.org
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DiscoverE has programs for young people ages 4 to 17, provided by Pennsylvania State Park educators. By combining recreation and education, we hope to motivate children to learn more and return often, leading to a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment and conservation leadership.
In Watershed Education, teachers and students assess water quality of a local stream on a quarterly basis and develop strategies to solve local water quality problems.
ECO Camp - Exploring Careers Outdoors - is a week-long residential camp for a cross-section of high school youth from across Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Participate in action-packed, hands on activities and recreational adventures in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests that expose youth to conservation, recreation and careers in natural resources. Learn how people make a living working in the outdoors.
Explore education for more information on these and other programs.
Explore the Calendar of Events to find a program near you.
Do you take conservation personally? iConservePA is a Web site managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources whose vision is to inspire citizens to value their natural resources, engage in conservation practices and experience the outdoors. Take conservation personally.
Come Work with Us
Pennsylvania State Parks and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources offer a wide range of civil service and non-civil service jobs, from foresters, to rangers, to engineers, to educators, to botanists and so much more. Learn what is currently available.
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Cook Forest State Park
Clear Creek State Park encompasses 1,901 acres in Jefferson County. The park occupies a scenic portion of the Clear Creek Valley from PA 949 downstream to the Clarion River and offers camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, cabins, yurts, canoeing, hunting, and picnicking. 814-752-2368
Clear Creek State Forest covers 14,431 acres and provides hunting, fishing, camping, and hiking. Much of the state forest is located along the Clarion and Allegheny rivers. 814-226-1901
Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania’s only National Forest, is approximately 517,000 acres and includes land in Elk, Forest, McKean, and Warren counties. 814-728-6100
Explore Pennsylvania Wilds
Pennsylvania Wilds is two million acres of public lands for hiking, biking, fishing, boating, hunting, and exploration in northcentral Pennsylvania.
Highlights of the area are elk watching at the Elk Country Visitor Center, scenic PA Route 6, Pine Creek Gorge (PA Grand Canyon), the darkest skies in the east at Cherry Springs State Park, and hundreds of miles of backpacking trails, bike paths, and trout fishing streams. www.pawilds.com
Maps and Downloadables
Below are many of the maps and publications for this park. You can read them or download them and might need special software (all free) to view the publications.
You must have the free Adobe Reader to view the maps and brochures that are in pdf format (.pdf).
Alternate versions of the text of the brochures are in rich text and text formats. Click on the files to view them. To download (.rtf) files:
Cook Forest State Park Map (.pdf) (2,883 kb, 6/16)
Interactive GIS Map
The Interactive GIS Map uses Geographic Information Systems to create a map that does not need to be downloaded and features driving directions, searchable park amenities and customizable maps. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Cook Forest State Park Cabin Map (.pdf) (210 kb, 1/14)
Cook Forest State Park Bird Checklist (.pdf) (1,748 kb, 7/16)
Hiking Trail Brochure
Hiking Trails of Cook Forest State Park (.pdf) (104 kb, 3/11)
Clarion Water Trail Guide - Middle Section
Clarion Water Trail Guide Map - Middle Section (.pdf) (316 kb, 3/12)
Clarion Water Trail Map - Middle Section
Clarion Water Trail Guide Map - Middle Section (.pdf) (617 kb, 3/12)
From the east, take Exit 78 off of I-80, then PA 36 north directly to the park in Cooksburg.
From the west, take Exit 60 off of I-80, then take PA 66 north to Leeper. From Leeper, follow PA 36 south, seven miles to the park.
GPS DD: Lat. 41.33244 Long. -79.20793
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park Information Window. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Cook Forest State Park