PA State Park Cooks Forest, once called the Black Forest, has about everything a family camping trip dreams about. It's a National Natural Landmark along the Clarion River and near the Allegheny National Forest.
Cooks Forest was once called the Black Forest, known and famous for its stand of old growth forest. Here you'll see a "Forest Cathedral" of towering white pines and hemlocks along with the Clarion River, popular for it's canoeing and rafting.
Camping: You'll find modern campsites and some have electric hookups. You'll find 226 tent and camper sites complete with fire rings and picnic tables. You'll also find a coin operated laundry area and a sanitary dump station.
Cabins: There are 23 rustic cabins for rent from the second week in April till lat December, in Cooks Forest. You can choose from two cabin areas:
The River Cabins are on a hillside overlooking the Clarion River. Two River Cabins have one room and sleep four people and the other 11 River Cabins have four rooms, a fireplace and sleep six or eight people.
The Indian Cabins are along Tom's Run behind the park office. These smaller, one-room cabins sleep four people.
Pennsylvania's Cook Forest Attractions and Activities
People from all over the world visit the Western section of Pennsylvania and Cooks Forest. This isn't your average Pennsylvania State Park!
Some of the attractions are:
Cooks Forest Fire Tower: Built in 1929 the 80 foot tower give a 15 to 20 mile view of the area.
Log Cabin Inn: has a small museum of tools used in the early lumbering days. It also has a gift shop.
River Cabins, Indian Cabins, Log Cabin Inn and the Old Contact Station: In the 1930's, the CCC constructed these buildings from salvaged American chestnut killed by the blight. These buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Seneca Trail Mineral Springs: little remains of the natural mineral springs that produced waters with white sulfur and iron. These springs were popular in the early 1900's. A boardwalk fringed by gaslights was lit 24 hours a day while visitors bathed and drank the spring waters believed to have curative powers.
Clarion River: Local American Indians called the Clarion River the "Tobecco," which means "dark brown water." Tannic acid from decaying evergreen needles turned the river brown in color. Canoeing and rafting are popular activities along the Clarion River. It's known as the "beginner's river".
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 four old growth forest areas in the park: Swamp, Seneca, Cathedral, and Cook Trails areas.
Forest Cathedral Area: The Forest Cathedral Natural Area is one of the largest growth forests of eastern white pine and eastern hemlock in Pennsylvania. Many of these magnificent pine and hemlocks exceed three feet in diameter and approach 200 feet tall. Often called "William Penn Trees," trees of this size are often 300 years of age, dating to the era of William Penn, the first governor of "Penn's Woods." 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. During the summer of 1956, a storm of tremendous force struck the Forest Cathedral area and destroyed some of the oldest and largest trees.
Geologic History The bedrock of Cook Forest is mainly sedimentary rock, laid down about 300 million years ago when an ocean 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.
Hiking: Cooks Forest has 30 miles of trails, with 16 marked tails to help you find you way and get you closer to nature. The longest trail is about 3 miles long. The trail scenery is breathtaking, especially during the fall season.
Biking: Passing through the park is the Baker Trail, a 140 mile foot path from Pittsburgh to the Allegheny National Forest.
Fishing: The Clarion River flows along the park border and provides fishing for trout, warm water game fish and panfish.
Stocked Ponds: A special fishing pond stocked with trout is located in the park and is available for use by children 12 and younger and persons who are handicapped.
Photography: Cook Forest offers plenty of scenery to focus on! To fully capture the essence of Cook Forest - including wildlife, vegetation, fungi, trails, trees, rocks, scenic vistas, and so forth - you could spend weeks and still have subject matter to spare.
Environmental Education Programs With guided trail hikes, study wildlife, insects, birds, plants and soil.
Hunting and Trapping
Swimming: The park's cool swimming pool sure is a popular place during the summer season!
Horseback Riding: Two designated bridle trails and portions of Brown's Run Trail comprise 4.5 miles of trails for horseback riding.
Winter Activities There are 12 miles of snowmobile trails, a lighted ice skating pond along River Road, three acres of sledding slopes and three designated cross-country ski trails in the park. Many other trails and roadways are also suitable for cross-country skiing.
Sawmill Craft Center and Theater A local, non-profit craft organization housed in the historic sawmill offers traditional crafts on display, a gift shop and classes. Demonstrations and classes on various crafts are presented throughout the summer and fall seasons for children and adults. The Verna Leith Sawmill Theater seats 180 people and presents plays, musicals and other entertainment throughout the summer season.
Driving Directions and Contact Information for Cooks Forest - Pennsylvania State Park
From the east take Exit 78 off of Interstate 80
then PA 36 north directly to the park in Cooksburg
From the west take Exit 60 off of Interstate 80
then take PA Route 66 north to Leeper
From Leeper, follow PA Route 36 south, seven miles to the park
Information on craft classes and the theater can be obtained by contacting:
Cook Forest Sawmill Center for the Arts
P.O. Box 180
Cooksburg, PA 16217
Make Reservation at PA State Parks
Toll Free: 888-PA-PARKS, 7am to 5pm Monday thru Saturday