I-80 Frontier: Convenient access to a variety of PA Wilds experiences
Interstate 80 cuts across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania like an artery, providing one of the fastest routes across the state and connecting the Northeast to the Midwest. This highly-traveled, 311-mile interstate also provides quick access to a variety of outdoor experiences in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
The I-80 Frontier Landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds brings travelers right through six counties included in the region, including Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Jefferson, Lycoming, and Northern Centre. Each county has a variety of offerings for travelers to enjoy!
Enjoy a stop (or maybe stay) at Bald Eagle, Black Moshannon, Clear Creek, Parker Dam, Ravensburg, S.B. Elliott, or Susquehanna State Park.
Easily-accessible small towns provide modern-day amenities to complement the natural landscapes. Many of these gateway communities also flank the West Branch Susquehanna River, which offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Here is a listing showcasing one community from each county along the I-80 Frontier journey, but be aware — there are plenty more worth visiting.
Clarion, just a short 77-mile drive from Pittsburgh, is a small town nestled along the Clarion River, a federally-designated National Wild & Scenic river, in Clarion County. Each year, Clarion Borough attracts over 500,000 people for the Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival. Nearby public lands, including Cook Forest State Park which features an old growth forest cathedral, provide opportunities for picnicking, camping, hiking, bicycling and wildlife watching. (Home to Clarion University)
Brookville, the seat of Jefferson County, features a handful of boutiques, gift shops and antique stores perfect for shopping and exploring. Brookville’s heritage is deeply tied to the many creeks and large rivers that surround it, including the Clarion River, which flows to the Allegheny (the two National Wild & Scenic Rivers in the PA Wilds!). The waterways permitted development of lumber mills and floating of timber to markets in Pittsburgh. Today, Brookville serves as a perfect resting stop for visitors heading to Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks, or those heading to see Punxsutawney Phil just a short drive away!
DuBois, the most populous town in Clearfield County, has plenty of fun activities for the family to enjoy. The borough has a rich history dating back to the lumber and coal industry. From fun cultural experiences, like visiting the Winkler Gallery of Fine Art and Doolittle’s Station, to outdoor excursions you’ll remember forever at nearby public lands such as Moshannon State Forest and S.B. Elliot State Park, there’s something for everyone. (Home to the Pennsylvania State University – DuBois Campus and Triangle Tech)
Victorian Bellefonte in northern Centre County celebrates its heritage throughout the year with various events – such as the Bellefonte Cruise, Bellefonte Arts & Crafts Fair, and Victorian Christmas. On any given day, one can enjoy a day meandering through Talleyrand Park and see the ducks playing in the waters from the city’s beloved Big Spring, which provides the municipality’s water. Various shops and eateries are featured throughout the downtown. Bald Eagle State Park (and The Nature Inn lodge) and Black Moshannon State Park are just a short drive away. (A stone’s throw from Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science & Technology and the Pennsylvania State University)
The City of Lock Haven, the seat of Clinton County, offers small town charm, quality restaurants, and provides quick and convenient access to a number of experiences throughout the PA Wilds. Home to the Station Gallery, the Heisey Museum House, the Piper Aviation Museum, and much more – the city’s name celebrates its history as a logging town with a “lock” canal system. Just a few miles from the quaint Loganton Amish community, the original Woolrich Store and many state parks, the city also offers free concerts on Sundays throughout the summer on the floating stage on the river. The city is surrounded by a county that boasts about half a million acres of public land. (Home to Lock Haven University)
The City of Williamsport, located in Lycoming County, swells to welcome the world for Little League each year – and throughout the year the city doesn’t disappoint! The arts are celebrated monthly with a First Friday celebration April through October, and public art projects, such as Bases Loaded, can be found throughout the city via the Avenue of the Arts Map. A wide variety of restaurants and local brew pubs accentuate the big city of the Wilds. Be sure to stop off at Alabaster Coffee Roaster & Tea Co., winner of the 2018 Business of the Year – Champion of the PA Wilds Award! (Home to Lycoming College and the Pennsylvania College of Technology)
Once you’re on the I-80 Frontier, you’re close to many more unique experiences in rural Pennsylvania – but you’ll have to jump off the beaten path. Wild elk herds, nationally-recognized dark skies, iconic vistas and amazing outdoor recreation opportunities are just around each corner.
Get out and explore from I-80.
- Take Exit 111 for Route 153 to Benezette and Elk Country, or the Allegheny National Forest and Surrounds.
- For easy access to Cook Forest and the Ancients, hop off I-80 at Exit 78 for Route 36.
- Jump off of I-80 at Exit 178 and onto Route 180/220 through Lock Haven to connect to Route 664 or Route 44 to experience Dark Skies; Route 120 to see more of Elk Country or the renowned Hyner View State Park vista; or Route 287 to see the Pine Creek Valley & PA Grand Canyon.
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