Sinnemahoning State Park: Revel in the Remoteness
Sinnemahoning State Park, quite literally the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds – at least geographically-speaking, is a perfect getaway for those seeking to connect with nature and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
I decided it would be a great day trip for my birthday this year –I wouldn’t have cell service and there are plenty of things to do, including easy trails to hike, lots of wildlife to admire, and rental services for bikes and paddle boats. The park also features a state-of-the-art Wildlife Center, with interpretive signage and information about the area’s wildlife and natural habitat.
Plus, my husband and I have a goal to see all the state parks in the Pennsylvania Wilds (and get our PA State Parks & Forests Passport stamped along the way!) so we had yet another reason to go.
The 1,910-acre park, located in Elk Country, straddles Cameron and Potter counties and features the First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek and a 145-acre reservoir created by the Creek and George B. Stevenson Dam. It is nestled between Elk State Forest and Susquehannock State Forest.
Travelers access the long, narrow park via State Route 872, which directly connects to Scenic Route 6 near Coudersport and Route 120 in the small village of Sinnemahoning. (It was an hour-and-a-half long journey for us – but well worth it.)
Upon arrival, we immediately got our Passport stamped and checked out the Wildlife Center, which is one of the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources’ LEED-certified buildings and includes several green / sustainable design features, such as geothermal heat, a rainwater harvesting system, regionally-sourced materials, and more. The 9,300-square foot building serves as both a visitor center and park office.
Country Squirrel Outfitters has an Outpost at the Wildlife Center, where visitors can rent bikes, kayaks and paddle boards for hourly or day-long experiences (for extremely affordable rates!). (The Outpost also features a shop offering apparel, outdoor products and camping gear for adventurers and campers.)
We rented two single-person kayaks for two hours each. (Keys are provided so users can unlock the kayaks/paddle boards down at the lake day-use area and return the keys after the trip.)
Paddling on the reservoir, we first went to the foot of the George B. Stevenson Dam – well, as close to it as the buoys allowed us. Then we made our way back on the far side of the reservoir, eyeing the shorelines for painted turtles and birds.
We spotted a blue heron standing on a log basking in the afternoon sun. Soon thereafter, we watched as a turtle lost its balance on a tree trunk slanted into the water, making a splash. As we made our way back across the reservoir to the boat launch, I saw two deer up on the hill across from the launch. (Other wildlife common at the park include bald eagles, red-winged black birds, Baltimore orioles, coyotes, elk, and bobcats.)
As we journeyed back to the park office to return the rental keys, we made sure to stop at the Arch Tree, a semi-hidden gem at the state park. Struck by lightning during a storm many years ago, this tree was bent but never broken – creating the signature arch. It continued to grow upward from where the top of the tree struck the ground, defying the odds and creating a unique spectacle for park visitors.
Before leaving, we enjoyed a packed lunch at the 40 Maples Day Use Area along the First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek, where a playground is available for youngsters’ enjoyment, as well as two pavilions and picnic tables.
Sinnemahoning State Park is quite remote, but it is also just a short 15 minute drive from the town of Austin, which features the historic Austin Dam ruins and other traveler amenities, and the park is about 45 minutes from Coudersport, Galeton, Emporium and Renovo. The park features a 35-site campground open mid-April through late-December.
Other activities offered at the park as seasons permit include pontoon boat tours, boating, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, ice-skating, and more! (Learn more here.)
Next time you’re looking for a fun getaway – an excuse to disconnect for a short time – I highly recommend a visit to Sinnemahoning State Park.