The unique I-80 Frontier
The Pennsylvania Wilds is divided into six landscapes: Allegheny National Forest and Surrounds, Cook Forest and the Ancients, Pine Creek Valley and the PA Grand Canyon, Dark Skies, Elk Country, and of course the I-80 Frontier. Each one has its own characteristics, interesting things to see and visit. Each landscape has its own distinct personality, if you will.
One of my favorites is the I-80 Frontier. I admit I’m slanted toward the I-80 Frontier because I live there (so does my editor, so I’m hoping for a little extra credit here.) The I-80 Frontier is geographically lengthy, stretching across the entire south side of the PA Wilds. From anywhere in the PA Wilds, driving due south, you will reach the I-80 Frontier. In fact, it borders on four of the other landscapes – Allegheny National Forest and Surrounds is the only landscape that doesn’t border on the I-80 Frontier. The I-80 Frontier also borders on four of Pennsylvania’s other seven tourism regions, and travels through six of the PA Wilds’s thirteen counties.
Most people don’t notice this, but the I-80 Frontier is the only landscape named after a man-made landmark. All of the others are named after natural things: forest land, animals, or in one case, just darkness. Sure, they try to fool you with the “frontier” part, which I like, but it’s named for Interstate 80, which travels all the way across the PA Wilds. To reach a lot of places in the PA Wilds, you pretty much have to start by getting on 80.
What with all of this, it’s no big surprise that the I-80 Frontier has a huge selection of different activities to enjoy. The sheer area that it covers lends itself to a lot of variety in attractions.
On the western side of the I-80 Frontier there is Doolittle Station, the perfect spot for anyone who has ever wanted to get ice cream and dinner, see Bigfoot and dinosaurs, and play miniature golf without making multiple trips. This attraction has several different dining choices, and kids love the variety of sculptures throughout the park area.
Photo: Lou’s son, Paul, hanging out with Bigfoot and a t-rex at Doolittle Station
The highest point on 80 east of the Mississippi River lies in Clearfield County, between Clearfield and DuBois and very near Simon B. Elliott State Park. At this point, Interstate 80 is 2,250 feet above sea level.
Photo: The highest point on I-80 east of the Mississippi, courtesy of Hunter Casilio
Speaking of state parks, Centre County has Bald Eagle and Black Moshannon State Parks, both of which are worth a visit. Both parks involve beautiful lakes and hiking trails, with Bald Eagle north of 80 and Black Moshannon to the south.
Photo: Bald Eagle State Park walkway, Lou Bernard
In Clinton County, the Piper Aviation Museum is a fascinating spot worth a visit. Piper airplanes were manufactured in Lock Haven from 1937 to 1984, and the museum is dedicated to the history of that facility, with airplanes and other artifacts on display.
Photo: Piper Aviation Museum, Lou Bernard
If you have more of an interest in sports than airplanes, the Little League Museum is in Williamsport, in Lycoming County, home of the Little League. And if you’re interested in theater, Williamsport’s Community Arts Center and Mill Hall’s Millbrook Theater both provide excellent shows throughout the year.
Photo: Little League statues at an intersection in Williamsport
There’s a lot to experience along the I-80 Frontier, with a variety of attractions and enjoyable spots. It’s worth the drive… from one end to the other.
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