Another incredible hike in Cook Forest State Park is the Forest Cathedral. These trails meander through the old growth section of the woods which means you’ll see some enormous conifer trees! There’s a lot of interweaving trails here but we took the Longfellow loop for a nice 2 mile trek. The terrain is a bit bumpy at times and you can expect some areas of elevation. Also, if you’re hiking in the winter, you’re likely to encounter ice on these trails as the dense trees keep the sun from warming up the forest floor. Crampons are a must! This is a great trail to slow down and see what you can see.
THE HIKE: Forest Cathedral – Cook Forest State Park
Length: 1.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 272 ft
Time: 1 hour
Trail use: Hiking, Leashed Pets
Parking: Large lot at log cabin with pit toilets
Another of our hikes from our New Year’s trip to Cook Forest State Park was the Forest Cathedral area. This area is full of ancient conifers that stretch far into the sky. Even in winter, their green needles dapple the sunlight and create a soft, quiet underbrush. Some of these trees are the tallest in the eastern US! These trees make up what is called an “Old-growth Forest” and are some of the oldest trees in Pennsylvania. This area is so unique and of ecological significance that it is a National Natural Landmark.
There are several ways to get to the Forest Cathedral, with the most easily accessible starting at the Log Cabin learning center on Forest Road, just up the road from the Cook Forest Visitor Center. Although the cabin itself was closed for the season, there were bathrooms available and a large parking lot. From here, we hopped on the Longfellow trail which immediately led us into the dense forest. We were stunned by the majesty of the enormous trees and also humbled by the downed trunks. It can be a little intimidating to imagine the force wind and storms would have to have to take down one of these giants! The trail was quiet but with some inclines and bumpy terrain. We had a lovely time in the winter, but the icy trails can be dangerous! We followed the Longfellow trail until it reached the stream. At this point, another small trail leads up to Forest road where there are a few other parking spots. If you follow this trail, you will be on the North Country Scenic Trail. From here, we meandered along the easy and wide Tom’s Run trail which follows the stream. Under normal circumstances, you can follow this trail over the stream and it will lead back to the Log Cabin parking lot. However, they are currently replacing the footbridges so we had to bushwhack our way to the parking lot. Not my favorite thing to do but sometimes you have to be resourceful!
This trail was so beautiful in the icy winter but I would also love to see it during the height of rhododendron season. I think the juxtaposition of the towering hemlocks and white pines with the exuberant blooms would be beautiful! Overall, Forest Cathedral is a must-do hike in PA and I hope you get the chance to see it!
THE BEER: Lost in the Wilds Brewing
Address: 21964 PA-66, Shippenville, PA 16254
Distance from Trail Head: 15.3 miles, 23 mins
Food?: BYOF, Food Trucks in summer
Details: Outdoor seating, Dog friendly outside, Bike trail nearby
Lost in the Wilds is a fairly new brewery in Clarion county that has pretty much everything you’d want in a watering hole in the woods. They’ve got a bright sunny taproom with a wide selection of house-made beer and other local booze, a huge outdoor space that often hosts concerts and food trucks, and are located right on Route 66 Trail which is popular for walking, biking and even cross country skiing. I found this space to be so incredibly inviting and I loved that there were people from all walks of life in the taproom enjoying a brew. It definitely felt like a gathering place for the community!
Despite being pretty new, Lost in the Wilds has already garnered some big attention! They were featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette among a list of “Notable Restaurants and Breweries along Bike Trails” and Travel Mag gave them a nod on their list of “10 Must-Visit Pennsylvania Breweries”. It sounds like things are going to just keep getting better here!
With their large outdoor space, Lost in the Wilds is very family friendly and invites fuzzy friends on the patio and grounds only. Since they have no kitchen, you’re also welcome to bring food or order from a food truck. Check out their website for the list of trucks starting in April.
Just be aware that Lost in the Wilds is taking a January Break! They’ll be back open and doing their thing on January 26th.
- Bear Fox – NEIPA – 7%
- Cran Cherry Sour – Cranberry and Cherry Sour – 6.5%
- Oatmeal Stout – Stout – 6.8%
- Hot Cocoa Stout – Stout – 5.7%