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Long before European settlers arrived, various Native American tribes lived and hunted on the Pennsylvania Allegheny Plateau Region. One offshoot of Seneca was called Tioga, which means “the meeting of two rivers.” This group lived near where two major rivers merged into one at present-day Tioga Reservoir. The region that would become Tioga State Forest was heavily logged and clearcut to make accessing coal and iron easier. The state of Pennsylvania became concerned about the natural state as well as wildfire risk and purchased this swath of land to mitigate these concerns.
Thanks to decades of replanting and also due to the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), present-day Tioga State Forest is a beautiful outdoor park that nature lovers can enjoy. As a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program, CCC cleared the underbrush, creeks, and streams, which allowed water to flow normally. They planted tens of thousands of trees and blazed trails and created access roads.
The closest town with a variety of dining options, shopping, and a hospital with an emergency health care center is Wellsboro. Wellsboro, with around 4,000 residents, is the county seat of Tioga County. Several homes and buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is about 20 miles southeast of Tioga State Forest.
Encompassing nearly 162,000 acres, there is a bounty of outdoor recreational fun to be had at Tioga State Forest. Well over, 200 miles of hiking trails meander and weave through dense second-growth woods, open meadows, and wetlands. The West Rim Trail, a 30-mile trek, skirts the top of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (also known as Pine Creek Gorge), which is said to be as impressive as the Grand Canyon out west. This canyon is narrow and deep, plunging over 800 feet into a narrow gap. Mountain biking and horseback riding too, are welcomed, at Tioga State Forest. Bicyclists and horseback riders can join hikers on most trails, save for West Rim Trail, and a couple of others.
When winter rolls around, the fun doesn’t stop. Intrepid adventurers brave the bitter cold to enjoy the woods transformed like magic by lacy, soft snow Over 177 miles of trails are open to snowmobiles. Around 29 miles are kept maintained for cross-country skiing, and if anyone is inclined, they are welcome to try their luck on one of the other ungroomed trails.
When 162,000 acres of Pennsylvania wilderness isn’t sufficient, nearby Loyalsock State Forest has over 114,000 acres of woodlands and low mountains at which outdoor adventurers can test their skills. There are over 200 miles of marked trails and an estimated additional 100 miles of unmarked trails (from before the region was established as a state forest). A particular area called the Devil’s Elbow is a wetlands region where carnivorous plants like sundew and pitcher plant can be found (do not pick, however!). Pennsylvania has its share of ghost towns, and the ruins of one such town, McIntyre, can be found in this state forest. There are dozens of small picturesque waterfalls dotting the mountainside, fed by gurgling, babbling creeks and brooks.
Skip the long drive from a dingy motel and get closer to nature by renting an Airstream. Wake up, surrounded by nature. Step out the door of your rental motorhome on a misty, quiet morning and witness deer cautiously emerging from the woods in search of forage. Though Tioga State Forest allows dispersed camping, there are no official campgrounds. However, there are several options close by. RV camp at Asaph Campground, which is a primitive facility. Though it’s a smaller campground, that also means it’ll be a quieter one, with fewer neighbors. Each site has a fire ring, and there are hand-pumps that deliver fresh water. It also has a restroom with vault toilets.
Alternatively, the Snyder’s Family Campground near Gaines, PA, might be a candidate to consider. It offers full or partial hookups, cable, and some sites are waterfront. There is an on-site propane filling station, which is a nice plus.
As rural as this part of the state is, there are many small-town attractions for visitors to explore as they drive through. Driving the twisting mountain roads from town to town is painless in a motorhome rental. Galeton is a charming small town with an interesting museum, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. The museum explores Pennsylvania’s logging past as well as the lumberjack myth made famous by Paul Bunyan, who is said to have passed through this region. Guests are invited to try their hand at chopping wood, sawing a tree, and even pilot a log raft in their interactive exhibits.
Towns in this part of Pennsylvania are almost as old as Philadelphia, and there are plenty of antiques just waiting to be discovered. Mansfield boasts a few antique stores that have a wide array of goods ranging from vintage kitchen tools to ancient maps to collectible toys. For even more options, hop into a rental RV and head up into Corning, NY.
In the deep Pennsylvania backwoods, find your perfect RV camping adventure, when you rent a camper in Tioga County.