The 7,182-acre Cook Forest State Park, once called the “Black Forest”, lies in scenic northwestern Pennsylvania. Famous for its old growth forest and the “Forest Cathedral” of towering white pines and hemlocks, a National Natural Landmark. The Clarion River runs through the park and is popular for canoeing, tubing, kayaking, swimming and fishing.
Picnic tables are along the Clarion River on River Road, in the Sawmill Area and on Fire Tower Road. Two large picnic pavilions may also be reserved through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Picnic pavilions not reserved are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Restrooms and picnic tables are nearby.
The Clarion River is a very scenic canoe trip. A canoe launch area and parking are three miles upstream from Cooksburg along River Road. Several private canoe rentals are in the Cooksburg area. For information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania, visit Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission site.
Two scenic views in the park are: (1) From the rock ledges of Seneca Point Overlook you can see the Clarion Valley and (2) An 80-foot climb up the Fire Tower gives a breathtaking view of approximately 15 to 20 miles. There are 27 marked trails of rolling hills and cool valley streams for your hiking pleasure. Special scenic areas for your hike are the old growth forest, Fire Tower/Seneca Point and the Clarion River. Hiking trail maps are available at the park office on River Road. Baker Trail, which totals 140 miles, and the North Country National Scenic Trail run through Cook Forest. The Baker Trail runs from Freeport, Pennsylvania to the Allegheny National Forest. The North Country Trail is being developed and will connect the Missouri River in North Dakota with the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
Bicycles are permitted the park but there are no bicycle rentals. You need to bring your own bicycles. Cycling on hiking trails is not permitted except on the part of the Heffern Run Trail that is part of the Bicycle Route. The Bicycle Route, of moderate difficulty, is 11.5 miles long and follows lightly traveled roads within the park and Heffern Run Trail. Highlights of the route are a leisurely four-mile flat ride through scenic Tom’s Run Valley, Forest Drive and a challenging descent along the Heffern Run Trail. A description of the Bicycle Route is available at the park office.
The swimming pool and a circular wading pool, at the Sawmill Center, are open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, unless posted differently. The pool is from 2.5 feet to 5 feet deep. Pool fees apply. In 2010, the pool is closed for renovations and will most likely open for the 2011 season.
About 7,200 acres are open to hunting, trapping and training dogs during established seasons. Deer, turkey, bear and squirrel can be found within the park. Hunting woodchucks or groundhogs is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day to March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission regulations apply.
The Clarion River flows along the park border and provides fishing for trout, warm-water game fish and panfish. Tom’s Run is stocked with trout. A special fishing pond stocked with trout is near the park office for use by children 12 and younger and people with a disability. A level grass bank at the edge of the pond provides easy access. For more information on hunting and fishing regulations in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
There is a lighted ice skating pond along River Road, three acres of sledding slopes and three designated cross-country ski trails in the park, as well as other trails and roads that are suitable for cross-country skiing.
Information for this page has been referenced from sources such as: “Experience the Greatness, Northwest Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors Magazine” and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.