Cook Forest State Park has the largest Red Oak and largest Eastern Hemlock ever measured in Pennsylvania's state parks. In fact, these two massive record holders are the two largest trees of any species ever recorded in Pennsylvania's state parks! Another tree, the Longfellow Pine measured over 180 feet high and is the tallest tree in the forest.
Cook Forest has always been famous for its old-growth forest and there is even an area called the "Forest Cathedral" which is full of massive White Pines and Hemlocks and is a National Natural Landmark. We hiked this area last time I was home. The trail head is a large parking lot on the edge of Tom's Run.
Cook Forest's 7,000 acres of virgin timber are full of wildlife, including whitetail deer, turkey, bear and squirrel. Hunting is permitted in most areas of the forest except at the campground and around the park headquarters. Hunting for groundhogs is prohibited. Fishing is also a popular activity, especially along Tom's Run where trout are stocked each year. There is also a small fishing pond for children near the mouth of Tom's Run.
Seneca Overlook is about a mile off Route 36 on a small dirt road with a simple sign reading "firetower". At the end of the dirt road is a parking area and restroom facilities. From here it is a short 5-minute walk to Seneca Overlook. On a huge rock ledge you can see the Clarion River and the surrounding plateau in the distance. The view used to be better, but the forest has grown up since I was a kid!
The rickety old fire tower was built in 1929, and is about 100 yards from the Seneca Overlook. You can climb about 80 feet up to the hatch leading into the little shack on top. From here you have the best overlook of the forest with a 360 degree view of trees for miles around.
The Clarion River Lodge is one of our favorite places in Clarion County for a nice dinner with family and friends. While we tend to avoid the place during summer tourist season, this has been a frequent stop in the winter months for a holiday dinner. Ellen O'Dea runs this restaurant, and she prides herself on having the freshest fish and the finest beef around. Some of their best offerings include the grilled halibut, pan-fried walleye, ahi tuna, angus beef prime rib, angus filet mignon, and rack of lamb. Most meals run between $15 and $25, a bit steep for the area, but worth it.
The Clarion River Lodge also has an Irish Pub, a spa, an inn. Room rates start around $120 in the off season to over $500 depending on the room and the season.
Near the Wolford Schoolhouse is the Old Wolford Farm, where my grandfather and his 12 brothers and sisters were raised. All that remains today is a small stone foundation of a root cellar that must have been under the house's kitchen. The house had just four bedrooms for 13 children, with bed slats, but no actual bed frames. Besides the big house, there were barns, storage buildings, chicken coops, an ice house and a good old outhouse. Here the family, like so many others of the early 1900s, raised pigs, chickens, horses and other animals. On the farm they also had honey bees, blueberries, and blackberries.
In 1924 a big tornado hit this area of Jefferson County, and it tore the roof off this old farmhouse, broke all the windows, and left the orchards in ruins. The Wolford family rebuilt with the help of the Red Cross and the neighbors, and the
Located at the intersection of Route 36 and Wolford Road in Sigel, PA, just five miles east of Cook Forest is the old Wolford one-room schoolhouse. While my parents grew up in Northern PA near Bradford, my grandparents were raised just a few miles from Cook Forest and Lucinda, where I lived my younger years. My grandfather's farm in Sigel is still in the family, and this old schoolhouse is where my grandfather got his early education. Fittingly, it bears his last name... he did come from a big family with 13 brothers and sisters!