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2.23.2017

Potter County: Winter Adventures in Beautiful North-Central PA

Today we do a little exploration around Potter County and the surrounding beautiful region. We started our trip by heading northeast from Pittsburgh into Elk Country and then shifted eastward into Clinton County and went to Renovo and Hyner View State Park. This is one of the most beautiful and remote drives in the state. Hyner View State Park is home to what is probably my favorite scenic vista in the entire state and we will talk about that in a later article. From there we headed northeast to Lycoming County's Lebo Vista on the southern end of the Pine Creek Gorge/Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. From there we cut slightly northwest into Potter County. We spent the night at the famous Potato City Country Inn, a local institution that makes some pretty good food and has some pretty nice and comfy basic motel accommodations. 
Potter County "God's Country"
It was nearly impossible to drive for more than ten minutes or so within the without stopping at a scenic vista somewhere. There are spectacular sweeps that show the rugged landscape of north central Pennsylvania. The gorge of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the Pine Creek Gorge (AKA the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon), meander their way through the surrounding counties, making for some spectacular vistas, hikes, and breathtaking drives, often on thrilling and curvy roads that look like they are straight out of a car commercial. Potter County is a deeply dissected plateau area, with it being home to a rare triple continental divide, from which water flows to three different watersheds from one location. Two rivers start directly in Potter County at this triple divide, the Allegheny and the Genesee. The Allegheny flows into the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers en route to the Gulf of Mexico. The Genesee River flows northwards into New York State and into Lake Ontario. The remainder of the waters flow into the Susquehanna River watershed, the largest river on the East Coast, and into the beautiful Chesapeake Bay. 

Ten different waterways that could be classified as rivers, flow through the county. Thanks to the nature of the giant plateau that makes up Potter County, these small rivers have created an absolutely breathtaking web of gorges across the county.
Longtoe Vista
Thanks to the highly dissected nature of the plateau that makes up Potter County, the area looks quite mountainous, with steep and abrupt valleys lending for some spectacular vistas at seemingly every turn. Thanks to the highly rural nature of the region, a huge portion of it consists of state forests and state park land, with tons of trails to hike upon, and to ride ATVs and Snowmobiles upon. A snowmobile is the vehicle of choice around Potter County in the winter, with more than enough roads and trails to ride upon. The main roads are treated very well, though the state park and state forest side roads receive minimal winter maintenance, making studded snows, chains, and/or four wheel drive, a must. There are more than enough main roads to travel upon, with plenty of roadside vistas along the way, that you will be more than occupied if you do not have those things, though with this recent spell of warm weather, it seems like there is a solid chance you may not have to worry about these things until next winter. 
Cherry Springs Vista
Cherry Springs Vista is located near Cherry Springs State Park. As we mentioned earlier, Potter County is an extremely remote area. Since the county is one of the most remote places on the East Coast, its skies are considered to be the darkest on the entire East Coast. 

We visited the day after the lunar eclipse, and the nearly full moon was at its brightest, coupled with solid cloud cover on the tail end of an approaching weather system. Even with the skies not clear enough for stargazing, it was so great to see no light pollution shining off of the clouds from below, with simply the moonlight shining through the clouds. It was awe inspiring in a way that I did not expect. 
The high points in Potter County are all roughly 2000 feet or so. The hotel and restaurant that we stayed at, Potato City, is located at Denton Hill Summit at an elevation of 2424 feet on historic Route 6.

This historic route, which bisects the county with its east-west corridor, runs through the charming boroughs of Galeton, Coudersport, and near some cool attractions, including the place where the ice remains long after the snow melts for the season, the Coudersport Ice Mine, a natural oddity where cold air from underground creates condensation with the warm summer air and then large ice formations result from this funky phenomenon. This quirky has attracted guests since the dawn of the automotive age. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is also a cool place to check out. For more information about the county, be sure to check out this article that we wrote after a previous visit.

Fezz's Diner consists of a 1954 Silk City Diner car that came from Bethlehem in the 90s. Lehigh Pizza, a popular pizza shop on Third Street in South Bethlehem, opened in 1975 at a then abandoned diner on Fourth Street, in the parking lot of the old Food Lane Supermarket. Due to the popularity of the shop, they moved to a larger location in 1996, even in the midst of the upheaval of losing Bethlehem Steel. Lehigh Pizza still thrives in their new location today. After the shop moved, I remember seeing this old diner car sitting in a state of limbo and wondering if it would ever be used once again. The diner car that served as Lehigh Pizza's first location ended up getting sold and moved, and the old location became a Wendy's. That memory flew right back to me when I saw that this charming diner uses that same diner car that stared down abandonment multiple times. 

Now this diner car is an impeccably maintained beauty utilized by a nice little family operation that you should definitely check out if you are riding through the area and want a nice meal.
There are tons of vistas in Potter County and the surrounding region
The swimming area in the Kettle Creek Valley at Ole Bull State Park in southern Potter County. No need to cool off on this day, though this looks like it would be epic in the summer! Ole Bull was a massively successful Norwegian violinist that wanted to create a colony of land in the Americas in 1852. This stunningly beautiful location was where he first decided to build. The colony did not end up working out, though he would find success elsewhere. It is easy to see why he chose this location though!
This winter visit to Potter County and the ride through the surrounding counties was glorious and we highly recommend exploring north central PA if you love scenic vistas, friendly people, and attractions with a lot of character.

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