Bucktail/Top of the World/Mason Hill Overlook: a 360 Degree View in Elk State Forest

The Bucktail Overlook, also known as the Top of the World Overlook, and the Mason Hill Overlook, is a pretty incredible spot that provides 360 degree views of the Sinnemahoning Creek Valley and the area of the Elk Herd in Elk State Forest. 
It is named after the heroic 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (13th Reserves) and the subsequent 149th and 150th Pennsylvania Regiments of the Union Army, helping guide our nation to winning the Civil War. 
The regiment's nickname is the Bucktails and they are renowned for their bravery and service in fighting off the Confederacy and preserving our nation. They wore Bucktails on their hats, which made them stand out amongst the many fighting groups of the Union. The grand view at the Bucktail Overlook, which is also referred to as the Top of the World, is certainly a great tribute to their service. 

The views here are so expansive, but I feel like they would be amplified with a fire tower or observation tower located at the center of the overlook area to help give an even more outstanding view. Perhaps something like a monument towards the Bucktails, similar to what they have in Gettysburg, to serve as both an ornate memorial to the people that enabled the future of Pennsylvania and our entire nation, and to give an even better view of the spot. 

Our two pups absolutely adored the grassy clearing at the overlook to take a break and play hard after sitting in the car on a nice scenic ride for a while.

We definitely recommend checking out this spectacular spot. It is within 20 minutes, just east of Benezette and within the range of the elk herd. The state forest road leading up to it is pretty substantial, with some divots and sharp curves, so keep that in mind during tougher weather conditions. You will definitely need to be dodging road hazards on the way up. Additionally, the renowned Fred Woods Trail a 4.9 mile loop trail with a rock city is located right nearby. 

It is located off Mason Hill Road, a state forest road in Elk State Forest.

Coordinates for the overlook:

41.349712, -78.153497


Mountain Overlook on Cooper Mill Road: Bald Eagle State Forest

Another often overlooked scenic overlook is the basic, but aptly named, "Mountain Overlook" on Cooper Mill Road in Bald Eagle State Forest. This understated spot does not even really have a name and it gives just a spectacular view of the valley and next set of mountains. This is off to the side of a state forest road and you basically just run into it as you are riding. The views are stunning and it is easily one of the best in the region. It is located very close to Sand Bridge State Park. but also on a very rugged state forest road that you need to be mindful of with road clearances and probably should not attempt in winter months. 

We have visited this overlook twice now, both times in randomly driving by it. It is pretty awesome and easy to find, though still quite remote. For more info on the bountiful overlooks within Bald Eagle State Forest, check out our guide to them

41.005269138060186, -77.11606725687746


Heath Township Sportsmens Club Co-Op Trout Nursery in the Clarion River Valley & Jefferson County

I always love stopping at fish hatcheries, and the Heath Township Sportsmens Club Co-Op Trout Nursery is no exception. From they have tiny fish all the way up to trophy sized large fish. They have fish food available for purchase with a donation, and it is always entertaining to feed them. The pups also had a blast looking at the fish in action. 
The club raises fish for a youth fishing tournament every year at nearby Clear Creek State Park. 

We stumbled upon the nursery while driving up the Clarion River on a scenic drive during a stay in the beautiful cabins at Clear Creek State Park. This is the perfect kind of area to go on long and rambling scenic drives. The Clarion River Valley is so scenic and perfect for getting away at.

I noticed both palominos and rainbows, though I was not looking too hard at the markings on the fish.
The waterfall created by this old dam is really striking. The Callen Run Dam is a century old and slated for removal, which could threaten the future of the nursery for having a constant water source, though removal would help the stream be better for wild trout populations and help the colder water enter the river to sustain the trout within the Clarion River and the overall ecosystem. 

We also saw an eagle while we were at the hatchery, though they have decent netting over the hatchery pools in order to protect them. 

We definitely recommend checking this out as part of a scenic ride through the area. It would be a great place to bring a picnic lunch. 


Sensory Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park: Opening Access to Nature to Everyone

I am deeply passionate about expanding access to nature for as many people as possible. In the field I work in, I often see families that are unable to take their children with exceptionalities out to experience nature because often there is little to no focus in public planning when it comes to this. These are families that need this kind of escape as much as anyone else. In recent years, there has been a great emphasis upon expanding access to nature for all. My two favorite examples of this within the state have been in Erie at Asbury Woods, where they have created an entire boardwalk through a stunning forest area, and at Presque Isle State Park where they have opened up a beach that is ADA accessible. 

While this is not really possible to do in an area with steep hills like the Forest Cathedral in Cook Forest State Park, up at the top of the ridge in the park, in a flatter section of woods, they have fixed and improved a trail that was initially built for that purpose. 

The trail had fallen into a dilapidated state and been cratered and covered with slippery moss. A joint effort has greatly improved the trail by resurfacing it (albeit still having some rutting due to the pavement being aged) widening it with crushed stone, adding cables along the edges to help keep people centered on the trail, putting interpretive signs up with raised letters and braille that explain certain phenomena along the trail and within the park, and adding ample benches for sitting space. 
They did their best to utilize the infrastructure that was there and bolstered it. Thanks to this effort, the trail is now accessible to many more people. Everyone should have the right to be able to enjoy public lands in the outdoors for relaxation, healing, personal growth, and bonding with the people in their lives. 
There was also a period in time where I dealt with an injury and was unable to access the outdoors and hiking for more than a year. The perspective I gained in that was in just how cast out one can feel when the things that you love are completely unaccessible to you. 
Nature already took out one of the new benches
The isolation that I felt was tremendous, and that was only temporary for me. Knowing that empowering and empathetic driven efforts like this help bring comfort to people who deal with that situation is something that I am incredibly grateful for. I hope to continue to see this trend of enhancing access to nature for all to continue. 

I am so glad that this effort has been made to open up access to this bucolic landscape to more people. The trail is located up past the Sawmill Center for the Performing Arts, at the every end of that road. You cannot miss it. The trail is a quarter mile long. 

We highly recommend everyone check out this trail and encourage your local public park facilities to place a strong emphasis on access for all to nature. For more info about exploring Cook Forest State Park, check out our recreational guide on it

GPS Coordinates to Trailhead and parking:

41.35242, -79.22137



Sara's Restaurant: Yummy Americana at Presque Isle State Park & Waldameer Park in Erie

For us, one of the first places we ever went to in Erie on a beautiful day at the beach and riding the great rides at Waldameer Park was Sara's Restaurant in Erie. It is home to delicious and affordable food and is the epitome of Americana for us. Best of all, the outdoor seating is dog friendly and they even make ice cream sundaes specifically for the pups. Sara's serves classic drive-in style food, including burgers, hot dogs, fries, zucchini fries, milkshakes, ice cream, and more. 
For 42 years, visitors to Erie and Presque Isle State Park have gone to this restaurant and it seems to be even more popular than ever. It is a booming place, along with its neighbor across the street, Waldameer and Water World. Visiting them is something that is so special for us. A flavor that you just never forget. Comfort food that you recognize immediately and you know that you are at your happy place. It is a tough thing to fully describe a feeling, but Sara's is such a special place for us.
This special place was created with that plucky entrepreneurial spirit of the Erie region. The owner founded an ice cream stand at the suggestion of his mother, and then named it Sara's after his mother. Since then, no visit to Erie in the spring, summer, or fall is complete without getting a delicious meal from them. In addition to the food, the experience is just great. They have purchased all sorts of antique signs, an antique gas pump, and even an old stainless diner building. I feel like Sara's and nearby Waldameer Park bring the boardwalk experience to the beach experience of Presque Isle State Park. 

Burgers, zucchini fries, and a shake, yum yum!

Buddy and CeCe enjoying the dog sundae. These were the last few hours that Buddy had to wear his cone. We rescued him just a week before and this was his first trip. 

Sara's is such a special place and we always highly recommend checking it out. It is open from Spring through Fall and 


Buttonwood Covered Bridge, Lycoming County

Buttonwood Covered Bridge in Lycoming County is a cute little span in a rugged rural spot. A lumber operation runs adjacent to it, showcasing the heritage that led to the bridge getting built in the first place. The symbolism is not lost on me. Often times, the mill or commercial activity around the bridge 
I understand the importance of the so called "headache bars" for ensuring people follow the height requirement. Aesthetically displeasing, but sadly necessary. Either way though, this is a neat span. It is 74 feet long and crosses Blockhouse Creek. 

It has Queen Post Construction with a King Post Truss. Some sources say it was built in 1898, and other sources say it was built in 1878. Origins look murky. Lycoming County takes care of its preservation and really does a nice job with things. 

You can see this bridge if you look to the east on US 15/Interstate 99 in Jackson Township, Lycoming County, and is located on Covered Bridge Road. It is a fine spot to get out and stretch your legs if you are on a road trip out this way. 

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