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8.09.2020

The PA Grand Canyon: A Natural Wonder Revisited

One of our favorite places to go is the PA Grand Canyon. Pine Creek Gorge has attracted generations of people to its rugged beauty. Around the 19th and early 20th centuries, the steep walls of the gorge were stripped of their trees for lumber and hauled away on the old New York Central Railroad that went through the canyon. Conservation efforts restored the forests of Pine Creek Gorge and opened it up to sightseers and outdoor recreation seekers with the addition of day use facilities and several state parks. In the tough times of the Great Depression, young men were put to work in the CCC to restore the industrially ravaged lands and to lay the groundwork to create the beautiful park facilities we enjoy today. If you go expecting to see the magnitude of the Grand Canyon, you may be disappointed, but this place is still very scenic and worth the effort to go out of your way to visit. For more background information on the PA Grand Canyon, views from other visits, and more detailed location information, check out this article, and this article
We hit the road in the afternoon from Pittsburgh and ended up getting to Leonard Harrison State Park, on the East Rim of the PA Grand Canyon, at just before sunset. We were not sure what the weather would look like, since the weather had been strange for the entire ride, ranging from sunny skies to downpours, and sprinkles, and almost instantaneously switching as the ride progressed. We reached Leonard Harrison State Park and there was a light mist coming down, but you could see a little patch of clouds where the sunlight was coming through, just as it was in the midst of setting. Leonard Harrison State Park has some of the nicest facilities in the entire PA state park system, just in terms of beauty. The visitor's center is pretty and serves as a portal to the views of the PA Grand Canyon that you can get from the state park. The stone and cement walkways along the rim of the canyon are so picturesque and a pleasure to walk upon. 
We were up above some of the clouds that were lingering down in the canyon. This is the second time that we have gone in which we were looking down at the clouds. It is such a pretty spot.

Here are Brit and CeCe!
Here are Brit and CeCe!
The pines at the top level near the overlooks look so awesome and stark in the foreground when the skies are like this.
Additionally, summer wildflowers were blooming all throughout, but especially on the edge of the rim of the canyon.
Getting up here was also quite refreshing. Pittsburgh was in the midst of a heatwave of 90 degree weather, while the PA Grand Canyon area was in the 60s and 70s when we arrived. 
Here you can see why I believe the facilities at Leonard Harrison State Park are the nicest in the PA State Parks system. I would not mind seeing some other state parks have infrastructure built like this. 
Here you see the sun starting to come through the clouds.
There was such a dreamy sense to being up there, looking down at the clouds, and seeing sunset still sneaking through the cloud cover. 
Blue hour was really spectacular with everything going on.
So we ended up spending the night at the Grand Canyon Motel, Resort, and Campground, which is located only a mile directly down the road from Leonard Harrison State Park. You can't drive up to the state park without passing by it. We ended up staying in one of their basic rooms, which was affordable and dog friendly with a modest pet fee. The owner was very friendly as well. If you are looking to stay somewhere fancy, this place is not it, but if you want a cozy, clean, quiet, pet friendly, and affordable spot to stay, you definitely want to check it out. It is just a mile down the road from the East Rim of the canyon and Leonard Harrison State Park, and just a 10 minute drive from the northern terminus of the Pine Creek Rail Trail bike trail, and just under 15 minutes from the West Rim of the Canyon, Colton Point State Park, and other great points of interest.  
So we needed to hit the road in the morning, but not without going back to check out the views again and to get a little hike in. 
The premier trail in the state parks section of the PA Grand Canyon, the Turkey Trail, which goes from rim to rim, across from Leonard Harrison State Park and Colton Point State Park, is closed for the season due to repair work, and likely will not open in 2020. The Overlook Trail is just over half a mile and loops around to the beautiful Otter Point, a southward looking vista point. For much more hiking opportunities, the West Rim is the place to go. With access to multiple scenic overlooks, the West Rim Trail, which travels the entire 27.8 mile length of the Canyon is the place to go. For a less rigorous hike or bike ride, follow the rail trail at the bottom of the canyon, which has minimal elevation change through the whole length of the canyon. There is also road access along the length of the canyon on the West Rim, though you may need to turn back at points if your vehicle does not have high clearance.
CeCe was thrilled to see all of the white-tailed deer and squirrels. 
Otter Point is very pretty and easy to access, requiring a short hike from the Leonard Harrison State Park viewing platform. 
As always, we highly recommend checking out the PA Grand Canyon. For more background information on the PA Grand Canyon, views from other visits, more info about West Rim explorations, and more detailed location information, check out this article, and this article

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