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September 15, 2017

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Kinzua Bridge State Park, Mount Jewett, PA

October 10, 2017

 Kinzua Bridge State Park interpretive trail to Skywalk

 

There are only 3 trails in the 339-acre Kinzua Bridge State Park. The easiest is the Skywalk - from the Visitor's Center, follow the paved pathway to the railroad trestles and over the valley to the Observation Deck. This short, paved path is suitable for all ages and ability levels, and includes interpretive markers along the trail that provide information on the region and its rich history.

 Kinzua Bridge Skywalk

 

The Observation Deck on the Skywalk is built at the end of the railroad bridge that still stands after a tornado destroyed the structure in 2003.  At 624 feet across the valley, and 225 feet above the valley floor, the views are stunning - both to the valley floor, where the remains of the destroyed bridge still lay, and across the vast expanses of the Allegheny National Forest.  The Observation Deck also boasts a small, glass floor where you can look straight down to the valley floor.

The trailhead for the Kinzua Creek Trail 

 

The General Kane Trail, accessed from the far end of the parking lot from the Visitor's Center, is a 1.09 mile, Easy/Class 1 loop trail. Finally, the best trail (in our opinion) is the Kinzua Creek Trail - but it is NOT for the faint of heart! This 0.4 mile one-way trail (out and back) takes you down into the valley to see the ruins of the railroad trestle bridge up close and personal. This trail is rated Class 4/Difficult (most difficult, per the Park map), and will challenge you with a steep climb (and rock steps). Getting down the trail is hard; getting back up is even harder!

 The daunting steps of the Kinzua Creek Trail

 

The good news is, once you are on the valley floor, the trail is much easier to hike and navigate, and you'll spend plenty of time there to recoup for the climb back up to the Visitor's Center.  We found that, since there are also plenty of photo op spots on the trail, it made sense to take the pictures on the way back UP - a great excuse to rest for a minute on a tough climb!

View of the debris field from the Kinzua Creek Trail

 

If you take your time and wear proper footwear (NO FLIP FLOPS!), the hard work is paid off ten-fold by the amazing view of the debris field from the valley floor.  We were there in late August, so the trees hadn't changed yet, but we understand that the views are best in mid-October, when the bright fall colors of the surrounding Allegheny National Forest are at their height.

 

Up close and personal at the edge of the debris field 

 

You aren't allowed to walk into the actual debris field, but there are plenty of portions along the trail itself where you can get a close up view of the damaged structure.  Large sections of bridge, trestles, and concrete pylons are within reach from the trail's edge.  

 

Once you have completed your hike (or before you begin), make sure that you stop in to the newly constructed Visitor's Center.  Local history, history of the coal and oil industries, and information on the bridge and its builder are spelled out here, and they have a first class gift shop, too.  

 

For more information on Kinzua Bridge State Park, go to:  http://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/KinzuaBridgeStatePark/Pages/default.aspx

 

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