A Family Road Trip Across Pennsylvania’s Route 6: Kane to Meadville (Brought to You by the Route 6 Alliance)
This article is brought to you by the Route 6 Alliance and based on my travels of Route 6.
Pennsylvania Route 6 is the longest highway segment in Pennsylvania, crossing 400 miles from the PA/New York border in the Poconos to the PA/Ohio border west of Meadville. The first third of the trip features frequent cities with beautiful natural sites in between, and the middle part of the trip is dominated by large swaths of forested land. On the other hand, the westernmost and last part of the trip combines a midwestern feel with the beauty and quaintness of small-town Pennsylvania.
This guide to the western third of PA Route 6 will cover the 122 miles from Kane, in McKean County, to the Pennsylvania/Ohio border in Crawford County. While it would be possible to see much of the things in this guide in two days, taking three days will allow you to take your time and enjoy the many charms of northwestern Pennsylvania.
Before leaving Kane, make time to visit Artworks at the Depot. Part art gallery and part historical society museum, Artworks at the Depot features the work of local artists in a variety of mediums. You might not think that a small community such as Kane would have so many great artists, but I was very impressed by the quality of the artwork at this co-op.
Scattered throughout the gallery are items related to the history of Kane. I especially enjoyed the photos of the Kane family (for whom Kane Manor was built) and the Civil War items that belong the General Thomas Kane. The museum also features a nice collection of vintage Holgate Toys, which were once manufactured in the town.
From Kane to Warren, Route 6 passes through the Allegheny National Forest. This forest covers more than 500,000 acres of northwestern Pennsylvania and is one of the areas of protected land in Pennsylvania. Those looking for hiking can hike for miles on the North Country Trail, which crosses through the forest on its route from New York to North Dakota.
Another great option is the hike to Hector Falls near Ludlow. This is one of the most unique waterfalls in Pennsylvania, and the hike to get there is primarily on old forest roads. It’s worth noting, however, that the road to get there is quite rough and attempting to get to this waterfall in a standard car is probably not wise.
Just a few miles further down Route 6 in the town of Sheffield is Allegheny Cellars Winery. If you enjoy sweet wines, this is a great stop. Try their Bigfoot Shadows wine, which tastes like adult grape juice and is one of my personal favorite Pennsylvania wines.
The city of Warren is one of the largest communities along Route 6 west of Scranton. This bustling city of over 10,000 residents is home to several large buildings and a vibrant downtown area. Take some time to walk the streets of the city and check out the city’s shops and restaurants.
Make sure to locate the replica of the St. Louis Arch located outside of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry building. Warren is where 80% of the Arch was constructed, and a small replica has been created to honor the workers who made it.
While Warren is a great city to visit, the area is primarily known for the Allegheny Reservoir, also known as Kinzua Lake. The Allegheny Reservoir was created in 1965 when the Kinzua Dam was constructed on the Allegheny River. This 21,000-acre lake is almost completely surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest and stretches into New York.
This lake is popular with boaters and fishermen, but those traveling Route 6 can still enjoy this beautiful lake from shore.
Taking Route 59 east of Warren takes you along the southern shores of Kinzua Lake and past Kinzua Dam. There are viewing areas both below the dam and above it, with both a hiking trail and the road connecting the two. While you can’t see the dam from the lower area near the Kinzua Dam Visitor Center, this is still a nice place to stop to see the incredibly clear green waters of the river. It is also a popular boat launch for both powered boats and kayaking trips down the Allegheny River towards Warren.
The viewing area above the dam lets you get an excellent look at Kinzua Dam, one of the largest dams east of the Mississippi. Watching water get released from the dam is an impressive site if you, like me, haven’t seen it on this scale before.
Just north of the dam is Bent Run Falls. This waterfall, which is not visible from the road, flows downhill along the Bent Run Falls Trail. There is a trail that follows the creek uphill for nearly three miles. However, for those that have just a short amount of time, the lowest portion of the run, including a part directly downhill from the parking area, offer several small, but nice waterfalls.
A bit further up the road is Rimrock Overlook. This viewing area offers an impressive view over the Allegheny Reservoir. A short, but somewhat steep trail from the parking lot takes you to several viewing platforms.
A set of very narrow stairs have been cut through the rocks and allow access to the area below the overlook. The area below the rocks is very neat to explore and there are several small caves that provide a very refreshing natural air conditioning.
If you are interested in a hike, it is possible to take the short, but challenging hike down the hillside to the Kinzua Beach Picnic Area. Should you not want to hike down, you can also drive to this recreation area.
The Kinzua Beach Picnic Area offers a small beach and swimming area, along with shaded picnic tables. This is a great place to visit for those that want to take a refreshing swim in the lake. If you are traveling with a pet, it should be noted that dogs are allowed in the picnic area but are not allowed on the beach.
If you are looking for a unique place to stay in the area, consider Deep Woods Vacation Rentals. Located about 20 minutes north of Warren, these cabins live up to their name by being located in a very remote part of Warren County near the New York border. While they could use a bit of redecoration, they are beautiful cabins and provide a clean and relaxing place to stay. They even accept pets in the cabins.
Given the remoteness of the cabins, it’s a good idea to pick up dinner prior to leaving Warren. On a whim, I opted to eat at Wells Hog Wild BBQ, which was some of the best barbecue I’ve had in Pennsylvania.
Moving west on Route 6 from the Warren area, your next stop is Corry, a small city in Erie County. Corry is home to a beautiful downtown area that’s well-worth exploring. Corry’s Trail of Simple Pleasures is a three-mile walking tour that takes you past some of the city’s most interesting sites and offers information about six of them.
If you find yourself in town on a Thursday or Sunday afternoon, the walking tour takes you right past the Corry Area Historical Society Museum. While it was unfortunately closed during my visit, a quick look through the windows told me that I need to go back and visit it someday soon.
While in Corry, you’ll walk through the well-maintained downtown area. Make sure to stop into The Painted Finch, a local art gallery that exhibits works from mostly regional artists. I was very impressed at the quality of the work exhibited, which was, quite honestly, much higher than I would have expected from a small town art gallery.
Corry also makes a great place to stop for lunch, and Gigi’s Route 6 Diner, which is directly on Route 6, is a great place to stop. This diner has a great nostalgic feel and some very delicious food, especially the desserts. There is even a small area in the corner that features a few pieces of Route 6 memorabilia.
A bit west of Corry, Route 6 splits, with Route 6N continuing due west, while Route 6 heads in a southwestern direction running with Route 19. While I’d recommend continuing the journey along Route 6, there is one stop on Route 6N that’s worth making: Goodell Gardens and Homestead in Edinboro.
Goodell Gardens and Homestead is a a small, but well-maintained and ever-expanding botanical garden and arboretum. It is located on a 78-acre farm that was donated by the Goodell sisters. The gardens offer pleasant strolling and features many plants that are very unique for the area. The old homestead features a small museum about the life of the sisters.
Make your way back to Route 6 and head to your next stop, Erie National Wildlife Refuge. Designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, the Erie National Wildlife Refuge is a nearly 9,000 acre protected area in Crawford County. Over half of the site is in Guys Mills, eight miles west of Route 6 and Meadville.
The Tsuga Trail is a short trail that winds its way through a variety of habitats in the refuge. Along this 1.2-1.6 mile trail, hikers pass through beautiful woodlands, marshes, and even open fields. It’s rare to find such a diversity of habitats on such a short trail.
While the trail could be marked better in a few areas, it is easy enough to follow and is one of the best short hikes that I’ve done in Pennsylvania. In my opinion, taking the longer route for a 1.6-mile hike is well worth it as the last half-mile winds its way through a beautiful forest
After hiking in Erie National Wildlife Refuge, find your way back to Meadville. The Quality Inn on the outskirts of town (Affiliate link) offers a nice, pet-friendly place to stay that is directly on Route 6. It’s located close enough to downtown Meadville to provide access to the city’s amenities, but it’s also in a great location for finishing your Route 6 trip the following day.
Make sure to save some time, either before or after spending the night, to check out downtown Meadville.
The Baldwin-Reynold’s House Museum is the home of the Crawford County Historical Society and is a fascinating place to visit for those interested in history. The home was built for Supreme Court Justice Henry Baldwin, but while he had moved in, the home wasn’t even completed when he died in 1844. Later, it became the home of local industrialist William Reynolds. Today, the museum tells the story of both men. It also features items of importance to the local community and has an extensive art collection.
Another interesting stop in Meadville is the Meadville Market House. The market house is a great shopping destination and is one of several markets in the state that claim to be the oldest. You can browse the many items on the shelves and even get a meal onsite.
For beer lovers, Voodoo Brewing Company is also located in downtown Meadville. Their tasting room provides a laid-back atmosphere and their beer is some of the best I’ve had in Pennsylvania. Even as I write this, I’m getting a bit sad thinking of how far from home this brewery is. If you visit on a Thursday through Sunday, their kitchen offers great-tasting food as well.
On the outskirts of Meadville is the PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden. Located on your right as you head along Route 6 from downtown Meadville to the Quality Inn, this 1,200-foot-long mural is made entirely out of used road signs. The mural was designed by a local artist and features a variety of scenes related to Meadville’s history.
Almost directly across the street from the PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden is the Ernst Trail. This five-mile rail trail offers a chance for walking and biking through the woods south of downtown Meadville. Roughly a quarter mile from the Beans Trailhead is a modern covered bridge that’s built over a small creek. This bridge adds a unique feature to this beautiful trail.
A good lunch or dinner stop in the Meadville area is Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs. This local restaurant has been family owned since 1947 and serves local favorite Smith’s Hot Dogs. I’m not personally a huge fan of most hot dogs, but I very much enjoyed my meal at the restaurant directly along Route 6.
A few miles west of Meadville is Conneaut Lake, the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania. Along the lake’s western shores is Conneaut Lake Park. This park was opened in 1892 and features many historic rides.
Many of the rides in this free-admission park date back more than five decades. The most well-known ride at Conneaut Lake Park is the Blue Streak. Built in 1937, this roller coaster is the 17th oldest, wooden roller coaster in the country. Be prepared, as this roller coaster takes passengers on quite a ride and tosses you around much more so than many modern coasters.
The park is also home to a free beach on the lake. While it has a bit of a party vibe, there were still plenty of children and families enjoying the lake’s waters.
From Conneaut Lake Park, it’s only 15 miles to the end of Pennsylvania Route 6 and the Ohio border. Before getting there, however, make a brief detour to Where the Ducks Walk on the Fish in Pymatuning State Park. Located along the Linesville Spillway in Pymatuning Lake, this very literally named spot is a popular place to feed fish and ducks. Here, hundreds of large fish and dozens of ducks vie for bread thrown down to them from visitors. It’s definitely an interesting sight that’s worth seeing.
Finally, it’s time to cross into Ohio and end your journey along Pennsylvania Route 6. Unlike the New York/Pennsylvania border, there are both state line markers and a mile post directly on the state line. Quite conveniently, the sign is mile 0, signifying that your family road trip across Route 6 is complete.
This article is brought to you by the Route 6 Alliance and based on my travels of Route 6.