A Family Road Trip Across Pennsylvania’s Route 6: Tunkhannock to Kane (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. While the first third of the trip features frequent cities with beautiful natural sites in between, the middle part of the trip is dominated by large swaths of forested land.
This is the second part in a three-part series about family road tripping across Route 6 (Read Part 1: Matamoras to Tunkhannock and Part 3: Kane to Meadville). In this guide, I’ll cover all of the great things to do between Tunkhannock and Kane, a distance of approximately 185 miles along Route 6. While you certainly could spend much more time, this section can be completed in two to three days.
After spending the night in Tunkhannock, head west out of town on Route 6. After just a few miles, you’ll come to the Endless Mountains Nature Preserve.
The Endless Mountains Nature Center is a non-profit organization that runs a nature center, trails, and day camps along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Located behind Camp Lackawanna, the grounds feature 11 miles of trails and a nature center. Visitors can hike the trails, which pass along a historic canal and along the river. Look closely and you might even see the center’s bald eagle nest.
The center itself has a small collection of animals that were injured and cannot return to the wild and a place for children’s activities. (Note: During the summer months, the hiking trails are only open on weekends.)
Back on Route 6, head for an entirely different type of adventure and do some wine and beer tasting at Grovedale Winery and Red Barge Brewing, which are located under the same roof in Wyalusing. Wine tastings and beer tasting here offer a chance to try some of their delicious offerings, and their beautiful patio is a great place to relax for a bit while having a glass of wine or beer.
Between Wyalusing and Towanda, Route 6 follows along a ridgeline along the Susquehanna River. Make sure to look out for the two overlooks along this stretch of the roadway.
The first is known as Wyalusing Rocks. Follow the obvious trail to the left of the parking area to get to the rocky outcropping. While you can get a nice view from the parking area, these rocks are only a few hundred feet away and offer an even more amazing view.
Just over three miles further down the road is Marie Antoinette Overlook. This spot overlooks a beautiful curve in the Susquehanna River and features some interesting architecture in the overlook itself.
The spot is known as Marie Antoinette Overlook because of French Azilum, which was to have inhabited nearly all of the land on the far side of the river. This was a short-lived community for French aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution. It is said, that if Queen Marie Antoinette had been able to flee France, that she would have come to this spot. If you have the chance, take the short diversion off of Route 6 to visit French Azilum Historic Site.
The next community that you’ll come to while driving west across Route 6 is Towanda, the seat of Bradford County, Pennsylvania. If you’re arriving around lunch time, stop at the Red Rose Diner in downtown. This quaint little dinner is one of the neatest little places to eat that you’ll find along Route 6 and offers a nice meal at an inexpensive price. For those traveling with pets, the diner also offers a few outdoor seats in nice weather.
If you have time while you’re in Towanda, take a walk along the riverfront or head over to the Bradford County Historical Society Museum, which is located inside the town’s old jail. In addition to having some great exhibits about life in the area, the intact jail provides many interesting stories on its own.
Just past Towanda is Knapp Covered Bridge, the only historic covered bridge located along PA Route 6. This beautiful bridge crosses a wide chasm over Browns Creek and was built in 1853. Reconstructed in 2000, this bridge is very beautiful and is well worth the short detour to see.
A bit further west on Route 6 is Mount Pisgah State Park. The dominant feature of the park is Stephen Foster Lake, which is a great fishing spot for those looking to take a break from their road trip across Route 6. The lake is named for 19th century composer, Stephen Foster, who spent time in the area.
Hikers will enjoy the three-mile hike around the lake on the Oh! Susanna Trail. This trail is fairly easy, but provides beautiful views of the lake. While it’s not well-marked in places, it would be hard to get lost since you are simply hiking a loop along the lake’s perimeter. The park is also home to a great playground and swimming pool.
On the way to Mansfield, Route 6 passes through several small towns. If you have time, art enthusiasts will enjoy the Settlement House in Sylvania, which features the work of more than 50 local artists.
Mansfield is a great place to spend the night while traveling PA Route 6. The Comfort Inn in Mansfield is a clean stop and takes pets. Just across the parking lot from the hotel is Lambs Creek, a great local restaurant. The menu specializes in Italian food, but offers a great variety for those looking for something different. Make sure you save some room here for dessert, as it’s quite delicious.
After spending a night in Tunkhannock, continue your way west along Route 6 to Hills Creek State Park. Like Mount Pisgah, this park is also dominated by a man-made lake. A three-mile trail will take you around the perimeter of Hill Creek Lake.
If you don’t have enough time to do the entire hike, the section between Beaver Hut Boat Launch and Pines Boat Launch is very scenic and is about 1.5 miles in length. On the opposite side of the lake, a small beach gives visitors a chance to cool off in this peaceful lake.
The next large community on Route 6 is Wellsboro. Wellsboro is one of my favorite small towns in Pennsylvania, and the downtown area definitely warrants some time. Just prior to the downtown area, don’t miss Highland Chocolates. Not only do they make delicious candies, but they also give jobs to mentally-disabled people.
Just north of downtown Wellsboro is the station for the Tioga Central Railroad. This excursion train takes visitors into northern Tioga County and up to the shores of Hammond Lake. Along the way, riders can get a meal or just watch the scenery go by. This is definitely a great trip for train lovers, though it’s worth noting that if you are traveling with a dog, they are not permitted on the train.
Across the street from the the Tioga Central Railroad is the start of the Pine Creek Rail Trail. This 65-mile trail is perfect for biking and walking and takes visitors from this area north of Wellsboro, through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and down to Jersey Shore, PA.
If you plan to walk the Pine Creek Rail Trail, however, a better access point is at the Darling Run Access Area. This is considered the start of the PA Grand Canyon and allows hikers to immediately immerse themselves in the canyon. From here, visitors can walk a short distance into the canyon, or even travel a few miles to the base of the Turkey Path in Leonard Harrison State Park.
Leonard Harrison State Park is probably the most popular area from which to overlook the canyon. From the top of the canyon, visitors can see hundreds of feet to Pine Creek below and watch as the canyon twists and turns with the creek. A short hike brings visitors to Otter View, one of the best viewpoints for the canyon.
A much more challenging hike is the Turkey Path in Leonard Harrison State Park. This two-mile trail descends steeply into the PA Grand Canyon and passes several beautiful, but unnamed waterfalls along its route to the bottom and the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Walkers and Bikers along the Pine Creek Rail Trail can also climb up the path to see the waterfalls and overlooks.
On the opposite rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is Colton Point State Park. This park is much less developed than Leonard Harrison State Park, but offers even better views of the canyon. This park also has a hike that’s also called the Turkey Path that travels three miles down into the gorge. (Note: The two Turkey Paths do not connect in the canyon.)
While this trail is nice, if you’ve already done the Turkey Path in Leonard Harrison State Park and are running short on time, check out the Barbour Rock Trail. This 1.5 mile, handicap-accessible trail, takes you to what might be the best overlook in all of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.
If you’ve spent the entire day exploring the area around the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, head back into Wellsboro and spend the night at the Penn Wells Hotel and Lodge. This hotel offers a wide variety of rooms, some of which accept pets (Reservations with pets can only be made by calling the hotel.)
Whether you spent the night in Wellsboro or not, the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is a great place for visitors to stop along Route 6. This museum reopened in early 2015 after undergoing a major renovation and does an excellent job telling the story of Pennsylvania’s lumber industry.
One of the oddest places along Route 6 is the Coudersport Ice Mine, a few miles east of downtown Coudersport in Potter County. This ice mine features a hole in the ground where ice naturally forms during the warmest months of the year, and disappears when the weather outside is cold. This is a fascinating natural oddity that’s worth a brief stop on your Route 6 road trip.
A bit south of Route 6 are the ruins of Austin Dam. Located in a beautiful local park, Austin Dam was in operation from 1909 until September 30, 1911 when it failed. This was the second-worst dam failure in Pennsylvania history and resulted in 78 deaths.
Today, a visit to the ruins of Austin Dam gives visitors a chance to learn about this history and see one of PA’s most impressive sites. The picnic tables here make for a great picnic spot.
Back on Route 6, you’ll find yourself in Coudersport, the seat of Potter County. This small community has a charming downtown area. It’s worth taking a few minutes to walk around the area to see the small shops and restaurants. You can also see the Allegheny River just a few miles from its source. It’s hard to believe that this small waterway eventually becomes one of the might rivers in Pittsburgh.
Traveling along Route 6 into McKean County, Pennsylvania, make sure to stop in the beautiful community of Smethport. This borough was once home to many wealthy lumber and banking magnates, and the downtown area is full of many beautiful homes in an area known as the Mansion District.
The Smethport Mansion District Walking Tour guides visitors through the downtown area and past many of the town’s most impressive homes. The brochures offers a bit of history about the home and its residents, along with offering tidbits that would interest fans of architecture.
West of Smethport is Kinzua Bridge State Park, one of Pennsylvania’s most impressive state parks. This park centers around the remains of the Kinzua Viaduct, which was the tallest and longest railroad bridge in the world when it was completed in 1882. While undergoing restoration in 2003, the bridge was hit by a tornado, which destroyed 60% of the bridge.
Instead of rebuilding the bridge, the ruins were left where they lay on the valley below, and the rest of the bridge was turned into a fantastic skywalk, complete with a glass floor. This skywalk provides an amazing view over the valley below. Visitors can also walk to the base of the bridge and view the ruins for themselves.
From Kinzua Bridge State Park, it’s a short distance over to Kane. Kane Manor is a bed and breakfast that offers a nice place to stay. This home was built for General Thomas L. Kane, the man responsible for the Kinzua Bridge.
The main manor is very opulent, but does not accept pets. However, pets are allowed in the Longhorn House across the street, which is part of the mansion’s property. While clean, it would be nice for wifi to be included at the home. Breakfast is provided each morning at Kane Manor, which gives visitors staying in Longhorn House a chance to see the inside of this beautiful home.
From Kane, it’s roughly 115 miles to the end of PA Route 6 at the Ohio border near Linesville. Part three of this series, which will come out in just a few days, will cover this last portion of the trip. As a reminder, you can also read about the eastern third of this trip in part one of this series, which covers Route 6 from the PA/New York border in Matamoras to Tunkhannock. Lastly, read about the western third of this trip in part three of this series, which covers Route 6 from Kane to the PA/Ohio border west of Meadville.
This article is brought to you by the Route 6 Alliance and based on my travels of Route 6.