Hiking the Emerald Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park

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Without a doubt, Cook Forest State Park in the Pennsylvania Wilds is one of the most beautiful parks in all of Pennsylvania thanks, in part, to its amazing Forest Cathedral Natural Area.

Most visitors to this amazing area hike the Longfellow Trail through this section of old-growth forest that features some of the largest trees in Pennsylvania. However, if you are looking for an easier trail or simply one of the most unique walkways in Pennsylvania, you won’t want to miss the Paved Trail.

Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park in Clarion County, PA
The Paved Trail winds its way through the Forest Cathedral.

From its name, the Paved Trail sounds rather uninspiring. However, it is truly one of the most remarkable paths in all of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

What makes this easy quarter-mile trail so special is that during certain times of the year, the paved surface of the trail is covered in green moss. This gives the trail a mystical feel that’s hard to completely describe but is amazing to see in person.

Another great aspect of the Paved Trail is that it makes it easy for almost anyone to get into the Forest Cathedral Natural Area as this path provides a smooth and easy walk through the forest.

Moss Covered tree in Cook Forest State Park in the Pennsylvania Wilds
Even the fallen trees next to the trail are covered in moss.

The emerald Paved Trail starts near the Sawmill Center for the Arts and connects in several spots to the 1.1-mile Black Bear Trail. These easy trails can be combined to create some nice loops through the Forest Cathedral at Cook Forest State Park.

The Paved Trail itself is only about a quarter-mile long and is quite flat, though it can be a bit slippery if there’s moss and its wet. Despite this, it’s a fantastic walk through the woods that offers a lot more beyond the beautiful green of the walkway.

Moss covered trail in the Forest Cathedral at Cook Forest State Park
Some parts of the trail are less green than others.

It’s also worth noting that the moss is most prevalent during times when it’s been raining a lot and is periodically cleaned off by the park. While I’ve done my best to accurately represent the conditions during my visit in mid-June 2019 and not exaggerate the colors, it may look more or less green during your visit.

However, regardless of how colorful the Paved Trail is during your visit, this is still a fantastic trail to use to see the Forest Cathedral, especially if the more popular Longfellow Trail is too difficult for you or you are short on time.

Black Bear Trail in Cook Forest State Park
The Black Bear Trail connects to the Paved Trail and creates some nice loops through the Forest Cathedral.

So, the next time you visit Cook Forest State Park in the Pennsylvania Wilds, make sure to save a few minutes to hike the beautiful Paved Trail.

How to Hike the Paved Trail

The trailhead for the Paved Trail at Cook Forest State Park in Clarion County, PA
The trailhead for the Paved Trail.

The Paved Trail is located in Cook Forest State Park in Clarion County, Pennsylvania.

The trail starts near the Sawmill Center for the Arts north of the park’s visitor center. While it’s possible to park at the center and hike the Black Bear Trail to the Paved Trail, you can also park directly adjacent to the trailhead.

To reach the start of the Paved Trail, turn into the Sawmill Center for the Arts off of Forest Road and take a left onto the first dirt road you see. This road winds through the woods for a short distance before ending adjacent to the trailhead. It’s worth noting that this dirt road is shown on the park map, but, at the time of publication, not on Google Maps.

The trailhead can be found at the following coordinates: 41.353424, -79.217014.

Paved Trail in the Forest Cathedral at Cook Forest State Park
Another beautiful scene along the Paved Trail.

From the trailhead, the Paved Trail makes a quarter-mile loop through the forest. You can hike either way along the trail and no direction seems better than the other.

The Black Bear Trail connects in several places to the Paved Trail, which provides additional hiking opportunities for those that want to explore deeper into the Forest Cathedral.

Looking for more places to visit nearby? Check out the best wineries in the Pennsylvania Wilds, Rapp Run Falls, Clear Creek State Park, and Beartown Rocks.

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