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Hiking the Emerald Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park

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 and visit the park’s swinging bridge. 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.

Note: I have been told by trusted sources that the trail has changed and is no longer moss-covered. While it’s still a nice walk through the woods, it’s unlikely that there will be a green path there, unfortunately.

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.

In fact, when it’s been especially dry, the trail can be more brown than green. However, even at those times, this path still a nice walk in the woods for those that want to see a portion of the Forest Cathedral but need an easy or handicapped-accessible trail.

Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park
When it’s been dry, the trail can lose it’s green moss.

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.

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.

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

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 WildsClear Creek State Park, and Beartown Rocks.

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2 thoughts on “Hiking the Emerald Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park”

  1. Hi Jim. My parents took us Camping @ Cooks Forest
    when we were small and I always loved this forest.
    I have very fond memories there…This was when you still pitched a tent and cooked over an open fire… At night all the campers gathered around the Bonfire and usually there were Guitarist or in my case, my mother played Accordian and everyone sang songs till the wee hours of the morning.
    The Rangers brought dry firewood each morning to the campsites. I also remember the Cathedral in the Pines , I believe, was on the “Longfellow Trail”… I may be wrong about that but it was lovely with fallen trees placed around for benches, and a HUGE Boulder acted as a Pulpit with the sunlight shinning down on it! Breath-taking!
    Keep up the good work! Thank you,

  2. We were hiking there yesterday. DCNR officer told us they took all the moss off the trail for safety reasons. No more “emerald” trail.


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