Hiking Trails of Cook Forest
The 27 miles of Cook Forest hiking trails are lovely to walk – hike – run, whatever the season, and whether you’d prefer a (moderate) challenge or a creekside walk. Both the Baker Trail, running approximately 130-140 miles from Allegheny National Forest to near Pittsburgh, and a portion of the 4,600-mile long North Country Trail (NCT) pass through the Park.
Cook Forest’s trail bridges – including those along the NCT – are closing.
Please help us keep these bridges and trails open
please support the purpose of the park – communion with nature in an unspoiled state:
Some trails are steep, and some wet out in the spring – the official DCNR Cook Forest State Park topographic map is excellent for finding the best route for your fitness or mood. The following trail descriptions, adapted from a guide originally produced and printed by the Park, provide additional information:
the BAKER TRAIL
now part of the Rachel Carson Trail, the Baker Trail is an extended hiking route which starts at Freeport, Pennsylvania, and ends 140 miles away in the Allegheny National Forest.
Baker Trail is co-extensive with several Cook Forest State Park trails, travelling along (from the north to the south): Brown’s Run, Liggett, Longfellow, Hemlock, Deer Park, and River Trail. Baker Trail enters and exits the park along the Clarion Chapter stretch of the North Country Trail, a/k/a the NCT.
Birch trees & Mountain maple border this 1.1 mile trail, which travels between the new park office and Shelter #1, following the Forest Road on the northern shore of Tom’s Run. The swinging bridge connects this trail with Rhododendron and Tom’s Run Trails.
BLACK BEAR TRAIL & the Emerald Path
Black Bear Trail loops from the parking lot of the Sawmill, and features the paved and ADA-accessible and much-famed “emerald path” offshoot, which is carpeted in verdant mosses. Featured on Atlas Obscura! The Emerald Path is marked on DCNR maps as the “paved trail,” as it’s one-fifth a mile of ADA asphalt, but the hemlock canopy over Cook Forest nurtures striking green moss cover in most months. Easiest hiking.
the BRIDLE TRAIL
Horses are permitted to travel on two bridle trails. One trail goes from Toms Run Road, joins with Browns Run Trail, and ends on S.R. 1015. The other bridle path starts at Forest Drive, runs parallel with Joyce Kilmer Trail, goes through the big trees and ends on the Cemetery road. Though these trails are mainly for horses, the energetic hiker may also tread the 4 – 1/2 mile path.
BROWN'S RUN TRAIL
can be accessed from Forest Road just south of Greenwood Road – it’s a 2.1 mile trip to Tom’s Run Road, from which you can continue on to the north end of Liggett Trail. It meets one end of Deer Meadow Trail at a bridge over the stream – which is always in auditory range. There seem to be two branches, one on either side of the Run itself — both are very boggy in wet conditions. The entire trail is 3 miles long; and is moderate hiking when dry, and more difficult hiking during high rainfall.
replaces the old nature trail. There is a separate pamphlet, available at the park office, that lets you “‘read the landscape” through the eyes of a former C.C.C. enrollee. It is approximately 1 – 1/2 miles long.
begins at the family camping area and is used by campers to walk to the main picnic area and the swimming pool. This trail is approximately 1 – 1/2 miles long.
a loop from the River Cabin area near the mouth of Henry’s Run, Cook Trail was lately refurbished and has new interpretative signs provided by the Friends of Cook Forest. Cook Trail has some moderate grade and root networks, and passes a deer exclusion area. Cook Trail parallels Henry’s Run for about half its length, and features standing American Chestnut snags from the 1920s.
begins at Ridge Camp, crosses Breezemont Drive and ends where it meets Liggett; the trail is approximately 1 – 1/2 miles long.
DEER MEADOW TRAIL
this 1 mile trail starts at an intersection with Browns Run Trail behind Deer Meadow Campground. It passes by several active gas wells and intersects with the Hefren Run Trail.
DEER PARK TRAIL
starts along Route 36 opposite Hemlock Trail and winds 9/10 of a mile through mature forests of hardwood and virgin hemlock. It joins with the Mohawk and Seneca Trails. This trail passes through an area which was damaged by a tornado on 11 July 1976.
HEFREN RUN TRAIL
connects Forest Road (S.R. 1015) and Tom’s Run Road, following the Heffern Run valley for approximately a mile. Parking is available at the entrance of Forest Drive. Horses and bicycles share this trail, which is generally easy travelling at a gentle slope, but which does wet out significantly at the Tom’s Run end at times of high water table.
is a half-mile route between Route 36 and Forest Road which winds through dense stands of hemlock and rhododendron. At Forest Road you may join Birch or Tom’s Run Trails, and from there the Forest Cathedral network.
starts in the Indian Cabin area and continues upward for 1.7 miles at a steep slant above Tom’s Run, crossing the Joyce Kilmer and Rhododendron Trails and ending where it meets the Longfellow Trail. Indian Trail ascends through excellent stands of second-growth white pine and hemlock.
JOYCE KILMER TRAIL
may be followed through 1.5 miles of virgin pine and hemlock, areas of which have lately opened up due to windfall. Starting in big timber area on the Longfellow Trail, it crosses over the Rhododendron Trail and continues climbing through the hemlock, birch and rhododendron growth of upper Henry’s Run, ending on Cemetery Road.
Alternatively, Joyce Kilmer Trail may also be reached from the Old Logging Trail, which makes for a fairly easy downhill hike to Cemetery Road.
an even-grade 2 mile trail begins at Forest Road and Breezemont Drive and meets with Brown’s Run Trail before coming out on Tom’s Run Road. Named for Thomas Liggett, one of the folks instrumental in the creation of Cook Forest State Park.
Cook Forest's LONG-FELLOW TRAIL
is one of Cook Forest’s most popular trails. Only 1 – 2/10 miles long, the trail may be used to reach other trails which lead deeper into the forest. Longfellow Trail begins beside the Log Cabin Inn Educational Center, passes Memorial Fountain, traverses the heart of the Forest Cathedral, and ends on Forest Road (S.R. 1015).
Longfellow Trail passes through one of the larger stands of primeval white pine and hemlock still remaining in Pennsylvania. In 1967, the National Park Service designated these 332 acres a National Natural Landmark. Some of the Forest Cathedral trees are in excess of 300 years old. Though a severe storm hit this area in 1956, destroying some of the oldest and largest trees, the remaining old-growth trees are impressive.
begins on Route 36 above the fork in the road and is approximately 1 – 8/10 miles long. It climbs the hemlock covered slopes above the Clarion River to cross the Fire Tower Road and Deer Park Trail. The trail then continues to Route 36 north of the Fire Tower Road and passes through attractive forests of hardwoods and hemlock.
the OLD LOGGING ROAD
an easy, wide path, this three-quarter mile trail starts on Forest Drive and follows an old logging path until it joins the Joyce Kilmer Trail, travelling from a planted red pine forest to an old-growth area.
RED EFT TRAIL
parallels Tom’s Run Trail and meets Longfellow, travelling through old growth forest and featuring a set of stone steps above a tributary to the stream.
enters the forest along Tom’s Run at the north end of the Indian Cabin area, passes through the main stand of timber and emerges on Forest Drive. One of the main points of interest on this 1 – 6/10 mile trail is the swinging bridge over Tom’s Run.
Rhododendron can get muddy, but the good people of the Clarion Chapter of the North Country Trail have largely remedied this tendency.
is a good way to get from Ridge Camp to either Shelter, the Forest Cathedral, or the Log Cabin Inn. It travels one mile through hemlock, pine, and ferns, from Forest Road to the eastern edge of Ridge Campground. Ridge Trail is level at the camp end, moderately steep toward the Cathedral area, and may also be a stream bed in times of extreme high water table. There’s a Pet Trail spur that’s an easy walk for campers.
starts at the Fire Tower and travels 1.5 miles, parallelling the river, passing a stone waterfall, and circling back to Fire Tower Road, which it crosses and also ends at — both crossings are approx. 3/4 mile from the parking lot and from Route 36 / the Ridge Camp entrance. Or continue to the west along the NCT / Baker Trail, though the Clarion River Lands (see the DCNR map for this route, or the NCT map). Moderately steep ascent.
leaves Route 36 at the northern end of the Clarion River Bridge, passes through the hemlock timber on the River Road, and finally reaches the Fire Tower and Seneca Point after a 1.2 mile climb. The mineral spring is located on Seneca along the Clarion River. This steep trail wets out significantly in the spring and during prolonged rains — most difficult hiking.
is the only trail on the southern side of the Clarion River, which it generally parallels from Route 36 near the Gateway Lodge to 899 and Clear Creek State Park. More difficult hiking toward the 899 / Clear Creek end; bring your compass!
TOM'S RUN TRAIL
parallels Tom’s Run from Shelter #1 to the swinging bridge, and is a lovely, easy trail.
NB: The bridge at Shelter #1 has been closed, and is pending replacement. Learn more about our campaign to keep these bridges and trails open. Re-routing is possible via Birch, or Longfellow / Ancient Forest trails. But it’s way less ideal and scenic :/
Cross-country skiing is pleasant along Brown’s Run Trail and Liggett Trail to Tom’s Run Road, and on the three-mile Fire Tower loop to Seneca point. All-season skiier parking is available across Route 36 at the entrance to the Ridge Campground.
Bicyclists are advised to avoid River Road & Forest Road due to narrowness and traffic, but Tom’s Run Road, then Hefern Run to Forest Drive, is an excellent route. Nearby Rail 66 rails-to-trails route provides a multi-use (walk, hike, bike, ski) 13-mile paved path from Rt 322 in Marianne to Leeper, and may expand to link to Tom’s Run Road in the future.