By Alli Hill
There’s never a bad time to visit Pennsylvania’s only national forest, but the winter may offer one of the best experiences all year. Allegheny National Forest features dozens of recreation areas and plenty to do when temperatures drop, making this middle of nowhere forest the perfect winter escape from the daily grind. From adorable cabin camping to the thrill of ATVing, here’s how to have the perfect winter weekend getaway at Allegheny National Forest.
Willow Bay is one of the few camping areas that are open year-round. You can book a reservation here through October, but after that it’s first come first served. Cabins, hookups, and walk-in campsites are all available.
This hiking area provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities of the whole forest. Open year-round, the area is home to numerous waterfowl, over a dozen man-made ponds, and over 11 miles of interconnecting trails. Visitors can enjoy hiking on foot, or bring their mountain bikes, snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
The Timberline Trail system features almost 40 miles of off-roading trails primed for adventure. ATVs and dirt bikes are welcome here, giving you plenty of ways to play. For an added bonus, this trail system also allows for OHV camping along any of the trails and at the Timberline ATV trailhead.
The Laurel Mill trail is only open in January for cross-country skiing, so you’ll want to plan your visit accordingly. This trail system spans a total of 10.7 miles, with interconnecting loops so you can make your trek as short or long as you can handle. Trails are well-marked and open 24 hours a day.
Known for its lengthy fishing pier and located across from the Willow Bay Recreation Area, this site makes the perfect spot for ice fishing. The area is located on the shores of Kinzua Lake close to the NY/PA border.
There’s no such thing as a bad meal at this long-standing outpost. Folks traveling to the national forest make it a tradition to stop here for hot pizza, ice cream, and other fare that will live you full and satisfied. The service makes you feel right at home, and you’ll want to make coming here part of your travel routine.
If you’ve got your sights set on adventure, you’ll want to stop by this outfitter to complete the experience. They have everything you need for a winter weekend getaway in the national forest, from camping gear to cozy apparel to daypacks and more. If you forgot to pack it, they likely have you covered.
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Visiting this little winery is the easy choice: deciding which bottle to take home with you is a bit more difficult. Their tasting room and gift shop blend carry the woodsy theme of the Allegheny National Forest, making you feel like the winery is just a natural part of the area. They carry a variety of reds, whites, blushes, and fruit wines for you to sip, sample, and savor.
This one of a kind gift shop is truly a sight to behold. You’ll want to explore its eclectic variety of oddities (and maybe take a few home with you!), and linger in its museum showcasing relics of the 20th century. It’s a fun, relaxing experience for all ages, and there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the area.
Tucked away on the shores of the Allegheny Reservoir, you get some of the best views of the area with every meal. Prices and portions are budget- and appetite-friendly. Even when it’s cold outside, you just can’t beat a meal at the lake.