Pennsylvania Overlooks: A Guide for Sightseers and Outdoor People

Pennsylvania Overlooks: A Guide for Sightseers and Outdoor People

by Art Michaels

To those who enjoy outdoor adventure, Pennsylvania offers a number of natural attractions: wild rivers, impressive mountains, the silence of deep forests. But Pennsylvania's sublime overlooks, remarkable natural features in themselves, frequently go unnoticed despite their historical and scenic interest. (Few people realize, for instance, that a Pennsylvania


To those who enjoy outdoor adventure, Pennsylvania offers a number of natural attractions: wild rivers, impressive mountains, the silence of deep forests. But Pennsylvania's sublime overlooks, remarkable natural features in themselves, frequently go unnoticed despite their historical and scenic interest. (Few people realize, for instance, that a Pennsylvania overlook—Mt. Pisgah in York County—almost became our nation's capital.) Visitors to these promontories acquire a fresh appreciation of nature's beauty and a renewed sense of connection to the Pennsylvania landscape.

In Pennsylvania Overlooks, Art Michaels describes some of the most outstanding overlooks in the state. These overlooks afford unforgettable images throughout the year. From High Knob Vista in Wyoming State Forest, Sullivan County, the reds, oranges, and yellows of fall foliage extend to the horizon, appearing even more rich and majestic from a height. In winter, High Rocks Vista in Bucks County displays the panorama of a snowy, leafless forest. Near Breezyview Overlook in Lancaster County, a dazzling formation of migrating tundra swans glides over a snow-covered river valley. The trees of the Allegheny National Forest, spreading out below Jakes Rock Overlook in Warren County, convey the freshness of spring through their delicate array of green.

Pennsylvania Overlooks provides a unique introduction to these sites and other spectacular overlooks. The selected overlooks are easy to reach by automobile or by foot, and they offer much more than a pretty view. Each chapter presents vital information about an overlook, including a general description of the overlook and its area, the site's distinguishing features, its height, the compass direction of the view, and nearby and distant features visible from the overlook. Michaels also notes recreational activities and opportunities near each site. For weekends filled with nature, beauty, and history, this book is an invaluable guide.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“With descriptions of nearly 50 impressive overlooks in the Keystone State, this book is an invaluable guide for planning spring getaways.

For a romantic weekend trip for two, or a quick day trip with the whole family, the locations detailed in Pennsylvania Overlooks yield fantastic opportunities to get out of the house and take in some of the most remarkable sights Pennsylvania has to offer.”


“Art Michaels’ new book, Pennsylvania Overlooks, can guide you to some of the most spectacular scenery in the state, and it is conveniently sized to fit in a glove compartment.

Get a copy, pick your first destination, then let it lead you around the state. You will appreciate outdoors in Pennsylvania as never before.”

—Mike Bleech, Erie Times News

“Lately I think I’ve found a kindred spirit in Art Michaels. His latest book, Pennsylvania Overlooks: A Guide for Sightseers and Outdoor People, is full of great heaven-on-earth scenery. Michaels has driven the breadth and depth of the Keystone State on a search for inspiring landscapes and the views from more than 50 selected overlooks. It’s a wise choice.”

—Vic Attardo, Altoona Mirror

“The author writes, ‘A majestic overlook will leave you breathless, enveloping you in delight, wonder, and hope.’ However, he may have crafted the book a little too well. Some of us may find the book so engaging that we find no need to actually go outside.”

—Steven Volgstadt, Cumberland County History

“Every description is extremely accurate, and I learned something new from every chapter. This paperback book is a must for every car’s glove box (it measures 4.5 inches by 9 inches), and it is a great value even though it costs more than the $1.72 per acre that was spent in 1902 to acquire land for the Tuscarora State Forest (see page 130). Enjoy!”

—Steven Volgstadt, Cumberland County History

“What did make it are the best overlooks that can be easily reached by car, or walk of no more than 15 minutes from a parking area.”

—Ad Crable, Lancaster New Era

“A fine source book for people looking for a reason to travel across the commonwealth for a new experience.”

—Albert E. Holliday, Pennsylvania Magazine

“This book is especially useful to tourists, and also to hawk watchers seeking easily accessible, unidentified new hawk migration watch-sites to explore and evaluate. It is to these readers the book is recommended.”

International Hawkwatcher

Pennsylvania overlooks have drawn national attention. In fact, one beautiful Keystone State view (Mt. Pisgah in York County) almost became the capital of the United States. In this unique guide, Art Michaels introduces scenic overlooks throughout this huge state; from High Knob Vista in Wyoming State Forest to Near Breezyview Overlook in Lancaster County and Warren County's Jakes Rock Overlook.

Product Details

Penn State University Press
Publication date:
A Keystone Book ?
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


A Guide for Sightseers and Outdoor People


Copyright © 2003 The Pennsylvania State University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0271022310

Chapter One


State Game Lands #314, in Erie County, spans 3,131 acres. The Ohio state line is the western border of these game lands, and the Lake Erie shoreline forms their northern border for about 1.5 miles. This segment of the shoreline is the longest undeveloped reach of Lake Erie's south shore between Toledo, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York. The overlook spot, the site of the David M. Roderick Monument, offers a nearly unspoiled view of the lake and its natural shoreline, except for the westward sight of the Conneaut, Ohio, breakwater and the occasional seagoing vessel entering or leaving the area.

The David M. Roderick Wildlife Reserve was dedicated in July 1991. The United States Steel Corporation (now USX) owned the property, which it had bought from Andrew Carnegie early in the 1900s. (Carnegie intended to build a steel mill on the site, but those plans were changed in the 1960s.) David M. Roderick-for whom the reserve is named-was chief executive officer of USX from 1979 to 1989 as well as an avid outdoorsman with an abiding interest in conservation. During Roderick's tenure as CEO, the property was soldto the Mellon Foundation, which turned it over to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The Conservancy sold the reserve to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The most common species here include woodcock, rabbit, grouse, and white-tailed deer. Indeed, wildlife-watching-and bird-watching in particular-is the main attraction at this tract, which covers 4 square miles. The lake and its shoreline mark a major north-south migration route for birds, including raptors such as hawks and eagles, waterfowl, and some one hundred documented songbird species. Upland ground birds, such as grouse, pheasant, and wild turkey, are also abundant. In spring, birds flying north use this area as a rest stop before they take wing over the lake, and in the fall, birds flying south rest in this area after their journey over the water.

The overlook is a cleared, grassy area about 100 yards long at the David M. Roderick Monument, and the site stands about 100 feet above the water. The peaceful view is due north, 300 degrees west-northwest to about 75 degrees east-northeast. Visible to the east is a clifflike stretch of undeveloped Lake Erie shoreline; to the west, more shoreline and the Conneaut breakwater. You can enjoy this view from the benches that face the lake.

The shoreline cliffs here are part of present-day erosional processes. They are not Ice Age remnants of a former high lake shoreline. (The retreat of the last glacier to reach this area left the cliff's sand and gravel.) Today's lake level has been relatively steady for the last three thousand to four thousand years; earlier lake levels were different from modern levels. You can see the remnants of ancient shorelines-sandy, gravelly ridges about 10 to 15 feet high-in several places in Erie County. Many, however, have been altered or removed by building and regrading, so they are not obvious.

The lake erodes the shoreline at a rate of about 3 feet annually, but this rate varies according to elements such as storms in the area, lake levels, and whether the shoreline has a beach.

OPPORTUNITIES: Hiking, hunting, sightseeing, and wildlife-watching.

ADMINISTRATION AND AMENITIES: There are no services at this overlook.

DIRECTIONS: From U.S. Route 20, where Route 20 and PA Route 5 meet at West Springfield, turn north onto Rudd Road, which is clearly marked with a street sign. Drive 2.6 miles north on Rudd Road to its end at Lake Road. Turn left (west) onto Lake Road and drive 1.4 miles to the monument's parking area on the north side of Lake Road.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Northwest Region Headquarters, PO Box 31, 1509 Pittsburgh Road, Franklin, PA 16323 (814-432-3187 or 1-800-533-6764), or visit its Web site at

NEARBY OVERLOOKS: Allegheny National Forest overlooks (Warren County); Seneca Point Overlook (Clarion County); and Beartown Rocks Vista (Jefferson County).


Presque Isle State Park (Erie County). Activities include bicycling, boating (with unlimited horsepower), ice boating, fishing for trout and other species, ice fishing, hiking on 19 trail miles, hunting, picnicking, ice skating, cross-country skiing, lake swimming, and wildlife-watching. The park also offers boat launching and mooring [$], boat rental [$], environmental education, a food concession, a marina, pavilion rental [$], a playfield, a playground, and a visitors center.

Pymatuning State Park (Crawford County). Activities include boating (with 10hp limit), ice boating, tent and trailer camping [$], organized group tent and trailer camping [$], fishing for warm-water species, ice fishing, hiking on 2 trail miles, hunting, picnicking, ice skating, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowmobiling on 15 trail miles with trailhead, lake swimming, and wildlife-watching. The park also offers boat launching and mooring [$], boat rental [$], modern cabin rental [$], environmental education, a food concession, a marina, pavilion rental [$], a playfield, and a playground.

In Crawford County, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Linesville Fish Culture Station has a visitors center (814-683-4451), and Erie County's Fairview Fish Culture Station also welcomes visitors (814-474-1514)

Erie National Wildlife Refuge (Crawford Country). Activities include boating (in boats without motors), fishing, hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, and wildlife-watching. It also offers boat launching and environmental education. Call the Refuge (814-789-3584) for complete information on regulations.

Chapter Two


Tidioute Overlook, Jakes Rocks Overlook, and Rimrock Overlook

The Allegheny National Forest encompasses more than 513,000 acres in Elk, Forest, McKean, and Warren Counties. This enormous area and its overlooks constitute part of the High Plateau Section in Pennsylvania's Appalachian Plateaus province. The High Plateau Section-one of five divisions in the province-includes most of Elk, Forest, Venango, and Warren Counties as well as most of the Allegheny National Forest. Large flat or rounded upland areas and deep valleys characterize this area. Elevations range from about 1,000 feet to some 2,500 feet above sea level. Jakes Rocks Overlook, for example, is 2,000 feet above sea level and 700 feet above the Allegheny Reservoir; Rimrock Overlook is 2,020 feet above sea level and 700 feet above the reservoir. The Tidioute Overlook is 1,540 feet above sea level and 440 feet above the Allegheny River.

The river between Kinzua Dam and Emlenton, a distance of some 107 miles, is the Middle Allegheny River Water Trail-a partnership among the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest, Oil Heritage Region, and Venango Museum of Art, Science, and Industry. Water trails were first proposed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to provide information on access, to promote day use, camping, and boating, and to encourage resource stewardship. (For details on Pennsylvania water trails, water trail partnerships, and current water trail maps, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Web site,

Three sections of the Allegheny River (a total distance of 86.6 miles) between Kinzua Dam and Emlenton were designated part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The Clarion River, which forms part of the Allegheny National Forest's southern border, was also designated a national Wild and Scenic River from near Ridgway to Piney Dam's backwaters, a distance of some 52 miles. (For more on the Clarion River, see Chap. 4.)

Tidioute Overlook

Tidioute Overlook actually comprises two overlooks connected by a trail-the Town Overlook and the River Overlook. From the Town Overlook, the Allegheny River and the town of Tidioute are visible. There are two benches and a picnic table. The view at the Town Overlook is north-northwest from 300 degrees west-northwest to about 45 degrees northeast.

At the River Overlook, a wayside exhibit describes the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness. Between Buckaloons and Tionesta are seven islands that Congress designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, a program designed to save the remaining parts of rare riverine forests. The 1984 designation created the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness. At 368 acres, the islands constitute one of the Wilderness System's smallest components. The seven Wilderness Islands are managed by the USDA Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest. One of the islands-Courson Island-is visible from the River Overlook; the overlook's view is east-northeast from about o degrees north to about 90 degrees east.

Jakes Rocks

Jakes Rocks stands about 700 feet above the reservoir. This massive form is composed mainly of conglomerate, a hard rock that resists erosion more than the surrounding rocks. The view is mainly north from about 300 degrees west-northwest to about 60 degrees east-northeast. Visible to the north on the reservoir's eastern side is its Kinzua Creek arm; the next inlet on the eastern side is Sugar Bay. Visits here during the second or third week of October often provide a view of magnificent fall color. Jakes Rocks is also what geologists call a "rock city." (For more on rock cities, see the description of Beartown Rocks Vista in Chap. 5.)

Walk west along the trail to another formal overlook offering views of Kinzua Dam. (You can also reach this overlook by following the trail at the south end of the parking lot near the rest rooms.) The view is mainly west-southwest from about 180 degrees south to about 270 degrees west. Continue south on the trail to reach more informal overlooks.

On the exit road, there are two more parking areas with formal overlooks from which you can see Kinzua Dam. Each of these overlooks has a parking lot with a stone fence. The second (more southerly) overlook provides an excellent view of Kinzua Dam, the Allegheny Reservoir, the Allegheny River, the Kinzua tailwater boat access, and the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery. These panoramas are extraordinary in the fall.

Rimrock Overlook

Rimrock Overlook is another rock city. The view at Rimrock is westerly, over Kinzua Bay, from about 210 degrees south-southwest to about 330 degrees north-northwest. On the other side of Kinzua Creek, the mouth of Dewdrop Run is visible.

Rimrock Overlook is a gigantic rock with a formal overlook about 50 yards long built on top. Like Jakes Rocks, it is composed of conglomerate. A narrow, catacomb-like stairway leads through a fracture in the rock to its base, where there are more trails and areas to explore.

OPPORTUNITIES: Auto touring, boating and canoeing (seven accesses), camping [$] (eleven campgrounds ranging from highly developed sites to remote areas with no facilities), fishing (Allegheny Reservoir, Allegheny River, East Branch Lake, Tionesta Lake) and ice fishing (Allegheny Reservoir with safe ice), hiking and backpacking [$] (twelve trails over 185 miles), horseback riding, hunting, photography, cross-country skiing (eight trails over 54 miles), snowmobiling, and wildlife-watching. Boat launching [$], five boat access campgrounds, National Scenic Areas (Hearts Content Scenic Area, Tionesta Scenic Area, and Tionesta Research Natural Area), off-road vehicle trails (four trails over 106 trail miles), and wilderness areas, including Hickory Creek Wilderness (8,337 acres) and Allegheny Islands Wilderness (368 acres), are also available.

Opportunities in the Allegheny National Forest can be almost overwhelming. To make the most of your visit, stop at the Bradford Ranger District Office, located at the intersection of PA Routes 59 and 321 (814-362-4613), or the Marienville Ranger District Office, located on PA Route 66 in Marienville (814-927-6628). Both offices have water and rest rooms in addition to free pamphlets, items for sale, and other informational brochures.

ADMINISTRATION AND AMENITIES: Drinking water and rest rooms are available at Jakes Rocks. Rimrock Overlook has rest rooms. Tidioute Overlook has rest rooms with access for people with disabilities. Day-use areas are open from dawn to dusk. The gate at Rimrock Overlook is closed from December 14 to Memorial Day because the access road is heavily used for cross-country skiing.

DIRECTIONS: To reach Rimrock Overlook: From PA Route 59 a few miles east of Kinzua Dam, turn south onto Forest Road 454 (at the sign for Rimrock Overlook) and drive about 2.3 miles to the large parking area for Rimrock. From the parking lot, take the path to the overlook. The leisurely walk takes three minutes, and the paved path has steps for negotiating the steeper areas.

To reach Jakes Rocks: From PA Route 59 a few miles east of Kinzua Dam, turn south onto Longhouse Road (National Forest Scenic Byway, Forest Road 262). After 1.3 miles, turn south onto Forest Road 492 at the sign for Jakes Rocks and Rimrock Overlooks. After 1.1 miles, you arrive at a T, where you turn right (northwest) and follow the sign to Jakes Rocks. Bear right in 0.6 mile and follow signs to the overlook and a large parking lot with rest rooms. Park at the north end of the parking lot and take the trail north into the woods. The walk to Jakes Rocks is about five leisurely minutes over a blacktop path.

To reach the Tidioute Town and River Overlooks: From U.S. Route 62 at Tidioute, turn easterly onto PA Route 337 and follow the signs to the overlook. After 1.2 miles, turn north at the sign for the Allegheny National Forest Picnic Ground Overlook and drive into the parking lot. The Town Overlook is on the left; the River Overlook is on the right. The trail to the Town Overlook is slightly uphill and flat, and the walk takes about three minutes. The River Overlook is about too yards from the parking lot on a level trail.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Allegheny National Forest, 222 Liberty Street, PO Box 847, Warren, PA 16365 (814-723-5150 or 814-726-2710 [TTY]), or visit its Web site at

NEARBY OVERLOOKS: Kinzua Bridge State Park (McKean County); Seneca Point Overlook (Clarion County); Beartown Rocks Vista (Jefferson County); and Elk State Forest overlooks and State Game Lands #311 elk-viewing sites (Cameron, Potter, and Elk Counties).


Chapman State Park (Warren County).


Excerpted from PENNSYLVANIA OVERLOOKS by ART MICHAELS Copyright © 2003 by The Pennsylvania State University
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Art Michaels is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer and a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

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