Taking a camping trip to Cook Forest is a great way to enjoy nature and escape the hustle of day to day life.
Cook Forest is a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh so it’s no surprise that I go there almost every year to go camping.
This year my boyfriend and I desperately wanted to get out of the house for a weekend after being stuck inside for quarantine.
As soon as Pennsylvania allowed private campgrounds to open I booked our trip and left after work on Friday.
It was so nice to escape everything that was going on with the world and connect with nature.
It was also a bonus that there is no cell phone service anywhere in the park so we could be left alone and forget about modern life.
If you have never been to Cook Forest State Park I highly recommend it as it has some of the most beautiful views I have seen in my adventures of visiting Pennsylvania state parks.
Keep reading to get further details about Cook Forest to plan your own getaway!
About Cook Forest
Cook Forest is located in northwest Pennsylvania in Clarion, Jefferson and Forest counties.
The park consists of 8,500 acres and is known for its old-growth of white pine and hemlock.
What to Do During A Camping Trip To Cook Forest
River Floating, Canoeing, and Kayaking
You can bring your own canoe, kayak or raft/tube.
If you do have your own equipment the Pale Whale will ride you down to a river launch for a small fee.
Otherwise, you have a long 4 to 10-mile walk downriver ahead of you.
The first year I went to Cook Forest we brought a raft and walked down the river launch and it was awful and exhausting so I highly recommend driving or getting a ride.
If you don’t have your own equipment you can rents kayaks, canoes, and tubes at the Pale Whale and/or Cook Forest Canoe Rental.
We have rented a canoe from the Pale Whale and had no issues using this company. We did wait in line for a long time but that is to be expected in the summer months.
The Clarion is perfect to catch trout and other warm-water game fish.
I have caught a few small mouth bass and a couple blue gills from the Clarion but I am not the best fisher.
There is also Toms Run, which is a 2.5-mile stream that runs into the Clarion. The little stream is stocked every year with trout.
Cook Forest Fire Tower
Many park-goers head to the 87.5 feet tall fire tower to get a beautiful view of the valley below.
There are 47 miles of hiking within Cook Forest. Some of the most beautiful hiking is in the Forest Cathedral Natural Area. The Natural Area is home to hemlock and white pine trees that are over 300 years old.
There are some other activities in Cook Forest for those who are less apt to nature.
The Double Diamond Deer Park is where you can check out various whitetail and piebald deer. If you go to the park in the evening you can feed the adult deer starting at 6 PM.
Other activities include nearby wineries, gift shops, and horseback riding, mini golf and go karts.
There is not any swimming areas at Cook Forest, however, if you take a 20-minute drive to Clear Creek State Park they have a beach with a swimming area.
Where to Stay
Cook Forest has plenty of different campgrounds and cabins to choose from. Some are close to the river and some are outside of the state park lands.
I have listed two examples below but, I suggest doing some Google research on what camp areas to stay at based on what activities you’ll be doing.
This is the only place I have stayed in Cook Forest for our camping trips.
I reserve a tent site because it’s typically just my boyfriend and I, but if you have a group of people they have several cabin options to choose from.
I find this spot convenient because you’re right next to the Clarion River and McBeth’s has a gas station/convenience store. The gas station has a restaurant and ice cream!
More importantly for us, McBeth’s allows alcohol as long as the beverages are not being displayed. We consider this a camping amenity since Pennsylvania state parks prohibit alcohol.
Like other state parks, there are tent, Cabin and RV sites within the state camping ground.
If you live near Pittsburgh or just enjoy visiting different parks in Pennsylvania make sure you put a camping trip to Cook Forest on your list!