June 05, 2020 4 min read
Looking for an escape? Pine Creek in North Central Pennsylvania offers a paddling experience you won't soon forget. This unique and beautiful creek winds through Pine Creek Gorge, the famous "Grand Canyon of PA", an idyllic stretch of water that cuts deeply through the Allegheny Mountains in as it heads south toward the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
The best time of year to paddle Pine Creek is when the water is higher, typically spring to early summer. The water typically runs best from March through May, then begins to slow down and become quite shallow throughout the summer months. Some years, the water runs longer into summer, other years it runs less. Of course, many folks will float the creek in the summer in tubes as a means of staying cool under the summer sun. No matter your preferred method and time of year for enjoying water, be sure to make plans to paddle Pine Creek this year!
Photo: Aaron Fleishman
While there is some whitewater on Pine Creek, most of the run is fairly mellow, for whitewater paddling standards anyway. The upper Marsh Creek section north of Ansonia is especially calm most of the year. Rapids in the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania can be difficult for novice paddlers, but very enjoyable for guided rafting trips. Most of the other sections of downstream are easier.
Free camping along the creek is allowed in many areas. Some places, like Tiadaghton Access Area, Hoffman Campground Area, and Bonnell Flats Camping Area, include primitive camping with restrooms, water, picnic tables, and fire rings. Permits are required, so call ahead to obtain a permit from the local forester.
Of course you don't have to carry all of your own camping gear if you don't want to. Set up an evening at a creek side campground or hostel. You could even drop gear off beforehand and set up camp. Call ahead to places like Pettecoat Junction Campground for camping and shuttle arrangements. Happy Acres Resort, although a few miles from Pine Creek, is another excellent place to camp for a weekend.
Ideally you will bring both friends and a guide! Although this river isn't considered overly dangerous, there are always serious dangers on any waterway. Pine Creek is no exception, so bring the correct gear and knowledgable paddling friends, or set up a guided trip over at Pine Creek Outfitters.
Bring your swimsuit if the temperatures rise in the summertime (the water is always cold), or a warm thermos if the temps stay cool in spring and fall and enjoy the slow, meandering sections of this creek!
Wake up to the sounds of birds singing alongside the hypnotic sounds of Pine Creek. The nights are cool here in the canyon, but the stars are wonderful too. In fact, this part of Pennsylvania includes some of the darkest skies in the US east of the Mississippi River.
Multiple put-in and take-out access areas exist up and down Pine Creek. Be sure to study these spots on your Pine Creek Lizard Map! Especially popular access areas include Ansonia, Blackwell, Cedar Run, Slate Run, Waterville, and Torbet Access Area.
Don't forget that it takes a while to shuttle gear and paddlers up and down the creek. Be sure to incorporate some extra time to complete the shuttle side of the weekend, then get out there and have fun!
There are plenty of great places to eat up and down the entire length of Pine Creek. We have a few favorites, including the deli subs and breakfast sandwiches at Wolfes General Store and the very popular meals at Waterville Tavern.
After the paddle, hop in your car and drive around with your Pine Creek Lizard Map and explore some more. Most popular areas include Harrison Lookout and Otter View in Leonard Harrison State Park, Barbour Rock, and a few vistas in Colton Point State Park.
Pine Creek and the surrounding public lands offer an amazing amount of outdoor recreation and outdoor relaxation opportunities all four seasons of the year. Bring your family and enjoy local stores in Wellsboro including CS Sports and Wild Asaph Outfitters. Or bring your mountain bikes for some really gnarly single track riding on trails like Green Monster Trail System. Or bring your hiking boots and trail running shoes to experience some of the most rewarding hiking in the east coast, like the Golden Eagle Trail!
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