Spend Two Memorable Days with the Kids in Cook Forest

The section of the Clarion River running through Cook Forest is part of the National Wild and Scenic River System due to its beautiful natural scenery and the many recreational opportunities it affords. Photo by Mountain Man Photography.

Day 1

The Cook Forest area at the intersection of Jefferson, Clarion, and Forest Counties features an incredible old-growth forest and tons of family-friendly attractions. Start at Double Diamond Deer Ranch, where you can feed and interact with whitetail deer young and old. Owners Rusty and Shorty Snyder and Abby, their friendly chihuahua, will introduce you to their brown, white, and piebald deer family, and kids especially love bottle-feeding the fawns during the summer.

From there, go into Cooksburg and take a trip on the Clarion River. Pale Whale Canoe Fleet offers canoe, kayak, inner tube, and raft trips with all equipment and shuttles included, making this a great option for a family adventure. As you float, watch for bald eagles, river otters, turtles, deer, and other wildlife in the air, on the land, and under the water’s surface. Pick up lunch makings ahead of time at MacBeth’s, White’s Haven, Hominy Ridge Gift Shop, or Evergreen Cabins and enjoy your midday meal on the water.

Afterward, head to Kalyumet Fore Fun or Cook Forest Fun Park for an afternoon of laughter and smiles. Kalyumet recently debuted the state’s first virtual reality escape room, and they also offer mini golf, outdoor laser tag, a huge arcade with excellent prizes, and more. Cook Forest Fun Park features go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, and water slides. If you’d like to stay for dinner, both have a snack bar with pizza, ice cream, and other tasty treats, or you could finish off your day with dinner at one of Cook Forest’s many excellent restaurants, such as Trails End, Tommy’s Italian Pizza & Pub, or Forest Nook.

Kids and adults alike will love scrambling over the huge boulders at this unusual rock field in Clear Creek State Park. Photo by Ginny Allison.

Day 2

Continue your adventure in the Cook Forest area by taking a short trek over to Clear Creek State Park, only a few miles away. Here, check out Beartown Rocks and spend a few hours hiking around and climbing on house-sized boulders left here thousands of years ago by glaciers that traveled through the area. If you’re bold, take a swim across Clear Creek near the entrance of the park off Route 949, but be careful — even in summer, water temperatures often stay in the 40s and 50s due to the creek’s mountain origins and the water’s heavily shaded route.

Spend lunch at the iconic Farmers Inn in Sigel, just south of Clear Creek State Park, for a delicious homestyle dinner at their newly rebuilt restaurant. Afterward, check out the wildlife zoo, or try your hand at mini-golf or the driving range. Before you head out, stop by the ice cream shop for a tasty treat.

If your family’s made of tough stuff, go the Mysterious Maze on your way back toward Cook Forest and try to find your way out of this pitch-black indoor labyrinth filled with optical illusions. Afterward, head back toward the park to enjoy the outdoors. Adults can enjoy a break and take an afternoon nap in the sunshine while kids can let their energy loose on the playground near River Road. From there, drive to the Log Cabin Environmental Learning Classroom and take a hike from there through the Forest Cathedral where you can see some of the oldest and tallest trees in the northeastern United States.

From there, head back north to Cook Forest and drive to the Fire Tower. If heights don’t bother you, climb as high as you can on this 87.5-foot structure for panoramic views of the surrounding forest. If you time it right, you can then head over to the nearby Seneca Point for a sunset you won’t forget anytime soon.

Header photo of a Cook Forest trail by Brian Young.

by Danielle Taylor
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