Named in honor of John Cook, who was the first American settler to live in the area, Cook Forest State Park is a stunning 8,500-acre public recreation space in Clarion, Forest, and Jefferson Counties.
Renowned for its incredible landscape of dense, verdant forest, this is the perfect place to escape the frenzy of the city for a couple of days.
With Pittsburgh being just two hours away, and Cleveland, Ohio being less than three, it is a popular destination for residents of those places who want to hike, fish, canoe or kayak in an area of breathtaking beauty.
For those who want to stay overnight, there are also a plethora of camping options available to suit all styles and budgets.
For those who visit this PA state park, it offers many different ways to enjoy its spectacular landscape.
Here are just a few of the things you will be able to see and do once you are there.
Canoeing and Kayaking at Cook Forest State Park
If you have brought a canoe or kayak with you then you will enjoy using them on the beautiful Clarion River.
But if you didn’t, then don’t worry, as you can hire them, as well as a boat, or even a tube, from within the park.
If you intend to go out paddling in your boat, or tubing, please be aware that you will need to have a valid boating registration and launch permit.
Fishing at Cook Forest State Park
Whilst at the park, the scenic Clarion River is a lovely place to fish for trout and panfish.
Close to the main office, there is also a dedicated fishing pond that is filled with trout. It is specifically made available for use by children under the age of 15, as well as those with disabilities.
Trails at Cook Forest State Park
Throughout the park there are more than 47 miles of trails for visitors to explore. Some of these trails are specifically marked for hiking, although most are multi-use for biking too.
These trails vary in length and degrees of difficulty, but they all showcase exceptional scenery and take you to tranquil spots where you can really immerse yourself in the magnificence of the park.
Two of the most popular ones to hike are the North County National Scenic Trail and the Baker Trail. Which between them meanders for about 12 miles.
Picnicking at Cook Forest State Park
The park is a beautiful place to enjoy a picnic with family or friends. Dotted throughout it, you will find plenty of picnic tables, many of which are shaded and equipped with grills.
For those who are part of larger groups, there are four picnic pavilions which you can hire up to 11 months in advance. If the pavilions remain unreserved, they are available for anyone to use on a first-come, first-served basis.
Nature & Wildlife
The park is renowned for its diverse range of flora and fauna.
Located throughout it, you will find several types of trees including oak, maple, black cherry, pine, hemlock and cucumber trees. Other notable plant species to look out for include rhododendron and mountain laurel.
The park is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the likes of bears, deer, turkey, bald eagles and several other species of birdlife. Most of which you could see during your time there.
Hunting at Cook Forest State Park
During hunting season, the park offers over 12,000 acres for hunting, trapping and dog training.
Some of the most common game species you can snare include bear, deer, turkey and squirrel.
If you are to engage in hunting, be mindful that you won’t be able to go after woodchucks.
Should you want to change locations, there are more than 500,000 acres of Allegheny National Forest, and over 10,000 acres of state forest adjacent to the park that you could head to.
Winter at Cook Forest State Park
During the winter, if you can access the park, you will be able to enjoy sledding and cross-country skiing activities in abundance.
One of the park’s most popular hills for sledding is right near the Henrys Run Day Use Area. While the Toms Run Road and Fire Tower Road are the best trails for cross-country skiing.
Pets at Cook Forest State Park
Dogs are welcome at the park, although restrictions do apply. Contact the park’s main head office to find out what they are.
Camping at Cook Forest State Park
With over 210 campsites available, visitors to the park are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation options.
Several of these sites are suitable for RVs and offer full hookups for water, electricity and sewer. For those who don’t require full hookups, you can choose from several sites that offer 30-amp to 50-amp electric hookups.
At each campsite, you’ll find a picnic table and grill, while other amenities include a comfort station and showers, as well as a dump station and coin-operated laundry facility.
Please note, this campground is only open from April to December and within this period restrooms and showers are only open from May to October.
If you don’t want to stay at the main campground, you can choose to stay at the canoe/kayak camping area which is situated at Thompson Eddy and has three sites. This area is strictly for those travelling on the Clarion River by kayak or canoe. It is specifically for tents and groups sizes of no more than ten people. The maximum length of stay is one night.
There are also rustic cabins nestled on a hillside that looks over the Clarion River. These are available to hire from mid-April to late December. At all times, except during the spring and fall rental season, the cabins must be rented for one week.
For larger groups there is also organized group tenting too.
Cook Forest State Park
Cooksburg, PA 16217
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Cook Forest State Park: