The Great American Getaway Guide to PA Grand Canyon & Dark Skies

Almost 50 miles long and more than 1,500 feet deep in places, Pine Creek Gorge is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” With spectacular views, abundant wildlife, and beautiful foliage, this stunning outdoor attraction is just an hour’s drive south of Cherry Springs State Park, which boasts some of the best stargazing in the northeast thanks to its exceptionally dark skies free of light pollution. Together, they provide the ideal setting for a Great American Getaway. Roughly a 4-hour drive from New York City and 3.5 hours from Philadelphia, we have put together a 48-hour getaway guide that maps out some of our favorite and top picks to see, do, and devour to help you pack the most into your trip at these fun getaway destinations.

Please note, this itinerary is meant to serve as a general guide. Before you depart on The Great American Getaway to Pine Creek Gorge and Cherry Springs State Park, we highly recommend you check the websites of our suggested places to visit for any seasonal hours of operation and available offerings.

Day One

Afternoon — Arrive in Tioga County and check in to your chosen accommodations. From full-service hotels to rustic cabins, campgrounds, and vacation rentals surrounded by the region’s lush scenery, your preferred way to stay awaits (keep scrolling for our picks at the bottom of this page).

Spend the first day of your Great American Getaway in the quaint town of Wellsboro where you'll find gas-lit streets and Victorian mansions that date back to the early 1800s. Explore Wellsboro’s historic and charming downtown with great shopping and the site of annual events including the Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival held in mid-June and winter’s “Dickens of a Christmas.”

Wellsboro mainstreet
Wellsboro | Credit: Linda Steger

Stop by The Main Street Creamery for a tantalizing ice cream treat. Along with softserve and traditional hand-scooped favorites, they feature seasonal flavors such as an incredibly delicious Rhubarb Honeycomb Custard in late spring. Next stop is Pop’s Culture Shoppe where you’ll find all sorts of games, books, art and science kits, jigsaw puzzles including unique ones featuring beautiful scenes from the surrounding area, and a variety of other fun and engaging items.

If you’re interested in outdoor gear, the town’s outfitters include CS Sports with its selection of bikes, skis, and snowboards, along with service and repairs for your gear. Wild Asaph Outfitters stocks everything you could possibly need – from sweet treats made in the region, including the popular bark candy at Highland Chocolates, to gear for rock climbing, hiking, camping, and other outdoor adventures .

Evening — Check out what is happening at the Deane Center for the Performing Arts, a vibrant space hosting theatre, live music, and special programs throughout the year with a diverse schedule of cultural events. The greater region is home to movie theaters, museums, and galleries with dedicated events celebrating the rich cultural diversity found in Tioga and Potter Counties. In summer, the Endless Mountain Music Festival presents performances on stages in Wellsboro and Mansfield making it a wonderful time for visitors to enjoy the thrill of live music performances.

Enjoy dinner at the Timeless Destination in the heart of downtown Wellsboro serving the finest Italian inspired cuisine you’re likely to find anywhere. Their carefully curated menu ranges from delicious hand-tossed pizzas made with homemade dough and fresh toppings to mouth-watering steak dishes that pair perfectly with one of their signature cocktails.

The historic Penn Wells Hotel offers a number of popular dining options, from the more formal Mary Wells Room to the more casual and newly restored Penn Wells Lounge where you’ll find a variety of delicious burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, and snacks, or their new outdoor Courtyard, which is perfect for an afternoon cocktail, casual dinner, or a late night beverage and snacks.

Day Two

Morning — Kick start your day with a hearty breakfast at the famous Deco-style Wellsboro Diner, named by Huffington Post as one of the best in the country. Fuel up on their delicious omelets, towering stacks of waffles or pancakes, or other delicious fare before heading out for a day full of adventures.

After breakfast make your way to Leonard Harrison State Park on the east rim of the PA Grand Canyon for a bird’s-eye views of the 47-mile-long canyon. The views from the park are simply breathtaking, with the park consider one of the best places on the East Coast to enjoy the vibrant colors of fall. The park’s visitors center, gift shop, and viewing area offer insights and examples that celebrate the region’s rich history.

Next, explore the gorge from the canyon floor along the Pine Creek Rail-Trail, the 62-mile multi-use recreational trail that runs the length of the gorge and popular with hikers, cyclists, and other outdoor recreation fans. Small towns along the extensive trail cater to all types of visitors where you’ll find numerous trailheads, comfort stations, campgrounds, and lodging. For a truly unique way to experience Pine Creek Gorge, take a two-hour Ole Covered Wagon Tour along the scenic Pine Creek trail aboard a covered horse-drawn wagon with tour guides who are “fluent in the history of the Canyon going back to the 19th century.”

covered wagons
Ole Covered Wagon Tour

Afternoon — Enjoy lunch at a local eatery such as The Brown Bull in Galeton as you travel west on Route 6 toward Potter County where an afternoon and evening of fun and activity awaits. Also in Galeton enjoy a bit of shopping at A Stroll Down Memory Lane, a three-story arts and antique store located in a former hardware store. With more than 200 vendors showcasing everything from antiques and artisan goods to home and camp décor to apparel, jewelry children’s toys, and furniture, and even delicious local maple syrup and honey, you’re sure to find some wonderful treasures to enjoy at home.

antique store
A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Next up, take a tour of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in Ulysses, just a 15-minute drive from Galeton, to learn the history behind the state’s storied lumber industry. The site’s 10-acre campus features a re-created lumber camp with a dozen buildings that would be crucial to a logging operation; an operable circular sawmill and birch still; and a 1912 Shay locomotive, making the museum a popular stop along Route 6 for both history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts.

pa lumber museum
Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

Continue west into Coudersport, the county seat of Potter County, to explore the town’s historic district and charming downtown. Admire the beautiful work of local artists and artisans at the Potter County Artisan Center featuring gourd art, fine art paintings and photography, hand-thrown pottery, and stunning fiber art, glass art, and jewelry. Then pop into the Cream ‘n Sugar café for an afternoon break and deliciously decadent treats.

Next up, learn the story and history of America’s famous federal law enforcement agent and Coudersport native son at the nearby Eliot Ness Museum (visits by appointment). Made famous by the TV series “The Untouchables” and the 1987 movie of the same name that portrayed the exploits of Ness and his team in taking down the Prohibition-era famed Chicago mobsters, the museum is also home to a number of classic, vintage cars including a 1934 Pierce Arrow.

Evening — Enjoy dinner at Kaytee’s Family Restaurant & Marketplace featuring a variety of delicious old-fashioned, home-cooked meals before you venture to Cherry Springs State Park to experience the incredible dark skies. Visitors from around the world are drawn to Cherry Springs to view the nightly sky-show at the mid-Atlantic’s only Gold Certified Dark Skies park, where you can view the Milky Way with your naked eye, an experience like no other! There are special viewing events and presentations by noted astronomers throughout the year, making the visit even more memorable.

Day Three

Morning — Snag a seat in the back for a great breakfast surrounded by cool 1950's decor and music at Fezz’s Diner, an original 1954 Silk City Diner built in Patterson, NJ and eventually landing in Coudersport. Then hit the trails for another day experiencing the region’s beautiful scenery, on foot for a leisurely walk, invigorating hike, or morning run depending on your mood.

Colton Point State Park along the west rim of the PA Grand Canyon is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts. Resonating with the rustic charm of the 1930’s Civilian Conservation Corps and rugged overlooks offering great views of the canyon below, adventurous climbers will want to check out the Turkey Path, an extremely challenging 1.5-mile hike down to the canyon floor with a 70-foot cascading waterfall less than a half-mile down.

Other trails in the region offer a more relaxed route for a morning hike. These include trails in Susquehannock State Forest and Tioga State Forest‘s Barbour Rock Trail, which is a great option for an easy hike and is ADA accessible so all can enjoy this very pretty forest of mature oaks, maples, and other hardwood trees and a wonderful view of Pine Creek Gorge.

Afternoon Grab a quick lunch at Old Antler’s Inn with a menu filled with locally sourced, great-tasting, farm to table meals. Then while away the afternoon either cycling or hitting the waterways of the region by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. As you plan your visit, the experts at local businesses such as Wild Asaph Outfitters and Pine Creek Outfitters will be standing by with the equipment and gear you need. Pedaling or paddling away, an afternoon spent enjoying yourself in the great outdoors is the perfect way to relax in the PA Grand Canyon region!

couple kayaking on creek
Pine Creek Outfitters

Or, if you’d prefer a more traditional afternoon of rest and relaxation, the staff at La Belle Auberge in the heart of Wellsboro and home of Emerge Healing Arts are standing by to pamper you. Book a massage or other service or spend time in their incredible salt room to restore and recharge before ending your Great American Getaway and travel home.

Add A Day

Not ready for your Great American Getaway to the Potter and Tioga area to end? Extend your stay to explore even more fun in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and Dark Skies region and treat yourself to an extra day exploring other nearby opportunities. The World of Little League® Museum and Millionaire’s Row in nearby Williamsport make for excellent stops to the south, while west along Route 6 you will find the famous Kinzua Viaduct and the beautiful Allegheny National Forest.

Places to Stay

Penn Wells Hotel & Lodge — There are two properties in the heart of Wellsboro offering distinct styles for your visit. The historic Penn Wells Hotel has welcomed visitors to Wellsboro for more than 150 years and is a local landmark, offering a nostalgia-filled experience for those who enjoy the old-world charm of a classic hotel. Meanwhile, a block away the Penn Wells Lodge provides visitors with a more modern property, offering amenities for those that prefer a contemporary lodging experience.

Canyon Motel — The Canyon Motel, within walking distance of downtown Wellsboro attractions and activities, offers visitors a warm welcome and the highest level of guest service. Cozy and comfortable accommodations, amenities including a heated indoor pool, and attention to detail, make this classic property the perfect spot to settle into for a delightful lodging experience in the region.

Sherwood Motel — With 42 spacious, non-smoking, and comfortable rooms, the Sherwood Motel in Wellsboro offers visitors warm accommodations in the heart of town. One of Wellsboro's most popular motels, visitors can count on a great stay at this property located within minutes of most area attractions.

La Belle Auberge — Located on the beautiful gas-lit boulevard in the heart of Wellsboro in a beautifully restored Victorian gem, La Belle Auberge is a relaxing, non-traditional B&B and spa only minutes from the scenic Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and Rails to Trails bike path. The historic property offers guests a relaxing stay in a beautifully maintained classic property known for superior service and amenities.

Looking for more Great American Getaways in Pennsylvania? Check out the VISIT PA website. Follow us on Facebook, X (Twitter), Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram for even more travel inspiration. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly PA travel e-newsletter so you never miss an update!

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