WHY GO: This 70 mile stretch of PA’s US Route 6 takes you back the kind of vacation you might have experienced in your long-ago childhood. Drive through rolling, emerald hills- very much like those of the Blue Ridge Parkway: Each twist and turn offers stunning views, and every once in awhile a slice of small town life. You’ve reached the eastern border of the PA Wilds and the Allegheny National Forest that the Mavens covered HERE.
Wellsboro to Smethport on US Route 6 in PA
STOP: About 11 miles west of Wellsboro, turn left off of Route 6 onto Forest Rd. It’s a 5-mile detour (10 mile roundtrip) to see the 47-mile-long and 1,000 ft. deep Pine Creek Gorge known as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Not as vast as its western counterpart, and far greener, it is certainly worth the extra 20 minutes for the exceptional vistas.
Back on 6W, you’ll begin to see signs of a family recreation area; river outfitters, mom and pop motels, tacky “gem mining” tomahawk-selling gift shops…. vacationland services and merchandise for families chilling in the Allegheny National Forest, AKA the “PA Wilds.”
From the Grand Canyon PA, it’s 10 miles to Galeton, PA – the dead center of PA Route 6, passing through little towns like Ansonia, Rexford, and Gaines.
EAT: To get your bearings and a quick bite, stop at the cutesy Brick House Café, in Galeton, PA. Tired of city life and the rat race, gregarious Cindy Pflug and her husband, Rob, bought this turn-of-last-century brick home several years ago, “looking for something on 6.” Cindy now says that she “lives on vacation. All these people come here to get away from it all, then have to go back. We get to stay.” Hot sandwiches, “breakfast all day” and terrific smoothies, the Brick House Café is a hot spot for great home-cooked meals.
TOUR: This region of PA is rich in natural resources: lumber, coal and gas have made many a man a millionaire here since the 1800’s. Nothing illustrates the vicissitudes of the local timber industry better than the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, 18 miles west of Galeton in Sweden Valley.
It’s worth stopping in to learn about the logging companies that cut down these dense forests in the mid 1800’s, until the once-lush Alleghenies became a wasteland. Enter Roosevelt’s New Deal and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), which replanted and laid the groundwork for managing and sustaining PA forests. The Museum includes a series of weathered buildings housing lumber-hauling steam engines, a sawmill, mess hall, and all services related to the sweaty, stinky, rough life in a logging/lumber camp.
EAT/SHOP: In 4 miles, stop in Coudersport, PA at the wildly colorful Olga’s Gallery, Café and Bistro. Owned by the young John and Olga Snyder, it is one of those businesses that can change the face of a town and draw a younger, more vibrant element. Inside an exquisitely renovated Victorian Age building, and configured as a gift-shop, restaurant, bar and music venue, Olga’s is a true find.
Peruse the startlingly colorful yarn art, eat a fresh, tasty and hot Panini and immerse yourself in Coudersport reinventing itself.
Motor through one-blink towns like Mina, Roulette, Burtville and the larger Port Allegany (so named because it was a landing site for Native American canoes) for 26.5 miles before arriving in Smethport, the Capital Seat of the County –once a bastion of oil and lumber tycoons. At the turn of last century, this town had serious money and the evidence still lines Main Street (Route 6). Fine examples of Victorian era mansions stand proudly on tastefully landscaped plots.
As the Getaway Mavens recommended here, stay in Smethport at the Mansion District Inn.