Cook Forest State Park is a 8,500-acre (3,440 ha) Pennsylvania state park in Farmington Township, Clarion County, Barnett Township, Forest County and Barnett Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania in the United States. The park is a heavily wooded area of rolling hills and mountains along the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania. Cook Forest State Park is known for some of America's finest virgin white pine and hemlock timber stands and was once called the "Black Forest" due to the preponderance of evergreen tree coverage.
Cook Forest is now a National Natural Landmark and was rated one of America's top 50 state parks by National Geographic Traveler magazine. It was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and its Bureau of Parks as one of "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks".
The park is in the Allegheny Highlands forests ecoregion. It is famous for its spectacular stands of old-growth Eastern White Pine and Eastern Hemlock, with more white pine over 150 feet (46 m) in its Forest Cathedral than in any other site in the northeastern United States. Many of these ancient trees began growing after a drought and fire in 1644. In total, there are some 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) to 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of old-growth forests or old forests with old-growth characteristics in several stands throughout the park. In addition to white pine and hemlock, old-growth Northern Red Oak, White Oak, Black Cherry, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, American Beech, White Ash, Yellow Birch, Black Birch, Cucumber Magnolia also grow throughout the park.
Cook Forest features 27 marked trails totaling some 29 miles (47 km) for hiking. The terrain is of rolling hills and cool valley streams. Special scenic areas are the old growth forest, Fire Tower/Seneca Point and the Clarion River. Among Cook Forest's primary attractions is the "Forest Cathedral" area of old growth white pine and hemlock, some trees of which top 180 feet (55 m). Part of the Baker Trail (140 miles (230 km)) and the North Country National Scenic Trail pass through Cook Forest. The Baker Trail runs from Freeport, in southern Armstrong County, to the Allegheny National Forest. The North Country Trail is under development and will connect the Missouri River in North Dakota with the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
Bikes are permitted on all one-way dirt roads within the park. Biking on hiking trails is not permitted except on the part of the Heffern Run Trail that is part of the Bicycle Route. All children under 12 years of age are required to wear a helmet when biking. Bikes ridden at night must have a light on the bike. The Bicycle Route is 11.5 miles (18.5 km) long and follows lightly traveled roads within the park and Heffern Run Trail. The route is of moderate difficulty with long flat areas and rolling hills. Highlights of the route are a leisurely four-mile flat ride through scenic Tom's Run Valley, CCC-era red and white pine plantations along Forest Drive and a challenging descent along the Heffern Run Trail. A description of the Bicycle Route is available at the park office.
The swimming pool is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend, unless posted otherwise. Depths range from 2.5 feet (0.76 m) to 5 feet (1.5 m). A circular wading pool is adjacent to the large pool. Discounts are offered to campers. The pool area is accessible, and the pool is equipped with a lift. Vending machines have snacks and beverages. Visitors may swim in the Clarion River across from the ranger station or anywhere along public park land. Many local businesses provide canoeing and tubing along the relatively shallow and slow-moving river.
Two designated bridle trails off Cemetery Road and portions of Brown's Run Trail comprise 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of trails for horseback riding. Several stables dot the area and are open to the public most of the year; these include Silver Stallion, Pine Crest, and the Cook Forest Scenic Trailride, Dude Ranch, and Campground.
About 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) are open to hunting, trapping, and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, Turkey, bear, and squirrel. Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day to March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for accessible hunting information.
The Clarion River flows along the park border and provides fishing for trout, warm-water game fish and panfish. Many visitors enjoy canoeing or kayaking down the river. There are also businesses that will rent you a canoe. About 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of Tom's Run is stocked with trout. A special fishing pond stocked with trout is by the park office and is available for use by children 12 and younger and people with a disability. A level grass bank at the edge of the pond provides easy access. For complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Programs for all ages are offered March to December. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources. Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be scheduled in advance by calling the park office.
The 24 rustic cabins rent from the second Friday in April to late December. All cabins are minimally furnished. Each cabin has beds, mattresses, gas stove, refrigerator, and tables and chairs. Occupants must provide their own bedding, cookware and tableware. Alcoholic beverages and pets are not permitted. There are two cabin areas at Cook Forest. The River Cabins are on a hillside overlooking the Clarion River. Two River Cabins have one room and sleep four people and the other 11 River Cabins have four rooms, a fireplace and sleep six or eight people. The Indian Cabins are along Tom's Run behind the park office. These smaller, one-room cabins sleep four people.