In Search of the WOW

This past week, my brother, his brother-in-law, and I traveled to Tioga County to bike and hike what is commonly referred to as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Avid cyclists, we rented a cabin a few miles outside of Wellsboro, where we had easy access to bike and hike the Pine Creek Rail Trail and east and west rims of the canyon located in Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, respectively.

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Since we first started talking about making this journey over a year ago, we heard from countless people how beautiful the canyon was and how we would be blown away during our stay in the mountains. We had high expectations for what we would see and were waiting to be “WOW-ed” by the beauty of nature.

We arrived at our cabin on Wednesday afternoon. Owners Brad and Tim provided a completely awesome rental only a few miles from the Big Meadow trailhead. This cabin was great and we wouldn’t hesitate to rent it again if we went back to the area.

A big dinner and a few beers that evening had us prepared as we mounted our bikes Thursday morning to pedal the three short miles to the local outfitters, where we boarded the shuttle that took us to the southern-most trailhead in Jersey Shore.

It had rained hard overnight, so the roads were fairly wet when we departed, but that wasn’t our biggest concern that day. Meteorologists were predicting an 80% chance of severe afternoon thunderstorms, and we were a bit worried that we would get stuck in the canyon with lightening striking around us.

As we left Jersey Shore for our journey north to Wellsboro, the sun – for the moment at least – was shining. That didn’t last for long, though. By the 20-mile mark, the skies were growing dark and it had started to lightly rain. Although none of us admitted it at that time, we each thought we were about to get soaked in one of the highly anticipated heavy downpours!

Onward we traveled… 35 miles, lunch… 45 miles, water break… 50 miles, STOP!

Hitting the brakes suddenly, we were struck by the majestic presence of an extremely large bald eagle roughly 40 yards in front of us, holding court from atop a dead tree at the side of the trail. We inched toward it slowly, attempting to get a close-up of this magnificent raptor before it took flight. Truly an awe-inspiring sight.

Pedaling again we hit the 57-mile mark and the Big Meadow trailhead, our exit back to pavement and the final four miles up Route 6 back into the driveway of our cabin.

Tired, we cracked open some beer and began to reflect on the ride.

While we were completely thrilled the heavily predicted severe weather swung further south – leaving us with only light rain early in the ride, and were equally satisfied with a great ride on a well-maintained trail that meandered its way through a completely gorgeous canyon, we all commented that something was missing…

Where was the long-anticipated WOW that everyone said we would experience!

Yes, the gently flowing water and tree-lined canyon walls were truly a sight to see, but we never had that WOW feeling we expected…


The following day we made our way up to the west and then east rims of the canyon, where we hiked for miles and found the WOW that had alluded us during our soggy and cloudy ride across the canyon floor. Each break in the trees from the summit offered spectacular views of the mountains and canyon below.

Throughout our adventure we saw turkey vultures, deer, a bald eagle, and assorted other animals of the forest. We hiked alongside an unbelievable waterfall and pedaled passed fishermen, a horse-drawn carriage, and countless cabins in various states of repair and disrepair.

In all, we spent four days in the mountains of Pennsylvania – in a place that many don’t even know exists, enjoying everything that nature has to offer.

We sipped on beer, ate way more than we should, and unplugged from our normally hectic lives as we searched for – and eventually found – the WOW.

Totals – 

  • Biked – 61 miles (Pine Creek Rail Trail)
  • Hiked – Over 5 miles (Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks)