Dirtbags With Furbags With

Hiking Forest Cathedral: A Walk Amongst The Giants

Forest Cathedral Pennsylvania

There’s always something unique about each hike, whether it’s a beautiful waterfall, a summit with a view, or a bed of pine needles carpeting the trail. It’s what makes walking in nature so enjoyable.

At the Forest Cathedral, you can walk amongst giants. 315 acres are covered in old-growth forests of Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Pine, White Oak, American Beech, and many more. The tallest tree, a White Pine, soars 171 feet into the air!

Forest Cathedral Natural Area is not only the largest old-growth forest in Pennsylvania but in the entire eastern United States! If you want to explore this area, follow along as I guide you through this magnificent forest.

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

What To Expect At Forest Cathedral, PA

Pawdrick beside a big tree on the Forest Cathedral Trail

The Forest Cathedral is an old-growth forest that covers 448 acres of Cook Forest State Park. Here, you’ll find over 6 miles of hiking trails that meander throughout this beautiful forest.

You can download a Forest Cathedral Trail Map here.

👣 The Trail 

While hiking the Forest Cathedral Area, you can expect to trek along a wide dirt path most of the way. The elevation gain is intense in some areas and flat in others, making this a moderately challenging trail with plenty of flat sections to catch your breath.

The trail is well-marked with blazes on the trees and posted signs at all intersections. Several tributaries and creeks cross under the trail, which can leave the path muddy in some areas. Water-proof shoes are recommended.

Depending on which trails you take, you can expect to hike anywhere from a short 1.5-mile trek to a 6-mile adventure.

🐾 Pets

We love to bring our dog, Pawdrick, on our hikes. Cook Forest State Park is very pet-friendly, as is the entire Forest Cathedral Area. 

There are a few pet-specific tips for the Forest Cathedral Trail:

  • Ticks: Pennsylvania is one of the worst states for ticks. After your hike, carefully check your canine companion for ticks and remove them promptly. Bring a tick remover tool like the TickCheck Tick Removal Kit to remove ticks safely.
  • Water: There are plenty of water sources along the way for your pup to stay hydrated, but it’s always best to pack your own water for your furry friend. We love the Springer Travel Bottle. You can read about whether or not dogs can safely drink from streams here.
  • Reactive Dogs: This trail can get very busy in the summer tourist season. Bringing a reactive dog on this trail is not recommended unless you are very comfortable handling them around people and other dogs. Or, go in the off-season like we do so you can bring your reactive pup with you! You can read our friendly guide to hiking with a reactive dog for tips.
  • Mud: The trail can get muddy in some areas. Bringing a towel or pet wipes to wipe your dog down after your adventures is not a bad idea. We use Vetnique Labs Furbliss Pet Bathing Wipes – they’re hypoallergenic and safe to use on all parts of your pet, including their face and ears.

Check out our guide on dog hiking gear essentials to ensure you have everything you need for your canine companion!

🌲 Wildlife

Seeing wildlife is an added bonus on hikes. It reminds us of nature’s wild side and that we are only visitors in their domain.

Some of the wildlife you are most likely to see at Forest Cathedral includes:

  • Squirrels
  • Chipmunks
  • Raccoon
  • Opossum
  • White-tailed deer
  • Turkey
  • Various songbirds

If you’re lucky, you may spot some of Forest Cathedral’s rarer denizens, such as river otters, porcupines, black bears, foxes, coyotes, bald eagles, fishers, and great blue herons. 

You can read about what to do if you see a wild animal on a hike here for tips on safely hiking around wildlife.

Hiking Forest Cathedral: A Step-By-Step Guide

Now, onto the fun part! Let’s take a virtual tour of the Forest Cathedral Trail with a step-by-step guide. This way, you’ll know exactly where to go when you journey through this forest of giants.

Where To Park

Forest Cathedral Parking Lot

There is ample parking available at the Forest Cathedral Area. It may get busy during the summer tourist season, but a spot’s usually always available.

The parking lot is off Forest Road, about 5 miles from Route 66 to the north and just 1 mile from Route 36 to the south.

Forest Cathedral Via Longfellow Step-By-Step Guide

Forest Cathedral Longfellow Loop Trail
  1. From the parking lot, head west (towards Forest Road) until you see the Log Cabin Environmental Learning Center.
Forest Cathedral Log Cabin Environmental Center

2. You’ll see a trailhead sign on the eastern side of the cabin (the right side if you’re looking at it from the parking lot). Head towards this sign and jump on the Longfellow Trail.

Forest Cathedral Longfellow Trail

3. As you begin your hike, you’ll notice blue and yellow blazes on the trees. Follow these to stay on the trail!

Forest Cathedral Trail Blazes

4. You’ll pass an informational sign and the Memorial Fountain. At the 0.3-mile mark, you’ll come to the first intersection. Straight ahead is the Longfellow Trail, and to the right is the Ancient Forest Trail. You can take either trail for fantastic views of the giant old-growth trees, and we will explore both trails in this guide. For now, we will go straight to stay on the Longfellow Trail.

Longfellow Trail Intersection

5. The next quarter mile is a steep incline. At the top, you’ll see an information sign about a great windstorm that felled some of the giant trees back in 1956.

Windstorm Sign

6. At the 0.6-mile mark, you’ll approach the intersection with the Indian Trail to the left. Continue to the right to stay on the Longfellow Trail.

Intersection with Indian Trail

7. A quarter mile later, you will come to the next intersection. If we had gone on the Ancient Forest Trail, this is where it would come out. Hang a slight left here to stay on the Longfellow Trail.

Intersection with Ancient Forest Trail

8. Shortly after, you’ll approach another intersection. This is with the Red EFT Trail. Take a left to stay on the Longfellow Trail (look for the blue and yellow blazes if you’re unsure!)

Intersection with Red EFT Trail

9. You’ll come to a wooden bridge approximately 0.2 miles later (near the 1-mile mark). Another trail veers off to the left, but you want to cross the bridge.

bridge across Tom's Run

10. After the bridge, this is a great spot to take a break and drink in the beautiful scenery around you.

Pawd with bridge and stream in background

11. When you’re ready to finish the hike, head towards the wide path across from the bridge you just crossed. There will be a sign saying “Tom’s Run.” Follow this trail.

Toms Run Trail

12. Follow the trail to another bridge and cross over it. At the end of the bridge, turn left to keep following Tom’s Run.

13. Shortly after, you’ll approach another bridge at an intersection with the Red EFT Trail. Take the trail that crosses over the bridge.

Bridge Crossing At Intersection With EFT Trail

14. At the end of the bridge, it will open into a parking lot. This lot is closed in the winter. Walk through the parking lot, past the restrooms, and as if you’re exiting the lot toward Forest Road. Right before the guardrail starts, you’ll see a trail to the right. Take this trail to return to the parking lot.

Path back to parking lot

15. You’ll cross over one more bridge and return to the parking lot to wrap up your adventure!

Return Journey To Parking Lot

Alternative Ancient Forest Trail

Forest Cathedral Ancient Forest Trail Loop

Remember that first intersection of the Longfellow and Ancient Forest trail? If you’d rather shave off a few tenths of a mile but still gaze at the massive tree sentinels that call this area home, you can take the Ancient Forest Trail!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. From the parking lot, head west (towards Forest Road) until you see the Log Cabin Environmental Learning Center.
Forest Cathedral Log Cabin Environmental Center

2. You’ll see a trailhead sign on the eastern side of the cabin (the right side if you’re looking at it from the parking lot). Head towards this sign and jump on the Longfellow Trail.

Forest Cathedral Longfellow Trail

3. At the 0.3-mile mark, you’ll come to the first intersection. Straight ahead is the Longfellow Trail, and to the right is the Ancient Forest Trail. Take a right to hit the Ancient Forest Trail.

Ancient Forest Trail Intersection

4. You’ll notice that double yellow blazes mark this trail.

Double Yellow Blazes On Ancient Forest Trail

5. At the 0.6-mile mark, you’ll come to the intersection with the Longfellow Trail. Turn right here to jump back on the Longfellow Trail and finish the hike.

Longfellow Intersection

6. From here, follow the same steps above, starting at step 8 to complete your journey!

Hikes Nearby

If you’ve wrapped up your Forest Cathedral hike and are looking for more hikes around the area, check out some of these gems located right in Cook Forest State Park:

You can also check out our guide on things to do near Cook Forest for inspiration!

Wrapping Up Our Forest Cathedral Journey

Pennsylvania may not be high on the list for many people’s hiking destinations, but it should be! Cook Forest is breathtaking, and the Forest Cathedral’s old-growth areas are icing on the cake.

This spellbinding hike can be done in many ways, but our guide highlights our favorite way to explore this area.

Have you hiked Forest Cathedral? Got any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below! Until then, happy hiking, and enjoy your adventures!

Pawd and Robyn posing at the bridge crossing Tom's Run
Facebook
Twitter
Email

2 comments

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Luna and Pawdrick relaxing at Goose Creek State Park after a hike

Vanlife Gear For Dogs: 7 Must-Have Essentials

Welcome to the ultimate guide, where adventure meets four-legged companionship! Whether scaling remote peaks, exploring meandering trails, or enjoying the freedom of the open road, ensuring your