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This Is the Smallest National Forest in America

Big things can come in small packages, and the smallest national forest in America is no exception. Allegheny National Forest is the home to endless adventures for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you’ve been overlooking this national forest, we think you should give it a second glance for your next trip. It may be the smallest national forest, but it still offers something for everyone!

Let’s get started!

Where is Allegheny National Forest?

Allegheny National Forest sits in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and is approximately 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. This 500,000-acre national forest is the only national forest in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

The northern park border is the state line between Pennsylvania and the state of New York. Once you cross the border into New York, the forest becomes New York’s Allegheny State Park.

Can You Camp for Free in Allegheny National Forest?

You can camp for free in Allegheny National Forest by taking advantage of dispersed camping spots or the rustic campgrounds. However, many of the rustic sites in the national forest aren’t accessible by RVs or campers. Many of these sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are prone to seasonal closures.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to camp in Allegheny National Forest, you’ll find it. However, you’ll want to have a backup plan, especially if you plan to camp on the weekends or holidays. 

Woman posing amongst trees in national forest.
Head to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains to enjoy Allegheny National Forest.

Can You Hunt in Allegheny National Forest?

If you’re a hunter, we’ve got some good news for you. You can hunt in Allegheny National Forest! You must have the appropriate state hunting licenses and obey bag limits and a handful of hunting rules specific to the national forest.

Knowing the national forest will be very important to ensure you follow the rules regarding distance from recreation areas. If you plan to hunt in Allegheny National Forest, you’ll want to be familiar with the hunting guidelines for NFS lands.

What Amenities Does Allegheny National Forest Have?

Whether you’re looking for a single or several days’ worth of activities, Allegheny National Forest is full of opportunities for adventure. There’s just about something for every possible type of camper. Let’s take a look!

Three women friends camping in woods.
Allegheny National Forest offers camping opportunities for both RV and tent campers.


Sleeping in Allegheny National Forest is a great way to experience all this national forest offers. That’s whether you choose to reserve a cabin or campsite or try your luck snagging a first-come, first-served dispersed site. 

You’ll find plenty of options for camping, no matter whether you prefer to camp in an RV, tent, or under the stars. You’ll love the silence and privacy that these campsites can provide, and you may even try to find a way to extend your trip.

Pro Tip: Want to go camping in a national forest, but don’t have a tent? We uncovered Can You Sleep in Your Car in a National Forest?


There’s no shortage of opportunities in Allegheny National Forest for hiking. There are well over 200 miles of hiking trails, 53 miles of cross-country skiing trails, and 18 miles of various Interpretive trails. Many hiking trails are easily accessible from the campground and different dispersed camping locations. You can find hiking options of varying difficulties, which means everyone can hike them.


If you’re looking for a day of floating lazily in a canoe or kayak, the Allegheny River runs right through the national forest. Most people will put their vessels in at the Kinzua Dam. You can float your way around the water and visit the less-visited sides of the forest.

You can also float around the Allegheny Reservoir and not have to battle or paddle against any currents. However, the reservoir often sees motorboat traffic, which can be challenging to inexperienced kayakers and canoers. 

If you want a bit more adventure and challenge, the Clarion River provides some Class 1 riffles. You’ll pass through a tunnel-like valley in the river where hills practically surround you. This is a popular option for those looking to catch glimpses of the many birds that call the national forest home.

Woman drinking wine while kayaking on Allegheny River.
Go kayaking on the Allegheny River while visiting Allegheny National Forest.

Riding Trails

This national forest may be small, but it’s home to an extensive network of interconnected trails for ATVs, dirt bikes, motorcycles, and snowmobiles. The park has 76 miles of trails perfect for longer and shorter trips.

The longest trail in the network is Timberline ATV/OHM Trail, which is 39 miles long and is perfect for ATVs, motorized dirt bikes, and motorcycles. If you’re looking for a shorter option, the Rocky Gap (21.9 miles) or Willow Creek (10.8 miles) are excellent options.

Nature Viewing

If you enjoy watching wildlife in its natural habitat, Allegheny National Forest is a fantastic place to visit. You’ll see various flying, swimming, walking, and slithering creatures throughout the park. It’s home to multiple species, including 50 mammals, 200 birds, 25 amphibians, 20 reptiles, 80 fishes, and 25 freshwater mussels.

Many visitors bring their binoculars and catch glimpses of bald eagles, owls, and ospreys. Stay alert as rattlesnakes do exist in this neck of the woods and can be dangerous. However, they’re not the only dangerous animal that roams through the national forest.

Allegheny National Forest in the winter with snow
Allegheny National Forest is beautiful all year long!

Are There Bears in Allegheny National Forest?

There is a large population of black bears in Allegheny National Forest and the surrounding areas. Wildlife officials frequently have to relocate mischievous bears looking for food, especially in the spring and summer. However, spotting a bear in the national forest is rather rare as they’ll typically scatter if they sense humans are in the area.

If you’re planning to camp in Allegheny National Forest, you must practice being bear aware. How you store your food and maintain your campsite is very important. If a hungry bear sees an opportunity for a quick snack at your camp, it will take it and not even say thanks.

Pro Tip: National forests are excellent substitutions to national park visits. Make sure to visit These 22 National Forest Campgrounds are Better (and Cheaper) Than National Parks.

Is Allegheny National Forest Worth Visiting?

Spending a bit of time in the beauty and simplicity of Allegheny National Forest is a great way to disconnect from the rest of the world. Relax in the thick forest and listen to the wind blow through the treetops.

Watching the wildlife galavanting around the forest will help you forget about the stresses at work or back home. With so much to see and do in this national forest, you’ll likely be planning your next trip while packing up your gear.

Have you ever been to the Allegheny National Forest? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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