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Kinzua Bridge and Sizerville State Park in north central Pennsylvania create a weekend RV trip with height, history and some seriously uphill hikes!
Location & History
The Kinzua Bridge (or Viaduct) was originally completed in 1882 with just over 3.1 million pounds of iron and, at the time, was the highest railroad bridge in the world at 300+ feet high and 2,000+ feet long. It got a makeover in 1900 to hold up heavier trains, and at that point, weighed in at just over 6.7 million pounds.
Freight train traffic stopped coming over the bridge in 1959, but excursion trains started using it again in the 1980s.
Fast-forward to 2002, when the bridge failed an inspection, and all traffic was stopped. Repairs began in 2003, but before they could finish, the bridge was struck by an F-1 tornado.
BOOM. Down we go!
Six of the original tower supports were saved, and the Sky Walk observation walkway and deck were born! Now, visitors can peer through the glass floor at the end of the Sky Walk or hike the Kinzua Creek Trail to get a closer look from underneath.
Sizerville State Park is about an hour slightly south east of Kinzua Bridge State Park in Austin. It’s named for the Sizer family, who were thought to be the first family to settle in the area.
The park has a conservation area courtesy of the Civilian Conservation Corps and was the site of Pennsylvania’s successful beaver re-introduction.
Since Kinzua Bridge State Park did not have a campground, we stayed at Sizerville State Park’s campground. It was small, with only 23 spots (5 pet-friendly) and 1 shower house.
In the campground, we were in #3 at the yellow star. It was a nice spot, and we could walk back to the creek through a small wooded area.
The shower area in the women’s side of the two-toilet bathhouse had just one stall and….
UGH, no temperature control and a horrible, awful, never-fun timer!
I will say it again. Every day. Twice on Sunday.
No one who has hiked all dang day should have to suffer through a timer-button shower.
On to the better parts!
PRO TIP for the Campground
As far as the pick of the RV pet-friendly spots, #3 was the best. If you don’t have pets, spots #7 & #8 were right along the creek and looked pretty nice., too.
Trails & Wildlife
Before we walked the Sky Walk at Kinzua State Park, we took the fairly steep Kinzua Creek Trail down to the bottom of the bridge to see the destruction close-up.
The hike down was about a half mile, but no joke in the rain, and coming back up was good leg workout after our long drive! The creek had swelled pretty high, and the bottom area was a little marshy, but it was cool to get a different perspective on the bridge.
We didn’t see any wildlife, but we heard some bullfrogs on the footbridge.
We did spot some just-emerging ferns and some orange mushrooms.
The Sky Walk did permit dogs; however, as a small-dog owner, I’m not sure they thought that all the way through!
The Sky Walk’s two walkways are built along either side of the old railroad tracks, which we found to have open Hazel-sized slats between them (!!!). If you haven’t met Hazel, she’s a small jackabee who is the newest addition to Road Trip Tails.
I white-knuckled it to the end of the lookout with her on the shortest leash possible, stood timidly on the glass-bottom floor for 2.2 seconds, then sprinted her back to solid ground!
Russ got one good shot of us. Fast.
The park recently updated its Visitor Center, so make sure you stop inside!
Along with a few historical displays related to the area, they also have a new gift shop- which I obviously patronized by picking up a new RV sticker, locally-made cold porcelain pendant and a PA State Park Passport, which I didn’t even know existed until now.
Once we finished our cold, wet hike and small shopping spree, we (duh) stopped to pick up a pizza (more about that below) and continued on to Sizerville State Park Campground. You can check out the entire park map here.
After running into an older-RV-type problem with Axl Rose on Saturday morning (it’s always something!), we tackled two hikes on Saturday: the 3-mile-loop of the Sizerville Nature Trail and the 1.5-mile-loop Nady Hollow Trail.
While those trail names sound short and sweet, they were anything but! Both had looooooong ascents with enough uphill for a solid workout and steep enough descents to be concerned about sliding.
The Nature Trail was an interpretive trail with stops about the history of the area and types of trees and plants along the way. It also had a scenic lookout, where Hazel did her best to weave in and out of the trees to tie her leash into a knot.
Little did we know she was resting up for a battle.
As we were walking out of the campground to our next hike, Hazel found a friend- or so she thought.
Hazel had averted disaster, so we continued on to the Nady Hollow Trail.
The name is a bit deceiving, since we trekked straight up the mountain for what felt like forever along a gorgeous stream with some small waterfalls and then came down a steep descent through a high forest.
I never did see a hollow, but we did see some beautiful wildflowers and many different forest types.
Pit Stop…sort of!
We decided to take a different route home than Google suggested so we could take a drive through Elk County. Even though it was pouring rain and really cold so we knew a hike was out of the question, we thought we might at least get to see an elk or two.
BINGO! We saw LOTS of elk! Turns out they are just wandering around in large fields, strolling along river banks, and basically hanging out in everyone’s yard in Elk County.
If you have a chance to drive through this area, don’t miss it- it’s probably even worth a visit! You can find more information at the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau Elk County section.
The Last Word
While this early-season weekend trip was a little wet and chilly, Kinzua Bridge State Park was a great place to start our RV adventures this year. The view was fantastic, and Sizerville State Park proved more challenging than we thought it would be.