Did I mention elk? Clearfield County is adjacent to Elk County and a short but scenic drive to Benezette, where the Elk Country Visitors Center is located.
Clearfield County was created in 1804 and named for Clearfield Creek. The creek’s name alluded to openings or “clear-fields” made by the large number of bison in the area. It was once on the edge of the colonial wilderness. Fast forward more than 200 years, and U.S. Interstate 80 runs directly through the center of the county, making it easy to get to.
Clearfield County markets itself as halfway to everywhere, but the area has a lot to offer — in fact, there’re enough things to see and do there to fill more than a weekend.
What to Do
Go biking on a local railtrail. Once known as the Clearfield and Grampian Trail, in 2011, the name was changed to the David S. Ammerman Trail, to honor the man who championed turning the abandoned rail corridor into a recreational trail. The trail runs from Grampian 10 miles to Clearfield. There’s a reasonable elevation change between the two endpoints, so plan accordingly.
After a short initial stretch in Grampian paralleling some backyards and farmland and Kratzer Run, the rail trail soon becomes fully shaded, and follows Anderson Creek. Right from the beginning, the Grampian end of the trail is gorgeous. Often fully shaded, the trees envelope the trail and the creek that runs alongside.
When snow falls, the railtrail, as well as many other locations, offers excellent cross-country skiing, snow-mobiling, and snow-shoeing.
With local and state parks and forests such as Curwensville Lake Recreation Area; Moshannon State Forest; Parker Dam State Park; S.B. Elliott State Park; 29 thousand acres of State Game Lands in Clearfield County; and the Quehanna Wild Area, there are plenty of opportunities for some great hikes. Clearfield County is a great place to explore the great outdoors!
Go kayaking on the West Branch Susquehanna River, which spans some 243 miles, almost entirely within Pennsylvania. Almost half — 102 miles — are within Clearfield County. Along most of its course, the river wanders along a large “zigzag arc” over the north end of the Allegheny Ridge.
It meanders through quaint towns, such as Clearfield, but mostly, the river travels through dense forests; mountains line both shores. The current is usually swift enough to make paddling mostly steering; you’ll want to arrange pick up, but there are several places within the county, including McCracken’s Canoe Rental and Sales, that do that.
Or bring your own kayak or canoe, and enjoy one of Clearfield’s lakes for a more serene kayaking experience.
We recently explored Shaggers Inn Pond, deep in the heart of Moshannon State Forest, where the dominant sound was a hawk’s cry piercing the rustle of trees moving in the wind. But Parkers Dam State Park
Fall brings the elk rutting season and plenty of opportunities to enjoy seeing these magnificent animals at the Elk Visitors Center, in the heart of Elk Country and just up Quehanna Highway from Clearfield.
Browse some fun boutiques and antique stores. Historica Plus is a must-stop for the antiques enthusiast! But there’s also Wrapped Up and The Strawberry Tree Teahouse, among others! (In fact, you can pick up a great lunch or afternoon snack at The Strawberry Tree Teahouse.)
There are a number of wineries in the region: Starr Hill, Bee Kind, Wilcox, and Benezette Winery, all worth checking out.
Bee Kind Winery offers wines inspired by Clearfield County’s farmlands, natural areas, and the West Branch Susquehanna River itself. Although the winery specializes in sweet and semi-sweet wines, including some with honey, some dry wines are available.
History lovers should appreciate the sweet Clearfield Historical Society label, proceeds from which benefit the historical society. Two of the winery’s wines are made with honey: Bee Berry Blue, which is entirely made of blueberries, sweetened with honey, and Bee Berry Black, which is reminiscent of blackberry strudel.
Entertain your sense of humor at Starr Hill Winery by trying Sexy Beeaches, a wine created by six women who won the bid at the annual Anne Thacik Charity Auction in 2014. Sexy Beeaches is a blend of Auora and Niagara grape — and is now one the winery’s best selling wines. Starr Hill Winery is set in the mountainside, offering a lovely location to sip and try the wines!
Wilcox Winery, with a storefront in the Dubois Mall, offers 25 different wines, from dry, oaked, Cabernet, to sweet blackberry dessert wine, and everything in between. why not try the Winery at Wilcox’s Elk Country Red, a Chianti-style red with a touch of residual sweetness and no oak. There’s also a clean crisp citrusy Elk Country White, made with Cayuga grapes.
And you can’t forget to visit Benezette Winery, conveniently located in Benezette, on your way to the Elk Country Visitors Center!
In between visits to wineries or hikes, there are a couple of museums to check out. There’s a cute little log cabin, interestingly referred to as Bloody Knox Cabin, which was the site of a Civil War-era skirmish, run by the Clearfield Historical Society, which also offers an interesting history museum in one of Clearfield’s beautiful mansions. Learn about the regions former logging and coal industries at the Historical Society Museum.
Check out antique and classic cars and vehicles at the Grice Museum — and while you’re there, enjoy animals of all sizes and shapes, lovingly preserved (and all legally obtained).
The site of secret societies in the late 1800s, Bilgers Rocks is a unique rock outcropping. A massive, 300 million year old rock formation, the outcropping covers some 20 acres and the formations tower up to 50 feet above ground level. From above looking into Bilgers Rocks, it feels as if you’re staring down into a mysterious world. From within the rock caves and maze-like crevices, it’s a world of wonder.
Where To Eat
Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub offers a varied, American-style eats, but it’s up to you to conquer its world famous 10-lb hamburger!
There’s also the Dubois Dinner, which offers the usual range of diner offerings, and isn’t to be missed. Enjoy a tasty breakfast, grab a convenient lunch, or enjoy a late-night snack — this diner offers it all!
If you crave Italian fare, then definitely head down to the eclectic Luigi’s Ristorante, which offers a full menu of Italian favorites!
Depot at Doolittles offers fun for young and less young! Great for the kids, Doolittle’s mix of dinosaurs and historic trains offers fun for adults as well. Eat in a classic 1950s renovated Pullman Standard passenger car, grab a pizza from Railcar Pizza to eat while enjoying a crisp beer from the Boxcar Pub, or elegantly dine in a refined 1913 Parlor Car.
If you’re out and about, browsing some of the local boutiques or enjoying wines at the nearby Starr Hill Winery, Strawberry Tree Teahouse offers light lunchtime fare and, of course, tea service.
Of course, no visit to Elk Country would be complete without a stop at the Benezette Hotel, a local eatery which, like several other local eateries, offers elk burgers, obtained from a Pennsylvania herd of farmed elk. Experiencing a delicious (farmed) elk burger is an attraction in itself, and ironically, complements the day spent enjoying the wild animals. (If you’re not into eating the elk, then there are the more generally accepted chicken and beef offerings as well.
On your way from Benezette to Dubois, you’ll likely pass local favorite Applewood BBQ & Grill, where you should try one of the Belly Buster Sandwiches, such as the Brisket Delux or Loaded Hog (with names like that, it begs you to try it!).
Where To Stay
Clearfield County offers a range of hotels and bed and breakfast inns to choose from.
The Road Less Traveled is a cozy bed and breakfast inn tucked away on 50 acres in the mountains surrounding Clearfield. Allow yourself to enjoy what nature has to offer — seeing elk, bear, deer, and wild turkeys is not uncommon!
Getting there: 886 T. Lee Taylor Rd., Clearfield, PA 16830
If you have a fascination with trains (or dinosaurs), then Depot at Doolittles is the place for you! Stay in the Teddy Roosevelt traveling car — actually one of the Pullman Palace cars, exceptionally opulent railcars of the era — is available for overnight stays. Constructed by Pullman in 1901 as a private car for the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Railway company president Alex Banks, the car was used by Teddy Roosevelt for speaking engagements while traveling to Joliet, IL. Now you can stay in the same bed a President slept in. Also available is the historic Conrail Car.
Getting there: 1290 Rich Hwy #200, DuBois, PA 15801
Enjoy views of the Susquehanna River at the lovely Victorian Lofts Bed and Breakfast Inn, right in the heart of Clearfield and minutes away from downtown boutiques and antiques stores and dining.
Getting there: 216 S Front St, Clearfield, PA 16830
If you prefer more standard accommodations, plus the luxuries of a swimming pool and hot tub, then check out the Comfort Suites in Dubois, PA. With a breakfast served each morning, this hotel will meet all your needs.
Getting there: 10 Lakeside Ave, DuBois, PA