US Route 6 is a cross-country federal highway that extends more than 3,000 miles between Provincetown, MA, and US Route 395 in Bishop, CA, although the original alignment extended to Long Beach, CA. In Pennsylvania, US Route 6, which is also called the Grand Army of the Republic Highway (to honor American Civil War veterans), runs almost 400 miles across the northern tier of the state. Including side trips to the five points of interest listed at right and avoiding any interstate highways makes this recommended route about 425 miles in length.
The majority of US 6 in Pennsylvania passes along heavily forested ridgelines and through small hamlets in the Endless Mountains, and dives deep into the Pennsylvania Wilds, with its substantial elk population. It affords numerous breathtaking vistas, arrives at historic destinations, and leads to other notable points of interest along the way. Large mansions are present in many of the villages, giving silent witness to fortunes made from lumber, coal, and oil in earlier times. This leisurely cruising route is both scenic and in many ways a trip back in time. Riders should take their time and soak it all in.
Points of Interest
1. Steamtown National Historic Site
This industrial heritage site is focused on the role that steam railroads played during America’s Industrial Revolution. The self-guided tour begins at the visitors center with a movie about the park. From there, visitors proceed to the History, Roundhouse, and Technology museums. Separate Locomotive Shop tours and train rides are available. Be sure to check out the 1.2-million-pound, 6,200-horsepower “Big Boy” steam locomotive on display in the railyard. Find it at 350 Cliff St., Scranton, PA; (570) 340-5200
2. Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct
Also known as the Nicholson Bridge, this 240-foot-high, 2,375-foot-long railroad viaduct was the largest concrete structure in the world when it was completed in 1915. The steel-reinforced concrete bridge’s progression of graceful curved arches and vertical posts supporting the rail deck are a sight to behold for any rail fan. Find it along Route 11, just south of Nicholson, PA; (570) 265-9103
3. Pine Creek Gorge
Perhaps better known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, the scenic vista of the 47-mile-long gorge from the Leonard Harrison State Park overlook is a feast for the eyes. Far below is a rail trail for bike riding and hiking. Kayakers, canoeists, and rafters can be seen floating through the canyon on Pine Creek. Find it at 4797 Route 660, Wellsboro, PA; (570) 724-3061
4. Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Although Pennsylvania is known historically for coal mining and drilling America’s first commercial oil well, it also has a rich lumbering tradition. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum helps visitors explore this history with interactive and other exhibits, including a working sawmill, a re-created labor camp, a collection of tools used to fight forest fires, and the Sustainable Forestry Trail. Find it at 5660 US Route 6 West, Ulysses, PA; (814) 435-2652
5. Kinzua Bridge State Park
This park is dedicated to a 301-foot-high, 2,053-foot-long railroad bridge, which was originally constructed out of wood in 1882. At that time, it was the highest and longest viaduct in the world. A steel replacement was erected in 1900. That bridge lasted until 2003, when a rare Pennsylvania tornado destroyed much of the structure. The surviving bridge components were reinforced and converted into a 600-foot-long aerial walkway. Find it at 296 Viaduct Road, Mt Jewett, PA; (814) 778-5467