Allegheny National Forest Backpacking

Pittsburgh Backpacking: Morrison and Rimrock Trail, Allegheny National Forest

Go deep in the woods for a perfect overnight adventure with waterfront camping and ridgeline views.

The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is a massive swath of land in northern PA. The ANF’s half-million acres is a solid two-hour drive from the city, starting a few miles north of Interstate 80 and extending into New York. Combined with nearby state forests and game lands, this area offers a dizzying array of outdoor activities.

This trail loop is deep in the forest, another hour or so north after crossing onto federal land. It starts a few miles east of the Allegheny Reservoir and heads west to an established campsite on the water. From there, the loop works in either direction: Clockwise takes you up and over a ridgeline in the first few miles, then wanders beside Morrison Run all the way to Morrison Campground. Hiking counter-clockwise follows the ridgeline before dropping steeply to the campsite. 

The trails are scenic and mostly well-blazed, but as always, carry a map and/or a GPS. Stay alert as there are a few confusing trail intersections and hard-to-find blazes. Multiple water crossings mark the southern side of the loop; heavy rains or spring thaw can make some of them knee-deep. 

The steep hillsides surrounding the trail are full of mossy boulders. This second-growth forest is mostly oak and hickory. Be on the lookout for some giant, old-growth white pines—there are a few mighty old-timers to be found out here. 

Dispersed camping is allowed in the ANF, but the Morrison Campground is a sweet spot, and the fire rings make it the only legal place for a campfire. You’ll also get access to a vault toilet, picnic tables, and a water pump (though don’t depend on it; pack in all your water or bring a filter). There are 38 sites and no reservation system. Pay your $12 fee per site when you arrive. This is a walk-in/boat-in site only, and it can get busy during popular weekends.

A view of Allegheny Reservoir in Allegheny National Forest Photo: Zack Frank/Shutterstock

More Info:

Allegheny National Forest

Getting There

Head north on Route 28, then continue north on PA 36 in Brookville as you cross I-80. Various state routes take you north from there until heading east just before Warren. The parking area is easy to find off PA 59.

Where To Eat

A few days on the trail will make freshly prepared food at many local restaurants shine. And there’s plenty of fine establishments to discover in St. Marys. But more importantly, the slight detour to the hometown of Straub offers a chance for a brewery tour and a visit to its famous eternal tap. Brewing beer since 1872, this family-owned and self-proclaimed “fiercely independent” brewery is worth adding some mileage to the return trip.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.