With fall now officially here, we are in what seems to be our Indian summer. The days are getting shorter and the leaves have a tint of what is soon to come. As we round the corner in the seasons, it seems like a great time for a leaf ride road trip. Grab a thermos of hot chocolate (or lemonade if the weather allows), a cozy sweater, and fill the gas tank as we head out to the aptly named Forest County.
The borough of Tionesta is nestled in the Allegheny River valley framed by the river, Tionesta Creek and the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. Tionesta is a Native American name which means “the home of the wolves” and, although the wolves have been gone since the 1890s, the area has a couple unique features worth the drive.
I wrote an article a few years ago about the three lighthouses that are located on Lake Erie, but what I did not realize is that there is actually a fourth lighthouse in the state of Pennsylvania. The Sherman Memorial Lighthouse is located along the Allegheny River on Lighthouse Island and was built in 2004. It is the only working lighthouse in the interior of our state and it can be easily seen from the bridge on Route 36 as you enter town. Although it is not used for navigation purposes on the water, it is a fantastic landmark for a road trip. It is able to be viewed at 1 Highland St., Tionesta, when you visit Peace Park. The park itself is something special and you will want to take advantage of the walking trail. It will allow you to visit not only the lighthouse, but also a replica of the Statue of Liberty, a replica of the Liberty Bell, a veterans memorial, a Cross of Freedom and a chapel. There is also a boat launch and even a fishing pier if you have a sportsman with you on your journey.
The lighthouse is open for tours only a few days a year; the dates can be found on Tionesta Lions Club website. There are six floors in the tower and each has a different theme featuring miniature lighthouse figurines and the history of the Jack Sherman family. It does appear that the visitation days were canceled for 2020 and 2021, but the outside of the structure is still an amazing sight. The lighthouse is sometimes referred to as the Tionesta Lighthouse and the 75-foot structure is actually the tallest lighthouse in Pennsylvania. The next tallest, the Presque Isle lighthouse located on the shores of Lake Erie, tops out at 57 feet.
The Statue of Liberty replica was added in 2020 and was very impressive and surprising. It was just not something I expected to see when I was driving Route 36 through town. I just happened to catch it out of the corner of my eye as I was driving over the bridge on Tionesta Creek and I did a double take to confirm what I thought I was seeing. Of course that also meant I had to turn around and go to visit it.
If lighthouses are not your thing, there is also the chance to visit the Tionesta Market Village. It is a collection of small structures located at 302 Elm St. in the heart of downtown Tionesta.
Each small building has a different local artisan with a little something for everyone. The Market Village is open this October on Fridays from noon to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a Pumpkin Fest celebration coming up on Oct. 23. What a great place to do some early Christmas shopping and support local businesses.
I like to make a loop of things when I do a leaf ride and my typical drive to Tionesta for the view is to start by driving through Titusville and taking Route 36 into Tionesta. My return trip is along the Allegheny River on Route 62 through Franklin to get home. When you wander this loop it offers great scenery and several different vantage points for leaf and river views. So take a moment to wander the Allegheny River Valley and lose yourself in the peacefulness of Peace Park.