Kinzua Bridge State Park is Pennsylvania’s most unique state park! Read on to learn more about tips for visiting the state park and where to hike near the bridge.
Visit Kinzua Bridge State Park
Kinzua Bridge State Park is a super unique park featuring the partially collapsed Kinzua Viaduct. Once the tallest viaduct in the world, it was destroyed by a tornado in 2003, leaving eleven twisted bridge towers remaining on the valley floor.
In 2011, the park opened the Skywalk. Built on six of the original (restored) towers, the skywalk leads to an 225-foot observation deck with views of Kinzua Creek Valley and the collapsed bridge towers. A partial glass floor allows brave park goers to look down into the structure of the bridge and the valley below.
Kinzua Bridge State Park is a little under three hours away from Pittsburgh and just over five hours from Philadelphia. It’s actually closer to Buffalo (under two hours) and Rochester (two and a half hours) than it is to both major cities in Pennsylvania!
I thought this park was awesome, even though it didn’t have as many hiking trails as I normally like. Staring over the view of the valley down onto the ripped down bridge towers made me in awe of nature’s powerful forces. (And apparently now I have to worry about tornadoes in Pennsylvania?!) You don’t need more than about two to three hours to visit (and potentially even less if you want to skip the hike to the bottom). It is one of the most unique state parks I’ve ever visited, in any state!
Where to Hike near Kinzua Bridge
The best way to get a feel for the largeness of the bridge is to hike down to the collapsed towers via the Kinzua Creek Trail. The trail is a 1.2 mile hike with 330 feet of elevation gain. It may feel easy going down, but coming back up is no joke! I consider myself to be in pretty good shape but going up was rough. There are large rocks that you can use as steps, however they are slippery when wet (for example, after snow…) and I highly recommend proper hiking shoes.
If you’re looking out the back of the Visitor’s Center, the skywalk will be to your left and the trailhead will be in front of you. Even if you choose not to hike the entire trail, I’d recommend walking down towards the lookout point which is 0.1 miles from the Visitor’s Center. Click here to see the route on AllTrails.
Kinzua Bridge State Park History
The Kinzua Viaduct, the bridge that Kinzua Bridge State Park encompasses, was once the longest and tallest railroad structure at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high. When it was built in 1882, it was the tallest and longest viaduct in the world.
Kinzua Bridge State Park was created in 1963 after freight traffic was discontinued in 1958. The Viaduct was placed on the National Register of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks during 1977. In 1987, excursion trains began taking passengers out to the middle of the Viaduct, stopping in the middle, and then returning.
In 2002, DCNR inspectors found that sections of the steel were rusted through and barred both trains and pedestrains from the bridge. The inspector engineers determined high winds could cause the bridge to shift its center of gravity, which could cause the bridge to collapse.
Turns out, nature took it to the next level. In 2003, a tornado ripped out eleven of the towers, destroying the Kinzua Viaduct for good.
The Kinzua Bridge Visitor Center is one of the coolest visitor centers of any PA state park I have been to. It houses a small, two floor museum about the bridge and surrounding area. Its interactive exhibits explain how the bridge was made, why it was important for the region, and discusses how it got destroyed. Other exhibits discuss the wildlife of the area. I thought this was a really well done visitor center and even though I originally was going to breeze through, I ended up spending about 45 minutes looking through the small museum. From building a smaller version of the bridge to listening to animal sounds of the region, all exhibits were interactive and family friendly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kinzua Bridge State Park
What happened to Kinzua Bridge?
In July of 2003, an F1 tornado (wind speed 73 – 112 mph) struck the side of Kinzua Viaduct. Eleven of the middle bridge towers were torn from their concrete bases and thrown to the valley floor.
Is Kinzua Bridge Skywalk open?
For more information about the park and to find out if the skywalk is open, visit PA DCNR’s webpage about Kinzua Bridge State Park or call the Visitor’s Center.
When is the best time of year to visit Kinzua Bridge State Park?
Fall is the best time of year to visit the park, especially the first two weeks of October as this is when the foliage really peaks. However, I still thought it was great to visit in late April, despite hail, sleet, snow, and sunshine. It kept the crowds at a minimum! If you visit in the winter, the skywalk is sometimes closed so call the park office before visiting.
How do I get to Kinzua Bridge State Park?
Kinzua Bridge State Park is four miles north of US 6 at Mt. Jewett on SR 3011. When searching online for driving directions to Kinzua Bridge, use “Kinzua Bridge State Park” not just “Kinzua Bridge” or you can put the following address into your phone: 1721 Lindholm Drive, Mount Jewett 16740. As you get closer to the park, you’ll see signs directing you to the visitor center.
Are dogs allowed at Kinzua Bridge?
Like the majority of Pennsylvania State Parks, dogs are allowed at Kinzua Bridge State Park. They are even allowed on the skywalk. However, they are not allowed in the visitor center, which is worth a visit. Personally, I was glad we left our dog at home for this trip because it allowed us to explore more.
Can you walk on Kinzua Bridge?
Yes. The park turned part of the bridge into a skywalk that stands 225 feet above the valley floor.
Is Kinzua Bridge worth visiting?
Kinzua Bridge IS worth the trip. It was like nothing I had ever seen before and while I wouldn’t visit again during the same time of year, I would go back in the fall to see the breathtaking fall foliage that features in so many park pictures.
Things to Do Near Kinzua Bridge State Park
- Stay at the Kane Manor Inn, a bed and breakfast located in an old manor.
- Eat a meal in downtown Kane, PA.
- Visit Allegheny National Forest to hike or camp.
- Bike the Kinzua Bridge Scenic Byway, a designated shared use hike/bike corridor.
- Visit Elk or Bendigo State Parks to put more stamps in your PA State Park Passport
Looking to visit more Pennsylvania State Parks? Check out my post listing all of my PA State Park guides for tips on visiting some of my favorites!