Exploring Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County

Kinzua Bridge skywalk as viewed from one of the viewing platforms.

Kinzua Bridge State Park is home to what was once the longest and tallest railway bridge in the entire world – The Kinzua Viaduct.

The Kinzua Bridge skywalk, surrounded by fall foliage.
The Kinzua Bridge skywalk, surrounded by fall foliage.

Kinzua Bridge State Park is located at 1721 Lindholm Drive in Mount Jewett, McKean County.

Kinzua Bridge State Park sign.
Kinzua Bridge State Park sign.

If you prefer to navigate using GPS coordinates, use 41.75892, -78.58647 to reach the Kinzua Bridge State Park parking lot.

How to find Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County Pennsylvania.
How to find Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County Pennsylvania.

As with any state-operated destination in the age of COVID, it’s best to call ahead to check on any potential closures before visiting.

Kinzua Bridge State Park office and visitor center.
Park office and visitor center.

The phone number for the Kinzua Bridge State Park office is 814-778-5467.


History of the Kinzua Viaduct

Originally owned and operated by the New York, Lake Erie, and Western Coal Company, the Kinzua Viaduct stood 301 feet tall and was 2,053 feet long when initially completed in 1882.

Kinzua Viaduct construction in 1882.
Kinzua Viaduct construction in 1882 (public domain image).

The iron bridge was constructed in just 94 days by the Phoenix Bridge Company, headquartered in Philadelphia.

The Kinzua Viaduct was built by the Phoenix Bridge Company in 94 days in 1882.
The Kinzua Viaduct was built by the Phoenix Bridge Company in 94 days in 1882 (public domain image).

In 1900 the Kinzua Viaduct was completely rebuilt out of steel, to accommodate larger, heavier locomotives pulling longer, heavier loads of oil, coal, and timber.

Oil car exhibit inside the Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center.
Oil car exhibit inside the Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center.

Freight trains regularly crossed the Kinzua Viaduct until 1959.

Train crossing the Kinzua Viaduct around 1900.
Train crossing the Kinzua Viaduct in the late 1890s (public domain image).

In 1963, the State of Pennsylvania acquired the viaduct and adjacent lands to create a state park.

Kinzua Bridge State Park opened in 1970, and in 1977, the Kinzua Viaduct was placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks by the Federal Department of Interior.

The Kinzua Viaduct in 1970.
The Kinzua Viaduct in 1970 (public domain image).

No trains crossed the Kinzua Viaduct from 1959 until 1987, when passenger excursions were offered by the Knox and Kane Railroad.

These steam-powered trains continued to offer rides until 2002, when the excursions were paused so that repairs could be made to the aging bridge.

Aerial view of the Kinzua Viaduct in 1970.
Aerial view of the Kinzua Viaduct in 1970 (public domain image).

But before the restoration work was completed, a tornado touched down at the park on July 21, 2003 , destroying 11 of the 20 structural towers.

Looking across Kinzua Creek Gorge at the tornado damaged Kinzua Viaduct.
Looking across Kinzua Creek Gorge at the tornado damaged Kinzua Viaduct.

Deciding that the cost to rebuild the Kinzua Viaduct was too great, the State instead repurposed the remaining, still-standing 600 feet of bridge and built the Kinzua Skywalk, which opened in 2011.

The remains of the Kinzua Viaduct at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County Pennsylvania.
The remains of the Kinzua Viaduct are now the Kinzua Skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County

Visiting Kinzua Bridge State Park Today

There are several trails to explore at Kinzua Bridge State Park, in addition to many historical exhibits inside the Visitors Center.

Sculptures and exhibits in side the Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center.
Sculptures and exhibits in side the Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center.

Throughout the park, you’ll find plenty of infographics telling the story of the Kinzua Viaduct and the timeline of events surrounding its fascinating history.

A historical timeline of the Kinzua Viaduct on display at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
A historical timeline of the Kinzua Viaduct.

The Kinzua Skywalk

The most exciting trail at the park is certainly the 600 foot long journey to the end of the Kinzua Skywalk!

Looking out the Kinzua Skywalk towards the observation platform at the north end.
Looking out the Kinzua Skywalk towards the observation platform at the north end.

Standing 225 feet above the Kinzua Creek Gorge below, you have a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

The Kinzua Creek Gorge in McKean County Pennsylvania.
The Kinzua Creek Gorge in McKean County, Pennsylvania.

Along your trip out the Skywalk, you’ll encounter several informational displays.

How high is the Kinzua Skywalk infographic on display at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
“How high is the Kinzua Skywalk” infographic on display at the park.

When you reach the end of the Kinzua Skywalk, you can stand on several glass panels and look 225 feet straight down to the gorge below.

Platform at the end of the Kinzua Skywalk.
Platform at the end of the Kinzua Skywalk.

There’s something exhilarating about knowing only 1 inch of glass separates you from eternity!

How thick is the glass floor on the Kinzua Skywalk infographic on display at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
How thick is the glass floor on the Kinzua Skywalk infographic on display at the park.

The view across the Kinzua Creek Gorge from the end of the Skywalk allows you to survey the tornado damage from 2003.

The view from the Kinzua Bridge skywalk, looking out over the fall foliage surrounding the debris field.
The view from the Kinzua Bridge skywalk, looking out over the fall foliage surrounding the debris field.

The view back towards the Visitor Center is remarkable as well.

Looking back towards the Visitor Center and the fall foliage from the Kinzua Bridge skywalk.
Looking back towards the Visitor Center from the Kinzua Bridge skywalk.

The Kinzua Creek Trail

The Kinzua Creek Trail allows you to walk down a switchback trail from the Visitor Center to the gorge floor, then up the other side of the gorge to the northern end of the Kinzua Viaduct.

Kinzua Creek Trail at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Kinzua Creek Trail.

Along the way you’ll pass several observation areas that allow you to look straight across the gorge, through the center of the steel towers that support the Kinzua Skywalk.

Looking through the steel piers of the Kinzua Bridge skywalk.
Looking through the steel piers of the Kinzua Bridge skywalk.

You can also look up through the glass floor of the Skywalk’s observation platform.

Looking up through the glass floor of the Kinzua Skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Looking up through the glass floor of the Kinzua Skywalk.

The Kinzua Creek Trail is rather steep, and while not technically challenging, it certainly requires some stamina to get to the bottom of the gorge and up the other side.

Looking up towards the Kinzua Bridge skywalk from the Kinzua Creek Trail.
Looking up towards the Kinzua Bridge skywalk from the Kinzua Creek Trail.

Your reward for making it to the bottom is an up-close look at the tornado-damaged towers that collapsed in 2003.

View of the debris field at Kinzua Bridge State Park from the north side of Kinzua Creek.
View of the debris field at Kinzua Bridge State Park from the north side of Kinzua Creek.

A footbridge over Kinzua Creek allows you a closer look at the opposite side of the former Kinzua Viaduct.

View of Kinzua Bridge skywalk from footbridge over Kinzua Creek.
View of Kinzua Bridge skywalk from footbridge over Kinzua Creek.

The mangled remains of the 120 year-old steel towers have held up extremely well to the elements, and may well be recognizable for another 120 years!

Debris field below the Kinzua Skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Debris field below the Kinzua Skywalk.

The views from the northern side of the Kinzua Creek Gorge are equally impressive.

Looking back towards the Kinzua Skywalk and Visitor Center from the north side of the Kinzua Viaduct.
Looking back towards the Kinzua Skywalk and Visitor Center from the north side of the Kinzua Viaduct.

Of course you can’t actually walk out onto the northern side of the Kinzua Viaduct, but even from behind the fence, the views are fantastic.

Chain link fence across the north side of the Kinzua Viaduct.
Chain link fence across the north side of the Kinzua Viaduct.

Here you can see first-hand the effects of the powerful tornado that hit in 2003, twisting the railroad tracks like spaghetti noodles.

Twisted rails at the north side of the Kinzua Viaduct.
Twisted rails at the north side of the Kinzua Viaduct.

Fall Foliage Views at Kinzua Bridge State Park

The fall foliage scenery at Kinzua Bridge State Park is exceptional!

Kinzua Bridge State Park in October.

From the top of the Skywalk to the bottom of the gorge, there are no bad views to be had here in October.

View from the debris field, looking up towards the Kinzua Bridge skywalk and the surrounding fall foliage.
View from the debris field, looking up towards the Kinzua Bridge skywalk and the surrounding fall foliage.

Winter Views at Kinzua Bridge State Park

Winter at Kinzua Bridge State Park is something special.

Train tracks along the Kinzua Skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
The Kinzua Skywalk on a winter day.

Unlike the hustle and bustle of summer and fall, winter days are quiet and still.

Side view of the Kinzua Skywalk in McKean County, PA.
Side view of the Kinzua Skywalk in McKean County, PA.

The debris field really stands out against a blanket of freshly fallen snow.

The debris field left by the tornado that struck the Kinzua Viaduct in 2003.
The debris field left by the tornado that struck the Kinzua Viaduct in 2003.

Just be sure to dress warm – McKean County is COLD in the winter!

One of several observation areas at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County, PA.
One of several observation areas at Kinzua Bridge State Park on a winter day.

Final Thoughts

The rise, fall, and rebirth of the Kinzua Viaduct is a fascinating part of Pennsylvania railroading history.

Kinzua Viaduct historical marker near the park office.

This is truly one of the most unique state parks in Pennsylvania.

Looking at the Kinzua State Park visitor center from the Kinzua Skywalk.
Looking at the Kinzua State Park visitor center from the Kinzua Skywalk.

The awesome power of Mother Nature is on full display at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County!

View from the North side of the Kinzua Bridge, looking towards the skywalk on the southern side of the bridge.
View from the North side of the Kinzua Bridge, looking towards the skywalk on the southern side of the bridge.

The Salisbury Viaduct, built in 1912, is another Pennsylvania railroad bridge turned turned tourist attraction.

Hikers taking in the sunset from the Salisbury Viaduct along the Great Allegheny Passage.
Hikers taking in the sunset from the Salisbury Viaduct along the Great Allegheny Passage.

This 1,908 foot-long bridge is now part of the Great Allegheny Passage as it passes through Somerset County.

The Salisbury Viaduct disappears into the Pennsylvania foothills near Meyersdale.
The Salisbury Viaduct disappears into the Pennsylvania foothills near Meyersdale.

The Horseshoe Curve near Altoona is yet another piece of railroading history right here in Pennsylvania.

National Railway Historical Society plaque at the Horseshoe Curve in Altoona.
National Railway Historical Society plaque at the Horseshoe Curve in Altoona.

Unlike either the Kinzua Viaduct or the Salisbury Viaduct, the Horseshoe Curve is still very much in use by trains today, and is a must-see for fans of all things railroading!

Westbound train passing through the viewing area at the Horseshoe Curve.
Westbound train passing through the viewing area at the Horseshoe Curve.

Nearby Attractions

The Marilla Bridges Trail is a scenic one-mile loop trail just outside Bradford in McKean County.

The Eric Benjamin Covered Bridge along the Marilla Bridges Trail in McKean County.
The Eric Benjamin Covered Bridge along the Marilla Bridges Trail in McKean County.

The trail features three wooden bridges and non-stop scenic views.

Fall foliage along the Marilla Bridges Trail in McKean County, PA.
Fall foliage along the Marilla Bridges Trail in McKean County, PA.

The Zippo/Case Museum is dedicated to telling the story of Zippo lighters and Case knives, two iconic products made in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
The Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

The 15,000-square-foot facility in McKean County includes the museum, a gift shop (naturally!) and the famous Zippo Repair Clinic.

Zippo-themed Harley on display inside the gift shop at the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
Zippo-themed Harley on display inside the gift shop.

Rimrock Overlook in Warren County offers visitors outstanding views of Kinzua Bay and the Allegheny National Forest which surrounds it.

Looking north over the Allegheny Reservoir from Rimrock Overlook in Warren County.
Rimrock Overlook in Warren County.

Jakes Rocks Overlook is yet another scenic vista in the Warren County portion of the Allegheny National Forest, overlooking the Allegheny Reservoir.

Jakes Rocks Overlook in the Allegheny National Forest.
Jakes Rocks Overlook in the Allegheny National Forest.

Many people flock to this part of Pennsylvania hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed PA elk herd.

Elk bugling in Benezette.
Elk bugling in Benezette.

The 15 Best Elk Viewing Destinations in Pennsylvania will show you where to look, increasing your chances of seeing these amazing creatures up close.

Elk Country Visitor Center food plot.
A pair of Pennsylvania bull elk.

The Sherman Memorial Lighthouse in Forest County serves no navigational purpose, but at 75 feet tall, it’s the tallest functional lighthouse in Pennsylvania!

Exploring the Tionesta Lighthouse in Forest County Pennsylvania.
The Sherman Memorial Lighthouse in Tionesta, Forest County.

Beartown Rocks in Jefferson County features an exceptional scenic overlook perched high atop a “rock city” dating back to the last Ice Age!

Beartown Rocks Overlook in the Clear Creek State Forest.
Beartown Rocks Overlook in the Clear Creek State Forest.

The ruins of Austin Dam in Potter County are remnants of Pennsylvania’s second-deadliest flood.

Aerial view of Austin Dam ruins in Potter County Pennsylvania.
The ruins of Austin Dam in Potter County.

The abandoned Bayless Paper Mill is another fascinating historical site at the Austin Dam Memorial Park in Potter County.

View of the abandoned Bayless Paper Mill from Route 872.
View of the abandoned Bayless Paper Mill from Route 872.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.