13 Must-See Attractions in Cambria County

The view from the Johnstown Inclined Plane in Cambria County PA
The view from the top of the Johnstown Inclined Plane in Cambria County.

Cambria County was created on March 26, 1804, from parts of Bedford, Huntingdon, and Somerset Counties.

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County.
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Cambria County.

It was named after the nation of Wales, (which in Latin is known as “Cambria”), as many Welsh immigrants found their way to this part of Pennsylvania to work in the steel mills, coal mines, and on the railroads.

Cambria Iron Works in Johnstown Pennsylvania.
Cambria Iron Works in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (public domain image).

From beautiful waterfalls to museums to bike trails to national memorials, here are 13 of the best things to see and do in Cambria County, Pennsylvania!

Hinckston Run Falls near Johnstown PA
Hinckston Run Falls near Johnstown, PA.

1. The Johnstown Flood Museum

The Johnstown Flood Museum, located in downtown Johnstown, tells the story of the tragic May 31, 1889 flood that killed over 2,200 people and captured the attention of the entire world, arguably the most famous event to ever occur in Cambria County.

Valley of Death exhibit at the Johnstown Flood Museum.
Valley of Death exhibit at the Johnstown Flood Museum.

Through a mixture of interpretive exhibits, surviving artifacts, photographs, and an award-winning film, visitors to the Johnstown Flood Museum can get a sense not only of the causes of the flood and the devastation in wreaked, but of the recovery and rebuilding efforts as well.

Front entrance of the Johnstown Flood Museum, in the former Johnstown Public Library.
Front entrance of the Johnstown Flood Museum, in the former Johnstown Public Library.

2. Johnstown Flood Memorial

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial was authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1964, preserving the remains of the South Fork Dam, the former Lake Conemaugh lakebed, the farm of Elias Unger, and the clubhouse and cottages of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, owners of the lake and dam which burst in 1889, causing the flood.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial sign near the visitor center.
Johnstown Flood National Memorial sign near the Visitor Center.

If you’d like to visit this impressive National Memorial, and stand right where the historic flood started, you can find the Johnstown Flood National Memorial Visitor Center near South Fork, Cambria County.

Graphic illustration showing the moment the South Fork Dam burst on May 31, 1889, causing the Johnstown Flood.
Graphic illustration showing the moment the South Fork Dam burst on May 31, 1889, causing the Johnstown Flood.

3. Hinckston Run Falls

Hinckston Run Falls is a man-made waterfall formed by the outflow of the Hinckston Run Reservoir near Johnstown.

Hinckston Run Falls near Johnstown Pennsylvania
Hinckston Run Falls near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

There’s no hiking involved to see this waterfall – Hinckston Run Falls is TRULY a roadside attraction!

View of Hinckston Run Falls from the passenger seat of my truck.
View of Hinckston Run Falls from the passenger seat of my truck.

4. The Abandoned Cresson State Prison

Fans of all things old, abandoned, and slightly creepy will find the abandoned Cresson State Prison in Cambria County a joy to explore!

A quiet afternoon in a cell block at the former Cresson Sanatorium in Cambria County PA.
A quiet afternoon in one of the cell blocks at he abandoned Cresson State Prison.

Also known as the Haunted Cresson Sanatorium, this former tuberculosis sanatorium turned state hospital turned state prison is now operated as a tourist attraction for explorers with an appetite for the unusual.

Approaching the front door of the former Cresson Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Cambria County.
Approaching the main entrance of the “Haunted Cresson Sanatorium”.

5. The Allegheny Portage Railroad

The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad built across the Allegheny Mountains, allowing for canals on the eastern and western sides of the state to be connected, cutting the travel time between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia from weeks to just days.

Looking up Incline Number 6 towards Engine House Number 6 at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site near Altoona Pennsylvania.
Looking up Incline Number 6 along the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site in eastern Cambria County (and stretching into neighboring Blair County) is maintained by the National Park Service, allowing visitors to learn about and explore first-hand the “glory days” of the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

A sectional canal boat display inside the Allegheny Portage Railroad Visitor Center near Altoona.
A sectional canal boat display inside the Visitor Center.

6. The Staple Bend Tunnel

The Staple Bend Tunnel in Cambria County has the distinction of being the first railroad tunnel built in the United States!

The ornate western portal of the Staple Bend Tunnel.
The ornate western portal of the Staple Bend Tunnel.

Constructed as part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad (between the top of Incline 1 and the bottom of Incline 2 near Johnstown), the Staple Bend Tunnel is now operated as part of a rail trail by the National Park Service.

The brick lined entrance to the Staple Bend Tunnel along the former Allegheny Portage Railroad in Cambria County.
The brick lined entrance to the Staple Bend Tunnel.

7. The Gallitzin Tunnels

The Gallitzin Tunnels are a trio of historic railroad tunnels through the Allegheny Mountains in Cambria County, very popular with railfans and “trainspotters”.

A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

Located right next to the western portal of the Gallitzin and Allegheny tunnels, Tunnels Park is a convenient place to park and safely watch trains pass through, as they have for more than 150 years.

Tunnels Park and Museum in Gallitzin, PA.
Tunnels Park and Museum in Gallitzin, PA.

8. Prince Gallitzin’s Crypt

Prince Gallitzin’s crypt in Cambria County contains the remains of a former Russian prince turned trailblazing Catholic priest, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin.

Prince Gallitzin's crypt in Cambria County, PA.
Prince Gallitzin’s crypt in Cambria County, PA.

For 41 years, Prince Gallitzin traveled the Allegheny Mountains, living in poverty, performing his duties as a Catholic priest, and building up the Catholic community in the area.

Prince Gallitzin's crypt at Saint Michael's Church in Loretto.
Prince Gallitzin’s crypt at Saint Michael’s Church in Loretto.

9. The Admiral Perry Monument

The Admiral Peary Monument in Cambria County honors U.S. Naval officer Robert Peary, a Cresson native credited with being the first explorer to reach the North Pole.

Close-up of the Admiral Peary Monument, portraying him in his fur parka.
Close-up of the Admiral Peary Monument, portraying him in his fur parka.

10. George’s Song Shop

George’s Song Shop in downtown Johnstown is America’s oldest record store!

George's Song Shop in Johnstown Pennsylvania is America's oldest record store.
George’s Song Shop in downtown Johnstown, Cambria County.

George’s Song Shop is billed as having over one million records and CDs in stock, and I can assure you that is no idle boast.

A small sampling of the 45s at George's Song Shop.
A small sampling of the 45s at George’s Song Shop.

11. The Cresson Railroad Observation Platform

The Cresson Railroad Observation Platform offers one of the best eye-level railroad overlooks near Altoona.

Freight train passing the Cresson Railroad Observation Platform.
Freight train passing the Cresson Railroad Observation Platform.

Located right next to the railroad tracks, you can see and literally feel the passing trains from this elevated deck.

The 5 Best Railfan Sites Near Altoona Pennsylvania.
Norfolk Southern train passing the Cresson Railroad Observation Platform.

12. The Cassandra Railroad Overlook

The Cassandra Railroad Overlook is a pedestrian-only bridge spanning the train tracks in Cassandra, Cambria County.

The Cassandra Railroad Overlook Bridge in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
The Cassandra Railroad Overlook Bridge in Cambria County.

Until 1936 this single-lane bridge allowed cars to pass over the train tracks; now it serves as a prime vantage point for railfans from around the world.

Train approaching the Cassandra Railroad Overlook in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
Train approaching the Cassandra Railroad Overlook.

13. The Sunken Gardens at Mount Assisi

The Sunken Gardens at Mount Assisi are part of the beautifully manicured grounds of the Saint Francis Friary in Cambria County.

Exploring the Sunken Gardens at Mount Assisi in Cambria County PA.
Reflecting ponds in the Sunken Gardens at Mount Assisi

Open to the public from dawn until dusk and free of charge, the Sunken Gardens at Mount Assisi are comprised of 3.5 acres of fountains, statues, and gorgeous landscaping, some of which dates back more than 100 years!

The former summer estate of Charles M. Schwab, located on a hill above the Sunken Gardens.
The former summer estate of Charles M. Schwab, located on a hill above the Sunken Gardens.

So there you have it – 13 of the best things to see and do in Cambria County, PA!

Boardwalk leading from the Allegheny Portage Railroad Visitor Center to Engine House Number 6.
Boardwalk leading from the Visitor Center to Engine House Number 6 at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site.

Nearby Attractions

15 Must-See Attractions in Somerset County is your guide to the best things to see and do in Cambria County’s neighbor to the south.

A lone fisherman on Brush Creek below the Pack Saddle Covered Bridge in Somerset County, PA.
The Pack Saddle Covered Bridge in Somerset County.

11 Must-See Attractions in Westmoreland County is your guide to the best things to see and do in Cambria County’s neighbor to the southwest.

Mortar outside the Fort Ligonier museum.
Fort Ligonier in Westmoreland County.

21 Must-See Attractions in Bedford County is your guide to the best things to see and do in Cambria County’s neighbor to the southeast.

Sunrise at Shawnee State Park.
Sunrise at Shawnee State Park in Bedford County.

8 Must-See Attractions in Blair County is your guide to the best things to see and do in Cambria County’s neighbor to the east.

Autumn in Blair County at Chimney Rocks.
Autumn in Blair County at Chimney Rocks.

The Ultimate Clearfield County Road Trip is your guide to some of the best things to see and do in Cambria County’s neighbor to the north.

Taking in the scenery at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.
Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

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