Please be aware that part of the public area loop has been closed until further notice as the park starts preparatory efforts for this summer's paving project on the Picnic Area Road.
Things To Do
The Visitor Center, located immediately off of US Route 22 at the Gallitzin Exit, is the best place to start your tour. The park movie is shown in the indoor 60 seat auditorium as requested to give a concentrated overview of the park story. The program lasts approximately twenty minutes. The movie is a dramatic interpretation of what it was like to work and travel on the Portage Railroad. A fictional character, Edgar West, explains life on the canals then speaks of a change of occupation to Portage Railroad worker. Edgar relates a story of blasting the Staple Bend Tunnel as well as general building techniques. He uses written accounts by writers such as Charles Dickens and local newspapers to speak of the value of the Mainline system and the thrill of faster travel.
At the top of incline #6 were several buildings. Among them was a building to house the stationary steam engines. While actual plans for the buildings have not been located, remains of the foundation for the engine house are preserved in an unique exhibit structure. Within the Engine House 6 shelter building are exhibits to explain the workings of an engine house and a "Discovery Room" of interactive exhibits. At the east side of the Engine House Exhibit Shelter is a platform that permits you to look down the length of Incline 6 to the Skew Arch Bridge. The Bridge can be enjoyed close up by hiking down the trail or driving to the traffic island on which it is preserved. In the area surrounding the Engine House are places for demonstrations of period work skills. When the weather cooperates costumed rangers will help immerse you into the 1840s.
The Lemon House has reopened as of May 10, 1997. A major restoration project was completed restoring the house to its 1840s appearance. This includes the interior first floor as well as the exterior. While it is the original house on its original location, there is a great scarcity of information available about the home. Plans or contracts for building the house remain elusive. Documentary evidence is lacking to explain how the tavern was operated and what the menu may have been. Much of the restoration was founded on archeology work, period artwork, and documentation of other 19th century taverns in the local area. In 2010 and 2011 a repointing project to replace the mortar between the exterior stones will be occurring. The Lemon House will remain open to the public as usual during this project.
There are tables near the park Visitor Center for those wishing to have a quick meal or snack. Or some visitors enjoy using the empty amphitheater (the same as used for Evening on the Summit above) as a resting place. A shaded picnic area with a covered shelter and comfort station is located a half mile walk from the park's historic area. There is parking much closer but it is a separate area of the summit facilities.
For the Picnic Area only, drivers take the Cresson Summit exit of U.S. Route 22. Westbound drivers take the exit marked "Cresson Summit" and turn left at the end of the exit ramp. The Picnic Area is on the left side of 'old route 22' and is marked with a large wooden sign. Eastbound drivers take the exit marked "Summit" NOT the Cresson US Route 53 exit that preceeds it. At the end of the ramp turn right onto 'old route 22' and watch for the wooden sign on the left as you start down the long hill.
Did You Know?
In 1824 an all-water route through the Allegheny Mountains was proposed. A 4 mile tunnel "like a well dug horizontially" would be needed, along with ventilation shafts and support features. A portage over the mountains was built instead.