Grand Army of the Republic Highway – Route 6 ,Pennsylvania 374 Miles
Route 6 crosses the northern tier of Pennsylvania. It can be reached from the east at the town of Milford, PA and at the western boundary, from the town of Pennline, PA. It is north of I-80 and is an excellent alternative to that super slab.
U.S. Route 6 passes through towns and villages whose boarded up buildings and rough exteriors could easily deceive those who rely on hasty first impressions. It requires a short visit, a cup of coffee in the diner, a walk in the square, and a chat with passers by to find the proud, hardworking communities that still exist. These are communities whose labor fueled the industrialization of this nation – Mining towns that were populated by immigrants from all regions of Europe. And judging by the long lists of names on monuments in each town square, these are patriotic communities who sacrificed dearly to support their new country, all the way back to the Civil War. Travel across Pennsylvania’s portion of the Grand Army of the Republic Highway for an excellent ride, not just because of the long sweeps and turns as it crosses the state, but because this historical highway offers a chance to rediscover a time gone by. Eat in 1930’s diners, walk on the famous Kinzua Trestle bridge, ride a steam train, descend into a coal mine, and above all, meet a proud people with stories to tell–All on Pennsylvania’s Grand Army of the Republic Highway. Photo submitted by visitor in May 09 – “Kinzua Dam”
Leaving the eastern Pennsylvania town of Milford, you will begin to climb a long, winding road out of the Delaware River Valley. You will soon be treated to a series of sweeps and winds as the two-lane road crosses the first of many hills and ridges along the route. Heading west, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway begins to wind its way through hardwood forests, past small lakes, typical of the glacier worn Pocono Mountains. Ages ago, grinding glacial ice smoothed the once rugged peaks, partially filling the valleys. The result is a highway that trades large differences in elevation for a road that continually rises and falls, and turns in long flowing sweeps–A delight for any motorcyclist. Gearing down near Carbondale, a decision has to be made–take the new Route 6 expressway along the ridge above the town, or follow the original highway down into the valley. The expressway by-passes Carbondale and several other small towns. It has a pull-off that provides a panoramic view of the valley, including a small mining operation below. If you opt for the valley ride, a quick right turn will put you on Business 6, which immediately starts a long descent. It soon becomes obvious why numerous signs warn truckers to choose the expressway. After Route 6 passes to the north of the city of Scranton, the road slowly climbs towards the town of Clarks Summit. Before long, it road changes direction and descends into the Susquehanna River Valley. For forty miles, Route 6 stays with the river, rising and falling as it follows the hillsides to the north. The Susquehanna can be seen below winding its way across Pennsylvania?a swift moving, shallow, and generally un-navigable stream. As you follow the river, at times the highway leaves its side to climb a series of five long grades. Fortunately, each grade has a passing lane, so getting around those heavily laden lumber trucks and other freight haulers is quickly accomplished. After the town of Wellsboro, you will be surrounded by dense woodland as you pass through the Allegheny National Forest. Eventually you will come back to civilization as you descend the Allegheny Plateau near the village of Sheffield. We are not yet out of the mountains. U.S. Route 6 now winds its way through a series of valleys, following the Allegheny River and its tributaries. Nine miles west of Union City, U.S. Route 6 joins with Route 19, and heads south to Meadville.. South of Saegertown, traffic increases and the highway becomes four lanes. It soon joins with Route 322 as it becomes a commuter highway. Near Conneaut Lake, U.S. Route 6 leaves Route 322 and once again becomes a two-lane country road. It travels northwest, winding around the Pymatuning Reservoir to the small village of Pennline, the last Pennsylvania town along U.S. Route 6. Photo submitted by visitor in May 09 – “Sweden Valley Inn”
Visit the old coal mining towns of Honesdale and Carbondale then take a small detour to Scranton. Route 6 approaches the northern edge of the city. A short side visit down Route 11 will offer you two world-class attractions, Steamtown and the Lackawanna Coal Mine. A National Historic Site, Steamtown is operated by the National Park Service. It houses numerous steam locomotives and includes an operating roundhouse where these steam giants are restored. Visit the museum, tour the restorations in progress (it’s loud), and ride on a steam train. Nearby is the Lackawanna Coal Mine. Descend 300 feet into this anthracite mine to explore first-hand the hard lives of the deep shaft miners who toiled daily in what can only be described as grim conditions. For more information on the lives of these immigrant miners who came from 36 ethnic groups, you can also stop by the Pennsylvania Anthracite Museum while in Scranton. Much of Wellsboro could easily pass for a well-kept 1930s town. Its picturesque Main Street includes a park-like median, complete with gaslights. Eat at the famous Wellsboro Diner. A porcelain-shelled beauty, it’s an excellent example of the diners of the ’30s, transported, in pieces, to its current location in 1939–it’s cash only. Just eleven miles out of Wellsboro on Route 660, is one of the most beautiful views in the area – the spectacular Pine Creek Gorge, better known as The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Created by glacial action over 10,000 years ago, the gorge is 47 miles long and drops almost 1500 feet at its deepest point. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is located along Route 6 near Galeton. It includes a number of restored buildings that replicate a lumber camp of the 1800s. In this area of Pennsylvania, the lumbering of white pine and hemlock was a major industry that rivaled coal mining. Smethport, “Home of the Hubberburger.” We can’t pass that by. A stop for lunch at the old Smethport Diner. The diner is an old roadside eatery, similar to Wellsboro’s Sterling Diner, except that the years have not been as kind to it. Turn right at Mount Jewett and travel slowly down a heavily patched road, heading for the famous Kinzu Bridge. It’s just a twelve-mile detour from U.S. Route 6, but well worth the time. The Kinzu Railroad Viaduct was originally built in 1882 to ship bituminous coal across the Kinzu River Valley, north to New York. Rebuilt in 1900, the bridge is over 300 feet high and 2053 feet long. For many years, it held the record as the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world. Once listed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the viaduct is still on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
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