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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Climb Cook Forest State Park's Fire Tower #9

Cook Forest State Park, one of Pennsylvania's 124 state parks, is undoubtedly among its most beautiful. Its Forest Cathedral contains some of the oldest and tallest old growth trees in the northeast United States, with some reaching nearly 200-feet-tall and more than 375 years old. Hiking the Longfellow Trail to take in these giants is a must-do when visiting the park. In addition to the park's many great hiking trails, there's one destination that should not be missed during your visit - the 87-foot-tall Fire Tower #9.

Cook Forest Fire Tower

Constructed by the Department of Forest and Waters in 1929, its original purpose was to serve as a tourist attraction, allowing visitors to climb its nine flights of stairs and enjoy a scenic view of the surrounding Clarion River Valley. However, it quickly proved its value in detecting forest fires by spotting its first fire on September 2, 1929, in the nearby Crown, Pennsylvania. A Brookville Republican newspaper article dated October 3, 1929, mentions the event.

Cook Forest Fire Tower newspaper article

In 1948, it officially began its role as a fire tower, staffed by both paid and volunteer fire observers who operated it in eight-hour shifts throughout the annual fire season for the following 28 years.

Cook Forest Fire Tower

In 1976, a devastating tornado plowed through western Pennsylvania and through Cook Forest, blowing down the tower's electric and phone lines.

Cook Forest tornado newspaper aricle

The storm caused the death of four and left many more hospitalized throughout western Pennsylvania.

Cook Forest tornado newspaper article

On the same day, twisters also moved through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Alabama, killing seven. President Gerald Ford's motorcade narrowly missed a tornado while campaigning in Chicago.

Tornado newspaper article

A month after the severe storms ripped through western Pennsylvania, Cook Forest's fire tower was repaired and reopened to the public.

Cook Forest Fire Tower

Today, Fire Tower #9 stands as one of the rare surviving original fire towers in the state accessible to the public. While the box at the top is locked to deter vandalism, climbing the tower's nine flights of stairs offers visitors impressive 360-degree panoramas, with clear-day vistas stretching as far as 15 miles.

Cook Forest Fire Tower

Fire Tower #9 is located 2 miles from the park's visitor center and is easily accessible with just a brief quarter-mile walk from the parking area.

Cook Forest Fire Tower

From the same trailhead, visitors can also reach the popular Seneca Point Overlook, which provides an equally impressive, if not superior, view. Visiting both spots on the same trip is roughly a half-mile round trip.


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