Sometimes we don’t have to get on a plane or travel far to get a change of scenery or escape the stresses of our day-to-day life. Beautiful scenery, charming lodging, and a weekend of refreshing disconnect and recharging is sometimes less than half a day’s drive from us. Such is a visit to the Bear Lodges in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, home to PA’s “Grand Canyon.”
I’ve visited Bear Meadows Lodge in Wellsboro twice now and each time I’m struck by how every detail of your stay has been thoughtfully arranged. From lightly heated bathroom floors, to gorgeous views of wildlife from your private patio, to the charming slow-pace of an authentic small Pennsylvanian town, visitors are sure to be delighted with this getaway.
I would even dare to say I’m more of a city girl at heart, so the fact that I’m already thinking about how to visit one of the Bear Lodges a third time shows you how serious I am about what a magical relaxing time it can be.
Bear Meadows Lodge
Staying at Bear Meadows Lodge in Wellsboro, or any of their sister lodges, is a very special experience. Allow me to gush a little bit…
- Heated bathroom floors
- Fireplaces available in most bedrooms
- Personalized welcome messages and little thoughtful touches such as your favorite candy on the pillow
- Contactless checkin and an emphasis on privacy: this is a lodge specifically built for a secluded getaway – your key and useful information is pinned to the front of the door when you arrive, along with a picnic tote you can keep
- Hot tubs and private patios available in the majority of the rooms – others may have an indoor jacuzzi option
- Well situated just outside the small town of Wellsboro – go into town for meals, or get takeout or delivery for a private evening on your own
- Thoughtful touches like bear-shaped soaps from local artisans, separate towels for the hot tub sitting in a basket nearby, bathrobes available, a booklet with travel advice, and wonderful handwritten guestbooks where you can see other travelers’ recommendations and trip reports
- The Meadows location looks out over a sweeping meadow where you can sometimes spot wildlife, while the Mountain location is just a little bit more remote and surrounded by forest. The Mountain location does have a large common area to share with others, as well as a firepit, which could be a lot of fun if traveling with friends.
It’s important to understand that although you may find the Bear Lodges listed on Bed & Breakfast sites, it is a hybrid B&B model. There is no freshly cooked breakfast available. For each night you stay, you receive $10 Wellsboro Cash to use at a variety of restaurants or stores in Wellsboro. Your room is also fully stocked (and restocked as long as you don’t have the Do Not Disturb sign on!) with fresh muffins, yogurt, cheese, orange juice, energy bars, fruit, Gatorade or ice tea, and a well-supplied selection of Keurig coffees and tea.
So for those who enjoy a small breakfast to begin with, the daily supply may be more than enough for breakfast – and if not, the $10 Wellsboro Cash gives you a substantial discount to use at some of the delicious options such as the classic Wellsboro Diner. I really like this hybrid model as it allows you as much privacy and seclusion as you please. For eager hikers or busy sightseers, it also allows you to get out the door quickly in the mornings without the formality of a sit down breakfast at traditional B&Bs. All the lodges – Bear Mountain, Bear Meadows, and Main Street – follow this model.
How to Get to the Bear Lodges or Wellsboro
Here are driving distances from PA cities:
- Pittsburgh: 4 hours
- State College: 2 hours (if you’re driving through or near State College, consider stopping at Penn’s Cave along the way – this underground lake and cavern is very interesting!)
- Philadelphia: 4 hours
- Scranton: 2.5 hours
- Erie: 3.5 hours
- Rochester, NY: 2 hours
- Syracuse, NY: 2.5 hours
Three Bear Lodges in Wellsboro
There are three Bear Lodges – Bear Meadows Lodge, Bear Mountain Lodge, and the Bear Main Street Lodge. The reservation system will bring all three up when you look for specific dates, so you don’t have to run multiple searches.
All three lodges are open year-round – check their website for some specific booking specials such as multi-night discounts or weekday stays.
You can book directly at www.bearlodgeswellsboro.com. If you have questions before booking, don’t hesitate to email the team – they are wonderfully responsive, and are very proud of their unique lodging.
Hint: if you like your space, like I do, the Mountain Breezes Suite is a two-room suite (one bed) with two bathrooms at the Meadows location. It has a private patio and hot tub, but it’s on the corner so your views over the meadow won’t be as panoramic as others’.
Some highlights from my most recent trip
My most recent trip to the Bear Lodges was in June for my birthday, three nights. And I had been a few years earlier in March for two nights, with a blustery snow storm on departure day! *Some photos in this article may be from the earlier trip if it displays something that wasn’t changed on my second trip.
Taking a covered wagon ride with Old Covered Wagon Tours: This was an entertaining and relaxing way to venture deep into the canyon without being experienced hikers. We even spotted a bald eagle, and the previous tour had seen a bear. The guides on the covered wagon explained interesting parts of the canyon’s history, including the role the Civilian Conservation Corps played in preserving it. The wagon was comfortable with padded seats, and it was an enjoyable two hour roundtrip expedition.
Hiking the Overlook Trail at Leonard Harrison State Park
This is a fairly short trail (not even .7 miles!) but it does have one section that is rather steep if you’re going counter clockwise. The trail offers access to a second lookout point called Otter View. It’s accessible from the visitor center area. The Turkey Trail was closed for maintenance while we were there, but it’s quite challenging and should be taken seriously before deciding to undertake it. Next time we plan to visit the other side of the canyon (Colton Point State Park) for different trails and lookouts.
The Lookout Tower
We also went to find the Lookout Tower but alas, my fear of heights got the best of me and I only made it about 2/3 of the way up. There’s an automatic turnstyle to pay the $3 entry fee. The road to the Tower is right on the way to the west rim of the canyon, and you drive through a campground to reach it.
Things to do in or around Wellsboro and the Bear Lodges
Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival generally held in June – parades, fairs, concerts, vendors, and more!
Endless Mountain Music Festival generally held in July – worldclass performances by composers, orchestras, and musicians from notable symphonies. Classical, jazz, celtic, choral, percussion, and more!
The Tioga Central Railroad runs sightseeing routes on Fridays and Saturdays from May to October, including a Hammond Lake Dinner Train excursion. Visit their website at www.tiogacentral.com for their schedule and for reservations.
Of course, the star attraction is the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” or the Pine Creek Gorge. Hikers and other outdoor lovers will delight in the many options available – many challenging trails are available, but shorter or flatter trails are also in the area. It’s advisable to carefully read the trail descriptions so you can make sure you match the recommended abilities. There are easier trails on the Colton Point State Park side of the canyon, versus the Leonard Harrison State Park side of Canyon. The visitor center at the overlook of Leonard Harrison had maps and information.
More organized activities include:
- Covered wagon trail rides – choice of a Classic tour or a longer Waterfall tour to Little Four Mile Falls
- Pine Creek Rail Trail – this is a flat 62+ mile trail all along the bottom of the canyon, with several points accessible by car. Bike rentals can be arranged if you didn’t bring your own.
- Visit Corning, NY, about an hour away for access to the Finger Lakes and the Corning Museum og Glass
- Horseback trail rides
- Cherry Springs State Park – the only Dark Sky park in Pennsylvania, outstanding for stargazing. It’s just under an hour’s drive from Wellsboro.
- Multiple state parks nearby, some with lakes for swimming (the Potter-Tioga County Visitor Welcome Center is located on the road to the west rim of the Canyon, stop by for their expertise!)
- Canoe, kayak, or raft rides down Pine Creek
- In the winter, snowshoe rentals or cross-country skies are available from various outfitters in the area.
Charming small town stores in Wellsboro
I particularly enjoyed our visit to the olive oil store and the bookstore with two resident cats.
Pop’s Culture Shoppe is a highlight as well, with a large selection of board and card games and a community area in the back to try out the games yourself or participate in their activities. I suggest stopping by this store earlier in your visit so you can be sure to see their schedule of events in case you want to incorporate it into your agenda.
For those who like wine, Oregon Hill Winery has a storefront on Main Street.
For such a small town, a surprising number of restaurants abound. Country cooking is proudly embraced here, and there are also a variety of smaller cafes offering hot drinks and bagels or treats to go. The menu at The Steakhouse was particularly outstanding, but I also enjoyed our meals at the Penn Wells Hotel and The Naked Bagel for breakfast. We also liked the Wellsboro Diner, but on our most recent trip it was closed during our stay.
Don’t miss the Mainstreet Creamery, next to the Wellsboro Diner, for delicious ice cream.
Options abound, from bed&breakfasts to small hotels to camping. This is a town and area that is very proud of its proximity to the Grand Canyon and is very welcoming to visitors. Whether you want a traditional hotel or a self-catering camping experience, you will be sure to find an accommodation that suits you.
Explore the USA!
There’s no doubt that there are amazing travel destinations both near and far. Some, like Wellsboro, are easily accessible by driving for both Pennsylvania and New York residents. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend or if you’re a keen outdoors person, you’re sure to leave the Bear Lodges in Wellsboro already planning your next trip.
Enjoyed this article?
You may like this other one: Six Marvelous Trip Ideas from the East Coast.
If you’ve been to Wellsboro and would like to add your own recommendations to this article, feel free to contact me!