Huntingdon and Raystown Lake: Pennsylvania’s Best Kept Secrets
When I first heard of Huntingdon and Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania, I’ll admit that they sounded and looked like imaginary places judging by the pictures in the travel brochure. Never in my life (and I lived in neighboring West Virginia for 44 years) had I heard either of those places mentioned.
At a travel conference, I met a native of Huntingdon who talked up the destination for its outdoor activities. My ears perked up when he mentioned that Raystown Lake had the only lake with houseboats in the entire state. What? I should go there! So I did.
I traveled to Huntingdon, in the Central Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains, with my friend Howard of Backroad Planet. As it happened, the town was celebrating its 250th birthday and was geared for a star-studded celebration.
Huntingdon, Pennsylvania was recognized as one of the coolest small towns by Budget Travel Magazine readers in 2009. So what was the appeal of these destinations? Allow me to share my travel experiences with you about why I think Huntingdon and Raystown Lake are Pennsylvania’s best-kept secrets.
Huntingdon, Pennsylvania: A Charming and Historic Downtown
The historic downtown of Huntingdon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers local shops, art, and superb restaurants, all within a walkable area. The town has a distinct appeal that charmed me at once. Huntingdon’s buildings showcase beautiful architecture flanked by lovely trees and flowers. Don’t miss the stunning Huntingdon County Courthouse, circa 1796.
Huntingdon also has Instagram-worthy downtown murals. Take in some shopping in unique shops like Stone Town Cafe & Gallery (local artisans), Reeve’s Gift Boutique, and Rothrock Outfitters, your one-stop shop for anything and everything outdoors.
Look for the town’s Standing Stone (dubbed by the Native Americans) in one of the oldest continually inhabited Pennsylvania settlements, Huntingdon. Downtown Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, is beautiful, filled with historic and elegant architecture.
The Many Outdoor Attractions
Raystown Lake is a nearby man-made lake built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The dam project, which ran from 1968 to 1978, came at the cost of $76 million to construct and was for hydropower and flood control. It attracts more than two million visitors per year who flock here to witness the stunning Pennsylvania mountainous terrain. Views are best from the Ridenour Overlook.
It is easy to get caught up in the beauty of Raystown Lake with 118 miles of shoreline to offer, and its natural setting. Houseboats, cabins, lodge rooms, campsites (700 in total, ranging from primitive to hook-ups), and hotels are all nearby and available to rent. Raystown Lake draws more than one million visitors per year to Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
While visiting the are, Howard and I participated in some light hiking at Trough Creek State Park and Suspension Bridge & Rainbow Falls. Howard is a major waterfall lover, so Rainbow Falls pleased him very much. The falls were gushing in full force; we were grateful for the previous rains.
Since I had on slippery shoes, I held back from the steepest part of the hike. Howard went forward, hiking up a steep trail that brought him to the overlook of Balanced Rock, another lovely spot. Keep your eyes open for bald eagles, a popular sight in this region. If trails are your thing, Huntingdon County has hundreds of miles of them.
Fishing in the local crystal clear waters is a key sport in central Pennsylvania. Striped bass, trout, and muskie are three of the more sought-after varieties.
A Unique Trail System
The Allegrippis Bike Trails System (mountain bikes) has a plethora of options for the novice or pro riders with 36 miles of “buttery smooth” stacked-loop bike trails. People from surrounding states and Canada drive here just to put their bikes on these trails.
In winter, show hiking and cross-country skiers use the multi-use trails. While we were there, families were visiting from many other states to take a ride on the highly desirable site.
Luxury Living in the Mountains
Howard and I stayed at a private mountaintop retreat, Bear’s Paw Lodge, handcrafted by a former owner and his wife. The stunning 6,400 square foot lodge, which sleeps around 25 (6 bedrooms, 6 baths), felt loved, and its decor was immaculate. Rustic chic cedar and pine woods added a level of sophistication to the large home. We were in our own paradise! A large wrap-around deck afforded us views of the wooded landscape, with plenty of wildlife to watch in its 40 private acres.
The home is furnished with a double-sided stone fireplace, gourmet kitchen, impressive furnishings, handmade furniture, and a built-in sauna. A gas grill and fire pit were available outdoors for our use. The luxury and beauty of Bear’s Paw Lodge made it very hard for us to leave!
Tasty Eats in the Huntingdon Area
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all tasty treats during our Raystown Lake & Huntingdon trip.
We had breakfast at Standing Stone Coffee, a downtown Huntingdon favorite. Here, I tried my first Baked Oatmeal, a Pennsylvania specialty, which was amazing! I have never been an oatmeal fan because of the consistency, but this dish, bursting with chocolate chips and topped with steamed milk, was great!
I ordered the Quiche (spinach, smoked bacon, and Swiss) and Tomato Florentine Soup. Both items were impressive. Not being a coffee drinker, I skipped the Espresso bar. However, I highly recommend Standing Stone’s coffee drinks.
At lunchtime, we stopped at Lake Raystown Marina Cafe, which was opening for the season. The cafe offered outdoor or indoor seating and had enormous windows for overlooking the pretty lake and collection of impressive boats.
We ordered the Chicken Boca, Pulled Pork Nachos, and Chef Salad. The Chicken Boca, a grilled chicken breast on billowy focaccia bread, prosciutto ham, and provolone cheese, had a yummy garlic mayo and balsamic glaze that heightened the delicious combination.
My Chef Salad was piled high with large amounts of both ham and turkey, cheese, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, bacon, and hard-boiled eggs. The dressing tasted homemade and was palate-pleasing. Our service was top-notch.
Other popular restaurants in town include Boxer’s Cafe and MIMI’s Restaurant & Martini Bar.
Dinner at a Historic Site
For dinner, we traveled to the Edgewater Inn in the nearby town of Alexandria. This small 20-room hotel (with service more in the line of bed and breakfast) is dotted with a beautiful landscape featuring oak, pine, and sycamore trees.
This original farmhouse, built by the grandson of William Penn in 1762, runs along the stunning Juniata River. In 1947 it became a dairy farm and converted back to a private retreat and inn in 1964.
Due to its location along the river, Edgewater Inn is an excellent spot for kayaking or water activities. A historic, rustic barn is on-site for weddings and unique functions. Live music and entertainment are some of the Inn’s special features.
The food at the Riverside Grill in Alexandra, minutes from Huntington, Pennsylvania, is truly fabulous!
Riverside Grill, the Edgewater Inn’s restaurant, features gourmet dishes prepared with lovely presentations that you will be happy to sink your teeth into. You will want to start your meal with the luscious Crab Dip paired with toasted crostinis.
Both the Lobster Bisque and French Onion Soups were hits with our table as well. The pasta dishes are so tasty that I recommend going straight to that part of the menu when deciding on your order.
The Fettuccine Carbonara (bacon and mushrooms in a Parmesan cream sauce) tasted excellent and filled me up. Peach Melba Foster is Riverside Grill’s dessert specialty, with bourbon-laced brown sugar and butter peaches topped French vanilla ice cream and a tangy raspberry coulis. Yum!
After dinner, we enjoyed touring the property, guest rooms, and the barn.
A great rainy day activity, or one that will thrill collectors wanting to stroll down memory lane, is the Isett Heritage Museum. Located on Stone Creek Road, this quirky museum will help you rekindle memories of yesteryear from its enormous collection of antiquities.
Everything in the three buildings housing memorabilia of all types and genres is organized neatly. You could seriously be here for days browsing! Each item seems to spark a new conversation between visitors. Isett Heritage Museum currently boasts 40,000 antiquities and memorabilia items.
The Raystown Lake Visitor Center is another unique spot in town, surrounded by lush, forested ridges. Its warm and cozy feel, with playgrounds, pavilions, and incredible flowers and trees, made this a place for exploring nature. Be sure to check out their great gift shop as well in this fabulous natural setting.
Huntingdon and Raystown Lake: Two Memorable PA Towns
My trip to Raystown Lake and Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, has been one of the highlights of my year. I loved the opportunity to explore so much natural beauty and then on the flip side, delight in the tasty eats and interesting shops.
This is one destination you will be reading and hearing about a lot in the future when the word gets out.
FYI: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia residents will only have a two to three-hour drive to get to Huntingdon.
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