The Steepest Highway in Pennsylvania is a Terrifyingly Treacherous Path

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Updated: July 30, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Pennsylvania Route 487 stretches 64.2 miles from PA 61 in Shamokin Township, Northumberland County, to PA 87 in Dushore, Sullivan County.
  • Portions of the highway feature steep terrain, offering a varied driving experience.
  • The history of Pennsylvania Route 487 dates back to 1928 when it was initially signed, with full paving completed in 1932.

Pennsylvania has many highways. These highways make it a lot easier to travel from city to city. Many of the major cities in Pennsylvania are far from each other! For example, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are about 300 miles apart. One of the highways in Pennsylvania is known for being the steepest, can you guess which one? Follow along to discover the steepest highway in Pennsylvania.

What is the Steepest Highway in Pennsylvania?

The steepest highway in Pennsylvania is Pennsylvania Route 487 (PA 487). This long highway has several points where it becomes steep, including through Ricketts Glen State Park. The steep grade reaches an 18% downgrade at the top. However, the climb up averages 9.3% grade. This section isn’t just steep, but also winding.

About Pennsylvania Route 487

Only parts of Pennsylvania Route 487 are steep. This 64.2-mile-long highway runs from PA 61 in Shamokin Township, Northumberland County, to PA 87 in Dushore, Sullivan County. The history of Pennsylvania Route 487 began in 1928 when it was signed, however, the road was paved in 1932. Previously, parts of this highway were PA 742. This highway runs through thick forests, residential areas, and farmlands. The highway also runs through a bridge over the Susquehanna River.

Pennsylvania Route 487

Pennsylvania Route 487 is 64.2 miles long.

©Jakec/ CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Animals Along the Steepest Highway in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Route 487 runs through forests and a large state park, so it’s not surprising if you see an animal or two while on the road. Follow along to discover some animals you may spot while driving on the steepest highway in Pennsylvania.

North American Black Bears

The first animal on our list is the North American black bear. According to a report by Pennsylvania Game Commission, there are about 16,000 black bears in Pennsylvania. They are found throughout the state in many of the state parks. They are frequently spotted at Ricketts Glen State Park. While black bears typically stay away from humans, they occasionally wander along roadsides, including Pennsylvania Route 487. North American black bears are large, easily weighing over 300 pounds. These bears have poor eyesight, but a great sense of smell, which they use to look for food. If you ever see a black bear in the wild, don’t approach them. Instead, make yourself look larger than you are and make loud noises to scare them away.

Black bear

Black bears have a great sense of smell.

©Menno Schaefer/


The next animal on our list is the elk, which brings in tourists from throughout the country. There are about 1,400 wild elk in the state. Sadly, elk were extinct in the state during the late 1800s because of overhunting. Starting in 1913, the Pennsylvania Game Commission released multiple Rocky Mountain elk into the state. The population increased, but it’s unlikely there will ever be as many elk as before. They need a lot of space and food. While you may see an elk in neighborhoods, this is unlikely. There isn’t a large enough food source and they are road hazards. Elk are heavy, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds!

A large male elk, with a massive set of antlers atop his head.

Elk can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

© Clark

White-tailed Deer

While driving along Pennsylvania Route 487, you can sometimes also see white-tailed deer. Sadly, it’s common to see deer on the side of the road as roadkill. White-tailed deer sometimes try to cross highways, which causes accidents. White-tailed deer are very common in Pennsylvania. There are well over 1.5 million white-tailed deer in the state. White-tailed deer have a large range. They are native to North, Central, and South America. They’ve also been introduced to other parts of the world including Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Finland, and Jamaica. 

white tail deer fawn

There are well over 1.5 million white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania.


House Sparrow

Apart from mammals, you may also see birds while on Pennsylvania Route 487. A common Pennsylvania bird is the house sparrow. They are beautiful and tiny birds that blend in with their environment. They have brown, white, and black feathers. Interestingly, the house sparrow isn’t native to North America, but Europe. Still, it’s widely distributed throughout the world. House sparrows have short tails. They can weigh as little as 0.85 ounces and as much as 1.39 ounces. House sparrows are also very social birds. They commonly form flocks with other bird species when feeding and bathing together. They’ve also been recorded singing and calling together from bushes.

house sparrow

House sparrows are social birds.


Turkey Vulture

The last animal on our list is the turkey vulture. Vultures are common along highways because of roadkill. You can typically see these vultures eating on the ground or circling from above. Turkey vultures are tall birds with massive wingspans. They are about 2 feet tall, and have a wingspan of around 63 to 72 inches. Multiple turkey vulture subspecies range in size. For example, those in Venezuela are about 2.7 and 3.2 pounds, while those in Florida are about 4.4 pounds.

Turkey Vulture - Turkey Vulture

Turkey vultures are common along highways.


Where is Pennsylvania Route 487 Located on a Map?

Twisting for 64.2 miles, Pennsylvania Route 487 stretches from PA 61 in Shamokin Township, Northumberland County, to PA 87 in Dushore, Sullivan County, serving as a vital north-south state highway.

Here is Pennsylvania Route 487 on a map:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jakec/ CC BY-SA 3.0 – License / Original

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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