20 Must-Visit State Parks in Pennsylvania (2022)
One thing that Pennsylvania holds the richness of is the “State Parks”. This North-eastern United States region is home to 121 incredible State parks, and each of them is worth visiting. Unlike the National parks in Pennsylvania, which are more about history, the State Parks here are solely about, Nature, breathtakingly scenic views, and recreational dreams. Either it is Pymatuning State Park, one of the biggest, or Presque Isle State Park, one of the most visited, there’s always something great about every State Park addition in Pennsylvania.
Every State Park in Pennsylvania is open and free for general public exploration, and there are lesser chances that you won’t find a new park within every one hour of drive. The expansive and gorgeous landscapes of the State are filled with wealth and panorama of Nature, and if you haven’t explored them yet, you are definitely missing something. This season plan your Pennsylvania trip covering our top picks for the Most Popular State Parks.
20 Must-Visit State Parks in Pennsylvania
Have a look at our list of 20 Must-Visit State Parks in Pennsylvania.
1. Ohiopyle State Park
Encompassing 20,500 acres of beauty, the Ohiopyle State Park is known to be one of the largest and most visited State Park in Pennsylvania. It houses the richness of Youghiogheny River, scenic Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle Falls, the Meadow Run Waterslides, along with 100 acres of gorgeous Ferncliff Peninsula spread. Ohiopyle is popularly visited for white water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and while enjoying your time in the Youghiogheny River, one can even sit between the boulders with rushing water underneath. 18,000 acres of parkland offers hunting and fishing opportunities though one has to operate under the rules and regulations. Image Source
Ohiopyle State Park has dozens of hiking trails spread over 100 miles, and here you can enjoy various activities from horseback riding to mountain biking, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. One can even stay here overnight, either camping at the designated sites or renting the cottages. From Nature to recreation, Ohiopyle has everything that travellers can desire.
Region: Laurel Highland, Ohiopyle
2. Ricketts Glen State Park
One of the most scenic range in Pennsylvania, the Ricketts Glen State Park is a treat to explore. Comprising 13,193 acres, the Park is spread over 3 counties and is known for its 24 named waterfalls, beach, old-growth forest, miles of trails, and changing elevations. Hunting and trapping are quite popular at the park, and visitors can try their luck for black bears, Gray squirrel, and white-tailed deer. Hiking enthusiast from around the State makes sure to be here especially during or after the rainfall when the Waterfalls are at their blooming best. Though trails here aren’t very easy footwear except shoes are prohibited for hikers. The State Park is home to 120 campsites but the two of them on the Lake Jean shores bring an exceptionally delightful experience.
3. Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park is a sandy Peninsula often visited for its beautiful coastline and year-round recreational opportunities. The Park arches into Lake Erie, and thus here, you can find several beautiful beaches and an array of activities to enjoy. This 3,200-acre of spread is all about hiking, biking, in-line skating, bicycling, fishing, boating, swimming, and a leisurely coast side experience. The Presque Isle State Park is also home to thousands of migrant birds; thus, you will spot bird watchers and photography enthusiasts at every corner of the park. Even though there are endless fun opportunities here during the daytime, but to experience the actual charm, consider staying overnight.
4. Hyner View State Park
One of the smallest yet popular State Park in Pennsylvania, the Hyner View State Park is all about beautiful vistas and a peaceful environment. Thanks to various elevations, the Park overlooks the scenic views of West Branch Susquehanna River, and it is one of the worth watching sites. Also, the elevations make it a launching point for hang gliding providing visitors a bird’s eye view of the entire river valley around. Hyner View State Park is also opens for a daytime picnic with a few facilities, including cooking grills, picnic benches, and restrooms. If you are looking for a quick Nature’s Day visit in Clinton County, then there’s isn’t a better place than Hyner View.
Region: Clinton County
5. Cherry Springs State Park
A site that has its own night charm, the Cherry Springs State Park is definitely one of the most popular State Park in Pennsylvania. The Park is known to host some of the darkest night skies on the east coast and thus is a loved place amongst astronomers and stargazers. Thanks to the void of light pollution, one can view thousands of stars and even planets, the milky way, and other constellations that aren’t easier to spot from other regions usually. Also, because of its star-studded skies, Cherry Springs is a frequently visited state park in Pennsylvania for overnight camping. Along with that, here, you can enjoy the experiences of backpacking, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding.
Region: Potter County
6. Kinzua Bridge State Park
Home to the highest and longest bridge in the world (once), Kinzua Bridge State Park is popularly visited to walk the Kinzua Bridge skywalk. Though the entire 339-acre spread of the park offers a lot of opportunities, what attracts and engages visitors the most here is the 624 feet remains of the Kinzua Bridge skywalk. The scenic overlook from the bridge is indeed a delight to watch; however, if it isn’t in your itinerary, then there are still a number of opportunities, specially hunting and hiking. The first two weeks of October here are known for fall foliage walking, and we can assure you that it is one of the most beautiful views you will cover on your trip. Before ending your trip, make sure you spend some time in the visitors’ center and enjoy some interesting exhibits.
Region: Mt Jewett
7. Black Moshannon State Park
Black Moshannon State Park is one of those sites where you can experience an abundance of Nature. This 3,394-acre Park is surrounded by 43,000 acres of the Moshannon State Forest that together boosts quiet a remote and wild setting than other State parks in Pennsylvania. Black in the Park’s name denotes the tea-colored waters of the huge Black Moshannon Lake. One of the most famous state parks in Pennsylvania, Black Moshannon offers several recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, camping, hiking. With over 21 miles of trails, the Park hosts cross-country skiing and snowmobiling during the winter months, and this is what makes the best season here. Boat rentals and refreshment stores are operated seasonally inside the park.
8. Cook Forest State Park
Lying in scenic northwestern Pennsylvania, the Cook Forest State Park is one of the top-rated State parks in not just the State but the entire US as well. The Park comprises 8,500-acres of land and 3,136-acre Clarion River land, all of the sections offering true beauty and tranquillity of Nature. What draws in the visitors most are the rolling hills and mountains, heavily wooded area, and of course, the Clarion River. The Park is home to the finest virgin white pine and hemlock timber of America, and due to its lush green trees, it was once known as the Black Forest. Visitors here often enjoy their time hiking 29 miles of 27 marked trails, hiking and biking their way. Clarion River offers swimming, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing opportunities, whereas the grounds are open for hunting.
9. Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park is noted as one of the finest outdoor recreation spots for families in Pennsylvania. The Park is spread over 4,062 acres, mainly covering Mountainous terrain along with 63 acres of Laurel Hill Lake. Lakeside and beaches are the focal points of the park, especially during the summer season when swimmers, fishing enthusiasts, and boaters often head here to enjoy their time. Further, during winters, the park transforms into a hub for cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and boating.
Though no matter which season you are here, some opportunities like hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, and hunting go throughout the year. If camping is not your cup of tea, you can also book overnight lodges and cottages.
10. Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks
Though two different State parks, Colton Point and Leonard Harrison, are often named together due to their close proximity. Colton Point is surrounded by Leonard Harrison on its east rim, where they both cover a huge area of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania together. Colton Point, though is less touristy than Leonard Harrison, when it comes to natural beauty, both the State parks score their own good points. From white-water rafting, fishing, and hunting, both the parks offer great opportunities to their visitors when it comes to outdoor recreation. Camping is another great pastime at both the parks; however, campgrounds here are rougher and rawer, lacking in even basic amenities.
Region: Tioga County
11. Little Buffalo State Park
The Little Buffalo State Park is both a historical and recreational spot in Pennsylvania. Unlike the forested state parks in the region, it offers more of a settled vibe as a lot of the area here is well managed and maintained. The two famous spots in the park, Little Buffalo Creek and Holman Lake, bring up the opportunity of marine and amphibian viewing and believe us, you cannot go back unentertained. Holman Lake is also open for fishing and boating all year round; only during winters the scene changes to ice fishing and ice skating. The Park also includes a swimming pool, two slides, a spray ground, and two dedicated picnic areas.
12. Locust Lake State Park
If you are looking for overnight camping in Pennsylvania’s state parks, then the Locust Lake State Park is one spectacular option for you. The Locust Lake is encircled by 282 campsites, and a huge area here is rated for the best sunset-watching site in Pennsylvania. The State Park was once heavily wooded, but now the forest has starting to disappear a bit. For recreational and fun activities, one can swim in the Locust Lake, though the season is specified from Memorial Day to Labour Day, and swimming is only allowed in the marked regions. Visitors can rent and launch non-powered boats and kayaks on the lake and enjoy their time amidst Nature. Like other state parks in Pennsylvania, Locust also offers hunting opportunities though it is restricted to the designated 1,045 acres.
Region: Barnesville, Schuylkill County
13. Memorial Lake State Park
The Memorial Lake State Park is spread over 230 acres, and the Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation surrounds the park. The Park was established to honor the Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers who served in the 1st and 2nd World wars, and thus the site holds high sentimental values amongst the locals of the State. It is also home to Memorial Lake, which is also one of the focal attractions of the park. Visitors here can rent Fishing Boats, Canoes, Paddle Boats to Single Kayaks and Tandem Kayaks and launch directly into the waters of Memorial Lake. Memorial Lake is also popular for warm water fishing, though depending upon the season, ice fishing opportunities are also operational here.
Region: Dauphin County
14. Milton State Park
On an 82 acres River Island, the Milton State Park lies somewhere between the boroughs of Milton and West Milton. The southern region of the park is much into its original wooded state and is popular for hiking opportunities, whereas the Northern region is mainly used for day facilities. Being in closer proximity to downtown Milton, the state parks host a huge crowd all through the year and are also one of the top-rated tourist spots. The migrant season here welcomes waterfowls and birds, hosting a number of birdwatchers and wildlife photographers hand to hand. The State Park has several well-maintained picnic facilities on the Northern end, along with various soccer and softball fields. The only issue here is the pests and bugs; thus, make sure you soak well in a good insect repellent before heading towards the park.
Region: Northumberland County
15. Salt Springs State Park
Known for 500 years old Hemlock trees, the Salt Springs State Park is home to some of the largest and oldest trees in Pennsylvania. Apart from the Hemlocks, the park is also home to a gorge with three waterfalls on Fall Brook, 15.65 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails, fisheries, picnic, and camping sites. The trails here are divided into smaller lengths and marked easy to moderate, ensuring hikers of every level can enjoy their time. However, when it comes to skiing, only advanced-level skiers are appreciated as the route goes really dense and dangerous for beginners. The Park organized various programs throughout the year; thus, make sure you check details on their website beforehand.
Region: Susquehanna County
16. Samuel S Lewis State Park
Samuel S Lewis State Park is an 85-acre park on Mount Pisgah featuring miles of hiking trails and picnic areas. It is ideal for daytime recreation, and you can find the locals of York County enjoying their time in this beautiful landscape. Mount Pisgah stands at an elevation of 885 feet, and thus one can enjoy gorgeous vistas of the surrounding towns, fields, and the Susquehanna River while exploring the Samuel S Lewis State Park. The Park is also used for astronomical observation, and believe us, the star-studded sky views from here are something better than what we claim as extraordinary.
Region: York County
17. Sand Bridge State Park
Sand Bridge State Park is the smallest state park in Pennsylvania, encompassing an area of just 3 acres. If you are in search of some peace and tranquillity, Sand Bridge can definitely be your top stop, as the only noise disturbance here is of the beautiful birds chirping that takes the calmness of a step ahead. You can plan a day picnic here at the park, especially beside the small stream, and soak into the stillness of the woods and peace around. It is also an ideal place to bring your pets, both on and off-leash.
Region: Union County
18. Whipple Dam State Park
One of the most peaceful and delightful places to visit in Petersburg is none other than the Whipple Dam State Park. This scenic park comprises 256 acres of land, of which 22 acres is the human-made Whipple Lake. Not for the hustle and bustle of Nature, the park is known for refreshing dips, a relaxed environment, and panoramic vistas. Whipple Lake offers swimming, boating, fishing, and ice-skating opportunities along with providing habitat to several waterfowls. Hunting here is permitted in the day-use areas, and you can try your mark on black bears, turkeys, squirrels, and a few other animals except groundhogs.
Region: Huntingdon County
19. Worlds End State Park
Another huge Pennsylvanian State Park, the Worlds End State Park, is known for its lush forest and a wide variety of wildlife. The Park is home to over 20 miles of hiking trails, though; mind it hiking here literally means climbing as the pathways are too steep or rugged. The Park is also home to Cottonwood Falls, Dry Run Falls, Angel Falls, and Gibson Falls, Mineral Springs Falls, but what truly amazes here are the Loyalsock Canyon Vistas that offer fantastic views of the Loyalsock Valley. High Knob Overlook offers another commanding view of the nearby mountains, and it is truly an example of how wonderful Nature can be. You can sit here, relax and enjoy the views of sunset and clouds underneath.
Region: Sullivan County
20. Yellow Creek State Park
Last though not least, the Yellow Creek State Park is another extravagant spread of Nature (2,981 acres) that you can explore when in Pennsylvania. Locals of Brush Valley and Cherryhill Townships often visit here for kayaking and swimming sessions, and you can spot some great skills here. Visitors can rent sailboats, paddleboats, canoes, or even motorized pontoon boats and enjoy their time on the waters of Yellow Creek Lake. Yellow Creek State Park is also a famous spot for fishing, hunting, picnicking, and camping.
Region: Indiana County