Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with 121 gorgeous state parks. No matter which segment of the state you visit, you will find a beautiful park to enjoy. From the breathtakingly picturesque Pine Creek Gorge viewed from Leonard Harrison State Park to the gorgeous waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park, to the Cherry Springs State Park featuring dark skies, visiting PA State Parks is an excellent way to enjoy the natural beauty of the Keystone State.
Picking the most magnificent Pennsylvania state parks was no easy task. The following parks were selected for their beauty, uniqueness, and popularity. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Pro Tip: Most of the parks are open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days of the year. Please check their websites to verify their schedule.
Ole Covered Wagon Tours provided a hosted ride through the PA Grand Canyon. All opinions are my own.
1. Bald Eagle State Park
The highlight of Bald Eagle State Park is the 1,730-acre lake in Bald Eagle Valley. The park boasts two campgrounds, swimming, fishing, boating, wildlife watching, and the Nature Inn.
Access to boating facilities for those with disabilities is available at the marina, and beach area pavilions six and seven are ADA accessible. Contact the park before you visit to request accommodations for other park activities.
There are abundant picnic areas and parking. It even has electric-vehicle charging stations for public use in the lower park office parking area.
Pro Tip: If you use the electric charging, you are asked to move to another parking space once charged.
2. Cherry Springs State Park
This is one of the most unique state parks you will visit in Pennsylvania. There are hiking trails and picnic areas for use during the day, but at night… that is when Cherry Springs State Park is absolutely beautiful. Cherry Springs State Park is a dark skies site. It is nationally known as one of the best places in the U.S. to go stargazing.
When we visited, we arrived around 9 p.m., and the stars were shining brightly. I have to admit, even though I live in a rural area where there is minimal light pollution, I could see a lot more stars at Cherry Springs State Park.
In Potter County on PA 44, it is very remote and sits on the top of a mountain surrounded by acres of forest. Most cell phones do not work in the area.
It is recommended to use a red filter or cover on any light devices to preserve night vision.
The Night Sky Public Viewing Area does not permit overnight stays. It is intended for short-term stargazing only.
The Overnight Astronomy Observation Field is available, but you must register in advance.
Pro Tip: Arrive during daylight hours to select your spot and allow time for your eyes to adjust as it gets dark. It is darker than you can imagine. Arriving after dark, especially if you have poor eyesight or balance, could be an issue.
3. Hickory Run State Park
Two lakes, a boulder field, 40+ miles of hiking trails, and waterfalls make Hickory Run State Park one you will want to visit. Located in Carbon County, photographers will enjoy photographing the many panoramic views.
You can view a 25-foot waterfall on the Hawk Falls Trail. The boulder field in the park is a National Natural Landmark.
Disk golf, fishing, swimming, boating, and camping are also available.
4. Hyner View State Park
Located in north-central Pennsylvania, this small park is popular with hang gliders. Hyner View State Park overlooks the Susquehanna River and provides a panoramic overlook of the river and surrounding mountains.
There are miles of hiking trails, and you may see hang gliders launching from the overlooks.
Picnic tables and charcoal grills are available.
5. Kinzua Bridge State Park
Located in McKean County, the Kinzua Bridge State Park will provide you with a magnificent view and a bit of an adventurous thrill. The park is located around the old railroad bridge that was the world’s longest and highest railroad bridge when it was in use.
A tornado wiped out the bridge in 2003. Instead of rebuilding, the park created a skywalk out of the remaining structure, left the wreckage where it landed, and created a park.
The 300-foot-tall bridge/skywalk provides a place to view the park and Kinzua Gorge. When you walk to the end of the 600-foot-long skywalk, the view is impressive. You can also peer down through a partial glass platform to view what is underneath the skywalk.
There are also miles of trails to hike, and looking at the immense structure from the ground and the wreckage is impressive. There is also a visitors center, picnic areas, and biking.
Pro Tip: This is an excellent place to view the fall foliage, which typically peaks during the first two weeks of October.
6. Lehigh Gorge State Park
This is a beautiful park carved by the river with rock outcroppings, waterfalls, and thick vegetation. Located in Luzerne and Carbon Counties, the Lehigh Gorge State Park offers visitors biking, hiking, photography, whitewater rafting, waterfalls, picnic areas, fishing, and more.
The 103-mile Lehigh River runs through the park, and it was designated a PA Scenic River. Three waterfalls are within the park, with the Buttermilk Falls being the most popular.
Note: The park is undergoing a rehabilitation project with active construction. Some roads may be closed. Recent storm damage and swift water have washed out some trails and limited whitewater rafting. Check the website to verify what is available before visiting.
7. Leonard Harrison State Park
This park provides a gorgeous scenic view of the PA Grand Canyon, often referred to as the Pine Creek Gorge. Near Wellsboro and located on the canyon’s east rim, Leonard Harrison State Park has modern facilities, including a food truck concession during the summer months.
There are numerous hiking trails and various levels of viewing the gorge.
Pro Tip: If you desire a closer view, take a ride through the floor of the canyon with Ole Covered Wagon Tours. It is a 2 and one-half-hour ride through the canyon in a horse-drawn covered wagon with a guide.
8. Ohiopyle State Park
One of the larger state parks in Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle State Park, is located in the Laurel Highlands. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, and many visitors enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Youghiogheny River.
Park Highlights include the natural water slides at Meadow Run and the magnificent Cucumber Falls.
Ohiopyle State Park has bike rentals available and riding trails, including the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail.
Pro Tip: Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is in the neighboring community and a great place to stay with various activities.
9. Presque Isle State Park
The Peninsula in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, where it meets Lake Erie is known as Presque Isle State Park. There are several beaches.
Outdoor recreation, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and biking, is popular. You might also find scuba divers and surfers in the waters surrounding the park.
Rare species of birds fly through the area during the migration periods.
Pro Tip: This is the only beach in PA that has surf.
10. Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park is a large park residing in three counties. Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties each share a portion of the 13,193 acres park. It is gorgeous with old-growth forests and over 22 named waterfalls.
There are 26 miles of hiking trails, and many take you to various waterfalls. The highest waterfall is the 94-foot Ganoga Falls. Hikes range from 1 mile to a little over 7 miles.
We visited Adams Falls, which is close to the Evergreen parking area. It is approximately 200 steps from the parking area. The other waterfalls require some hiking.
There is also fishing and swimming at the beach along Lake Jean. Canoes and kayaks are available to rent for use on the lake.
Ricketts Glen offers cabins and deluxe camping cottages for rent.
Pro Tip: Wear sturdy close-toed shoes for visiting the waterfalls.
11. Trough Creek State Park
The park features some fantastic rugged hiking trails that lead to Rainbow Falls, the Swinging Bridge, and Balanced Rock.
There is rustic camping available.
Pro Tip: The park is the most beautiful in late spring/early summer when all the wild rhododendrons bloom.
No matter which of the beautiful 121 parks you visit in the Keystone State, you are sure to find natural beauty and a place to connect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors.
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