Pennsylvania’s first state park, Valley Forge State Park (now part of the National Park System), opened in 1893 with a mission to preserve the historic encampment of Valley Forge. Since then, numerous state parks have been established not only to preserve priceless historic sites, but also to maintain the state's natural beauty while providing a wide range of outdoor activities for all to enjoy.
Whatever your interests are, Pennsylvania’s state parks have it covered: camping, backpacking, picnicking, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, white-water rafting, wildlife watching, scenic viewing and cross-country skiing, just to name a few. Add to the list some activities you might not frequently associate with state parks and start counting all the delightful ways to experience Pennsylvania's great outdoors.
So much to see and do, so little time
Crawl, walk, dash across, or simply admire the boulder field at Hickory Run State Park, where boulders as long as 26 feet can be found. This National Natural Landmark’s abrupt flatness and noticeable lack of vegetation make for a striking scene – one that has remained relatively unchanged for more than 20,000 years.
Load up the kids and a few palm-sized rocks to orchestrate your own "rock" concert in Ringing Rocks Park, nestled in the woods of Upper Black Eddy. The park's unique rocks make a hollow, ringing sound when struck with another rock or a hammer. You’ll be in good company – in 1890 Bucks County local Dr. J.J. Ott collected enough rocks with different pitches to play music accompanied by the Pleasant Valley Band.
Visit Pymatuning State Park for a wide variety of family-friendly activities: camping, swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking and more. If fishing is a pastime or passion of yours, you won’t be disappointed. Game and Fishing Magazine recently ranked Pymatuning as one of the Top Ten Family Fishing Vacation spots in the country.
Wildlife is abundant in the wetlands, mature forests, old fields and farmlands of Maurice K. Goddard State Park in Mercer County. Wander around this park long enough and you might be rewarded with a Bald Eagle sighting – a pair has been nesting close to the marina for three years.
Stay overnight in rustic cabins or quaint campgrounds in the forest of Parker Dam State Park and spend your days backpacking through the Quehanna Wilderness or mountain biking along one of Parker Dam’s many trails. Pennsylvania elk inhabit this part of the state, but they’re elusive. Go on an early walk and watch for them feeding along the trails.
Hibernia County Park contains beautiful woodlands, trails, meadows and camp and picnic areas. Small boating and fishing is available on Chambers Lake, which is located within the park. While you’re there, tour Hibernia Mansion, a historical home that was part of a prosperous iron forge throughout the 19th century.