Year round. Free admission. Pure fun.
With nearly 2.5 million acres of state parks and forests in Pennsylvania, you will never run out of adventure, breathtaking overlooks, natural wonders, or exhilarating recreation.
If there are members in your group who move at a more leisurely pace, Pennsylvania’s parks and forests are the perfect spot for an enjoyable picnic or a scenic stroll with friends. But if you are looking for beauty coupled with wild adventure, get the adrenaline flowing with rock climbing, scuba diving, backpack hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. Whatever outdoor experience you are seeking, you are bound to find it in a state park or forest.
Whether fast and furious or slow and serene, you’ll be connecting with nature. Catch a glimpse of a bald eagle, black bear, or elk in the remote wilds of the forest, or participate in an educational program at a state park to learn more. Many of the state parks offer hands-on activities, guided recreation, and evening and weekend programs to provide a more connected experience with nature. Festivals delight all seasons of the year, with contests, music, and vendors.
Visit in the winter for a stark and serene experience away from crowds and complete with natural beauty. Stay overnight and you’ll discover new places and activities that you never knew existed as a day-tripper. Broaden your horizons by checking off new parks and forests. You’ll be amazed at what is waiting to be discovered.
PARKS AND FORESTS MUST-DOS
- Count the 21 waterfalls along the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park in Upstate PA.
- Watch the sun set over the endless Lake Erie horizon on the beaches of Presque Isle State Park.
- Enjoy the breathtaking fall foliage of the Pine Creek Gorge near Williamsport.
- Sleep under some of the darkest skies on the eastern seaboard at Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport.
- Hike through the only public and protected prairie in the state at Jennings Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock to spot the rare blazing star wildflower.
- Get close to wild elk that roam free in Elk State Forest and around the Elk Country Visitor Center near Benezette.
- Float your canoe between the cliffs of the Delaware River Water Gap in the Pocono Mountains.
- Challenge the whitewater on Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle State Park in the Laurel Highlands.
- Fly fish during the famed “hatches” on world-famous Penns Creek, flowing through the heart of Bald Eagle State Forest near Bellefonte.
- Stroll through a more than 300-year-old white pine stand at Cook Forest State Park in Cooksburg.
- Paddle aside an egret nesting island on the lower section of the Susquehanna Water Trail near Harrisburg.
- Peer down to the valley floor through a glass observation area on the Kinzua Bridge State Park Sky Walk in McKean County.
- Scamper across Hickory Run State Park’s boulder field in the Pocono Mountains.
- Climb to the highest point in Pennsylvania, Mt. Davis, in Forbes State Forest in the Laurel Highlands.
- Step back in time at the Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center at Parker Dam State Park near Clearfield.
Pennsylvania state parks and forests have free admission. They are open daily, year-round for your enjoyment. State parks’ hours are from sunrise to sunset. In some instances, state park and state forest regulations differ. Please visit the state park or forest office for a full list. Pets are welcome, but please keep them on a six-foot leash while in a state park. Certain state parks allow pets in campgrounds and cabins. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted on state park lands. Thousands of miles of trails weave throughout the parks and forests, but some are designated for specific uses. Please observe posted signs and stay on designated trails at all times. Pennsylvania state parks and forests are blessed and boast thousands of miles of streams and rivers and countless lakes, but a DCNR launching permit or PA boat registration is required. Our parks and forests feature vastly different terrain and temperatures. Many are remote and rugged. Be sure to pack layers of clothing and water, wear sturdy footwear, and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. State parks and forests have facilities for people with disabilities. If you need an accommodation to participate in activities due to a disability, please contact the individual park or forest office.
ESCAPE FROM IT ALL
Thousands of miles of Pennsylvania roads and trails, vast forests, open fields, and clear streams serve as the backbone for recreational pursuits of every kind. Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acres of state forestland represent prime examples of undisturbed wilderness, natural beauty, and wildlife. The forests cater to dispersed recreation, making the outdoor experience more solitary and remote. Our state forests are known for their extensive network of trails, awesome scenic vistas, flaming fall foliage and picturesque drives.
GREEN INSIDE AND OUT
Visit the parks and forests to not only experience the greenery of the forests and fields, but the “green” features that help to protect our natural resources. Check out our native gardens displays, rainwater capture systems, recycled materials and green-certified buildings. The Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle State Park was the first park LEED-certified building and is packed with displays, a large format theater, gift shop, snack bar, and hands-on learning. Visitors at Yellow Creek State Park can see green technology in action with the small-scale wind turbine and many other green practices.
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