Sun and Sandcastles in Pennsylvania

From Presque Isle to Poe Valley to Raystown Lake, beach bums know that PA is the place to put their toes in the sand and relax on a sweet beach. So, bring your sunscreen, beach towels — and, most importantly your fellow Happy Traveler!


Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula boasting nine different beaches on Lake Erie, is the premier place to enjoy a day at the beach. This popular summer destination provides visitors with bath houses, picnic pavilions, concession stands, playgrounds, volleyball courts, and plenty of sandy shore for lounging and building castles with the kids. Beaches are guarded and open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you’re looking for more adventure, there are 11 miles of hiking trails, scenic boat tours, recreational scuba diving, bird watching, lighthouses to explore, and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center to welcome you to the park.


Raystown Lake is the largest lake entirely inside the state’s borders, offering 118 miles of shoreline and 8,300 acres of clean, crystalline water. Raystown’s two public beaches, Seven Points and Tatman Run, are open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend and offer playgrounds, picnic tables, changing stations, and docking and loading stations. Seven Points Beach also offers water trampolines, showers, and concessions.


Ricketts Glen State Park is known for its numerous waterfalls, but did you know it also features a 600-foot beach, open from late-May to mid-September? Around the beach area there are concessions, boat rentals, and picnic facilities. After a day of relaxation, get out and explore the 22 signature waterfalls around the park, including the park’s largest — the 94-foot Ganoga Falls. Visitors can also settle down for the night at one of the park’s 120 tent and trailer campsites, 10 cabins, or three deluxe cottages.


The 5,900-acre Bald Eagle State Park is the premier outdoor destination of Centre County, marked by a 1,730-acre lake with a 1,200-acre beach surrounding Bald Eagle Mountain. Visitors can savor both the scenic, green mountains and the refreshing waters on a leisurely day along the lengthy shoreline. Families will especially appreciate the park’s other amenities, which include a children’s playground, snack bar, restrooms, and a changing room. The beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.


Moraine State Park’s Lake Arthur has long been a beach retreat for Pittsburghers looking to escape the hustle and bustle. Beachgoers can enjoy the 400-foot grass and sand Pleasant Valley Beach and the 500-foot Lakeview Beach. Located along the south side of the lake, Pleasant Valley Beach offers a sand-covered volleyball court and playground. Both beaches are open Memorial Day to Labor Day and have changing facilities and snack bars.


Enjoy Pine Grove Furnace State Park at the beach! Fuller Lake offers a lifeguarded beach area to bask in the sun. Make it a two-day trip by staying the night at one of the 70 tent and trailer campsites and wake recharged and ready for another day along the shores of Laurel Lake. A hike on the Appalachian Trail and a visit to the trail museum are also must-dos at the state park. Make sure to plan your trip between May 1 and Sept. 30 to enjoy the beaches along Fuller and Laurel lakes.


Open late-May to mid-Sept., the 525-foot sandy beach at Beltzville State Park is a welcome retreat in the Pocono Mountains. A bath house with showers and a concession stand is available near the beach area. Also nearby the beach and picnic area is a must-see covered bridge, which was originally built across the Pohopoco Creek in 1841. If you want to take your trip to Beltzville to another level, try water-skiing in the zoned area on the south side of the lake.


Historic Greenwood Furnace State Park is a throwback to a thriving ironmaking community that flourished from 1843 to 1901. What was once a busy industrial complex is now a relaxing oasis in the Alleghenies. Within the park, there is a 300-foot sand beach, along with modern restrooms, picnic tables and pavilions, a playground, snack bars, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, and a ball field. The beach area is open from late May to mid-Sept.


Hickory Run State Park is renowned for its Boulder Field — a vast boulder-strewn area that is a National Natural Landmark. Another highlight of the park is the sand beach at Sand Spring Lake. Around the swimming beach, park-goers can enjoy a lunch at the hundreds of picnic tables, try their hand at some disc golf, or gain some survival skills orienteering. After a day at the beach, extend your stay at one of the deluxe cabins at Hickory Run and take the next day to explore some of the 44 miles of hiking trails or cooling off under the 25-foot Hawk Run waterfall.


Laurel Hill State Park boasts 4,062 acres of mountainous terrain in the Laurel Highlands and the 63-acre Laurel Hill Lake. Open from late May to mid-Sept., beachgoers will find ample sand area along the 1,200-foot beach. Don’t just kick back and cool off in the fresh water — there are plenty of activities to enjoy near the area, including horseshoes, beach volleyball, a ball field, and playgrounds. Visitors will also want to walk along the trail systems and visit the Jones Mill Run Dam to see a wide range of plants, wildlife, and waterfalls.


Families love to retreat to Lebanon County at Mt. Gretna Lake & Beach. Build a sandcastle along the 300-foot lake shoreline, soak up the sun on the large grassy area, or gather some teammates for a beach volleyball game. Itching to get out on the water? Take a dip into the lake off the high dive or try a swing ride over the water. There’s also a children’s dock, snack bar, kayak and tube rentals, and a picnic grove for endless opportunities for family fun! The beach area is open from late May to the beginning of Sept.

To learn more about lake vacations, check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.

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