11 beautiful state parks to visit in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a beautiful state with 121 beautiful state parks. No matter which segment of the state you visit, you will find a beautiful park for you to enjoy. From the breathtaking scenic gorge of Pine Creek viewed from Leonard Harrison State Park to the beautiful waterfalls of Ricketts Glen State Park, to Cherry Springs State Park with dark skies, visiting the parks PA State is a great way to take in the natural beauty of Keystone State.

Choosing the most beautiful state parks in Pennsylvania was no easy task. The following parks have been selected for their beauty, uniqueness and popularity. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Pro tip: Most parks are open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year. Please check their websites to check their schedule.

Ole covered wagon tours provided a lively ride through the PA Grand Canyon. All opinions are mine.

Jennifer Pisch / Shutterstock.com

1. Bald Eagle State Park

The highlight of Bald Eagle State Park is the 1,730 acre lake in the Bald Eagle Valley. The park has two campgrounds, swimming, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, and the Nature Inn.

Access to water facilities for the disabled is available at the marina, and beach pavilions six and seven are accessible by the ADA. Contact the park before your visit to request accommodation for other park activities.

There are many picnic areas and parking. It even has charging stations for electric vehicles for public use in the parking lot of the lower park office.

Pro tip: If you use electric charging, you are asked to move to another parking space once the charging has been completed.

The Milky Way Galaxy in Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania.
Michael Ridall / Shutterstock.com

2. Cherry Springs State Park

It is one of the most unique state parks that you will visit in Pennsylvania. There are hiking trails and picnic areas to use during the day, but at night … that’s when Cherry Springs State Park is absolutely beautiful. Cherry Springs State Park is a dark sky site. It is known nationally as one of the best places in the United States for stargazing.

When we visited, we arrived around 9pm and the stars were shining brightly. I have to admit that even though I live in a rural area with minimal light pollution, I could see a lot more stars in Cherry Springs State Park.

In Potter County on PA 44, it is very remote and sits on top of a mountain surrounded by acres of forest. Most cell phones do not work in the area.

It is recommended to use a filter or red cover on all light fixtures to preserve night vision.

The public night sky observation area does not allow overnight stays. It is intended for short term stargazing only.

The night astronomical observation field is available, but you must register in advance.

Pro tip: Arrive during the day to select your location and allow time for your eyes to adjust to the dark. It is darker than you can imagine. Arriving after dark, especially if you have poor eyesight or poor balance, can be a problem.

Boulder Field (Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com)

3. Hickory Run State Park

Two lakes, a field of boulders, over 40 miles of hiking trails and waterfalls make up Hickory Run State Park the one you will want to visit. Located in Carbon County, photographers will enjoy photographing the many scenic views.

You can see a 25 foot waterfall on the Hawk Falls Trail. The boulder field in the park is a national natural monument.

Disc golf, fishing, swimming, boating, and camping are also available.

Hyner View overlook the Susquehanna River.
mgwilmoth / Shutterstock.com

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 offers panoramic views of the river and surrounding mountains.

There are miles of hiking trails and you can see hang gliders taking off from the lookouts.

Picnic tables and charcoal grills are available.

View from ground level to the Kinzua Bridge.
Robin o’neal smith

5. Kinzua Bridge State Park

Located in McKean County, the Kinzua Bridge State Park will offer you a magnificent view and a bit of thrills. The park is located around the old railway bridge which was the longest and highest railway bridge in the world when it was in service.

A tornado destroyed the bridge in 2003. Instead of rebuilding, the park created a walkway from the remaining structure, left the wreckage where it landed, and created a park.

Kinzua Bridge State Park Sky Walk Bridge.
Robin o’neal smith

The 300 foot high bridge / walkway provides a place to view the park and the Kinzua Gorge. When you walk to the end of the 600 foot long walkway, the view is awe-inspiring. You can also look through a partial glass platform to see what is under the walkway.

There are also miles of trails to walk through, and looking at the huge structure from the ground and the wreckage is awe-inspiring. There is also a visitor center, picnic areas and bike paths.

Pro tip: This is a great place to view the fall foliage, which usually peaks in the first two weeks of October.

6. Lehigh Gorge State Park

It is a magnificent park carved out by the river with rocky outcrops, waterfalls and thick vegetation. Located in the counties of Luzerne and Carbon, the Lehigh Gorge State Park offers visitors biking, hiking, photography, whitewater rafting, waterfalls, picnic areas, fishing, etc.

The 103-mile-long Lehigh River flows through the park and has been designated the PA Scenic River. Three waterfalls can be found in the park, with Buttermilk Falls being the most popular.

To note: The park is the subject of a rehabilitation project with active construction. Some roads may be closed. Recent storm and whitewater damage has washed away some trails and limited whitewater rafting. Check the website to check what’s available before you visit.

Leanard Harrison State Park Overlooking the PA Grand Canyon.
Visit Potter / Tioga County

7. Leonard Harrison State Park

This park offers a magnificent panoramic view of the PA Grand Canyon, often referred to as Pine Creek Gorge. Near Wellsboro and located on the eastern edge of the canyon, Leonard Harrison State Park has modern facilities including a food truck dealership during the summer months.

There are many hiking trails and different levels of viewing the gorge.

Pro tip: If you want a closer view, take a tour through the bottom of the canyon with Ole covered wagon tours. This is a 2.5 hour ride through the canyon in a horse-drawn covered wagon with a guide.

8. Ohiopyle State Park

One of the largest state parks in Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle State Park, is located in the Laurel Highlands. There are many hiking trails throughout the park, and many visitors enjoy rafting and kayaking on the Youghiogheny River.

Highlights of the park include the natural Meadow Run water slides and the beautiful Cucumber Falls.

Ohiopyle State Park offers bike rentals and horseback 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 are popular. You might also find divers and surfers in the waters surrounding the park.

Rare species of birds fly over the area during migration periods.

Pro tip: It is the only beach in PA that has surfing.

Waterfall at Ricketts Glen
Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau

10. Ricketts Glen State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park is a large park residing in three counties. Lucerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties each share a portion of the 13,193-acre park. It’s beautiful with ancient forests and over 22 named waterfalls.

There are 26 miles of hiking trails, and many take you to various waterfalls. The tallest waterfall is the 94 foot Ganoga Falls. Hikes range from 1 mile to just over 7 miles.

We visited Adams Falls which is near the Evergreen parking lot. It is about 200 paces from the parking lot. The other waterfalls require some hikes.

There is also beach fishing and swimming along Lac Jean. Canoes and kayaks are available for hire for use on the lake.

Ricketts Glen offers luxury cabins and camping cabins for rent.

Pro tip: Wear sturdy closed-toe shoes to visit the waterfalls.

Swing Bridge at Trough Creek State Park.
Robin o’neal smith

11. Trough Creek State Park

Trough Creek State Park is another scenic gorge formed when Great Trough Creek crossed Terrace Mountain. The creek empties into nearby Lake Raystown.

The park has fantastic rugged hiking trails that lead to Rainbow Falls, the Swing Bridge, and Balanced Rock.

There is rustic camping available.

Pro tip: The park is most beautiful in late spring / early summer when all the wild rhododendrons are blooming.

No matter which beautiful 121 parks you visit in Keystone State, you are sure to find natural beauty and a place to connect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors.

Check out these articles on outdoor activities in Pennsylvania:

About Jermaine Chase

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