The Best Backpacking Trails In Pennsylvania
With roughly half the state covered in forest, its no surprise that Pennsylvania is home to some of the premier backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic. Home to sections of three National Scenic Trails, 122 state parks, and thousands of acres of state game land, Pennsylvania is bursting with places to explore. The state boasts over 35 trails and thousands of miles designated for backpacking. While some of these trails are considered long-distance and span hundreds of miles, others can be done in a few days. With all these choices, it may be hard to choose which PA trail to tackle for your next backcountry getaway. To help narrow it down, weve rounded up a list of the best backpacking trails in Pennsylvania.
From the hardest trail in the state to the most scenic, the following trails are a great representation of the diverse terrain the Keystone State has to offer hikers of all ages and experience.
Best Fall Foliage Drives In Western Pennsylvania
Just about anywhere you look in rolling and wooded western Pennsylvania in the fall, you will be rewarded with postcard-perfect views of brilliantly turning leaves. But taking a drive makes this experience memorable. So fuel up and jump in the car for some fantastic fall views on these short road trips through beautiful country.
Clear Creek State Park
Clear Creek State Park is a delightful 1,211-acre Pennsylvania state park in Jefferson County, opened to the public in 1922 and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The lovely state park, which is located just 12 miles from the city of Brookville, sits at the confluence of the Clarion River and Clear Creek, known as a popular destination for hiking, fishing, and hunting throughout the year. Visitors can explore the park’s 25-mile network of hiking trails, including a trail that leads to the unique Bear Town Rocks boulder formation. A canoe launch is offered on the banks of the Clarion River, which is home to populations of trout, bass, and panfish. 22 lovely rustic cabins constructed by the CC are available for weekly rental between April and December, while two Mongolian-style yurts are available for nightly rental.
38 Clear Creek, Park Rd, Sigel, PA 15860, Phone: 814-752-2368
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Pennsylvania Campgrounds: Gifford Pinchot State Park
Gifford Pinchot State Park stretches for 2,338 acres throughout northern York County, anchored around beautiful 340-acre Pinchot Lake, one of the state’s best spots for bass fishing. Much of the park’s grounds remain undeveloped today, traversed by several lovely nature trails, including the charming Mason-Dixon Trail, which offers opportunities for wildlife watching. 289 visitor-use campsites are showcased throughout the park’s southern end, one of the largest public state park campgrounds in Pennsylvania. Campsites are open to the public mid-April through October, offering full-service electric hookups with potable water. All sites can accommodate any type of camping equipment, ranging from tents to large motor homes. A children’s playground is offered for visitor use, along with a volleyball court and horsehoe pits.
800 E Camping Area Rd, Wellsville, PA 17365, Phone: 717-292-4112
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Where To Camp For Free In Central Pennsylvania
Whats the perfect activity for having fun while complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing guidelines? Camping, of course! As an outdoor activity, camping is a great way to get away from crowded spaces and enjoy nature with your family.
Regardless of social distancing, camping is always a fun weekend activity full of fresh air, connecting with nature and kicking back with some friends and smores. And as a bonus, camping can be free if you know the right places to go. This guide to free camping in Central Pennsylvania will give you the top 10 spots to camp without paying an expensive campsite reservation fee.
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Washington Crossing Historic Park
Best viewing time: late October
October is an ideal time to experience Washington Crossing Historic Park, which commemorates the site where General George Washington and his troops crossed the icy Delaware River in 1776. Stroll along nature trails and historic buildings to discover the history of Washingtons crossing and Taylorsville.
For the best views: Climb Bowmans Hill Tower for a 14-mile view of the Delaware River and its surrounding areas.
Camping Near Lake Erie Pennsylvania
Everyone in Erie, PA talks about lake effect. Its why their winters are colder than the rest of the known universe and what gives them the strength and fortitude to carry on through those long, dark months that last from somewhere around late October and extend into May. Essentially, its the idea that winds blowing off of Lake Erie make it colder, snowier, and downright more hellish to live there than just about anywhere on the planet. Maybe thats true, maybe its just another part of that PA Pride thingbut lake effect can create massive ice dunes along the shores of Pennsylvanias only waterfront property, forming a beautiful site for those of us who can drop in for a visit and head south on a whim.
If youve timed it right, and decided to not visit this cute little city on the shores of the Great Lakes in the more wicked months, theres plenty to see and do in town and on the lake alike.
Presque Isle State Park just into Lake Erie itself, is abundant with sandy beaches, birdwatching and easy hiking trails. While no camping is available in the park itself, Saras Campground sits just outside and is within biking distance to the park, or walking distance to an amusement/water park.
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Longhouse National Scenic Byway
Arguably one of the most scenic roads in Pennsylvania, the Longhouse National Scenic Byway in northwest Pennsylvania is a meandering 55-mile loop through the heart of the Allegheny National Forest with plenty of breathtaking overlooks for great fall photos. The fall foliage drive begins in Warren via U.S. 6 East. Just out of town, turn left on Pennsylvania State Route 59, which follows the Allegheny River to the Kinzua Dam, where you turn right onto the Longhouse Scenic Drive.
Along the route, you will pass the Jakes Rock Overlook and Kiasutha Recreation Area, each with beautiful picnic areas and stunning fall foliage.
At this point you have two choices:
Location: Northwestern Pennsylvania
Bethlehem Harvest Festival October 2
The Bethlehem Harvest Festival is held in the citys historic downtown area and showcases the beauty of the region during the autumn season. While this area might be known as Christmas City USA, theres a lot to love about visiting during the fall.
In addition to great kids activities, vendors, a scarecrow decorating contest, and a Biergarten, visitors can also stroll through the downtown area. Along the way, you can try samples of soup, wine, beer, and other delicious treats.
Find out more here.
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Foxwood Family Campground East Stroudsburg Pa
This pet-friendly campground situated in the amazing Pocono Mountains offers an array of campsites, cabin rentals, and RV sites sure to please everyone. There are four sites to choose from: tent, camper, field, and seasonal, and four cabin type rentals. Seasonal sites allow you to save money and wear and tear on your vehicle. With management approval, you can even customize your site! Some amenities include electric hookups, sanitary dump station, and sewer hookups. Planning that big family reunion or other get-togethers? Field sites are available that include common water and electric hookups with nearby bath facilities. If you want to explore activities outside the campgrounds, there are plenty of nearby shopping venues.
Pennsylvania Campground Guide And Camping Resources
With over 200,000 acres and no entrance fees, Pennsylvania state parks provide countless opportunities for hiking, picnicking, camping, fishing, hunting and so much more. Boasting more than 400 cabin and lodging facilities, as well as 6,000 campsites, the parks are sure to have the perfect fit for any outdoor adventure.
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Raccoon Creek State Park
Located in Beaver County, Raccoon Creek State Park is one of the largest parks in Pennsylvania, and began as a recreational area operated by the National Park Service. Camping ranges from rustic non-electric to modern cabins. Raccoon Creek State Park offers many amenities such as the Frankfort Mineral Springs, educational programs, or just the peace and solitude that come from escaping to nature. There are some areas that are ADA accessible with ADA accessible restrooms. Some campsites are pet friendly but be sure to verify before bringing your furry friend. Make sure to clean up after yourself and furry friends to preserve the beauty of the park for yourself and others!
Places To Camp For Free In Central Pennsylvania
For those looking for an isolated, inexpensive alternative to the noise and crowds of developed campgrounds, Pennsylvania offers hundreds of free campsites throughout the state. Because Central Pennsylvania has the Appalachian Mountains running right through the middle of it, the area is a prime destination for good hiking, gorgeous scenery and free camping.
Most of the sites that offer free camping in Central Pennsylvania are located on state forest lands and do not provide any amenities, though some may have a fire ring or a picnic table for guests. These types of primitive sites are typically intended for tent camping. If you want to bring a small trailer or camper van, be sure to contact the campsites district office to find out whether they are allowed or can be accommodated.
Although these campsites are free to visit, they do require registration, so remember to call ahead and reserve your spot. Most of the sites also require a camping permit for multiple-night stays. These permits are free and can be easily obtained by calling the district office.
Finally, read through both the CDC guidelines for visiting parks and recreational facilities and this brochure of camping guidelines and ethics to make sure you practice good camping etiquette. Knowing the right way to camp will help you preserve the beautiful forests of Central Pennsylvania, remain respectful of other fellow campers and stay safe in the wilderness.
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Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Camp
- Southeast Pennsylvania
- Hiking and fishing
- Volleyball, disc golf and horseshoes
Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Camp-Resort offers a fun Yogi Bear-themed experience with a wide selection of attractions to enjoy. One is Yogi Bears Water Zone, an aquatic playground. Another is mini golf, where you can putt with a Yogi Bear statue looking on.
You can also be active on the basketball and volleyball courts or go for a run or walk on its hiking trails along Stewart Run Creek. In fact, the latter is where the woodsy, secluded aspect of this 63-acre park flourishes. You can also take advantage of its gem mining and laser tag opportunities for an additional cost.
Do note that this camping site is closed from early November through April with its peak season from the middle of June to the middle of August. Also take into account that the park recommends booking spaces at least six months in advance.
Other things to consider include pets only being allowed at its RV sites and Wi-Fi only being available at the Water Zone, Pavilion and Ranger Station.
Five Places You Should Camp This Summer In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is home to hundreds of campgrounds that range from hotel-like resorts to backcountry.
Each winter, I wring my hands and sweat profusely trying to plan where Im going to camp with my children in the summer. I want to be near water. I want to be near mountains. I want the website to have a virtual-reality tour of the campsite so I can picture myself there, drinking beer and roasting hot dogs while my sons carve sticks into spears.
The choices in Pennsylvania are mind-boggling and the accommodations range from spartan, with pit toilets and no electricity, to I dont do camping campgrounds where you rent a cabin, sit by a pool, and play bingo at night.
Ive been camping consistently since I was a teen and since The Inquirer sent me on the road to tell stories in rural Pennsylvania, Ive gone camping even more. There are approximately 121 state parks in the commonwealth, and the majority have camping. Im a tent person. There are also campgrounds operated by electricity companies, the federal government, and hundreds more that are privately owned.
All told, Ive been to 25 or 30 campgrounds in the state, so Im not an expert, but if youre filled with dread at the thought of picking one, here are five I love.
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Top 8 Places To Camp In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania campsites are at the ready to help visitors experience the grandeur of “Penn’s Woods.
Theres no better way to enjoy the natural beauty of northcentral PA, a hike in the Pocono Mountains, or mountain biking in the Alleghenies than by camping in Pennsylvania.
Know before you go: We recommend contacting your destination before your visit for their latest rules and regulations. Find up-to-date COVID-19 traveler resources on visitPA.com.
Florys Cottages & Camping
Location: 99 N. Ronks Road, Ronks
Pack up the RV and head to Florys Cottages and Camping for a peaceful camping trip surrounded by gorgeous farmland. This clean, spacious campground is accommodating to large RVs with level sites and full hook-ups. Kick back and relax as you enjoy the Lancaster County beauty.
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Camping Near Me: The Outflow Camping Area
The Outflow Camping Area is a charming campground area in Pennsylvania’s gorgeous Laurel Highlands, located on the famed Mason-Dixon line along the state’s border with Maryland. The camping area sits on the banks of beautiful Youghiogheny River Lake and showcases stunning surrounding natural scenery on all sides, including lushly-forested mountainsides and steep valleys. The beautiful 16-mile-long lake offers some of southwestern Pennsylvania’s best opportunities for watersports and power boating, renowned for its trout fishing stock and public-access fishing pier. Visitors can enjoy opportunities for year-round hiking, hiking, boating, waterskiing, and picnicking at the site, which is also home to a full-service campground offering tent and RV hookup campsites. Amenities include modern restrooms, showers, a dump station, and a children’s playground for young visitors.
1579 Mae West Rd, Confluence, PA 15424, Phone: 814-395-3944
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Greenwood Furnace State Park
Located in the beautiful Rothrock State Forest, this park sits on 90,000 acres, and offers many recreational experiences such as hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. Winter activities include snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. The park is situated on the edge of the Seven Mountains, a magnificent area that offers many wonderful views and solitude. There are approximately 49 tent and trailer campsites in the area. Campsites are classified as Modern electric, modern non-electric, and modern tent only. Pets are allowed at specified campsites and there is a pet fee. This state park is open year-round to camping and other activities.
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Elk & Clinton County Scenic Loop
A favorite loop for many foliage fanatics, this drive takes about two hours and goes right through the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk herd . This scenic drive begins at St. Mary’s on Pennsylvania Route 120, travels through Bucktail State Park, Lock Haven, Renovo, and the mountains of Emporium along the west branch of the Susquehanna River and the Sinnemahoning Creek and back to St. Mary’s on Pennsylvania 255. The fall colors are breathtaking, and people drive many miles to attend the Flaming Foliage Festival at Renovo the second weekend of October. If shopping is your passion, allow time to visit the Woolrich Outlet Store in nearby Woolrich. A nice detour if you want great fall photos is Hyner View State Park in Clinton County, a popular and dramatic location for viewing turning leaves.
Location: Northwestern Pennsylvania
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Riveting colors flicker through the foliage. Wildlife and waterfalls abound, and wild flowers stick around all year in most spots. Sounds like one of the best places to go camping this fall, right? Agreed! Not only is this popular camping destination a hot spot for a great escape, but it also claims fame as the most bio-diverse park in the U.S.s national system, sporting FIVE different forest systems in the park. And it is the home to synchronous fireflies!
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