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The state of Pennsylvania is often best known for its big cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but there’s a whole lot of nature and green space throughout the rest of the region as well. Beyond the popular city attractions, Pennsylvania has lush forests, impressive rock formations, rolling farmlands, and plenty of wide-open spaces too. So, if you’re looking for a healthy dose of nature and fresh air on the East Coast, check out these parks and natural areas in Pennsylvania!
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There are many state parks in Pennsylvania, but one of our all-time favorites is Presque Isle State Park. This Erie, Pennsylvania park has multiple beaches that will make you feel like you’re on a tropical island. There’s also a historic lighthouse to see here and quite a few hiking trails to get active in the outdoors. You can also come here for all the water sports you love, such as swimming, kayaking, and boating. The park is only about four miles west of the city of Erie.
Ricketts Glen State Park is a National Natural Landmark and a large park with lots of trails and waterfalls. Make sure to see the highest of the falls, Ganoga Falls, which is about 94 feet tall. If you’re up for a challenge, hike the Falls Trail, which is over seven miles long and passes by many waterfalls. There are three parking lots that you can park in to access the Falls Trail. Here you’ll also find Lake Jean, which has a beach and is great for fishing and boating. This park covers land in Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties of Pennsylvania. If you visit in the winter, stay at one of the modern cabins for an adventurous getaway.
The black cherry trees in this region gave this state park its name, and it’s become known as a top place to watch the stars on a clear night. This is because the park is located in a dark and remote area of the Pennsylvania Wilds. Come see the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field here and join one of the guided walks or campfire programs. Free education and interpretation programs are offered throughout the summer months.
Many states in the United States have their own beloved version of “Grand Canyon,” and Pine Creek Gorge is the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” This is a deep and wide canyon that you can hike along if you visit the nearby Leonard Harrison State Park. It’s a 47-mile wide canyon in North-Central Pennsylvania that is carved out of the Allegheny Plateau by Pine Creek. It is also surrounded by the Tioga State Forest and has an abundant population of wildlife and birds. The park is also a popular snowmobiling spot in the winter.
The only national forest in the state is the Allegheny National Forest, a tree-filled area that fills approximately 517,000 acres. There are hundreds of campsites that you can stay overnight in throughout the forest and plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, ATV riding, canoeing, boating, and snowmobiling. Cabin rentals, tent camping, and RV camping are available within the forest. For a weekend adventure, it’s fun to go backpacking on a multi-day trip through Allegheny National Forest because there are over 200 miles of hiking trails and 53 miles of cross-country skiing trails here to explore.
You might actually feel like you’ve reached the end of the world when you see the natural beauty at this Pennsylvania state park. Surrounded by the Loyalsock State Forest, it is mountainous, full of foliage, and has some great areas for boating and taking a dip to cool off in the mountain steam. The best times to visit for scenic views is in June when the mountain laurels bloom and in October for fall foliage.
While most of the natural attractions on this list are known for landmarks that Mother Nature built, this one is also known for the man-made skywalk that is a trail built along an old railroad bridge. With this reconstruction, visitors can now walk along the bridge to get amazing views of the natural scenery all around.
A great Upstate Pennsylvania natural area we love is Lehigh Gorge State Park, which has rapids, rock out-croppings, and a steep gorge. There’s a great 20-mile trail that follows an abandoned railroad along the river that you can hike and bike along. Come here ready for adventure and with your camera to capture the amazing scenery.
Hickory Run is a large state park in Eastern Pennsylvania and in the Pocono Mountains. There are over 40 miles of hiking trails here, and some of them serve as cross-country skiing trails in the winter too. Something that makes this park unique is its boulder field that is thousands of years old and dates back to ancient times when regional glaciers were thawing out. To make a weekend adventure out of this natural destination, book a site at the campground for your tent or RV.
Ohiopyle State Park is another great natural spot to visit in Pennsylvania, especially if you enjoy hiking and waterfalls. One well-known waterfall here is called Cucumber Falls, and this scenic waterfall can be accessed from the Great Gorge Trail. In addition to hiking, the park is a popular place for whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River. Trout fishing is also popular in the river, and rock climbing opportunities are abundant nearby.
As you can see from this list, Pennsylvania certainly has no shortage of waterfalls, but one essential one to see for yourself is called Bushkill Falls. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Niagara of Pennsylvania” because it’s so large and beautiful. This waterfall and many others are located in the Pocono Mountain region of the state.