Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Pennsylvania is perhaps best known for its iconic cities, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But this state also has a wealth of natural and scenic areas that are a dream for getting in some recreation and exercise. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, boating, or camping, there are some lovely parks here for all seasons. Here are 10 state parks worth visiting this year in Pennsylvania.
Hickory Run is a 15,990-acre park that has over 40 miles of hiking trails and lies at the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. This is a great place to fish for trout and check out the impressive boulder-strewn area simply known as Boulder Field. You can reach this park within two to three hours from Harrisburg, New York City, and Philadelphia. It’s fun to cool your feet off in the waters below Hawk Falls and play 18 holes of disc golf here. In the winter, you can cross-country ski on Sand Spring Trail, and there are also rustic camping cottages that are perfect for weekend getaways with your family.
One of the most scenic places in the entire state of Pennsylvania is Ricketts Glen State Park. Extending through parts of Columbia, Sullivan, and Luzerne counties, this 13,050-acre park features the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, which is the tallest of 22 waterfalls here. The park is about 30 miles north of Bloomsburg. Hikers will love the Falls Trail System and cooling off with a swim in Lake Jean on hot summer days. There’s a campground and cabins, which are great for winter weekends when it’s too cold to sleep outside. Other winter activities that are popular here include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. This is also a popular place for hunting and seeing the mountain laurel bloom in mid-June.
Cook Forest State Park spans about 8,500 acres of land and 3,136 acres of the Clarion River. The park is located in northwestern Pennsylvania and has many old-growth white pines and hemlock trees. The 13-mile stretch of the river that flows through the park is a great place to go kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. You can also get to Clear Creek State Park easily from here, which is about 13 miles away. For scenic views, heat to the Seneca Point Overlook to look down on the Clarion River Valley or climb to the top of the 80-foot Historic Fire Tower #9. Something unique about this park is that Sawmill Center for the Arts, a local nonprofit, offers classes and demonstrations on traditional crafts in the summer and fall seasons.
This park is made up of a scenic gorge that was formed when the Great Trough Creek cut through Terrace Mountain. You’ll find some impressive features, such as Balanced Rock pictured here, when you hike along the rugged trails in Trough Creek State Park. Rainbow Falls is another top attraction in this park. Consider joining one of the interpretive programs offered by the park to understand the natural resources here.
Another scenic park that’s worth the drive is Leonard Harrison State Park, which spans 585 acres and offers impressive views of the canyon. Colton Point State Park is located on the opposite side of the canyon. Between April and October, there’s a park gift shop that you can browse. Also during these months, you can joint an interpretive walk or ranger program to learn about topics like watershed education, astronomy, and fall foliage.
Lehigh Gorge State Park has waterfalls, rock formations, and a steep gorge in Carbon and Luzerne Counties of Eastern Pennsylvania. The park extends from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Francis E. Walter Dam at the north end to the town of Jim Thorpe at the south end, which is a town worth visiting as well while you’re in the area. Make a point to hike or bike the 20 miles of the Lehigh Gorge Trail, which follows the river and an abandoned railroad route. It’s also fun to take a whitewater rafting trip here and go fishing in the river during the warm months. When it’s cold, licensed outfitters will take you dog sledding, or you can go snowmobiling from White Haven to Penn Haven.
Hyner View is a much smaller state park than many others on this list, just spanning about six acres. But it’s still worth a visit because of the beautiful overlook and it’s amazing hang gliding opportunities. The views you’ll see from up in the air include the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the mountains that surround it.
This park’s name may sound a little apocalyptic, but its rugged beauty is nothing short of inspiring. World’s End State Park is a 780-acre park that offers visitors a pristine natural environment for recreation south of Forksville and Sullivan County. For an unforgettable scenic vista, check out the Loyalsock Canyon Vista from the Mineral Spring and Cold Run roads. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there’s a snack bar open here.
Located in McKean County, this 339-acre park is home to the Kinzua Sky Walk, this scenic structure was created from the six historic towers of the Kinzua Viaduct, which used to be known as the tallest and longest railroad structure at 301 feet high and 2,053 long. With a partial glass platform at the end, you can look deep down into the gorge.
Cherry Springs is a smaller state park in Pennsylvania that is about 82 acres in size and was named after the black cherry trees that originally grew in this region. It is a wild and remote place that is excellent for viewing the night sky to see the Milky Way and planets. This is undoubtedly one of the best places to study astronomy on the East Coast.