The Pennsylvania Wilds encompasses over 2 million acres of public lands, which are protected and set aside for citizens and visitors to enjoy. The region boasts 29 state parks, eight state forests, and is home to the Commonwealth’s only national forest: the Allegheny National Forest.
Did you know that there is nearly one state park within 25 miles of nearly every resident?
There’s no admission cost. It’s just up to you to get outside and find your next adventure in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Here’s a rundown of some of the places you can check out, organized by sub-landscapes in the Pennsylvania Wilds!
The Allegheny National Forest is a beautiful area covering 513,175 acres of the Pennsylvania Wilds. About 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, the forest offers tremendous opportunities for people to recreate in the great outdoors. The immense territory includes bicycling, hiking, horseback riding and all-terrain vehicle trails; camping and cabins; fishing and hunting destinations; scenic drives; water activities; and opportunities to study rocks and minerals or view wildlife. The forest encompasses the Kinzua Dam, which is situated on the Allegheny River, one of two national Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Pennsylvania Wilds, and forms the Allegheny Reservoir.
Learn more about the Allegheny National Forest and Surrounds region here.
State forests provide unique opportunities for dispersed outdoor recreation that can be obtained only through large blocks of forest.
State parks are smaller tracts of land within the state forest system that offer opportunities to participate in outdoor recreation with easier access to park amenities and staff. They serve as outdoor classrooms for environmental education.
The following state parks and forests are situated in the Allegheny National Forest and Surrounds landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds, flanking the Commonwealth’s only national forest.
Cornplanter State Forest: This 1,585-acre forest features hiking, biking and horseback riding trails and opportunities for camping, geocaching, hunting and fishing, as well as cross-country skiing in the winter. More info here. (pictured top left)
Chapman State Park: This 805-acre state park, located adjacent to the Allegheny National Forest, provides a 68-acre lake perfect for swimming and fishing. Other available opportunities include camping, cottages, yurts, and hiking. More info here. (pictured top right)
Kinzua Bridge State Park: This 339-acre park is the home of the reinvented Kinzua Viaduct. Once the longest and tallest railroad structuare in the world, the Kinzua Bridge was partially destroyed by a tornado during 2003 and today serves as a state-of-the-art Skywalk. The park also features a beautiful Visitor Center, hiking, picnicking, wildlife watching and hunting. More info here. (pictured above, center)
The following state parks and forests are situated in the Cook Forest and the Ancients landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds, an area known for its old growth forest cathedral.
Clear Creek State Forest: This 16,229-acre forest offers hunting, fishing, hiking, and panoramic views from Beartown Rocks. In the winter, visitors can bring their snowmobiles. More info here. (pictured top right)
Clear Creek State Park: This 48-acre state park offers a small beach for swimming, in addition to being a scenic getaway with rustic cabins and camping, trails for hiking, and a frisbee golf course. More info here. (pictured top left)
Cook Forest State Park: This 8,500-acre park known for its stands of 300-year-old forests and the old-growth Forest Cathedral, a National Natural Landmark, also offers swimming and canoeing access. Other opportunities include hiking, camping and rustic cabins. More info here. (pictured above, center)
The following state parks and forests are situated in the Dark Skies landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds, where visitors can view the stars within an internationally-certified dark sky.
Susquehannock State Forest: This 165,000-acre state forest boasts 100 miles of hiking trails, including a 10-mile stretch within the Hammersley Wild Area, hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, and a 43-mile loop trail used seasonally for all-terrain vehicles. The forest also features trails for horseback riding and mountain biking, as well as opportunities to camp, fish and hunt. It runs into Pine Creek Valley and PA Grand Canyon landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds. More info here.
Cherry Springs State Park: This 82-acre state park is surrounded by the Susquehannock State Forest and is known for offering programs showcasing some of the darkest skies in the world. The park also offers opportunities to hike, camp, picnic and hunt. More info here. (pictured above, center)
Denton Hill State Park: This 700-acre state park allows hikers to find year-round access to the Susquehannock State Forest. Other opportunities include mountain biking, fishing and hunting. More info here.
Hyner Run State Park: This 180-acre park includes a swimming pool, in addition to opportunities for fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking, and modern cabins. More info here.
Hyner View State Park: This small park offers a mighty view. With an elevation of 1,940 feet, the park is a perfect place to go to look out over the West Branch Susquehanna River and also features a launch for hang gliders. More info here. (pictured top left)
Kettle Creek State Park: This 1,793-acres park along Kettle Creek is in a valley surrounded by mountainous terrain and wilderness. The park offers opportunities for hiking, camping, picnicking, boating, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing and hunting. In the winter, activities include cross-country skiing, sledding and snowmobiling. More info here.
Lyman Run State Park: This 595-acre park provides access to a 45-acre lake where people can swim, fish and boat. Other opportunities include hiking and hunting. There’s also an ATV trail. More info here.
Ole Bull State Park: 132-acre park along Kettle Creek provides swimming and fishing opportunities, as well as chances to camp, rent modern cabins, picnic and hike. More info here.
Patterson State Park: This remote 10-acre park offers picnicking and camping. Popular for hikers and backpackers, it serves as a trailhead for the Susquehannock Trail. More info here.
Prouty Place State Park: This five-acre remote park offers access to hunting, fishing, and hiking within the surrounding Susquehannock State Forest. More info here.
Sinnemahoning State Park: This park encompasses 1,910 acres and is nestled between Elk and Susquehannock State Forests. In addition to featuring a beautiful, state-of-the-art Visitor Center, the park offers opportunities to hike, picnic, camp, boat, fish, hunt and watch wildlife. In the winter, visitors can cross-country ski, ice skate and go snowmobiling. More info here. (pictured top right)
Sizerville State Park: This 386-acre park surrounded by Elk State Forest includes a pool, providing fun opportunities to swim, as well as fish, hunt, hike, and picnic. More info here.
The following state parks and forests are situated in the Elk Country landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds, where visitors can find the largest wild elk herd in the northeast.
Elk State Forest: This 190,654-acre forest is home to the state’s wild elk herd and offers over 100 miles of hiking trails, 20 miles of equestrian trails, 22 miles of cross-country ski trails and 80 miles of snowmobile trails. In addition, 22,000 acres are home to the Quehanna Wild Area and five nearby natural areas. More info here. (pictured top right)
Sproul State Forest: Covering 305,450 acres, this is the largest in the state forest system, and spreads into the I-80 Frontier and Dark Skies landscapes of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The forest features hiking, mountain biking, equestrian and all-terrain vehicle trails, as well as opportunities for kayaking, camping, fishing, and hunting. Winter activities include snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. More info here. (pictured top left)
Bendigo State Park: This 100-acre day-use park offering swimming, trout fishing and picnicking. More info here.
Bucktail State Park Natural Area: Unlike the other state parks, this park spans the 75-mile scenic drive along the Bucktail Scenic Byway from Lock Haven, along the I-80 Frontier, to Emporium, in Elk Country. The route offers access to major hiking and backpacking trails, as well as the Eagleton Mine Camp single-track mountain bike trail. More info here.
Elk State Park: This 3,192-acre park features the 1,160-acre East Branch Lake, which offers opportunities for boating and waterskiing. The park also offers opportunities to camp, hike, picnic, fish and hunt. More info here.
Parker Dam State Park: This 968-acre park is surrounded by Moshannon State Forest and accesses the Quehanna Wild Area. A 20-acre lake provides a small beach for swimming, in addition to fishing and boat rentals. Other activities include camping, cabin rentals, and picnicking. More info here. (pictured above, center)
The following state parks and forests are situated in the I-80 Frontier landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds, which spans the entire southern width of the region.
Moshannon State Forest: This 190,031-acre forest on the Allegheny Plateau features 35,000 acres of the Quehanna Wild Area as well as the 75-mile Quehanna Trail, which stretches from Parker Dam State Park to the village of Sinnemahoning. In addition, the forest sprawls into Elk Country and offers camping, sightseeing, fishing, hunting, and mountain biking. Wintertime activities include snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. More info here.
Bald Eagle State Park: This state park features a 1,730-acre lake for power boating, warm water fishing and swimming. Other opportunities include camping, environmental education, hiking, picnicking, and wildlife watching. In addition to upscale lodging available at the Nature Inn, boat, bike and kayak rentals are available seasonally. More info here. (pictured top right)
Black Moshannon State Park: This 3,394-acre state park offers a 250-acre lake where people can swim, fish and boat. Other opportunities include picnicking, camping, cabins, hiking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, and hunting. More info here. (pictured above, center)
Ravensburg State Park: This 78-acre park is nearly surrounded by Tiadaghton State Forest, which offers hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching. The park offers hiking, camping, picnicking and wildlife watching opportunities. More info here.
S.B. Elliott State Park: The 318-acre mountain-top park provides access to trails, hiking, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, rustic log cabins and camping. More info here. (pictured top left)
Susquehanna State Park: This 20-acre riverfront recreation area is located on the outskirts of Williamsport, the largest city in the Pennsylvania Wilds. With access to the West Branch Susquehanna River, it is the launch site for the Hiawatha Riverboat, a modern paddle boat with excursions offered May through October. More info here.
The following state parks and forests are situated in the Pine Creek Valley and PA Grand Canyon landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds, home of the Pine Creek Rail Trail.
Tiadaghton State Forest: This 146,539-acre state forest offers opportunities to hunt, fish, watch wildlife, camp and take scenic drives. It also features 200 miles of forest roads used for snowmobiling, six natural areas, three wild areas, 20 miles of cross-country ski trails, and trails used for hiking, horseback riding and all-terrain vehicles. More info here. (pictured above left)
Tioga State Forest: This 161,890-acre forest is home to the Pine Creek Gorge, a.k.a. The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, and the renowned 62-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail. It features trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding; opportunities for kayaking, fishing and hunting; and camping and sightseeing. There are 175 miles of snowmobile roads and 37 miles for cross-country skiing. More info here.
Colton Point State Park: This 368-acre park is located on the west rim of the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Showcasing the rustic charm of the Civilian Conservation Corps era of the 1930s, the rugged overlook offers great views of the canyon and Leonard Harrison State Park is visible on the other side. Activities include hiking, picnicking, camping, wildlife watching, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling. More info here. (pictured top right)
Hills Creek State Park: This 407-acre park features a 137-acre lake used for swimming, boating and fishing. Other activities include hiking, camping, picnicking, wildlife watching and hunting. Modern cabins and campsites are also available. Moe info here.
Leonard Harrison State Park: this 585-acre park is located on the east rim of the Pine Creek Gorge, known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. It features modern facilities, a visitor center, and the most scenic views of the canyon. Activities include hiking, camping, picnicking, wildlife watching, fishing and hunting. More info here. (pictured above, center)
Little Pine State Park: This 2,158-acre park includes a 94-acre lake that provides access to swimming, fishing and boating. Other opportunities include camping, picnicking, hunting, a shooting range, hiking, and eagle watching. More info here.
Upper Pine Bottom State Park: This small state park offers a welcome resting and parking area for hikers and hunters exploring nearby state forestland. Activities include hiking, picnicking, fishing, hunting and cross-country skiing. More info here.
Also — don’t forget your Pennsylvania State Parks & State Forests Passports! Click here to learn more.
*Photos provided for this article courtesy of DCNR.
Did you know that the fourth Saturday of September is National Public Lands Day each year?
The goal is to get as many people volunteering on public lands as possible. Coordinated by the National Environmental Education Foundation, there are a variety of ways the public is encouraged to participate. Learn about more ways to get involved here.
Journeys & Landscapes
Covering more than 500,000 acres, the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is Pennsylvania’s only national forest. It dominates the western end of the Pennsylvania Wilds and contains within it and around it some of the region’s most treasured places and experiences.
Known as a land of giants because of the “forest cathedral” of ancient pines and hemlocks, this landscape is an ode to the majesty of the Pennsylvania Wilds and home to many of the tallest hemlock and pine trees in the Northeast. If an adventure among Cook Forest & The Ancients sounds mystifyingly exciting to you, rest assured that you’ll rest well during your exploration. So what are you waiting for? The Ancients are calling. Come see some of the tallest pine trees in the Northeast.
Inspiring awe and delight, Dark Skies is home to the world’s second certified International Dark-Sky Park. Cherry Springs State Park is world-famous for being one the best places in the USA for stargazing and the study of astronomy. But these mesmerizing, star-filled skies are JUST the beginning.
Elk Country is a place that lives up to its name. Home to the largest free-roaming elk herd in the northeastern United States, Elk Country features two large visitor centers to welcome you. If you come to Elk Country for the elk, you won’t be disappointed. But if you stick around to see what’s all around you, you’ll be delighted you did.
Whether you’re coming from the east, south or west, the I-80 Frontier is the quintessential welcome mat to the Pennsylvania Wilds. With its proximity to Pennsylvania’s southern population centers of Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, not to mention close by New York City, and Cleveland on the western side, it’s easy to plan a trip for each season. Home to forested state parks and storied towns and places, any given exit off the interstate is a surefire way to find and explore the natural and hidden wonders of the region.
The Eastern Gateway to the PA Wilds...If it’s your first visit to the region, the PA Grand Canyon is a must see and one of the perfect ways to orient your mind and senses to the wonders of the Wilds. But once you’ve delighted in the Pine Creek Gorge views, you’ll soon discover that this scenic and unique landscape is best discovered from multiple vantage points.
Pronounced "kin-zoo," by local residents, and "kin-zew-uh" in the Seneca language, a road trip through Kinzua country is an experience rich in Native American history and modern advances.
One is unable to appreciate the majesty and sheer awesomeness of the 1,000 feet deep Pine Creek Gorge (aka our PA Grand Canyon) without a bicycle ride, walk, or horseback ride along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, voted by USA Today as one of the “10 great places to take a bike tour in the world.” Orient yourself to the trail and the surrounding area at the Tiadaghton Resource Center.