state park

The Best State Parks in Pennsylvania

From breathtaking scenic overlooks to outdoor adventure, these Pennsylvania state parks have it all.

The Keystone State is home to 121 state parks, 19 national parks and seven National Heritage Areas, all with natural beauty and plenty of recreational opportunities.

However, these are the state parks you should hit first.

Let's dive in.

Ricketts Glen State Park

With more than 20 waterfalls on a 7.2-mile loop, Ricketts Glen is the perfect destination for an outdoor day trip. Every fall seems to be more beautiful and breathtaking than the last, even during the winter when some are partially frozen. The park spans over 13,000 acres across Sullivan, Luzerne and Columbia counties. Be aware the rocky trail runs parallel to the water, making for slippery conditions.

Ohiopyle State Park

One of the largest state parks in the state, Ohiopyle is located in the Laurel Highlands, about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh. Head to the Youghiogheny River for white water rafting and kayaking, hit the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail, or venture out on dozens of hiking trails. Be sure to stop at the scenic Cucumber Falls and the natural waterslides at Meadow Run, and for unique plant life, visit the Ferncliff Peninsula.

Presque Isle State Park

Located in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania along Lake Erie, Presque Island State Park offers something for everyone with sandy beaches, hiking and biking trails, and opportunities to spot a variety of rare bird species in migration. Visitors can also enjoy boating, fishing and even scuba diving throughout the park.

Cherry Springs State Park

An International Dark Sky Park, Cherry Springslocated in the the Pennsylvania Wildsis isolated from light pollution, allowing visitors to gaze at over 10,000 stars with a panoramic view of the night sky. Astronomers flock to Cherry Springs for these nighttime views, but daylight also provides the opportunity to explore and spot the its namesake black cherry trees growing throughout the park.

Kinzua Bridge State Park

Another must-see in the Pennsylvania Wilds is Kinzua Bridge State Park. Named one of the world's top 10 of its kind, the Kinzua Bridge Skywalk was once on the highest and longest railroad bridges in existence, and now visitors can walk out on the 300-foot-high platform for breathtaking views of the region. The park also offers hiking trails and scenic overlooks throughout.

Hyner View State Park

For a completely different state park experience, try hang gliding over the Susquehanna River at Hyner View State Park. The area boasts beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, and picnic areas near the vista are equipped with tables and charcoal grills. Hiking trails and scenic roadways also provide miles and miles of leisurely sightseeing.

Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

While this natural wonder itself isn't a state park, situated on either end of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon are Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks. Pine Creek Gorge, dubbed the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon for its resemblance to the western wonder, reaches 1,500 feet deep and covers over 45 miles within the Tioga State Forest.

Once you notch the above off your list, check out these other popular Pennsylvania State Parks:

  • Cook Forest State Park
  • Trough Creek State Park
  • Hickory Run State Park
  • Lehigh Gorge State Park
  • French Creek State Park
  • Worlds End State Park
  • Black Moshannon State Park
  • Bald Eagle State Park
  • Delaware Canal State Park
  • McConnells Mill State Park
  • Pine Grove Furnace State Park
  • Promised Land State Park
  • Point State Park
  • Moraine State Park

Take advantage of the resources available through the Pennsylvania DCNR to learn more about state parks, local dining and accommodations. Most offer education centers or visitor centers with additional information and maps for hiking, mountain biking or taking your kayak out for a spin.