Did you know Pennsylvania has its own answer to Niagara Falls? It does! It's got its own Grand Canyon too! Join us as we explore some of the amazing locations right in our home state!
Pennsylvania State Parks
If you want to explore Pennsylvania’s great outdoors, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is a great place to start! DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks manages 300,000 acres for these popular outdoor recreation activities — Hiking, Picnicking, Camping, Fishing, Hunting, and Boating. The DCNR also provides an excellent guide of RV and tent campsites within the state parks. Find a park here!
Exploring America’s State Parks
Of course, there are a whole lot more state parks that just those in Pennsylvania! The natural beauty across our 50 states is amazing, and often times that is exactly where you will find a state park. America’s State Parks provides an excellent resource to get started exploring the nation’s state parks! Every state is unique and had different characteristics, from the rugged coastline of Maine to the high plains of Wyoming. Wherever you are in America, you are probably just a short distance from one of the thousands of state parks. In addition to state parks, there are numerous recreation areas to enjoy being outside. Whether you are looking to go bird watching, camping, cycling, or hiking, state parks are a great option for your outdoor activities.
Finding the PA Campground that Is Right for You
Pennsylvania is an unrivaled destination for today's active traveler. Pacamping.com is an excellent resource to help you find the perfect campground. Visit the campgrounds in PA and spend some time in our rural countryside to discover your outdoor moments or visit our great cities, where culture abounds and much of early American history was made. Pacamping.com also provides a handy camping directory.
The Ambler Arboretum
If we're talking about outdoor arventures in Pennsylvania, we'd be remiss to not mention our own little 187-acre slice of nature! The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University is an educational resource modeling the art and science of horticulture and environmental responsibility while fostering research, celebrating the achievements of women in horticulture, preserving the historic significance of the campus and highlighting the health benefits of nature, plants and gardening. The Ambler Arboretum of Temple University is proud to be a part of America’s Garden Capital.
Wissahickon Trails — Points of Interest
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, photography, or watching wildlife, Wissahickon Trails has some great locations in the upper Wissahickon Valley for you to visit. If you would like to explore the Philadelphia portion of the Wissahickon Valley, visit Friends of the Wissahickon's website. For more than 60 years, Wissahickon Trails has worked to engage diverse communities of people to protect and enjoy the land and waterways of the Wissahickon Valley. The organization's partnerships with neighbors, activists, and local governments are essential to their work. Together, they use preservation and scientific innovation to strengthen our local ecosystems. Some of the upper Wissahickon points of interest include some of the following (view a more extensive list here).
Once scores of mills lined the banks of the Wissahickon Creek using the Creek's water to power industries which sawed wood, made paper, ground grain, and manufactured felt. Today nearly all of these buildings are gone, having been destroyed or converted to other uses. Wissahickon Trails’ Evans-Mumbower Mill still stands, preserved, operational, and open to the public, offering a glimpse into the past.
Stepping Stone Crossings
There are eight stepping stone crossings that crisscross the Wissahickon Creek from the Green Ribbon Trailhead to mile marker 10. These stone crossings are ecologically less impactful than other types of stream crossings and they keep trail users feet dry. They are one of the most photographed icons of the upper Wissahickon Valley and a fun way to cross the creek.
Hawk’s Nest Observation Deck
The Hawk’s Nest bird observation deck at Dodsworth Run preserve is a great place to view hawks! With funding from REI and Merck & Co., Inc. and the help of local Eagle Scout Dominick Ortolani, Wissahickon Trails constructed the Hawk’s Nest viewing platform at Dodsworth Run Preserve. This elevated platform, built to resemble a nest, allows visitors to get a view of the vernal pool area and the preserve from a “bird’s” perspective.
Wissahickon Waterfowl Preserve
This preserve is an example how a community can come together to reduce the negative impacts that humans can have on the natural world and turn it into something beautiful. The Wissahickon Waterfowl Preserve is located in Ambler near the Wissahickon Creek and is at the site of the BoRit Asbestos Superfund Site. According to the EPA, they removed any potential risk from asbestos and completed all removal cleanup work in 2017. After the work was completed, a walking path and benches were installed around the fenced-in 11-acre pond. This preserve is an eBird hotspot and home to many beautiful birds.
Natural Lands — Local Hiking Locations
Need a little help finding a local hiking location? Natural Lands has you covered! Use their interactive map to discover beautiful hiking locations on acres and acres of preserved land! Discover locations like Bear Creek Preserve, Crow’s Nest Preserve, Gwynedd Preserve, Stone Hills Preserve, Stroud Preserve and much more! View videos from Natural Lands here.
Experience the Night Sky as it Should Be
Just outside of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, you’ll find star-spangled Cherry Springs State Park, consistently rated one of the seven best places on the planet for stargazing. On a clear night, up to 30,000 stars fill the sky, and lucky guests may also glimpse Asteroids, Venus — the evening star, Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), Omega Nebula, Zodiacal Light, Meteor Showers, Lunar Viewing and the Milky Way, and other celestial bodies. Cherry Springs calls to everyone from amateur stargazers to professional astronomy students.
Keep Looking Up!
While Cherry Springs might be the most famous, it’s not the only locations in Pennsylvania for dark skies! Pennsylvania WILDS provides a wide variety of resources for outdoor adventures in the state, including the best places to look up and explore the universe. Examples include Sinnemahoning State Park and Wildlife Center, Sproul State Forest, Austin Dam, Susquehannock State Forest and Hyner Run and Hyner View State Parks. Find more resources from Pennsylvania Wilds here.
Pennsylvania’s Niagara Falls
High in the uplands of the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, streams of crystal pure water bubble up through rifts in primeval rock. These are the headwaters of Bushkill Creek, a great marsh alive with the call of wild birds. As the waters begin their descent toward the Delaware River far below, they move ever faster toward Bushkill Falls, rushing over Pennell Falls, then between rocky walls through the Upper Canyon and Laurel Glen. Suddenly the stream drops over the edge of a 100-foot cliff, the majestic Main Falls. This is Bushkill Falls, the Niagara of Pennsylvania.
We’ve Got Our Own Grand Canyon Too!
Pine Creek Gorge, known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, stretches for over 45 miles with depths of nearly 1,500 feet. The dynamic topography of the PA Grand Canyon creates many scenic wonders, including steep canyon walls and waterfalls. The PA Grand Canyon is part of the Tioga State Forest, beginning just south of Ansonia, PA, near Wellsboro. One of the most popular attractions to the canyon is the Pine Creek Rail Trail, a converted railroad bed that travels along the Pine Creek Gorge at the floor of the canyon.
Washington Crossing Historic Park offers more than 500 acres of American history, natural beauty and family fun. The park preserves the site where George Washington crossed the Delaware River and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War.
A View from Bowman’s Hill Tower
Bucks County, Pennsylvania, boasts many scenic spots, but there’s only one place to get an above-the-trees, bird’s-eye view of the surrounding countryside and Delaware River. Rising 125 feet in the air atop Bowman’s Hill and offering a 14-mile view on a clear day, Bowman’s Hill Tower is a favorite stop for locals and tourists alike. The Tower is located near the corner of Rt. 32 (River Road) and Lurgan Road, a few miles south of New Hope, Pa.
Paying a Visit to the Home of William Penn
Pennsbury Manor is the reconstructed country estate of William Penn, prominent Quaker, lawgiver, and founder of Pennsylvania. Pennsbury Manor invites teachers to introduce their the Manor through this orientation video before they visit on-site or via their Distance Learning Program. Learn about Penn’s life, the challenges he faced, and the legacy he left behind.
Planning a Pennsylvania Adventure
Pennsylvania campsites are at the ready to help visitors experience the grandeur of "Penn's Woods.” There’s 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: visitPA.com recommends contacting your destination before your visit for their latest rules and regulations. Find up-to-date COVID-19 traveler resources on visitPA.com.
- Hersheypark Camping Resort
- Allegheny National Forest
- Cherry Springs State Park
- Pocono Mountain Resorts — Otter Lake Camp Resort, Mountain Vista Campground, Mountain Springs Lake Resort
- Raystown Lake Recreation Area
- Greater Reading Campgrounds — Sun Valley Campground, Appalachian RV Resort, Mountain Springs Camping Resort
- Woodland Campground
- Beaver Valley Family Campground
16 Pennsylvania Trails That Will Leave to Breathless
According to visitPA.com, with countless trails carving through the mountains and woodlands of Pennsylvania, travelers can embark on a new journey through a variety of terrains within 15 minutes of their homes. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, bird watch, or sightsee, here are some amazing trails that will leave you breathless. 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.
- Schuylkill River Trail
- The Great Shamokin Path
- Standing Stone Trail
- Pine Creek Rail Trail
- The Allegrippis Trails
- D&H Trail at Lehigh Gorge State Park
- Heritage Rail Trail County Park
- Great Allegheny Passage
- Montour Trail
- Jakes Rocks Epic Mountain Bike Trail System
- Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
- Allegheny National Forest
- Pine Grove Furnace State Park
- Ricketts Glen State Park
- Quehanna Trail
- Presque Isle State Park
Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Pennsylvania
Boondocking (staying outside of developed campgrounds and usually doing it for free) might be the perfect camping option for you. According to Cruise America, Pennsylvania has a wide variety of boondocking sites spread all across the state, considered some of the best boondocking campsites on the East Coast. Locations include Sproul State Forest, Allegheny Reservoir, Hickory Creek Wilderness, Delaware State Forest, Tioga State Forest, and many more.
Stunning Natural Areas in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has lush forests, impressive rock formations, rolling farmlands, and plenty of wide-open spaces. 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 recommended by Trips to Discover. Cherry Springs State Park, Bushkill Falls and Pine Creek Gorge all make the list along with numerous others, including Presque Isle State Park, Ricketts Glen State Park, Worlds End State Park, Ohiopyle State Park, Lehigh Gorge State Park and several others. Read the full list here.