Pennsylvania is a beautiful place to go on vacation! The history is everywhere, and the sports scene of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is out-of-the-ballpark phenomenal. Meanwhile, Hershey is a chocolate lover’s dream come true, and the popular casino brands in Pennsylvania rival some of the best in the country.
But what you may not know is that there is more to Pennsylvania than cities, suburbs, tar, and cement environments. In fact, the name Sylvania is Latin for “of the woods.”
The Keystone State has some wide-open spaces where you can get back to nature and relax. We will not blame you for wanting to stay away from crowds and the congested traffic leading into the major camping grounds (hey, who needs the hassle?). Instead, we will suggest several camping grounds off the beaten path that are splendid places to unwind and get to know Mother Nature intimately.
Cherry Springs State Park
The Pennsylvania Wilds are 2.1 million acres of land in northwestern Pennsylvania. It features forests and scenic rivers crisscrossing the territory and has abundant wildlife as permanent residents. Cherry Springs State Park, located in the Wilds, is known as a stargazer’s heaven. Astronomers love the dark skies above the park because they permit an unrivaled view of the stars and galaxies floating high above us. Thirty campsites await you to pitch your tent and do some astral exploring.
Ricketts Glen State Park
Water tumbling over rocks is a natural sound of serenity. It helps you kick back, enjoy the sound, and let your soul breathe in tranquility. Ricketts Glen State Park has 22 waterfalls that reach as high as eight stories. You can view all the waterfalls as you wander along the Falls Trail and decide for yourself which is best.
Cook Forest State Park
Some folks love to be surrounded by trees. The seclusion is good for the soul and settles nerves jangled by city life. Cook Forest State Park has some of the tallest and oldest trees in Pennsylvania. You can put your tent down in one of the more than 200 campsites or try a yurt if you are feeling adventurous.
Ohiopyle State Park
The park is located in the Laurel Highlands, and outdoor types love it. The Great Allegheny Passage is just one of the hiking trails you will find in Ohiopyle State Park. However, if you don’t want to spend your time walking around, the Youghiogheny River is close by and is just the thing for whitewater rafting.
Glassman Point is located in the Allegheny National Forest and provides a spectacular view of the Allegheny Reservoir, permitting anglers to indulge in their favorite pastime. It is very family-friendly, and you can pitch a tent or park an RV without any problem. Is there a catch to all of this? Well, it depends on you, but do note that Glassman Point does not have electricity.
Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park is big—4,200 acres big. It has a lake to swim in and hiking trails to walk on. The fishing is excellent, and so is the scenery. Keep in mind the park has few amenities, so you are really getting back to nature here. But the peace and quiet, combined with the incredible view, make it all worthwhile.
Colton Point State Park
Arizona has a Grand Canyon, and so does Pennsylvania. The Keystone version is located in Colton Point State Park. Also known as Pine Creek Gorge, it was designated a National Nature Landmark in 1968. The park provides a fantastic view of the rim of the Canyon, and visitors are encouraged to hike, kayak, and fish. Incidentally, Leonard Harrison State Park shares Pine Creek Gorge with Colton Point, so you can visit both on the same trip. As of this writing, Colton Point State Park is temporarily closed, so make sure to check the park’s website for any updates before venturing towards it.
Worlds End State Park
If you are a hiker looking for a challenge, Worlds End State Park offers plenty. High Rock Trail is a daunting trip through the wilderness and one of several trails in the park. Worlds End State Park is also known for beautiful waterfalls, such as Alpine Falls, High Rock Falls, and Tamarack Falls.
Things to Remember
You want this expedition into the woods to be safe and memorable. Please do not feed the animals; they have enough stuff to munch on in the bush. Park rangers are not there to harass you but to help you. They have a wealth of information to share and can tell you things that will make your visit even more fun. You should make a point of checking each park’s webpage to find out if the park is currently accepting visitors or closed for any needed repairs.
Don’t forget that this region has some of the darkest skies in the northeast. You should adjust your cameras to accommodate lower levels of natural light, and always keep your distance when photographing wild animals. They will attack if they feel threatened or to protect their young. Some of the parks have all kinds of amenities, while others are much more primitive. Therefore, it’s best to have an idea of what amenities you need to be comfortable before you set out on your outdoor adventure.
And that is what the trip really is! It is a chance to escape city life’s noise and hassles and calm down surrounded by incredible scenery. Pennsylvania is a fantastic escape for everyone, and the parks have what you need to recharge your batteries. It could be checking out the stars at Cherry Springs State Park, listening to the water cascading over the rocks at Ricketts Glen State Park, or gazing at the wooden wonders at Cook Forest State Park. It is all there for you.