Pennsylvania has some of the nation’s most stunning landscapes that attract nature lovers and outdoor buffs in droves.
While popular sites like Pine Creek Gorge and the Delaware Water Gap are tourist hot spots, PA boasts some equally stunning but lesser-known attractions within its vast 124 state parks.
These hidden gems provide a unique opportunity to experience Pennsylvania’s natural beauty.
From rugged trails to stunning lakeshores, let’s uncover some of these hidden treasures in PA’s state parks.
The Pine Grove Furnace State Park is an exciting destination in Cumberland County and home to Laurel Lake.
While the 25-acre manmade lake doesn’t create much buzz, it’s a treasure for locals who flock to its white sandy shores to escape the summer heat.
Laurel Lake’s beach and mountainous backdrop make it look like a tiny tropical paradise tucked away in the woods. Activities involve sunbathing, sightseeing, fishing, kayaking, and hiking the nearby trails.
Little Pine State Park in Lycoming County is a breathtaking 2,158-acre park nestled in the Tiadaghton State Forest.
The serene section of misty mountains reflected on the waters of Little Pine Lake makes for an enchanting destination for hiking, kayaking, fishing, and wildlife observation.
But you don’t want to miss out on the shooting and ranges hosted within the park. It won’t be any ordinary shooting range but one surrounded by a dreamy and colorful landscape.
Waterslides are fun, but imagine one curved out by Mother Nature herself.
While everyone goes after the hiking trails of Ohiopyle State Park and rafting opportunities at Youghiogheny River, head over to the beautiful Meadow Run for its natural waterslides.
The scenic waterslides area is picture-worthy and makes for a fantastic picnic area. However, trying out the sliding activity is more exciting and worth the adrenaline surge.
A visit to Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most rewarding in the state for those seeking scenic areas.
The park lies on over 13,000 acres in three counties and is famed for its series of waterfalls and scenic trails. If you visit, you’ll most likely want to experience the Ganoga Falls and Falls Trail System.
But you may just miss out on Laurel View Trail, a lesser-known trail west of the park. Hiking the trail in spring when Mountain Laurel is in bloom is stunning. During autumn, the wooded trail is otherworldly.
Travelers to Cook Forest State Park barely miss out on the scenic stretch of the Clarion River, offering plenty of outdoor activities like kayaking, fishing, and tubing.
The old-growth forest has many sightseeing spots and scenic trails to make your experience memorable.
You’ll probably check out the historic Fire Tower, an 80-foot structure that has become a big part of the park. It’s where you go for sweeping views of the entire area.
But it’s not the only one.
A hike to Seneca Point will reward you with breathtaking views of the park and the Clarion River. It’s a wondrous place that’s easy to miss out on.
The Keystone State offers unique camping experiences in its numerous state parks. You’ll find no shortage of picturesque campgrounds to spice up your stay.
Kettle Creek State Park likely won’t come to mind when looking for PA’s gorgeous camping sites, but its Lower Campground is phenomenal.
The campground sits alongside the scenic Kettle Creek and features a mountainous backdrop.
A tent or RV by the stream makes for a fantastic escape. It’s the perfect place for laidback activities like fishing, picnicking, and kayaking.
Note that if you plan to consume cannabis — a major pastime for many — you can’t unless you’re a patient on a medical marijuana prescription. This site offers a quick guide on recreational and medical weed status in PA.
Pennsylvania’s state parks are dotted with more hidden gems than we can cover. You may even discover one during your explorations.
Some of these lesser-known treasures are gaining traction as more people visit, but they are still some of the wildest, most tranquil, and least trafficked nooks off the beaten path.