I love living in Pennsylvania. It has millions of acres of public land to explore, thousands of miles of trails (including the most expansive system of backpacking trails in the east), and over 120 state parks. For those of you who like to hike, these are the best Pennsylvania state parks.
1. Worlds End State Park
While other parks have taller waterfalls, deeper gorges, and wider vistas, no other state park can rival the sheer number of high quality hiking trails that Worlds End has to offer. Trails here feature waterfalls, creeks, gorges, vistas, whitewater, huge boulders, and rock mazes. The diversity is amazing. Quality trails expand across the park, creating countless loop options, from a few hundred yards, to many miles. New trails are being added, increasing the variety of hiking.
Be sure to hike Double Run and the Canyon Vista Trails. The new Cold Run Trail, a loop that connects to the east end of the Canyon Vista Trail, is a joy to hike. A new yellow trail connects the Butternut Trail to the Loyalsock Trail at High Rock Run. The famed Loyalsock Trail, a 60 mile route, meanders through the park.
Worlds End is simply a beautiful place that should be on any hikers list. The deep gorge, roar of the Loyalsock Creek, and hemlock shaded glens give this park a special feel.
Worlds End is also perfect as a basecamp to explore the large Loyalsock State Forest. Many of the park’s trails also connect to trails in the state forest, creating countless hiking options. Be sure to see the Haystacks, Ketchum Run Gorge, Scar Run Gorge, High Knob Overlook, Dutters Run, Kettle Creek Gorge, Angel Falls, Rock Run, McIntyre Wild Area, Smith’s Knob, Jacoby Falls, and the Rough Hill Trail.
Worlds End and the Loyalsock State Forest is a hiking wonderland.
2. Ohiopyle State Park
One of PA’s crown jewels, Ohiopyle is second due to its incredible natural features, from the deep Youghiogheny River Gorge, Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle Falls, Ferncliff Peninsula, Meadow Run waterslides, several other waterfalls, and its famous whitewater rapids. The hiking trail system could be more expansive considering the size of the park. Ohiopyle surrounds a scenic village of the same name, and is also the southern trailhead of the famous Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.
Ohiopyle is also a good basecamp to hike the trails at Bear Run Preserve, Quebec Wild Area, or the Forbes State Forest.
3. Ricketts Glen State Park
This famous park is home to the incredible, and very popular, Falls Trail with its numerous waterfalls. Also be sure to hike the Little Cherry Run Trail as it explores a gorge with rapids and smaller falls, a place of true beauty. Like Ohiopyle, Ricketts Glen is a large park that should have more hiking options. The east side of the park has gorges and stunning views from cliffs, but no trails lead to them. The northern part of the park is a wilderness with wetlands and deep forests of hemlocks, but again, there are few trails. The western side of the park had cliffs, escarpments, and vistas. Experienced hikers can explore the surrounding game lands with unofficial trails that lead to vistas, lakes, gorges, and waterfalls. West of the park is the stunning Waterfall Wonderland in SGL 13, a watershed filled with waterfalls.
4. Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Parks
These parks are near each other and feature incredible old growth forests with some of the tallest trees in the east. Be sure to hike the Forest Cathedral and any trail along the gorgeous Clarion River. The North Country Trail goes through Cook Forest. Clear Creek has beautiful creeks shaded with rhododendrons and trails that lead to nearby massive boulders and a view. Both parks are also ideal basecamps to explore the southern Allegheny National Forest.
5. Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks
These parks face each other across the Pine Creek Gorge. Trails lead to impressive vistas of the canyon and waterfalls. Colton Point has more hiking options. You can hike the West Rim Trail, and do not miss the Barbour Rock Trail. Intrepid hikers should go off trail up Fourmile Run to see a stunning gorge with four waterfalls. Waterfalls also exist on Bear Run. Numerous other hikes are available in the surrounding Tioga State Forest.
6. Hickory Run and Lehigh Gorge State Parks
This large park features mild terrain and many miles of trails. Be sure to see Hawk Falls, the impressive Boulder Fields, and the Shades of Death Trail. Many other parks and preserves are nearby, including the Darling Preserve, Bear Run Preserve, and Austin Blakeslee Preserve.
Lehigh Gorge is impressive, but hiking is limited. Glen Onoko is stunning with its steep, rugged gorge and many waterfalls, but its very popular. Do not miss the view of the gorge from Tank Hollow, it is an easy hike.
7. McConnells Mill and Moraine State Parks
These beautiful parks feature a wide variety of trails. McConnells Mills protects a rugged gorge carved by glacial meltwater. It features a historic mill, waterfalls, cliffs, rapids, and a view. Slippery Rock Creek is truly beautiful and the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail is the most rugged, longest, and premier trail in the park. Hells Hollow Trail is a must and Alpha Falls is very scenic. Also explore Cleland Rock for a view of the gorge, and Breakneck Bridge, where there is a rugged gorge of cliffs, boulders, and cascades.
Moraine has a huge lake and the premier trail is the North Country Trail; this trail also goes through McConnells Mill. It has hilly terrain with streams, bridges, and shelter. The nearby Jennings Environmental Education Center has a prairie with rare wildflowers.
8. Laurel Ridge State Park/Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT)
The park and trail are often considered to be the same. The LHHT is 70 miles long and is southwest PA’s premier long distance hiking trail with its shelters, forests, boulders, views, and streams. The LHHT passes near several beautiful places such as Beam Rocks, Spruce Flat, Painter Rocks, Cole Run Falls, Blue Hole, and Wolf Rocks. The views at the southern end of the LHHT in Ohiopyle State Park are famous.
9. Trough Creek State Park
Hidden in a gorge next to Raystown Lake, this is a great park for hiking. This park has cliffs, waterfalls, and geologic features like Balanced Rock, Copperas Rock, and the ice mine. Be sure to hike the Ledges Trail with its fine views. The park also has historical features like old stone furnaces.
10. Greenwood Furnace State Park
This little known park has a lot of great trails and many historical features. Hike the Standing Stone Trail to great views from Stone Mountain. Hike along a small lake, past an old church, and iron making stone furnaces. Trails also lead to the Greenwood Mountain fire tower. Nearby are the Rocky Ridge, Alan Seeger, Bear Meadows, and Detweiler Run Natural Areas- all of them should be experienced.
11. Little Pine State Park
This is a great hiking park with views of the mountains from the lake and trails along ridges with unique rock outcrops. Hike the Panther Run Trail. This park is a great basecamp to explore the vast trails in the Tiadaghton State Forest. If you want a long, challenging, and beautiful loop, hike the Mid State and Tiadaghton Trails.
12. Pine Grove Furnace State Park
The world famous Appalachian Trail goes through this park, where its museum is also located. The park has several historical features. Enjoy the lakes and the views from Pole Steeple and Sunset Rocks. The surrounding Michaux State Forest has a wide array of trails to rock outcrops, vistas, and streams.
13. Blue Knob State Park
Home to PA’s second highest mountain, this park features beautiful mountain scenery that reminds me of Shenandoah National Park. My favorite trails are the Chappells Field, Lookout Loop, and Mountain View Trails. The park is also the eastern trailhead of the Lost Turkey Trail. The John P. Saylor Trail is nearby and offers more great hiking.
14. Salt Springs State Park
Enjoy the ancient hemlock forests, gorge, and waterfalls in this beautiful park. Fall Brook, Gorge, Hemlock, and Woodland Trails are the most scenic. Other trails explore streams, forests, and meadows. There is a surprisingly wide network of trails and the park has camping as well. If you like beer, Endless Brewing is within walking distance of the park.
15. Hyner Run State Park
This beautiful, serene park is best as a basecamp to explore the vast Sproul State Forest, the largest of PA’s state forests at over 300,000 acres in size. Hyner View is a must, but also check out the views on the Donut Hole Trail, Chuck Keiper Trail, Clendenin Branch, Round Island Run, and Paddys Falls.
16. Oil Creek State Park
Oil Creek offers great opportunities for hiking along trails that explore a shallow gorge with glens and waterfalls. There are 52 miles of trails and the premier trail is the Gerard Hiking Trail, a 36 mile loop with shelters. Cross connectors for this loop create shorter loop options. Being the first place where oil was commercially discovered, the park also has several historical points of interest.
17. Raccoon Creek State Park
A popular place to hike in western PA, Raccoon Creek has over 40 miles of trails, including a backpacking loop with shelters. The trails explore hilly terrain with scenic forests, streams, and beautiful Raccoon Lake. Be sure to see the Frankfort Mineral Springs and the incredibly diverse Wildflower Reserve.
18. Presque Isle State Park
PA’s most popular state park is home to habitats, scenery, and wildlife found nowhere else in the state. The recurving sand spit is home to wetlands, ponds, and stunning beaches. Hike the Ridge, Marsh, Fox, Dead Pond, and Sidewalk Trails. Do not miss hiking the Gulf Point Trail.
19. Black Moshannon State Park
The diverse trails here explore wetlands, diverse forests, and beautiful streams. Trails also connect to the Allegheny Front Trail, a 42 mile loop that encircles the park, and offer several nice views.
20. Promised Land State Park
The trails here lead to lakes, streams, and gorge with rapids and pools. Hike the Little Falls Trail. An extensive trail system goes into the surrounding Delaware State Forest; do not miss Egypt Meadow and Bruce Lakes. Bruce Lake is particularly beautiful.