Worlds End State Park Rock Garden
Pennsylvania State Parks

When 3 Becomes 5: Our Top 5 PA State Parks To Visit

November 2, 2018

After another season of weekend RVing through our home state, our Top 3 PA State Parks to Visit list needs an update! 

Of the 51 state parks that offer overnight RV accommodations in Pennsylvania, we’ve now visited 23 (and already have 5 more booked for 2019).  

We have found the state park campgrounds perfect for our weekends because they are close to good hiking & just the right amount of rustic. Their RV spaces offer electricity (some have water & sewage, too) with a fire pit & picnic table at your site, plus a clean bathhouse & running water nearby. You can even reserve them in advance (up to 11 months!) for only around $30 per night. 

This season, we visited: 

And Now…The List!

While we stand by our three favorites from last year, there were two PA state parks we visited this year that definitely deserve to make the list! 

We welcome the very wild Cowans Gap & super-scenic Worlds End to our new Top 5 PA State Parks to Visit List! 

Here’s the full run down: 

ohiopyle state park observation bridge

I’ve visited this park my entire life, and it remains my #1 pick!

To start with, the campground sites are nestled among the trees & the shower houses don’t have timer buttons! HOORAY! 

Take a short hike from the campground (or a little longer & more challenging one on the Beech Trail), and you are on the famous Great Allegheny Passage biking & hiking trail that starts in Pittsburgh & ends 150 miles later in Cumberland, Maryland.

You can take the trail into town to view the main falls, shops, & eateries, or grab a paddle…the Youghiogheny River has best white water & calm river kayaking & canoeing in the state!

At the end of town, down the side road past Wilderness Voyagers, you’ll find the starting point (or ending point, depending where you begin) of the challenging 70-mile long Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT).

Make it past milepost 2 on the LHHT for a scenic river overlook, then hike back to Falls City Pub for a cold brew on their dog-friendly deck. 

cowans gap campground

Cowans Gap is right off the turnpike between Breezewood & Harrisburg, and has some of the most scenic campground RV spots you will ever find! There are a few really good pull-through spots along the lake, and the bath houses are very clean. 

The hiking is challenging & diverse. You can create several different loops on the trails and move from tall forest to rocky field to scenic overlook in just a few miles!

Cowans Gap is also WILD. In one hike alone we saw deer, three snakes (including a copperhead!), an enormous snakeskin, and a giant pile of bear poop! 

You may be lucky enough to visit on a free concert day and spend your post-hike evening relaxing along the lake with some music. 

You can find more details of our experiences at the park in our Trip Report

Hickory Run PA State Park Shades of Death Trail

I’m keeping Hickory Run in the Pocono Mountains on our list because I think it was one of  Benjamin’s favorites.

Benjamin passed away this year right before RV season started (literally the day we were leaving on our first trip), and we really miss him. Ironically, my favorite trail we hiked together is the Shades of Death Trail at Hickory Run. (Instead of having a dog to walk this year, I got to carry the water bottle :/ )

Benjamin jumped into the rushing water, navigated the rocky terrain, ducked through the rhododendron tunnel and covered almost 6 miles in one day in this park! 

Hickory Run stays on the list for another year in his honor. 

high rock trail at worlds end state park 2

Wolrds End State Park is along beautiful Loyalsock Creek, which was the 2018 Pennsylvania River of the Year. 

Driving into the area is ah-mazing -tall trees & beautiful creeks line the road. Make a quick stop at the Forksville General Store to grab a delicious sandwich & admire the covered bridge before heading into the park. 

The campground is very clean, and you can even hear the river flowing from across the street- especially at night! 

The best part about Worlds End is the well-marked & varied terrain trails. From the waterfalls of Double Run Nature Trail to the rock garden & lookout on Canyon Vista Trail, I think it has some of the best hiking in PA.

If you are in good shape, do not miss High Rock Trail! This steep one-miler will have you trekking up & rock scrambling down. 

Get more details on the campground, trails and a historic stop for your way home in our Trip Report. 

cook forest pa state park

Another park that’s staying on the list this year is Cook Forest! It had Benjamin’s favorite loop through the Forest Cathedral, including rock outcroppings, swinging bridges, swimmable creeks, and the tallest white pine north of the Smokies!

You can float down the Clarion River when the weather is warm (this year I did a sojourn with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy), and there are some fun (and even dog-friendly!) wineries in the area. 

Before you go home, save some energy to stop at Clear Creek, just 11 miles east of Cook Forest. Take a walk along the Ox Shoe Trail to learn the logging history of the area. 

And that is how three became FIVE this year!

Do you recommend any PA State Parks we haven’t visited yet? You can find a complete breakdown of the PA state parks located in each region here, totaling 121 Pennsylvania State Parks in 61 of 67 counties with 283,000 acres to enjoy! 

Please share your recommendations in the comments below & tell us why you think we should visit! 

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