bald eagle state park tree hugging
Pennsylvania State Parks

Trip Report: Bald Eagle State Park in Pennsylvania

on
October 18, 2022
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Bald Eagle State Park in central Pennsylvania offers stellar bird-watching, water activities on its lake, and a number of camping options.

History and Location

Bald Eagle State Park is located right smack-dab in the middle of Pennsylvania, about 3 hours from Pittsburgh and closer to 4 hours from Philadelphia. 

The park’s 5,900 acres include 23 miles of lake shore along with a campground, cabins, and a bed and breakfast called The Nature Inn. 

Bald Eagle State Park takes its name from an American Indian chief in the mid 1700s. Once logging took its toll on the area in the 1800s, the land was heavily farmed. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers built a dam to contain flooding, and worked together with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to open the park in 1971. The dam and lake are named for Foster Joseph Sayers, a soldier killed during heroic actions in World War II. 

bald eagle state park landscape 1

Campground

Bald Eagle State Park has quite a few overnight options, including a modern campground, rustic campground, 4 camping cottages, 2 yurts, and The Nature Inn.

For our RV weekend, we made reservations at the modern Russell P. Letterman Campground. This campground has 101 sites with electric service and 18 with full service. 

We were at site #97 in the pet-friendly Sycamore Loop. The rest of the campground was full of Penn State fans who were headed to the big game in Happy Valley.

bald eagle state park campground map with star

Site #97 is about three spots from the bath house, and sits in its own open area. 

bald eagle state park campground spot 97 pt 2

The campground is laid out clearly, the bath house is clean, and the showers are HOT! Most importantly, the showers DO NOT have timers. 

Trails

Bald Eagle State Park has just over 14 miles of hiking trails. Many of these wind through excellent bird-watching areas and eventually meander around the lake. 

bald eagle state park hiking map with marks

For the approximately 3.5 mile long, mostly flat hike outlined above in green, we left the campground on Swamp Oak Trail. 

bald eagle state park swamp oak trail

Guess what we came to on Swamp Oak Trail?! Pennsylvania’s largest swamp white oak tree!

We had to stop for a hug.

champion tree in bald eagle state park
bald eagle state park tree hugging

From Swamp Oak Trail, we looped Skyline Drive Trail to meet Butterfly Trail.

These wide-open trails are perfect low-lying-brush-bird-watching areas, including around the banks of Frog Pond. 

bald eagle state park butterfly trail
bald eagle state park skyline trail hazel
bald eagle state park butterfly trail 2

At the end of Butterfly Trail, you can meet back with Skyline Drive Trail to walk the beach area around the lake. 

Part of the beach is no-pets-allowed, but there is a section for dogs to enjoy- and the water is really clear! 

Franklin took a quick dip while Hazel held fast to her no-paws-touch-water philosophy of beach walking. 

Franklin on the beach at Bald Eagle State Park
hazel on bald eagle state park beach

We took the top half of Skyline Drive Trail to complete our loop and return to the campground. 

Unfortunately, our weekend visit was quite wet, and the incessant rain prevented us from exploring more trails.  Instead, we stayed in and explored the Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit boards. 

There are a few other trails to check out though, including Hunter Run East and West and Fireline Trails. You can see the whole trail map here. 

Wildlife, Fauna, and Fungi

At our campsite, we saw rabbits, groundhogs, and chipmunks. 

During our hike, we saw lots of birds, ducks, and geese…and this little guy!

snail in bald eagle state park

And, of course, we saw some excellent ‘shroom specimens:  

bald eagle state park mushrooms 1
bald eagle state park mushrooms 2
bald eagle state park mushrooms 3
bald eagle state park mushrooms 4
bald eagle state park mushrooms 5
bald eagle state park mushrooms 6
bald eagle state park mushrooms 6
bald eagle state park mushrooms 7

The Last Word

Grab your bird field guide (and as always, your mushroom identification guide!) and binoculars, and head out to Bald Eagle State Park!

The leaf peeping in the fall is incredible, and even the wet hikes are good hikes. 

bald eagle state park jill and russ
We’ve visited other parks in central Pennsylvania … Like Poe Paddy and Poe Valley State Parks. 
Never hesitate to stop at interesting places along the way! Like this one in north central PA.
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