Parker Dam State Park in the Pennsylvania Wilds region of the state not only features a clean campground, but also a fun rock walk across a stream! On our journey to visit all the Pennsylvania state park campgrounds in Axl Roads, Parker Dam State Park was a worthwhile RV weekend!
Location and History
Parker Dam State Park is in Moshannon State Forest in the northeastern part of central Pennsylvania. It sits on land that was originally owned by Native Americans, but was quickly taken over by loggers and people looking to claim the land for their homes.
The park is named for William Parker, a man who leased the lumbering rights for the area in the mid-1800s. He built a dam at the current lake site to store the giant trees that rolled down the log slides, before releasing them downstream on their journey to the sawmills.
The logs-down-the-stream method of moving wood became impractical and trains took over the process in the very early 1900s.
Parker Dam became another park where the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), established by President Roosevelt, stepped in! They replanted trees, built park amenities like trails and pavilions, and create the Parker Dam (and Lake) there today. You can learn more about the CCC’s history at the PA DCNR page dedicated to them…
Or you can stop in the CCC museum at the park!
The park rents kayaks, canoes and paddle boats for the lake, plus we saw many people fishing from their boats and along the shore. They have tent camping, cabins, full hook-up RV spots, and shower houses. There is also a sand beach (no pets allowed as usual, boo!).
Parker State Park Campground has just over 100 campsites, some with electric and some with full hookups. In addition, there are also tent sites and rustic cabins.
We were located in the dog-friendly loop at the star, Site #68:
Site #68 is diagonal from the bath house, which did NOT have shower timer buttons!
The site was one of the less-private ones we’ve stayed at, with neighbors visible from both sides.
Can you see our tiny paw print solar lights above? They made their debut this trip, and lit the spot up nicely at night!
Our neighbors were quick to warn us of recent rattlesnakes in the area. Four small ones had been caught near our spot during our first visit!
As with ANY camping spot, we recommend checking out the entire area when you arrive. You’ll want to notice any slinky visitors hanging out in your fire pit, under your picnic table, and around the rocks, shrubs or stumps near you.
Trails and Wildlife
Parker Dam State Park is just over 950 acres and includes around 15 trails. We visited the park twice and covered a different set each time.
The stepping stones across the lower dam area were our favorite feature in the park both times we visited. Franklin and Hazel loved navigating the rocks to get across the water, with only a few short accidental dips along the way!
For a great view, you can climb part of the Trail of New Giants and follow the path about ¾ of the way up to the scenic overlook.
Don’t be fooled by the first overlook with benches…keep following the path to the second, much better overlook!
Then you can complete the last ¼ of the Trail of New Giants (about 1.25 miles total), and proceed to the CCC Trail. This one is a little grassy and made me think of last week’s tick warning, so we headed it off at about ½ mile in. You can cross over to the Laurel Run Trail. Franklin had a great time splashing in & out of the creek along this trail!
We also kayaked on the Lake during our first trip, and Franklin tried out his new life jacket. While we carried our kayaks to the lake from our campsite, we recommend using the free mooring spots when you pull in rather than testing your strength (or your spouse’s)!
You can wrap up your hiking day by doing the Stumpfield Trail. Connect to the Log Slide Trail to see the old-school-logging-days displays.
During our first visit, we captured this snail and a pile of bear poop (no bear).
During our second visit, we hiked a slightly shorter route, outlined here in green.
You can leave the campground just behind the dump station onto Laurel Run Trail. Laurel Run Trail runs along side Parker Lake, and will take you to the beach area and concession stand.
From there, you can take the newly built boardwalk across the street, and loop back to the CCC Museum for a quick walk through. Head up Laurel Run Trail in the opposite direction for a few dog dips in the creek, before coming back to finish the loop by crossing the rocks at the lower dam.
Our second visit was after quite a wet week, so the mushrooms were out in full effect!
Stop and check out hundreds of little red works working hard at the vermicomposting bin near the campground dumpsters, too!
PIT STOP! Bilgers Rocks
About a 35-minute drive from the park, you’ll find Bilgers Rocks in Grampian, PA.
These giant geological wonders create a playground-like maze for visitors to climb around, over, and through.
Be careful at the top, as there are some steep drop offs. Our dogs enjoyed romping through the lower formations, which is quite cool because of the shade the rocks create.
PIT STOP! Doolittle Station
If you are passing through DuBois, Doolittle Station is an interesting place to stretch your legs!
This kitschy little stop is perfect if you are feeling a little road worn, complete with an ice cream shop and pizza place.
When you’re done eating, you can pose with a yeti, touch a dinosaur tooth, or let your dogs sniff the resident goats in the back.
PIT STOP! Punxsutawney
If Punxsutawney is on your way, make a stop to visit the home of famous Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog!
While your there, get a selfie with one of the many artistically-enhanced groundhogs around town.
And then make your way to Leila Jo’s Cafe and Bakery. They are thankfully open on Sundays to rogue travelers looking for some delicious treats!
You’ll find breakfast and lunch options, as well as a full case of impressive cupcakes, cookies, and pastries.
We opted for peanut butter cup and Oreo cupcakes, and they did not disappoint!
The Last Word
Parker Dam State Park is well worth a weekend RV trip with some fun stops along the way! It’s understandable why the area is called the Pennsylvania Wilds.