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Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania isn’t just a spot for a relaxing RV weekend, it also marks the approximate halfway point for the Appalachian Trail!
History and Location
Pine Grove Furnace State Park in south-central Pennsylvania packs a lot of punch in less than 1,000 acres! The park is about 3 hours from Pittsburgh, a half hour from Gettysburg, and a little over 2 hours from Philadelphia.
From the late 1700s until the late 1800s, the area was owned by several different iron production companies. The last furnace fired in 1895, but it wasn’t until 1913 that the land was finally sold to the state.
Most of the land became Michaux State Forest, but one of the main furnaces in the area, along with some of it’s historical buildings, became Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
Within the park, you can still see remnants of the iron age. Pine Grove Furnace, the Ironmasters Mansion, and the blue slag pieces scattered around give you glimpse of the past.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park also features two lakes with swimming beaches and water activities, plus hiking and biking trails.
If you’re an Appalachian Trail fan like me, you won’t want to miss the chance to complete the miles in and around the park.
And you definitely want to make a stop at the General Store, located right between the Appalachian Trail Museum and the Ironmasters Mansion. You might be able to catch a hiker completing (or trying to complete!) the half- gallon challenge.
If you’ve never heard of the half-gallon challenge, it’s a right of passage for those completing the 2,200-mile long Appalachian Trail. The park falls at approximately the middle of the journey, and hikers are challenged to finish an entire half-gallon of ice cream at the General Store!
Pine Grove Furnace State Park has a campground, the Paymasters Cabin, and a group tenting area available for overnight stays.
The campground has between 70 to 75 sites, and most have electric. You can also see the pet-friendly sites outlined with the dogs-and-arrows loop.
Our site was #39 in Horseshoe Loop (starred above). It was pet-friendly and located next to the Campground Host.
To the right of the site, you’re looking towards the Campground Host, the firewood shed, and Campground Trail.
To the left of the site, you can see the rest of the campground loop.
Site #39 is partially shaded with a nice little wooded path to the bathhouse next to the electric access box.
Here’s a better look at whole site:
The bath house is very clean, BUT…
UGH, the showers have timer buttons, and I mean, REALLY SHORT timer buttons. With one button push, I could barely lather up one arm!
You never know when you’ll run into a timer button in a PA state park campground (unless you read our Trip Reports!), but it is a disappointing discovery after a sweaty day of hiking!
While Pine Grove Furnace State Park has just 4 miles of hiking, the Appalachian Trail stretches out for over a thousand miles in each direction!
But OK, OK! We’ll stick to the miles inside the park!
Most trails are easily accessible from the campground, including a nice stroll through the woods on the Campground Trail.
We enjoyed taking Creek Trail out of the campground to wind around to the main historical areas of the park. While it’s short at just half a mile, Franklin and Hazel thoroughly enjoyed their creek time!
By moving on to Brickyard Trail, you can continue to the Appalachian Trail and the historical areas of the park.
Here’s a quick look at the hiking map near the campground with the trails we explored highlighted in green:
Brickyard Trail has some of the most beautiful fern-lined paths you’ll ever see!
After that, you can opt for a few miles on the Appalachian Trail, or you can move on to the furnace area.
You will want to of course stop for some shenanigan photos at the furnace!
From there, you are able to go explore the Appalachian Trail Museum, the General Store, or the Ironmasters Mansion.
Or- you can continue along the Appalachian Trail to banks of Fuller Lake.
Just a few miles away, you’ll find another lake – whether you drive or hike there. Laurel Lake is another water recreation area, and includes a swimming beach and canoe/kayak launches, too.
While there aren’t as many trails in that part of the park, you can trek to Pole Steeple Overlook from Pole Steeple Trail.
Wildlife, Fauna, and Fungi
We had a few wildlife sightings at Pine Grove State Park.
The park has signs promoting the protection of timber rattlesnakes, but we didn’t run into any of those. But we did catch this little rat snake near Hazel…
…and this toad along Campground Trail.
While it seems like we are seeing fewer mushrooms on our hikes so far this year, we did encounter two interesting ones while hiking.
Once you return to the campground, you may see some domesticated dogs lounging about on their comfy elevated beds as well…
The Last Word
Pine Grove Furnace State Park checks a lot of camping weekend boxes! From hiking along a legendary trail to visiting historical industrial structures, you’ll be ready to relax at the end of the day.