Pennsylvania is associated with many things: the Revolutionary War, Philly cheesesteaks, and “The Office” come to mind. The outdoors doesn’t always make the list. Luckily for you, that means camping in Pennsylvania comes with fewer crowds. While it boasts beautiful national forest land and lakes, these camping destinations tend to get overlooked by your average traveler—but not by you.
What’s the Best Time of Year to Go Camping in Pennsylvania?
The time of year you decide to go camping in Pennsylvania is really dependent on your tolerance for cold. Pennsylvania is an underrated winter camping destination, but not all campers are interested in snow camping. For most people, June through October is the ideal time of year for camping in Pennsylvania, especially as fall starts to set in.
What Are the Top Outdoor Activities in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has summers made for being on the water, with fishing being a perennially popular choice. Really, any lakefront activity is a great pastime when visiting the state. Pennsylvania’s state parks are quite popular for hiking and camping during the warmer months.
What Are the National Parks in Pennsylvania?
The National Park Service runs 19 sites here, but there aren’t actually any national parks in the Keystone State. However, there are still several federally-managed sites that are popular for visitors and locals alike to enjoy!
Spend some time along the banks of the last major undammed river in the United States. You’ll find ample greenery and tranquil pools along this section of the Delaware River, which make for a fun and contemplative hike through nature. While there are six major trails to choose from, getting out on the water is the thing to do here. Bring a kayak or your fishing rod and enjoy the beauty of the Delaware.
The Alleghany is likely the most universally popular outdoor destination in the state. You have miles of beautiful hiking trails, and since it’s a national forest, you can disperse camp. It’s not the most luxurious camping in Pennsylvania, but if you want to experience nature, there are few options better than this one.
Do note that trapping is legal in Pennsylvania national forests. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll see bear traps, especially in established campsites, it’s something to be aware of.
This is one of the most wide-open spaces operated by the National Park Service in Pennsylvania. If you want to hike with just your thoughts and the sounds of nature, the Delaware Water Gap offers over 100 miles of trails to explore. While it’s not one of the more popular options for camping in Pennsylvania (it’s mainly a day-use area), there are three developed campsites to choose from for those who want to stay the night.
Wildlife management areas (WMA) are generally underrated as places for outdoor recreation. WMAs exist around certain herds and species, so the ecology here is a bit more focused than more expansive wildlife areas. Like national forests, you can disperse camp here and enjoy a rugged, exploratory experience. Unlike national forests (and all federal land), WMAs are run by the state, so expect regulations to vary slightly between states.
While the Pennsylvania Game Commission manages the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, you don’t have to be a hunter to appreciate this spot (though it doesn’t hurt). Make sure to familiarize yourself with the unique regulations of Pennysylvania WMAs before exploring the 6,000 acres of Middle Creek.
What Are Some of the Most Popular State Parks in Pennsylvania?
Ricketts Glen State Park
Spanning three different counties, Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic parks around. This is the perfect destination for camping in Pennsylvania if you want to catch sight of waterfalls. You can see some of the best sights in this park, even if you aren’t looking for a strenuous hike. Make sure you’re wearing good shoes when hiking along the slippery rocks.
Codorus State Park
Codorus is based around a massive man-made lake in Southern Pennsylvania. With 26 miles of shoreline, it’s easy to spend a relaxing weekend on the water at Codorus State Park. If you’re looking to pass the time, the warm water here is perfect for fishing and sailing.
Pymatuning State Park
While not always first on the list when you think of camping in Pennsylvania, Pymatuning State Park packs in an astounding 422 RV and tent sites. In fairness, the park itself is massive at nearly 17,000 acres. The biggest draw here is the reservoir (which is actually slightly bigger than the rest of the park), making this a water sports hot spot.
Bald Eagle State Park
Yes, there are bald eagles in this park, but the name comes from Bald Eagle Creek, which has been dammed to create the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir. Hiking and fishing opportunities are plentiful, and the park features 166 RV, tent, and cottage campsites.
What Are the Top Attractions in Pennsylvania?
The Liberty Bell is a must-see as one of the most famous symbols of the colonies and the most recognizable symbol in all of Pennsylvania. The Liberty Bell actually has an adjacent national historical park (Independence National Historical Park), though this isn’t an option for camping in Pennsylvania (as cool as that would be).
This museum was chartered almost 150 years ago and is an architectural draw of its own merit. This is the cultural hub of the Philadelphia art scene and draws art lovers of all ages. You’ll find a revolving door of pieces and exhibits, so check the website to see what will be on display when you’re there.
This house, designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is best known for the waterfall over which it’s partially built over. Wright designed this house in the 1930s for the Kaufmann family, who owned the largest department store in Pittsburgh at the time. Take a house tour and learn about the history of the area, architecture, and Frank Lloyd Wright himself!
This popular Pennsylvania attraction is sure to be a hit for the kids (and the kids at heart). Originally designed as a leisure park for the Hershey Company’s employees, this park is now open to the public. It is a popular destination for travelers and locals looking to enjoy a theme park. While you could spend a weekend here, it’s easy enough to see the park in a day.
Where’s Some of the Best Food in Pennsylvania?
Lunch at Tommy DiNic’s is a long-standing Philadelphia tradition. You have to grab a meal in this sandwich shop at least once while you’re visiting Philadelphia. If you aren’t sure what to get, the classic roast pork is always the answer.
A big part of Philadelphia’s culture is its long-standing Italian community, dating back to the earliest Italian immigrants to this country. This classic Italian eatery is a testament to that history. While on the pricier side, if you’re looking for a nice night out (with a side of live opera), there’s no place that’ll do it better.
The only thing better than the menu here is the views. Classic American fares are served up with a waterfront view from breakfast to dessert at this well-loved destination in Erie. Located in the Sheraton Hotel, this is the best combination of restaurant and on-site hotel you’ll find in the area by far.
There’s just something in the word “tavern” that evokes the history of Pennsylvania. The waterfront views here give the Bayfront Grille a serious run for its money (though why choose just one if you don’t have to?). Classic comfort foods are served in this historic location, and craft beer fans will want to make their way to the adjoining Microbrew River Pub.
Pennsylvania isn’t always a top destination for travelers (outside of history enthusiasts), but hiking and camping in Pennsylvania are abundant in any season. Whether you want to enjoy walks through the woods, museums, or historic streets, the State of Independence has a full suite of outdoor offerings for you to enjoy.