By: Levi Opsatnic
‘Tis the season, and I’m not talking about reindeer, chubby men, and balls of snow stacked on top of one another (yet), rather I’m talking about the peak of state park season. Is there really anything better than an autumn day spent exploring one of the many brilliantly painted trails that Pennsylvania’s State Parks has to offer? Probably not. Fortunately for those of us residing in central Pennsylvania, we have a whole slew of State Parks to explore. Whether you’re looking for a bit of fall fishing, hiking, bird watching, or just scoping a place for some future cross-country skiing, Pennsylvania will have what you’re looking for.
To make things nice and easy for those of us who haven’t spent much time wandering around Central Pennsylvania’s State Parks, I’ve chose five that are fairly close to State College and are sure to leave you enjoying every second of your time spent outside. So get ready to find the perfect place for one heck of a Pennsylvanian escape.
1. Whipple Dam State Park (Huntingdon County)
There’s something special about driving around the lake at Whipple Dam State Park and seeing a rush of water falling over its antiquated dam and into Laurel Run. Located in Rothrock State Forest, Whipple Dam offers a system of trails that could keep you occupied for years. And on the days where laziness prevails, you’ll have a hard time beating a beachside lounge paired with a few casts into the lake.
2. Poe Valley State Park (Centre County)
Nestled right in the heart of Bald Eagle State Forest, you’ll find Poe Valley State Park. Providing a landscape that is as cute as it is quaint, Poe Valley offers calming scenery that’s perfectly complimented with a lake that all anglers will love and a set of trails to keep any hiker happy. Whether you’re looking for a casual day spent drifting around the lake or just want a scenic view (Pine Swamp Road has a really nice one), Poe Valley State Park will always be worth the awesome drive in.
3. Black Moshannon State Park (Centre County)
One of my favorite parks in Centre County, Black Moshannon State Park offers a view into nature that you just can’t find everywhere. Surrounding a tannin-filled lake, both Black Mo’s beach and bog are classic examples of Pennsylvania’s natural diversity. And boasting as much hiking territory as most of the other parks in the state, there’s no shortage of exploration at Black Mo. Not only are these trails a blast to hike on, but a good bit of them offer some XC skiing that any powder enthusiast will love. Come to Black Moshannon without a purpose and you’ll quickly see how, sometimes, an afternoon can feel as barely as long as a sneeze.
4. Greenewood Furnace State Park (Huntingdon County)
Rich in all things historical and natural, Greenewood Furnace State Park offers a look into our state’s wild and industrial history. Aside from being littered with trails and a lake filled with hungry fish, Greenewood Furnace State park showcases an awesome iron furnace as well as a dam that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. From appreciating the roots of our state to catching a trout dinner, there’s something for everyone at Greenewood Furnace State Park.
5. Bald Eagle State Park (Centre County)
Rushing creeks, a calm reservoir, and more than enough trails, Bald Eagle State Park is one that the entire family will enjoy. Being surrounded by tons of waterways and scenic views makes Bald Eagle the perfect place to spread out the picnic basket. And after a bite to eat, a walk near Joseph Foster Sayers Dam makes for a tasty example of Mother Nature’s dessert.