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Pennsylvania's Best State Parks

Youghiogheny River Gorge in Ohiopyle State Park
courtesy of Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks

 

Ohiopyle State Park (Fayette and Somerset Counties)
The park encompasses over 19,000 acres of rugged beauty and serves as a gateway to the Laurel Mountains. The focal point of this area is more that 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River Gorge that churns through the heart of Ohiopyle. The famous Lower Yough, below the scenic Ohiopyle Falls, provides some of the best whitewater boating in the Eastern US. Other points of interest include Cucumber Falls and the Cucumber Run Ravine which is blanketed with wildflowers and rhododendron. Hiking and biking along the 28-mile Youghiogheny River Trail provides awesome views of the river and cascading feeder streams. The park also harbors the Ferncliff Peninsula, a National Natural Area. The peninsula is a great location to hike to view abundant wildlife as well as take in scenic views of the Youghiogheny River. For reservations and information call, 888-PA-PARKS. 

Presque Isle State Park (Erie County)
Presque Isle is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches lakeward into Lake Erie. The neck of the peninsula is attached to the mainland four miles west of downtown Erie, PA. The park creates Presque Isle Bay, a wide and deep harbor for the city of Erie. Lake Erie and the bay attract many pleasure boaters, who often use the launch areas and marina at the park to access the waters around the peninsula. Additionally, Presque Isle provides millions of sunbathers and swimmers miles of beaches along the shores of Lake Erie, making it Pennsylvania's only, "seashore." Presque Isle also is a National Natural Landmark.

Presque Isle State Park
courtesy of Pennsylvania Bureau of State Parks

 

Because Presque Isle has a greater number of the state's endangered, threatened and rare species than any area of comparable size in Pennsylvania, it attracts naturalists year-round. Gull Point is a state park natural area and is one of the region's best locations to see migrating birds. Historically, Misery Bay in the park provided a temporary home of the fleet of ships commanded by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The park also harbors a lighthouse, which provides a wonderful subject for photographers. For reservations and information call, 888-PA-PARKS.

Ricketts Glen State Park (Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia Counties)
Ricketts Glen offers over 13,000 acres to explore and provides the gateway to an additional 83,000 acres of state game lands. Ricketts Glen harbors the Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark. Take the Falls Trail and explore the Glens which boasts a series of wild, free-flowing waterfalls, each cascading through rock-strewn clefts in this ancient hillside. Giant old-growth hemlocks and unique wildlife communities provide a backdrop to 22 named waterfalls. The highest, Ganoga Falls, drops 94 feet over its course. Spend a day or two at Ricketts Glen and stay in the campground or in a modern cabin. Swimming, boating and fishing opportunities are also offered on the scenic 245-acre Lake Jean. For reservations and information call, 888-PA-PARKS

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