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Best Pennsylvania State Parks to Visit in the Spring

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Best Pennsylvania State Parks to Visit in the Spring

Ricketts Glen State Park - courtesy of Pennsylvania Dept of Conservation & Natural Resources

The Top Three Choices are all National Natural Landmarks and Offer Opportunities to View Scenic Waterfalls, Explore Old-Growth Forest, and Visit "Pennsylvania's Seashore."

Ricketts Glen State Park

The Glens Natural Area, a registered National Natural Landmark since 1969 and a Pennsylvania State Park Natural Area, is the main scenic attraction in the park. It features 24 natural, free-falling waterfalls, including 94-foot Ganoga Falls. This section of the park also includes old-growth timber stands and diverse wildlife.

Visitors experience varying degrees of spring greening as they climb rugged slopes, viewing falls -- engorged by spring run-off -- at their best, and traversing acclaimed hiking trails where the air seems fresher and carries more scents to tickle the senses. Comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties, Ricketts Glen State Park is among Pennsylvania’s larger state parks, and includes 245-acre Lake Jean with a 600-foot beach opening in late May. The lake offers picnicking facilities, and good early-season fishing for trout, panfish and other species.

Known for its exceptional diversity of bird life, Ricketts Glen has been included in the official Audubon Susquehanna River Birding and Wildlife Trail across Pennsylvania. This series of trails connects some of Pennsylvania’s finest birding and wildlife viewing sites, as well as important historical and natural areas.
(Park is located 30 miles north of Bloomsburg on Route 487. For further information, call 570-477-5675.)

Presque Isle State Park

"Pennsylvania’s Seashore," gem of Lake Erie, and another National Natural Landmark, Presque Isle State Park leads the state in attendance for many reasons. During the spring, visitors come to view skies full of migrating birds, or enjoy the lake scenery or abundant wildflowers. After severe winters, ice-out draws the early crowds.

Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula arching into Lake Erie and offering a scenic coastline that provides excellent swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling and in-line skating. Visitors can experience the scenic beauty of the Peninsula and Erie waterfront while viewing three historic lighthouses on the 65-foot great lakes vessel, "Lady Kate." The 14-mile, 90-minute tour ventures out onto the open waters of Lake Erie. The gateway to Presque Isle is the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, dedicated to teaching visitors about Presque Isle and serving as a research and environmental awareness center.
(Park and center can be reached by Route 832; for further information call the park at 814-833-7424.)

Cook Forest State Park

Scene of yet another National Natural Landmark, the 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park lies amid Clarion, Forest and Jefferson counties in a section of scenic northwestern Pennsylvania once called the "Black Forest." Known for its towering, old-growth white pines and hemlocks, the park is bordered on the east by the wild Clarion River, offering springtime canoeing and rafting. No fewer than 27 marked trails thread through woodlands and rolling hills, and along cool valley streams. Part of the 140-mile Baker Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail pass through Cook Forest.
(Park is 7 miles south of Leeper along PA 36; for further information, call 814-744-8407.)

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