Best Camping Spots in Pennsylvania

Home to Punxsutawney Phil, Ringing Hill, the National Aviary, and the first zoological garden in the country, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has much more natural beauty than one might imagine. Philadelphia and its Philly cheesesteaks and Hershey, the chocolate capital of the United States, both call Pennsylvania home.

The Black Cherry Capital of the World and Amish country both add to the colorful collage of Pennsylvania’s culture and history, which is one of the oldest in the nation. The Appalachian Trail and its namesake mountains cut through the center of the state while 140 miles of coastline in Erie and along the Delaware River give a venue for watersports and swimming. 

Pennsylvania is divided into five geographical regions: the Allegheny Plateau, Ridge and Valley, Atlantic Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and the Erie Plain. Scattered throughout these regions are a whopping 121 state parks that offer some of the nicest camping in New England.

From Lancaster County and Amish Country to the state’s east to Erie in the west, campers can revel in hunting, music festivals, tours, and much more, or they can hike around one of the many hiking trails. Many visitors prefer to camp in modern cabins or at chain campgrounds like KOA where there is usually a swimming pool and a camp store for purchasing basic provisions. 

 

A cabin in the woods.

Modern cabins are available at many of Pennsylvania’s camping resorts.

Whatever way you choose to enjoy the humid continental climate of Pennsylvania, there are some features that are always desirable in a campsite. Modern conveniences like wifi and restrooms with flush toilets aren’t completely necessary for every camper, but in any case Pennsylvania has plenty of camping spots that have just the basics as well as those that have yurts for glamping and RV parks with full hookups. Camping resorts are also popular for those searching for family-friendly entertainment or outdoor fun that doesn’t involve too much distance from creature comforts. 

Many come from all over the northeast and even from the farthest reaches of the U.S. to see the fall foliage in Pennsylvania. Some of the best camping happens when the fall foliage season and the really cold weather haven’t overlapped and campers can enjoy the backcountry while it’s on fire with the crisp reds and oranges of changing leaves.

Read on to get a good run-through of all the best camping spots in Pennsylvania from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to the state capital of Harrisburg so you can enjoy outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, fishing n’at in the Quaker State. 

 

Best Camping Spots in Pennsylvania – Overview

 

1. Cherry Springs State Park

Site of some of the best stargazing you can possibly find in Pennsylvania, Cherry Springs State Park is also home to modern cabins that can be rented for those who prefer not to overdo the ‘roughing it’ concept on their camping trip.

Family-friendly entertainment like star tours and photography workshops can help fill out a longer camping trip alongside activities like hiking around the PA Grand Canyon, the Austin Dam ruins, the Kinzua Skywalk, and the Susquehannock, which is an 85-mile loop trail that’s likely more ideal for serious hikers than for novice outdoor enthusiasts or those who can only manage a camping trip once every few years. 

30 campsites outfitted with picnic tables, lantern hangers, fire rings, and a sanitary dump station await visitors to this state park located about 150 miles west and slightly north of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The black cherry trees spread across the 82-acre park are the reason for its name and it was also declared the first Dark Sky Park in 2000 due to the particularly dark sky that makes for such great stargazing here.

The campsites also have access to parking, telephones, and restrooms. More amenities are available at the modern cabins that are up for rent throughout the park. Boating, fishing, and swimming are all possible inside the park but campers will have to leave the park grounds to find a camp store and a laundromat, so plan accordingly. 

 

Pros:

  • Modern cabins for rent
  • Campsites have restrooms with flush toilets
  • Hiking trails
  • Phenomenal stargazing
  • Parking available

 

Cons:

  • Few amenities at campsites
  • No camp store in the park

 

2. Erie KOA Holiday

This campsite in Erie, northwestern Pennsylvania, is in the KOA family of campgrounds touts its family-friendy nature. It has all the features KOA campsites usually have, plus tons of activities to make for a great camping vacation even if it’s only for a weekend getaway.

In addition to a 20 x 40-foot jump pad, campers here can go fishing or paddle boating in a catch and release pond, swim in a heated swimming pool, ride pedal carts and banana bikes, pet and feed goats, or enjoy hockey, pool, and ping pong in the game room if the weather is bad. Special events like ice cream socials happen on a regular basis, and like other KOA campsites, you’ll be surrounded by other people who wanted to escape to the great outdoors for however long they could.

Electrical hookups of 50 AMPS are available at the campsites, as well as cable TV, a pavilion, and wifi. There is a camp store on-site which offers firewood, a snack bar, and propane for sale to campers. Coin laundry is also available on-site to deal with the messy clothes that usually start to pile up as soon as the tent is out of the carry case. KOA locations are known for their RV camping amenities, including spots with full hookups for water and electricity. Visitors will find Presque Isle nine miles away from this campground, where they can enjoy swimming and sunbathe on a sand beach.

 

Pros:

  • Camp store
  • Special events
  • Family-friendly entertainment
  • Beach nearby
  • Ample amenities

 

Cons:

  • Possibly crowded in peak season

 

3. Ohiopyle State Park

Ohiopyle State Park is located about three hours’ drive from Hershey and Harrisburg and a little over an hour south of Pittsburgh. Millions of visitors come to camp in Ohiopyle during its open season, which generally runs from mid-April to mid-December. The Youghiogheny [yawki-gay-nee] River and its Gorge are the stars of the show in this state park, providing the opportunity to go whitewater boating.

Natural waterslides dot the landscape, thrilling children and adults alike with family-friendly entertainment. 27 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage that connects Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland, passes its way through this park, which attracts tons of cyclists from all over the U.S. 

At the campground in Ohiopyle State Park, campers can expect to find restrooms with flush toilets as well as hot showers in bathhouses, a dump station and recycling center, fire rings, a playground, a firewood and ice concession stand, picnic tables, a parking lot, and a helpful information center.

Biking, hiking, and hunting are all enjoyed in this park. Fishing, a camp store, rafting, the nearest laundromat, and historical sites are all within ten miles of Ohiopyle State Park. Modern cabins and cottages are available for rent with and without electricity. Yurts are also available for rent. 

 

Pros:

  • Tons of amenities
  • Various styles of campsites and modern cabins
  • Parking available
  • Watersports possible
  • Recycling and waste and dump station

 

Cons:

  • Closes for the winter season

 

A river going through orange trees.

Ohiopyle State Park has wonderful fall foliage on display along the banks of the Youghiogheny River.

 

4. Peaceful Woodlands Family Campground

Family and neighborliness are both big things for PA’ers, and this campsite demonstrates both. About an hour’s drive north of Allentown, this campsite has tons of family-friendly activities and enough amenities to accommodate the often less-flexible comfort demands of children and the elderly.

A swimming pool and miniature golf course are both huge draws for families, as well as the playing field, two large playgrounds, a rec hall, and music festival weekends. Wifi, propane, ice, and firewood are all for sale on site. There’s a sanitary dump station and restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. From Memorial Day to the end of September, campers can also rent an ATV to ride on the trails here or simply take a hike on the trail. 

If there’s bad weather during the camping trip, families can borrow movies and books or play arcade games in the on-site game room. There are many camping resorts and guided tour companies in the immediate vicinity of this campsite for campers to enjoy during the day, or they can enjoy one of the special events put on by the campsite.

All the sites have fire rings and picnic tables, but they don’t have grills so make sure to bring a camp stove or learn how to cook on a campfire. Modern cabins with all the drippings are available for rent, as are rustic cabins, tents, group camping, and RV sites with water, electric, and sewer hookups or just water and electric hookups depending on your preference. 

 

Pros:

  • Family-friendly activities
  • Variety of campsites
  • RV sites
  • Tents for rent
  • Tons of amenities

 

Cons:

  • ATV and hiking trails are seasonal
  • Extra occupants cost extra

 

5. French Creek State Park

One hour away from Philadelphia is French Creek State Park, where 47 year-round campsites are available in addition to 153 seasonal campsites. 60 sites have electric hookups. Others have full-service hookups including electricity, sewage, and water. Ten modern cabins are also available for rent. They are equipped with a kitchen, electric heat, a private restroom with flush toilets and a hot shower, and wall to wall carpeting to really enjoy the forested surroundings in comfort.

These modern cabins are not rented out with dishes, cookware, or bedding, so make sure to have some with you when you arrive. Camping cottages with hardwood floors, windows, electric heat, porches, picnic tables, fire rings, and electricity are available for rent as well. 

Two yurts that sleep four people each are available on site. Each one has a cooking stove, microwave oven, refrigerators, counter space, a table and chairs, electric heat, outlets, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Groups are readily accommodated. Dogs are only allowed in one section of the campsites, so make sure to rent in the C loop if you’re bringing a furry friend along.

Visitors to French Creek State Park can enjoy mountain biking, disc golf, horseback riding, hiking, picnicking, swimming, boating, wildlife, boating, and hunting. In the winter, skiing, ice skating, and sledding are also enjoyed. 

 

Pros:

  • Year-round campsites
  • Modern cabins available
  • Variety of amenities to choose from
  • Tons of activities
  • Group space

 

Cons:

  • Pets restricted to one area
  • Limited electric hookups

 

6. Allegheny National Forest

This is the only national forest in Pennsylvania but its nonetheless one of the most famous ones in the country. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains 2.5 hours north of Pittsburgh and 2 hours from Erie, Allegheny National Forest has valleys and peaks that range from 1,000 to 2,300 feet above sea level. Campers who would like to add some hiking to their camping trip will love the wide vistas of Allegheny.

The National Forest’s motto “Land of Many Uses” is on clear display with all the possible activities campers can participate in here. Biking, fishing, sledding, cross-country skiing, ATV riding, hunting, and snowboarding draw in about four million visitors a year. Fall foliage changing colors on the hardwood trees are also a significant draw of campers to Allegheny National Forest. 

Summers and winters are both fairly moderate compared to elsewhere in the state and springtime brings blooming wildflowers that are fantastic to behold. There are nine campsites, recreation areas, and modern cabins that require a reservation through recreation.gov. An RV site is also in the forest, as well as rustic campsites with fewer amenities and lodges and cabins with everything you could need for a great camping trip. 

 

Pros:

  • Tons of activities
  • Different amenities to choose from
  • Great hiking
  • Moderate summers and winters

 

Cons:

  • Some campsites require a reservation

 

A blue tent under the stars at night.

Stargazing in Allegheny National Forest gives campers a view of constellations not visible from underneath bright city lights.

 

7. Raccoon Creek State Park

Raccoon Creek Stae Park has flush toilets, warm showers, and some electric hookups half an hour from Erie, Pennsylvania. 172 modern tent and RV sites with picnic tables and fire rings and each one has the option of electricity. Secluded or adjoining sites are both available at the wooded campgrounds. There are five central washhouses for doing laundry, as well as a sanitary dump station.

A playground is on-site for family-friendly entertainment. The Sioux Rustic Campground that has a water pit and latrines available is open year-round. Backpacking enthusiasts will love Raccoon Creek State Park and its 19.5 miles of backpacking trail, which is called the Raccoon Loop Backpacking Trail. It’s actually made up of three different trails, the Heritage, Forest, and Appaloosa Trails, which all make for fantastic hiking and backpacking. 

Modern cabins with a furnished living area, kitchen, dining room, a full bathroom with flush toilets and hot showers, and two or three bedrooms to sleep between 6 and 8 people are available for rent all year-round. Remember to bring your own cooking utensils and bed and bath linens, as these are not provided with the modern cabin rentals. The summer rental season begins the second Friday in June and ends the Friday after the third Thursday in August.

All modern cabins available for rent in Raccoon Creek State Park must be rented for a one-week minimum during this time period. The three-bedroom Lakeside Lodge is also available. It sleeps 10 people and has a full kitchen, dining room, 1.5 bathrooms, a fireplace, a laundry room, central heat and air conditioning, and a large patio with a gas grill for your use. 

 

Pros:

  • Fantastic hiking and backpacking
  • Modern amenities available
  • RV sites
  • Family-friendly activities

 

Cons:

  • No cooking utensils or linin in modern cabin rentals
  • Time restrictions during the summer season

 

8. Mauch Chunk Lake Park

This is the only county park to make our list. Located 1.5 hours northwest of Philadelphia, Mauch Chunk Lake Park is open year-round and has modern restroom and shower facilities in addition to 135 campsites ranging from lakefront tent sites, modern cabins, group sites, and pavilions with kitchens. An on-site camp store sells firewood, camping supplies, camps, and souvenirs.

One vehicle is permitted at each campsite. Admission to the beach and swimming areas is included with the rental of any one of the campsites, which makes this a great destination for the summertime. Alcohol and pets are not permitted in the park at all. There are three hiking trails and two secondary hiking trails that offer great forested hikes. 

For some family-friendly fun, check out the Environmental Center, which is located 2 miles west of the main park entrance and has nature trails, a butterfly garden, bird feeding stations, a waterfowl observatory, and a boardwalk trail. Best of all, these interesting activities are all provided at the Environmental Center free of charge for campers! This park is well-known for its great fishing, too. 

 

Pros:

  • Fishing and hiking trails
  • Free family-friendly activities
  • Year-round availability
  • Beach access
  • Variety of amenities

 

Cons:

  • No alcohol or pets allowed

 

Final Verdict:

Pennsylvania is the perfect place to go for a family-friendly camping trip. Whether you’re a camper who likes biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, or snow sports, Pennsylvania has what you want somewhere in its many state parks and the Allegheny National Forest. The Pocono region is filled with other campsites that didn’t make this list and the major cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Gettysburg, Hershey, and Erie ensure that visitors to Pennsylvania will always have completely unique historical sites and other activities at their disposal. 

Camp resorts are growing more popular, but most of the state parks already offer modern cabin rentals that have all the modern amenities a camper could desire for a backcountry retreat. Picnic areas or at a minimum a picnic table are common at most campsites in Pennsylvania, allowing families and groups camping together to share meals and gather together when the outdoor activities of the day have finished. 

It can be overwhelming to simply type Pennsylvania campsites into google and hope for the best, but now that you’ve read to the end of our guide you’ve already seen the best of the best. The Quaker State doesn’t mess around when it comes to outdoor fun in every season. Now it’s time to get out to the backwoods of Pennsylvania for a great camping experience. Have fun!

 

Bonus tip: Check out the waterfall trails at Northeast Pennsylvania’s Rickett’s Glen State Park with this hiker’s video!

 

 

In
Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.