The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Pennsylvania

From towering waterfalls and incredible stargazing sites to lush secret gardens.

With spring on the horizon, perhaps you’re filling up your outdoor excursion calendar and are in need of a little inspiration. The great state of Pennsylvania—vast and full of waterfalls, cliffs, and lakes—is the perfect place to do some nature-peeping whether you want to embark on a road trip or just escape to some scenic natural areas for the day.

From picturesque overlooks to crystal clear views at one of the best places to stargaze in the country, you may be surprised to know that the state is chock full of beautiful locales. So lace up those hiking boots and enjoy all the natural eye candy our state has to offer by checking out the most beautiful places in Pennsylvania.

austin dam
Flickr/Sherri Frantz

Potter County
Built in 1909 by the Bayless Pulp and Paper Company, the Austin Dam was constructed to power the Bayless papermill. Two years later, however, the dam failed, destroying the papermill and the towns of Austin and Costello. These days, the ruins still exist, and huge remnants of the concrete wall stand amid a grassy meadow. Plus, there are hiking trails and an area where you can stand perched over the ruins for an incredible view.


Carbon County
Just outside of Allentown on the Appalachian Trail, the overlook known as Bake Oven Knob is only a little more than three-quarters of a mile away from a parking area. Sure, the short hike is rocky, but the views are worth it. Enjoy panoramic views of forest and farmland that change with the season (red and orange trees in the fall, snow-covered fields in the winter, and lush green land in the summer).


Berks County
Constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1978, this man-made lake features a swimming area, boat launches, and nearly 30 miles of hiking trails. With trails that border the lake, you can get an excellent view of the water from all angles by foot, bike, or horse. Surrounded by freshly manicured lawns and lush trees, the lake is an idyllic spot for a swim and a picnic.


Wayne County
If you’re looking for a view with fewer trees, head out to Irving Cliff, which offers views of the quaint town of Honesdale. Named after Washington Irving (of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” fame) who supposedly felt an intense desire to climb the cliff when he visited in 1841. There’s a one-mile moderate trail that’ll get you to the peak of the cliff. The reward is not only a bird’s-eye-view of Honesdale, but glimpses of the Moosic Mountains and Lackawaxen River. After, grab a beer at the aptly named Irving Cliff Brewery.

The National Memorial Arch
The National Memorial Arch | Delmas Lehman/Shutterstock

Valley Forge
The site where George Washington and the Continental Army troops were stationed in 1777 and 1778 is now a park featuring tons of historical goodies like Washington’s headquarters, rebuilt log soldiers’ huts, and 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Keep an eye out for photo-worthy sites and scenes like the National Memorial Arch and the dozens of species of birds that call the park home. (Bonus points: It’s accessible by bike from Philly via the Schuylkill River Trail.)

Brian Youchak/Shutterstock

Lambertville, New Jersey and New Hope, Pennsylvania
Connecting the towns of Lambertville and New Hope, this bridge spans the width of the Delaware River and is available to both pedestrians and motorists. Especially lovely during the evenings, catch golden hour over the river as you stroll back and forth between the riverfront towns, equally picturesque with their antique shops, restaurants, and boutiques.

Hickory Run State Park
Hickory Run State Park

Carbon County
Home to Boulder Field, a 720,000-square-foot area full of boulders (accessible via car or a six-mile out and back trail), Hickory Run State Park also boasts 40 miles of trails. Hike out to Hawk Falls (one mile), check out the overlook of the Lehigh River and Lehigh Gorge State Park along the Fireline Trail, or take a dip in Sand Spring Lake during warmer months.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area


Although the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area spans more than 200 miles, in the southernmost part of the park near Stroudsburg is where the Delaware River cuts through the Kittatinny Ridge, creating the water gap itself. This scenic natural phenomenon is covered in trees, providing a stark contrast between the sky above and the river below. There are a number of hikes that lead to overlooks on both the NJ and Pennsylvania sides of the river, including the difficult, one-mile Mt. Tammany Trail.

McConnell's Mill and waterfall
McConnell's Mill and waterfall | Sherman Cahal/Shutterstock

About 40 minutes north of Pittsburgh is this 2,546-acre park, featuring its namesake mill and covered bridge, both built in the 1800s. (Park at the Kildoo Picnic Area and hike down some stairs to check it out.) With 11 miles of trails that traverse the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge, you’ve got a variety of options if you want to peep the mill and covered bridge, waterfalls, and creeks.

Pine Creek Gorge
Pine Creek Gorge | Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

Colloquially known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, this 47-mile gorge provides a number of overlooks offering supreme views of the canyon up to 1,400 feet below at its deepest point. For the most scenic overlooks, make your way to Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks where you can hike short lengths to reach primo viewing spots. Pitch a tent and camp, or in the winter months, traverse the 177 miles of snowmobile trails. 

Lehigh Canal
Lehigh Canal | Jim/Flickr

Bucks, Carbon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Northampton Counties
For a scenic bike ride, the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail follows the Lehigh River for up to 142 miles. Either BYO bike or rent your own and ride along old train tracks and feast your eyes on waterfalls, overlooks, canals, and other wildlife. Since the trail is so expansive, there are many entry points and segments, so you should be able to avoid crowds.

Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State Park | Brook Ward/Flickr

Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia Counties
Over the course of 13,193 acres, you’ll encounter 26 miles of hiking trails, ranging from less than one mile to just over seven, and 22 waterfalls. The seven-mile hiking trail, while the most difficult, gets you views of nearly all of said waterfalls. The sprawling park has over 100 campsites, so start a fire and spend the night under the open sky.

Worlds End
Worlds End State Park | Jackie Allen/Flickr

In the valley of Loyalsock Creek, Worlds End State Park is picturesque, surrounded by mountains and forest. There’s a small swimming area off of the creek if you need a quick cool-off while on your 59-mile hike on the Loyalsock Trail, which follows the mountain ridges and streams. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of much, much shorter trails.) The creek is open to kayakers and fishers, too.

Bushkill Falls
Bushkill Falls | Shinya Suzuki/Flickr

Dubbed the Niagara of Pennsylvania, this collection of eight waterfalls does require a minor admission fee to view, but the site offers plenty to do including four trails of varying difficulty, ranging from 15 minutes to two hours, birdwatching, and fishing. Just over a two-hour drive from Philly, the falls make for a scenic day trip from the city.

Pinnacle Trail
The Pinnacle Trail | Daniel Hartwig/Flickr

Berks County
This 10-mile out-and-back trail on the Pennsylvania stretch of the Appalachian Trail features some of the best views of the Lehigh Valley. While it’s a little steep to get to the top, the effort is worth the bird watching and nature gazing at the top. While this trail can sometimes draw crowds, hikers commented on the easy ability to practice social distancing.

Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park | Random Michelle/Flickr

Located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, right near the West Virginia and Maryland borders, Ohiopyle is one of the most visited state parks in the Keystone State. At Ohiopyle, visitors have their choice of outdoor activities -- including camping, hiking trails, and hunting -- but the park is probably best known for the 14-mile stretch of the Youghiogheny River that contains some of the best whitewater rafting on the East Coast. Try riding your bike along the river for some scenic views.

Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park | Jaime Dillen-Seibel/Flickr

Not many people think of heading to the shores of Lake Erie for vacation, but when you see the views at Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre peninsula that juts into the lake, you might think twice about heading east next summer. At Presque Isle there are all the things you would associate with a trip to the shore -- sandy beaches, tons of outdoor activities, and that one person that has been in the sun for way too long.

Clarion River
Clarion River | Yayad/Flickr

Two hours north of Pittsburgh sits Cook Forest, an 11,500-acre state park filled with mountainous hills, white pine and hemlock trees, and the Clarion River. It’s one of the lesser-known state parks, which doesn’t make it any less beautiful. While you could always take a hike, one of the best ways to experience Cook Forest is to take a kayak, canoe, or tube out for a leisurely float down the river.

Cherry Springs State Park
Cherry Springs State Park | Cherry Springs Dark Sky Fund/Association

Unfortunately for most of us living on the East Coast, light pollution is a serious problem when trying to stargaze -- that is unless you head to Cherry Springs State Park in Northern PA. The park is one of the only “dark sky” areas on the East Coast, and the location is so isolated that you see tons of stars, asteroids, Venus, the Milky Way, and more with the naked eye during optimal conditions. So keep that in mind the next time the blood moon shows up in 2032.

Kinzua Bridge | Wikimedia

McKean County
Prior to the 2003 tornado that took out the middle section of the structure, the Kinzua Bridge was a 300-foot-tall, 2,052-foot-long trestle bridge that was a connection point for the local railroad across Kinzua Creek. Sensing that it wasn’t economically viable to rebuild the bridge, the state has turned the site into a tourist destination where visitors can walk to the end of the bridge and view the expansive surroundings from the glass-floored observation deck.

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Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter @allieevolpe.