The Most Beautiful Places in Pennsylvania Are Your Next Great Adventure
Explore the natural beauty of this magnificent state of ours.
Pennsylvania—home to the Pocono Mountains, state parks, and countless lakes and rivers—is covered with nature: forests comprise over 60% of the state. But have you taken the time to truly appreciate how scenic the state is?
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. Here’s where to get outside and touch some (very beautiful) grass in Pennsylvania.
Mount Washington Overlook
See Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle and the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River from 450-feet up. The iconic view of the city is accessible via two historic inclines: Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline, both of which will take you to the top. Take one incline up, walk about a mile while taking in the sights, and then take the other line back down. Or enjoy the view with a cocktail in hand at The Summit.
Ridenour and Hawn’s Overlook
For views of the largest lake entirely within Pennsylvania—that would be Raystown Lake—hike up to Ridenour and Hawn’s Overlooks for a sunrise (or sunset) you won’t soon forget. Ridenour Overlook is only one tenth of a mile from the parking area and is wheelchair accessible, and Hawn’s Overlook is about a half-mile beyond that. The trail isn’t very steep and should be doable for the whole family. When it comes to views, enjoy Raystown Lake dam at Ridenour and at Hawn’s, take in the 180-degrees of the tree-filled peninsulas and islands that jut into the lake.
Legend has it, forbidden lovers, Seneca woman Nita-nee and her French trapper boo, Malachi Boyer, ran away, only to be captured and then have Malachi thrown into this cave to die. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors can tour Penn’s Cave entirely by boat. You’ll see stalactites and stalagmites and learn about dripping water sculpted the stone.
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.
Bake Oven Knob
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).
Blue Marsh Lake
Constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1979, 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.
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.
Delaware Water Gap
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area spans 40 miles along the Delaware River, and 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.
McConnells Mill State Park
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.
Ricketts Glen State Park
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.
Pine Creek Gorge
Tioga, Lycoming, and Clinton counties
Colloquially known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, this 47-mile gorge provides a number of overlooks offering supreme views of the canyon up to 1,500 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.
The Pinnacle Trail
With multiple routes of varying length all leading to the second-highest elevation in Berks County, the Pinnacle features some of the best views of the Lehigh Valley. Keep in mind: the shortest route is at least six miles, round trip and it’s a little steep to get to the top. But the effort is worth the bird watching and nature gazing at the top.
Ohiopyle State Park
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 7-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.
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-and-a-half hour drive from Philly, the falls make for a scenic day trip from the city.
Cherry Springs State Park
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 2025.
Cook Forest/Clarion River
Clarion, Forest, and Jefferson Counties
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.