The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Pennsylvania
Get some fresh air.
After a long spring cooped up indoors, doing our part to flatten the COVID-19 curve and keep others safe, we’re collectively itching to experience the great outdoors. (While keeping a healthy physical distance from other revelers, of course.) All across the state, there are lush forests, sprawling fields, and hidden gems giving you a reason to dust the cobwebs off the old hiking boots. Get ready to breathe fresh air -- finally.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Outside of State College, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the middle of PA -- which is part of the reason why you can find such staggeringly beautiful views in the Susquehanna River Valley. The naturally hilly landscape, especially during the fall season, and a slew of scenic overlooks make the Valley the perfect stopping point as you drive across the state.
Home to the oldest Amish community in the US, Lancaster is a place where you can see what farm life was like 150 years ago, and enjoy colorful farmland, quaint farmhouses/silos, and frequent encounters with horse-and-buggy drivers. It’s a short drive from Philly, so it’s a perfect place to go snap some pictures and get a shoofly pie.
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.
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.
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.
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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