The Keystone State, Pennsylvania‘s historic nickname dating back to 1802, offers some of the most compelling nature and outdoor activities to keep any camper enthralled.
One of the original 13 colonies, the state is rich in history and natural beauty, with the Appalachian Mountains running through the state’s middle, and Lake Erie at its northwestern border.
The state also offers up several pristine state parks for camping, as well as exceptional private campgrounds to explore. Each of the camping sites lay near rivers, lakes, mountains, and amazing waterfalls.
Get ready to set up your tent, park your RV, or settle into a cabin or yurt for a stay in one of the most beautiful states in the country.
Enjoy and explore the following twelve best camping sites in the State of Pennsylvania in 2021:
FAQs about camping in Pennsylvania
What's the biggest state park in Pennsylvania?
With more than 21,000 acres, Pymatuning State Park is the largest state park in Pennsylvania. It's also one of the most visited state parks, and its 17,000-acre Pymatuning Reservoir is the largest lake in the Keystone State.
How much is RV camping in Pennsylvania?
RV camping in Pennsylvania is usually more than primitive camping. Overnight prices highly depend on the season, location, and amenities of the park. However, you can expect rates between USD$ 15 to 50 per night for RV camping in Pennsylvania.
Where can you camp for free in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania offers plenty of free camping opportunities. The prime destination for great hiking, the best views, and free camping are the Appalachian Mountains. Some of the most popular camping spots there are Tioga State Forest, Susquehannock State Forest, and Elk State Forest. Rothrock State Forest, Weiser State Forest, and Loyalsock State Forest are also fantastic locations to boondock.
When does the camping season start in Pennsylvania?
Located just about an hour and a half from Philadelphia, this Gnome-themed campground is one of the most unique places to escape the mundane in the area.
It features a six-acre lake, a Gnome cafe, and magnificent entertainment. Cool off in the swimming pool, fish, play mini-golf, boat, or relax in the spa waters while you leave the kids at the playground or the kiddie pool.
Lake in Wood RV Resort also offers a plethora of lodging options. Stay in your RV, pitch a tent, or rent a barn, yurt, tipi, or a covered wagon for an unforgettable experience. Deluxe park model rentals are available, too.
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort: Quarryville, PA – BEST for KIDS
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort offers a fun Yogi Bear-themed experience with a wide selection of attractions to enjoy. One is Yogi Bear’s Water Zone, an aquatic playground. Another is mini golf, where you can putt with a Yogi Bear statue looking on.
You can also be active on the basketball and volleyball courts or go for a run or walk on its hiking trails along Stewart Run Creek. In fact, the latter is where the woodsy, secluded aspect of this 63-acre park flourishes. You can also take advantage of its gem mining and laser tag opportunities for an additional cost.
Do note that this camping site is closed from early November through April with its peak season from the middle of June to the middle of August. Also take into account that the park recommends booking spaces at least six months in advance.
Other things to consider include pets only being allowed at its RV sites and Wi-Fi only being available at the Water Zone, Pavilion and Ranger Station.
The most significant benefit of Hersheypark Camping Resort is its location, just 3 miles from Hersheypark. It also has a similar chocolate-focused theme while guests here get to enjoy special benefits related to the Hersheypark theme park, which include free parking and early and late access. Additional benefits include lower prices at the Hershey Story’s Museum Experience and Hershey Gardens.
Meanwhile, many of the activities that take place at the camping resort itself keep both adults and children entertained. Special events are scheduled for nearly every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day as well as the first three weekends of the season, which starts on April 1; the season wraps up on Sept. 26.
Prospective renters should take into account that an active train line is adjacent to the campground, which is great for train enthusiasts but can be a negative point for some due to how noisy they can be. Those wanting a quiet experience should also consider that, in many cases, little room separates the RV spaces.
Situated on the largest lake in Pennsylvania, camping options abound, including tent and trailer sites, yurts, and cabins.
Expect to be waterlogged as there are numerous water activities to enjoy here. Take a swim at the beach, go boating out on the lake, play in the water park, or take-up paddle boarding.
On land, try your hand at geocaching. Within the resort grounds are six caches to find, with more around the region.
Sitting on three peninsulas, this private campground offers many modern amenities as well. If you don’t feel like cooking out one day, head to the Marina Café for a bite. Visit the WildRiver Waterpark for a thrilling afternoon.
Lake Raystown Resort is also an ideal spot for a wedding, family reunion, or retreat.
The Alleghany River Campground abounds with river activities, from fly fishing to river tubing. This historic waterway has served many purposes in the past. Today, however, it is protected, with parts of it now under the National Wild & Scenic River System, specifically classified for recreational uses.
While the campground sports modern features as well as natural ones, including a heated swimming pool, you can still immerse yourself in the surrounding nature.
The grounds contain primitive tent campsites as well as RV hook-ups. As a bonus, you can reserve a vintage RV for your stay, in addition to cabins and cottages.
Nestled in the heart of the Juniata River Valley, Buttonwood Campground is one of the largest camping sites in Central Pennsylvania. It features spacious, pet-friendly sites, suitable for both RV and tent camping, as well as cabin rentals. However, Buttonwood Campground is not only notable for its size but also for the number of fun activities to join in.
Explore the beauties of the Juniata River on a tube, kayak, or canoe. There is also a pool, mini-golf, jumping pillow, laser tag, horseshoes, and much more. Wine lovers will appreciate the on-site winery, while Hazard’s Distillery is not far from the campground either.
Other area attractions include golf courses, flea markets, theme parks, the Midway Drive-In Theater, and hiking, fishing, or boating opportunities.
It doesn’t matter if you come alone, as a couple, group of friends, or a family. Buttonwood Campground is here to accommodate every kind of camper’s needs.
Get up close and personal with the Poconos mountains while staying at the Otter Lake Camp Resort. With 300 wooded acres to explore, this private campground is a delight for any level of camper.
Enjoy canoeing or kayaking on the sparkling 60-acre lake. Or, if you prefer, spend your time fishing for bass, perch, catfish, and the like.
Modern activities abound as well for those who are not as nature-oriented or like a variety of options during their camp stays. These include organized activities such as archery and crafts. There’s also tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts. For the little ones, check out any of the four playgrounds, splash park, and game room.
winter activities – cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing
Ricketts Glen State Park is the ideal camping destination for those who enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities year-round.
Situated on the eastern side of the state, the park offers a fishing and boating lake, a swimming beach, rental cabins, and several campsites. A nature lovers paradise, you can explore old-growth forests, natural wetlands, and grand geological formations during your stay.
Just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Philadelphia, the park offers five deluxe cottages, ten modern cabins (two are ADA compatible), and 120 tent and trailer campsites.
Be sure to bring along good hiking shoes as this park entices with its popular Falls Trail. This trail leads you past 21 of the park’s incredible waterfalls, ranging from 11 to 94 feet high.
In addition, inside the park you will find Lake Jean, a great place for swimming, fishing, and boating. The lake is stocked annually with trout as well.
If you are into winter outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing, this is the place for you also. If you are into hunting, the park offers over 10,000 designated acres, as well as state game lands which surround the park.
It is highly unlikely you’ll run out of things to do within the parameters of this 13,193-acre park.
A unique feature found in this park is its 20,000-year-old boulder field, which is designated as a National Natural Landmark. Take your own GPS tour to this natural history site leftover from the last ice age. The park provides coordinates to follow and learn about the ancient landscape along the way.
The park also contains over 40 miles of hiking trails, once old roads leading to nearby towns back in the 1800s. These trails range anywhere from easy to highly difficult for hikers, so be prepared.
There is also Sand Spring Lake to enjoy. Sit on its sandy beach before and after a cooling swim. Float on a raft for a relaxing afternoon. You’ll find shaded picnic tables here as well.
For campers, Hickory Run has over 300 tent and trailer campsites. Beware, however, of the active bear population in the area and be sure to hang your food up. If you are feeling somewhat less adventurous, try staying in one of the park’s five cottages.
Situated in the Schuylkill Highlands, French Creek State Park sports two lakes, 35 miles of hiking trails, 20 miles of mountain biking trails, and a disc golf course.
Bring your binoculars as this 7,730-acre park is designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. Or, if you prefer a more rigorous activity, check out the 20 miles of difficult, rocky mountain biking rails. Along these trails, you will climb hills, cruise through forests, and cross streams.
You will find two lakes within the park, the Hopewell Lake and the smaller Scotts Run Lake. Bring your own boat, or rent kayaks, canoes, and row boats for either lake.
Bring along your fishing gear as well. Hopewell Lake swarms with fish, including Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, and many others. The Scotts Run Lake is stocked with trout throughout the year.
In the way of camping, the park offers several options, including ten modern cabins, three cottages, two yurts, and up to 200 tent and trailer sites.
For the best skies in the state for star gazing and a glimpse of the Milky way, head to Cherry Springs State Park northwest of Philadelphia.
From a field high up on top of a 2,300-foot mountain, with a 360-degree view of the night skies, this famous spot is sure not to disappoint. With minimal if any light nearby, this park offers one of the most famous locales for astronomers, amateur and professional alike.
Surrounded by the Susquehannock State Forest, this remote 82-acre park also provides access to pristine hiking and backpacking trails. Named for the black cherry trees found in the area, the park only has 30 rustic campsites available, so you’ll need to reserve your spot early.
southern terminus for the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
If you’re looking for adventure along with a pristine campsite, venture into Ohiopyle State Park. Here you are able to run the rapids of the Youghiogheny River Gorge, cascade down natural waterslides, or try your hand at rock climbing.
Tackle the class III and IV rapids if experienced, or join a guided raft trip if not. Climb into the creek bed and be whisked through the water and down two waterslides.
If rock climbing is your sport, the park has several areas to test your skills, including the Meadow Run and Bruner Run climbing areas.
For backpackers and long hikers, the park includes the southern terminus of the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. If you’re up for a strenuous hike over rocky terrain, but with incredible natural scenery, try taking on the 6.3 miles of the Trail located inside the park.
Ohiopyle State Park contains around 200 tent and trailer campsites, including 27 hike-in sites. Cottages and yurts are also available for rental.
While historic in its own right, Pennsylvania is also full of pristine natural beauty every camper can experience. From primitive tent camping to top-notch RV sites to cabins and yurts, the Keystone State offers an abundance of nature-oriented outdoor activities to rival any other state.
Besides, where else can you go whitewater rafting, see 21 waterfalls in a single hike, see an unobstructed view of the Milky Way, or visit via GPS a historic boulder field? Combine these with incredible hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, and boating, and you may just have the perfect state for camping.