As much fun as it was to run in all 121 Pennsylvania State Parks this year, it was even more fun traveling around and exploring this big beautiful commonwealth.

Overnight running trips brought me to every corner of Pennsylvania. When I was done with my state park runs at the end of each day, I had time to check out the surrounding towns. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many welcoming small towns and communities.

Small towns bring a quaintness and comfort that big cities lack. The shops and local restaurants bring charm and character to what is often a basic main strip of brick buildings and old churches.

If you’re traveling to a state park, chances are there’s a nearby town to visit. Plan a long weekend to combine hiking, kayaking and trail running with shopping, eating and drinking.

If you’re planning on exploring Leonard Harrison or Colton Point State Parks, make sure you spend some time in Wellsboro. This small town is a great place to grab some grub and shop in between time in the state parks.

The Penn Wells Historic Hotel is a great place to lay your head down for the night before waking up early for sunrise photos at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.

Ohiopyle is one of the coolest small towns in Pennsylvania. The Ohiopyle State Park surrounds this quaint town — which has a year round population of 59 residents. From the “downtown,” you are moments away from waterfalls, running and hiking trails, biking trails and plenty of beautiful scenery.

Unlike some of the other small towns on this list, the majority of your time will not be visiting shops and trying out restaurants, but in the incredible scenery all around the town.

Eagles Mere
Eagles Mere was not on my radar until I was invited to camp near the Sullivan County town. Located within 15 minutes of Worlds End State Park, Eagles Mere is a small community in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. With only 120 full time residents, the community swells to several thousand in the summer with visiting tourists.

There’s plenty of opportunities to swim, hike and explore. An afternoon at Eagles Mere Lake provides fun for the whole family. However, the lake is private, which is a bummer. If you rent one of the nearby properties, they can come with passes that allow you access to the lake.

Just 9 miles from Nockamixon State Park, Doylestown has long been a cherished place to visit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone, told them I live in Pennsylvania and then they tell me they’ve visited Doylestown. Completely unprompted.

And I totally get it. It’s fun, quaint, charming and accessible. Spend your time strolling the streets and shopping. There’s too many great restaurants to name. Book a weekend visit in the fall for colorful hikes.

Located in the Pennsylvania Wilds, Coudersport serves as a great homebase while you visit any of the nearby six state parks that are less than a 45 minutes drive. Don’t feel like hiking or trail running? No problem!

Spend an afternoon at the Eliot Ness Museum, Coudersport Ice Mine, Coudersport Theatre or the nearby Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. The Hotel Crittenden whips up awesome meals when you get back from exploring.

It’s a small town in the middle of “nowhere.” I cannot tell you why I love this place so much, but I do. I get John-Muir-type feelings when I’m there. Maybe it’s the lack of cell service, the beautiful scenery or the relative comfort it offers.

Whatever it is, I plan on visiting Coudersport a lot more in the future. I hope to see you there.

Christian AlexandersenChristian Alexandersen ran one mile in each of Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks in 2021 and has been sharing with us stories and tips from his journey.  To read more blog posts from Christian and other PPFF guest bloggers, visit our News page.

Join us for a Livestream Lunch Hour with Christian!  Christian is joining PPFF to celebrate the #ExtraGive on Friday, November 19. No registration needed, just visit our Facebook page or YouTube channel at 12pm!

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Best small towns encountered while running at all 121 PA State Parks, by Christian Alexandersen