Celebrate Nature Photography Day! There’s nothing quite like a mountain top view. The gentle sway of the trees below. The sounds of the birds hunting above. The smell of decay in the soil. You can see towns and valleys and creeks and ridges.
Pennsylvanians are lucky to have such a diversity of scenery in the commonwealth. This diversity can be seen throughout our more than 2.2 million acres of forestland and 121 state parks. No matter where you live in Pennsylvania, you, weekend explorers, can find unmatched beauty.
During and since my visit to all 121 state parks in 2021, I’ve been told and have found so many stunning places. Where you can see the most incredible sunrises and sunsets. Where the fall leaves leave you with tears of joy and the spring wildflowers fill your nostrils with heaven.
Pack a lunch and be sure to head out to the following views this weekend.
Hyner View State Park
With a name like “Hyner View State Park” you’d expect a pretty spectacular view. And that’s exactly what you get at this small park in Clinton County. It is my favorite view I’ve found in Pennsylvania.
After a winding drive up the mountain, you reach the overlook. At the stone wall, you see vast distances up and downstream over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and surrounding mountains.
The view is amazing all times of year, offering something different every season. And, when the wind is just right, you can see hang gliders launch themselves off the platform next to the scenic vista.
There’s also a monument and information boards on the incredible work the Civilian Conservation Corps did in the area. Learning AND a view! What more could you want?
Located between two state parks, Penn’s View in Bald Eagle State Forest is a must see for anyone exploring Centre County.
The view can be found on Poe Paddy Drive between Poe Paddy and Poe Valley State Park. Penn’s View overlooks the Tunnel and Rupp Mountain, with Penn’s Creek running between them.
A ranger from Poe Valley State Park suggested I drive up to see Penn’s View while visiting the area. It took 20 or so minutes up gravel roads. But it was well worth the drive, as Penn’s View provides an incredible scenic overlook over the valley below. The rock outcroppings make for amazing Instagram photos, if you’re that sorta person.
For a bonus view, drive a few minutes more and you’ll find Ingelby View. Though not as great as Penn’s View, it does provide a beautiful view.
WARNING: Poe Paddy drive isn’t maintained much past Penn’s View. The road is incredibly rocky. Do not attempt to drive on this road in anything other than a high-clearance 4WD with off-road tires.
Pennsylvania Grand Canyon: The view everyone knows about
The view of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon that most people see is from Leonard Harrison State Park. And for good reason. It has a huge parking area, snacks, a learning center and bathrooms.
Information boards along the stone wall provide visitors with information on how the canyon was formed, what animals fly above and crawl below the canyon as well as information about the area.
I’ve been to Leonard Harrison State Park several times. I like spending time looking at the turkey vultures, watching wagon tours at the bottom of Pine Creek Gorge and talking to rangers.
The views from the park, which can be accessed at several points, are beautiful. There’s no crowding or jockeying for position. You can relax and take in Mother Nature’s magnificence.
Pennsylvania Grand Canyon: The view no one knows about
On my last trip to Leonard Harrison State Park, my family was speaking to one of the rangers. We were telling him our plans and what we hoped to do during our brief stay.
Then, in hushed tones, he told us about a view “no one knows about because they don’t want to drive the extra 30 minutes.”
Well, I have absolutely no problem driving the extra 30 minutes. So he told me about the Bradley Wales Picnic Area. It is located about 11 miles from Colton Point Picnic Area, in the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area.
The view is simply amazing. The scenic area offers views of the gorge, mountains, creek and much more. There’s also an area with picnic tables, if you want to enjoy a turkey sandwich with your view.
I love this little spot. When my wife, parents, and I were told about this little gem, we didn’t see another soul. We had the area to ourselves to sit and enjoy the stunning surroundings.
Kinzua Bridge State Park
Kinzua Bridge State Park, in McKean County, is the home of the coolest views in all of Pennsylvania. The Kinzua Viaduct was once the longest and tallest railroad structure at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high.
When the railroad bridge was partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources decided to make lemonade out of lemons.
The viaduct was reinvented as a pedestrian walkway in 2011. Now, visitors can walk 600 feet out on the remaining support towers. There, you can peer miles out into the Kinzua Gorge and look down through the partial glass platform at the end of the walkway.
The surrounding area is gorgeous. The moment you put your pictures up on Facebook from a visit to Kinzua Bridge State Park, you will be inundated with messages asking about it. It is beautiful and overwhelming.
Bonus. The Kinzua Bridge State Park Visitor Center has an awesome interactive learning area about the bridge, how it was built and stories about the day it was destroyed. The gift shop is top notch, as well.
Big Pocono State Park
In Monroe County, Big Pocono State Park has plenty of great views for visitors looking for something to hike to or drive to. From the top of Camelback Mountain, visitors can see parts of eastern Pennsylvania and portions of New Jersey and New York.
The top of the mountain is a unique forest called a scrub oak shrubland. According to DCNR, wind-dwarfed gray birch, quaking aspen, pitch pine, and scrub oak cover the mountaintop, with no trees over twenty feet tall. Lowbush blueberry, sweet fern, and mountain laurel grow under the short trees.
From Parking Lot #3, take the Vista Trail to the South Trail. There, you’ll find two incredible vista to the south.
Which state park or forest has the best views? Let me know!
Christian 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.
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