Is there anything better than opening the car windows, cranking the tunes and going on a road trip in the summer? I don’t think so.
Maybe it’s the wind in my hair or the sense of adventure or the fact that it brings me back to feeling 17 again, but I love a good road trip. On my journey of running one mile at all 121 state parks in 2021, I had an opportunity to go on several weekend road trips a month.
Each weekend, I’d load up my car and hit the road. I’d do my park runs during the day, then spend my night exploring cozy small towns while checking out local restaurants and breweries. I’d be joined by friends or my wife. Each road trip was a little different.
With 121 state parks dotting the Pennsylvania landscape, there are ample opportunities to explore state parks on weekend road trips.
Here’s a breakdown of three road trips that you can take to satisfy your need to take to the open road and discover Pennsylvania’s natural beauty.
US Route 6
U.S. Route 6 stretches more than 400 miles across the top of Pennsylvania. The two-lane rural highway goes from Ohio to New York – bringing you within more than a dozen state parks.
I came to know US Route 6 well as I spent hours on it heading from one state park to the other. Some of the state parks located a short distance off of US Route 6 include Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks (featuring the PA Grand Canyon), Cherry Springs State Park and Kinzua Bridge State Park.
It would take you days to see all the incredible parks along US Route 6. There’s also plenty of great small towns – such as Wellsboro and Coudersport – to stop for a great meal and even better shopping opportunities.
While Pennsylvania state parks don’t have a bad season, they really shine in the fall. Schedule a long weekend when the leaves are orange to see some of the magnificent scenery this commonwealth has to offer.
PA Route 32
Traveling along the eastern edge of Pennsylvania, Route 32 offers travelers a lot of bang for their buck when it comes to state parks. Over the course of 60-or-so miles, you can see five state parks.
Starting at Washington Crossing State Park, you can travel north to Ralph Stover State Park, Delaware Canal State Park, Nockamixon State Park, and then finally to Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center.
One of the most interesting state parks along this corridor is Delaware Canal State Park. At nearly 59-miles, the Delaware Canal State Park Towpath has something for everyone.
It provides visitors a scenic location to experience the big beautiful outdoors through activities, wildlife and learning.
It is enjoyed so much that it was named the Pennsylvania 2022 Trail of the Year.
In addition to the beautiful park you’ll be seeing, you’ll also have an opportunity to spend time in New Hope – one of Pennsylvania’s most celebrated small towns. In New Hope, you’ll find a charming small town with great food, wonderful people and plenty of ways to experience the outdoors.
I personally love this little stretch of Pennsylvania, so much so that I’m planning a biking weekend there this year. I just hope I can book a room before all the fall leaf-peepers grab them.
Along the western border of Pennsylvania lies Interstate 79. This 183-mile corridor runs from the order of West Virginia all the way up to Erie – bringing you in the path of a number of great Pennsylvania state parks.
Beginning in Pittsburgh and driving north, you’ll reach Point State Park, McConnells Mill State Park, Moraine State Park, Jennings Environmental Education Center, Maurice K. Goddard State Park and Presque Isle State Park.
The crown jewel of this road trip would be Presque Isle. It is arguably one of the best parks in the state. Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie.
As Pennsylvania’s only Great Lakes shoreline, Presque Isle offers visitors beautiful views, tons of activities, free tours, and countless opportunities for awesome photos.
The Tom Ridge Environmental Center is also my favorite state park learning center in Pennsylvania. You can read more about the center here.
While Presque Isle may get all the visitors, don’t sleep on the rest of the parks along Interstate 79. The Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh offers the perfect setting for a sunset bike ride before grabbing dinner and drinks.
Moraine State Park offers visitors gently rolling hills, lush forests and clear waters. The central feature of the park is Lake Authur – which is 3,225-acre and provides 42 miles of shoreline.
If you were to drive a bit farther off the interstate, you’d see another half dozen state parks. But that would require several more hours of driving to and from the interstate.
Are there other road trips to state parks that I’ve missed? What’s your favorite stretch of road in Pennsylvania?
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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Featured image: Kinzua Bridge State Park. Photo credit to Jenn Stillman.