When you think of outdoor activities in state parks, the same list comes to mind. Hiking, boating, hunting, fishing, camping and picnicking. And as great as those activities are, they can feel a little old school. Maybe even a little boring.

But not to fear, explorers. Pennsylvania state parks and forests are home to plenty of activities that will get your blood pumping and competitive juices flowing. Whether it’s scuba diving at Bald Eagle State Park or hang gliding at Hyner View State Parks, there’s an abundance of exciting pursuits just waiting for you.

Check out this list of out-of-the-ordinary activities you can check out in Pennsylvania state parks and forests.


Rock climbing 

john beatty critics fun ralph stover

As rock climbing has become one of the fastest growing non-team sports, it’s no wonder why rock climbers are clamoring to take on the walls and boulders of the Keystone State.

Rock climbing is permitted in three Pennsylvania state parks: McConnells Mill State Park in Lawrence County, Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County and Ralph Stover State Park in Bucks County.

According to DCNR, rock climbing, rappelling, and bouldering is also permitted on state forest land in areas where “ecological, environmental, geological, archaeological, or historic resources or values will not be impacted to a significant extent.” Those interested should contact the state forest they plan on visiting for more information.


Hang gliding 

christian hyner view

Did you know that you can hang glide off the top of Hyner View State Park? Me neither!

It wasn’t until a visit there that I found out that hang gliders – or amateur lunatics – leap from the top of the Clinton County park.

Hang gliders take off from the ramp located near the scenic vista viewing area. In the air, they glide over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. DCNR authorization is required before you can participate in hang gliding.

Though I have not yet seen someone do it, I cannot wait until the stars align when I can see some daredevil take to the skys, crossing over one of the best views in all of Pennsylvania.


Radio-controlled flying 

During my visits to all 121 state parks, I was most surprised to find that there were some parks that housed areas for radio-controlled flying.

Benjamin Rush State Park, located in the northeast section of Philadelphia, has a radio-controlled model airplane field including a 400-foot runway and surrounding fly zone. The Northeast Philadelphia Radio Control Club operates out of the field.

On the other side of the commonwealth, Hillman State Park in Washington County also has a radio-controlled model airplane field. The K. Leroy Irvis Radio Control Model Airport includes a covered shelter, asphalt runways and taxiways, asphalt and grass pit areas, wind sock poles, frequency board, parking area spectator area. The airplane field is operated and maintained by the Greater Pittsburgh Aero Radio Control Society.



Orienteering is a competitive sport in which participants find their way to various checkpoints across rough country with the aid of a map and compass. There are eight state parks in Pennsylvania where you can test our land navigation skills.

I took a class at Kings Gap Environmental Education Center in Cumberland County to learn more about how to use a compass. While I was taking the class to build wilderness survival skills, others were taking it to start their orienteering hobby. There are several courses of varying difficulty at Kings Gap.

That afternoon, I learned about how to read and orient a compass and  how to find trail checkpoints. I really enjoyed the free class and have plans to complete more orienteering courses in the future.


Scuba diving 

Have you ever wanted to explore under the murky waves of your local park waters? Well, you can.

Scuba diving is allowed at 20 state parks – including parks in all four regions of the commonwealth. You can even scuba dive in the Susquehanna River at Shikellamy State Park and in Lake Erie at Presque Isle.

With numerous opportunities around the state for free scuba diving, what’s keeping you from strapping on some flippers and oxygen tanks?


What other sort of out-of-the-norm activities are available in Pennsylvania state parks? Let me know!

christian in the rain

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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Not your momma’s activities: Parks offer rock climbing, hang gliding and more