With activities for all four seasons, camping in Pennsylvania is the perfect way to take in the state's wild forests and Appalachian mountains.
Pennsylvania is a land of contrasts. Historic cities and industrial towns give way to the patchwork farmlands of Amish Country and the rugged hills of the Appalachian Trail. Dramatic canyons and forested mountains sweep through the heart of the Keystone State, providing endless terrain for hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. Pennsylvania weather is notoriously changeable, but the best season for camping is May through October. Snow covers much of the state from December through March, so swap tent camping for a heated RV, replace your hiking boots with snowshoes, and head to one of 22 ski resorts.
The evocatively named Pennsylvania Wilds blanket the north and boast some of the state’s best camping and hiking. Views of Pine Creek Gorge, the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” can be enjoyed at Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, and there are primitive tent sites and RV sites in the surrounding Tioga State Forest. To the west, the Allegheny National Forest covers more than 500,000 acres, with kayaking, ATV and mountain biking trails, and a national scenic byway.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, is the first stop in the state’s southwestern corner, and several state parks lie within easy reach. Top of the list is Ohiopyle State Park, where adrenaline seekers go to raft or kayak along the white-water rapids of the Youghiogheny River. In the north, camp resorts and RV parks with full hookups dot the shores of Lake Erie, and you can hop over to the Presque Isle State Park to hike, windsurf, and bird-watch.
West of the Philadelphia region, the state capital, Harrisburg, is the gateway to the southern stretch of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Trail. Just to the south, a day trip to the chocolate capital of Hersey is a must to stock up for all those s’mores around the campfire, and there’s back-to-basics camping in Amish Country around Lancaster. The Allegheny Mountains rise to the west, where campers can hike in the backwoods, paddle along lazy rivers, or hit the ski slopes.
All roads in eastern Pennsylvania lead to Philadelphia, where you can dive into US history and take a peek at the Liberty Bell. For a wilderness camping experience, head north into the Poconos Mountains—there are more than 100 miles of hiking trails in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, including 28 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Further west, Ricketts Glen State Park has waterfall hikes and a family campground with yurts, cabin rentals, RV camping, and tent sites.
Set in Pennsylvania (not Delaware), Delaware State Forest offers several camping options. Campers can enjoy primitive camping at designated sites with a camping permit, which is required for stays longer than one night. More information and permit applications can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.
Yes, Pennsylvania is an excellent destination for camping. The state is home to numerous state parks, national forests, and private campgrounds that cater to tent campers, RV enthusiasts, and those seeking cabins or glamping options. Pennsylvania's diverse landscape, which includes mountains, forests, and lakes, provides campers with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, boating, and wildlife watching. You can browse your options on Hipcamp.
Yes, it is legal to camp in designated areas and campgrounds within Pennsylvania. Camping is allowed in designated campgrounds and specific areas within state parks, state forests, and national forests. In state forests, you can engage in dispersed camping, also known as primitive camping, but you must follow certain rules and regulations. For example, you need to obtain a free permit for stays longer than one night, and you must camp at least 25 feet away from trails and water sources.
For private land, you need the landowner's permission to camp. There are many private landowners who offer camping experiences through platforms like Hipcamp, where you can find unique camping spots in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, you can camp for free in some areas of the state forests and the Allegheny National Forest. Dispersed camping is allowed in these areas, but make sure to follow the guidelines and regulations set by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Allegheny National Forest. Keep in mind that amenities are limited, and you should practice Leave No Trace principles when camping in these areas.
Boondocking, or camping without amenities in undeveloped areas, is not illegal in Pennsylvania as long as it is done on public lands that permit dispersed camping. In Pennsylvania, you can boondock on state forests and some national forests, such as the Allegheny National Forest, where dispersed camping is allowed. However, it is essential to follow the guidelines and regulations set by the respective land management agency. Boondocking is allowed in designated or non-designated areas, but make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and adhere to any posted restrictions or rules. Boondocking on private property without permission is illegal. If you are looking for more secluded camping options in Pennsylvania, you can also check out Hipcamp for private land camping.