With gorgeous views, historical sites, rugged terrain, vast wildlife and some of the darkest skies on the eastern seaboard, it’s no wonder visitors love to get lost in the great outdoors of Pennsylvania. Spending the night next to the quiet of hills, valleys, gorges and waterfalls at sites throughout the commonwealth is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Loyalsock Canyon Vista - Endless Mountains
This viewpoint offers a commanding vantage point over the Loyalsock Creek Gorge in Worlds End State Park. There are hiking trails to the vista, but the space is also ADA compliant and accessible by car. This wild, rugged and rustic area seems almost untamed, complete with turkey, bear, whitetail deer and timber rattlesnake sightings. Visitors can soak in the view a little longer by camping or renting a cabin along the trail. Known for year-round beauty, the park fills with Mountain Laurels during summertime and colorful foliage throughout the fall.
Duquesne Heights - Pittsburgh and its Countryside
To enjoy one of the best views of Pittsburgh, visitors can ride the Duquesne Incline to the top of Mount Washington to soak in what USA Today Travel called the second most beautiful spot in America. With a panoramic view of the skyline, city bridges and Three Rivers, Duquesne Heights’ observation desk is situated 400 feet above the city. The incline ride itself also features a pictorial history of Pittsburgh, as well as a machine room that showcases the original hoisting equipment from 1877.
Pinnacle Overlook - Dutch Country Roads
Located north of Susquehannock State Park, Pinnacle Overlook is only a short walk from parking and offers an impressive, panoramic view of the Susquehanna River Valley and Lake Aldred from 380 feet above the park complex. In addition to a scenic view, visitors may look up and see bald eagles soaring right above them. Turn a quick trip into an adventure by exploring the nearby Kelly’s Run Trail System or the Conestoga Trail System, both of which can be accessed from the overlook.
Hyner View Overlook - Pennsylvania Wilds
Sitting 1,300 feet above the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and close to parking, Hyner View Overlook offers breathtaking views and is a popular area for hang gliding. Hang gliders are launched from a ramp just below the lookout wall and glide over the river valley. The overlook’s surrounding Hyner View State Park was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and its Bureau of Parks as one of "25 Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks.”
Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park - Valleys of the Susquehanna
The Falls Trail in Ricketts Glen State Park is an amazing – albeit very challenging -– 7.2-mile hike, passing by 23 waterfalls, including the 94-foot Ganoga Falls. This ancient hillside is made even more memorable with old growth timber and diverse wildlife. Topping plenty of hikers’ bucket lists, Falls Trail is a loop, bringing visitors back to the park where they can enjoy picnicking, swimming and refreshments. Ricketts Glen State Park is comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan and Columbia counties.
Boathouse Row - Philadelphia and the Countryside
Located along the east bank of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Boathouse Row consists of 15 boathouses made to house social and rowing clubs and their racing shells. From the oldest continuously existing club in the United States to the oldest women's club, each house has its own unique history. By nightfall, the lights of the 19th century boathouses reflect across the river, providing a holiday-style view year-round. An iconic overlook as visitors enter and exit the City of Brotherly Love, Boathouse Row is situated within Fairmount Park and located near another staple of Philadelphia, the Art Museum.
West Rim Trail - Pennsylvania Wilds
Located along the Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga State Forest, the West Rim Trail stretches along the edge of this forested canyon, offering stunning views around nearly every turn. Rich with history, the northern section of the canyon is about 800 feet deep and about 2,000 feet from rim to rim, with exposed rock that is estimated to be more than 350 million years old. Thirty miles point to point, the trail is a perfect two-to-four day adventure for backpackers.
Presque Isle State Park - Pennsylvania's Great Lakes Region
At Presque Isle State Park, visitors can enjoy a one-of-a-kind sight in Pennsylvania — the state’s only coastal view. Bordering Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, the park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula boasting many recreational activities including boating, swimming, picnicking, fishing and more. When nighttime comes around, three lighthouses on Lake Erie make for a perfect backdrop to a stunning sunset on the shoreline. In 2016, Presque Isle State Park was named the #1 freshwater beach in the country by USA Today Readers’ Choice.
Delaware Water Gap - Pocono Mountains
Mount Tammany in the Pocono Mountains offers an unforgettable vista of the Kittatinny Ridge and Pennsylvania's four physiographic provinces. Worth the trek, visitors climb 3.5 miles of more than 1,250 feet to a rocky outcrop for a breathtaking view. From down below, a raft, kayak or tube trip along the Delaware River makes for an equally breathtaking perspective of the Gap, which is still forming today due to the power of flowing water.
Kinzua Bridge State Park - Pennsylvania Wilds
Showcasing remnants of a 2,053-foot railroad bridge, Kinzua Bridge State Park encompasses 329 acres of wooded space. Although a tornado knocked down much of the bridge in 2003, its remaining overlook offers a stunning view of the viaduct and the Kinzua Creek Valley. In 2016, the viewpoint was named one of the 10 most beautiful in the world by theculturetrip.com. Visitors who walk to the end of the overlook will discover a unique, partial-glass platform that allows them to see the foliage below. The first two weeks of October are peak viewing times for colorful fall foliage, whereas spring months highlight the blossoms and green of spring.
Ohiopyle State Park - Laurel Highlands
The adventurous will enjoy vistas along the Youghiogheny River Gorge, which can be taken in while floating or paddling down the large, boulder-strewn river in the Laurel Highlands. Visitors during the fall foliage peak in late September and early October can soak in the bright colors surrounding the water, whereas spring and summer visitors can enjoy recreational activities like hiking, boating and rock climbing. Cucumber Run is a perfect picnic spot, lined with rhododendron bushes and large trees near the entrance to the scenic Great Gorge Trail. With a trip up to the Tharp Knob Overlook, visitors are treated to a panoramic view of the Gorge and the town of Ohiopyle.
Wehr Covered Bridge
One of seven covered bridges in Lehigh Valley, Wehr’s Bridge is a 117-foot-long Burr Truss bridge, built in 1841. The structure crosses Jordan Creek, a popular trout stream in the area, and is a favorite with photographers and artists, often used as the background for wedding photos. This historic structure has become a common place for families to enjoy picnicking and quiet recreation in the nearby park. Tracing back to European roots from the mid-1300s, covered bridges have a romantic quality that many associate with times when life moved slowly. A staple of the community, Wehr’s Bridge is one stop along a scenic tour of covered bridges in Lehigh Valley.
With nearly nine miles of trails and scenic views, Mt. Nittany is one of the most recognizable and legendary symbols of Centre County and Penn State. Seven scenic overlooks throughout the trail feature birds-eye views of The Pennsylvania State University’s campus, Nittany Valley and Penns Valley. One of the most popular spots, the Mike Lynch Vista, overlooks the 322 bypass and a few Penn State gems, like Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center. This is known as one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the sunset over the area, commonly referred to as “Happy Valley.”