The 6 Best State Parks Near State College

Sunset over Black Moshannon Lake

State College, for better or for worse, is one of the fastest growing areas in Pennsylvania.

Urban sprawl in State College, Pennsylvania.
Urban sprawl in State College, Pennsylvania.

More high rises, more traffic, and more suburban sprawl each and every year, with no end in sight.

Construction cranes in downtown State College visible from Mount Nittany.
Construction cranes in downtown State College visible from Mount Nittany.

Fortunately, there are plenty of nearby State Parks that provide a temporary refuge from the hustle and bustle of life in a university town.

Red and gold fall foliage surrounding Black Moshannon Lake
Fall foliage surrounding Black Moshannon Lake at Black Moshannon State Park.

So whether you are a Penn State student, Centre County local, or just visiting Happy Valley, here are the 6 best State Parks near State College.

A map to the six best State Parks near State College, Pennsylvania.
A map to the six best State Parks near State College, Pennsylvania.

Bald Eagle State Park

Bald Eagle State Park sign.
Bald Eagle State Park sign.

Bald Eagle State Park is the largest of the 6 state parks near State College, at 5,900 acres.

Fall foliage around Sayers Lake at Bald Eagle State Park.
Fall foliage around Sayers Lake at Bald Eagle State Park.

Located in northeastern Centre County, you can navigate to the Bald Eagle State Park office at GPS coordinates 41.03448, -77.65160.

Fall foliage views from the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County, PA.
Fall foliage views from the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County, PA.

The centerpiece of Bald Eagle State Park is Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, a 1,730 acre lake that was formed by damming Bald Eagle Creek and a few smaller streams.

Sailboat on Sayers Lake at Bald Eagle State Park.
Sailboat on Sayers Lake at Bald Eagle State Park.

Because of the large size of Sayers Lake, bigger boats are allowed on the waters here, and the park boast a fairly large marina.

The marina at Bald Eagle State Park.
The marina at Bald Eagle State Park.

The beach at Bald Eagle State Park is also a huge draw, with plenty of nearby shade trees and picnic pavillions when you want to escape the sun for a while.

The beach at Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County.
The beach at Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County.

One of the unique features of Bald Eagle State Park is that it is home to the Nature Inn state park lodge, allowing you to stay lakeside in a modern hotel setting.

View from the deck at the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park
View from the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park.

The vast size of Bald Eagle State Park allows for plenty of “social distancing” while you swim, hike, bike, boat, or just soak up the scenery.

The beach at Bald Eagle State Park near State College.
The beach at Bald Eagle State Park near State College.

You can view the official state recreational map of Bald Eagle State Park HERE.


Black Moshannon State Park

Black Moshannon State Park sign.
Black Moshannon State Park sign.

Black Moshannon State Park is a 3,394 acre state park in north-central Centre County.

Late afternoon glow off of Black Moshannon Lake.
Late afternoon glow off of Black Moshannon Lake.

You can navigate to the park office at Black Moshannon State Park at GPS coordinates 40.91214, -78.05691.

Fall foliage around the beach at Black Moshannon State Park in October, 2021.
Fall foliage around the beach at Black Moshannon State Park.

The 250 acre Black Moshannon Lake is the centerpiece of the park, and one of the finest places to kayak “flat water” in the area.

Sunset as viewed from a kayak on Black Moshannon Lake.
Sunset as viewed from a kayak on Black Moshannon Lake.

The water at Black Moshannon Lake really does look black, owing to the tannins from the surrounding bogs that filter into the lake water like tea.

Kayaking at Black Moshannon State Park.
Kayaking at Black Moshannon State Park.

In fact, you can hike through one of those bogs along the raised boardwalk of the Bog Trail.

Bog Trail at Black Moshannon State Park
Bog Trail at Black Moshannon State Park

The Lake Loop Trail is another favorite at Black Moshannon State Park, and as the name implies it takes you on a loop around the northern tip of Black Moshannon Lake.

The Lake Loop Trail at Black Moshannon State Park.
The Lake Loop Trail at Black Moshannon State Park.

As with the other state parks on this list, Black Moshannon State Park offers a beach for swimming with adjacent restrooms, changing rooms, and a concessions stand open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The beach at Black Moshannon State Park.
The beach at Black Moshannon State Park.

Black Moshannon State Park is a terrific place to view fall foliage!

Fall foliage at Black Moshannon State Park.
Fall foliage at Black Moshannon State Park.

And if you can’t get enough of winter, the frozen surface of Black Moshannon Lake should be right up your alley!

Black Moshannon State Park in the winter.
Black Moshannon State Park in the winter.

You can read my in-depth guide to Black Moshannon State Park HERE.


Poe Valley State Park

Poe Valley State Park sign along Poe Valley Road
Poe Valley State Park sign along Poe Valley Road

Poe Valley State Park is a 620 acre State Park in eastern Centre County, surrounded by the Bald Eagle State Forest.

Poe Lake on a spring morning.
Poe Lake on a spring morning.

You can navigate to the Poe Valley park office at GPS coordinates 40.81894, -77.47689.

The beach area and playground at Poe Valley State Park in Centre County, Pennsylvania.
The beach area and playground at Poe Valley State Park.

If you access the park via Route 45 (instead of from Route 322), you will pass right by Bells Majestic View, a roadside vista looking out over northwestern Centre County.

The roadside Bells Majestic View near Poe Valley State Park.
The roadside Bells Majestic View near Poe Valley State Park.

The centerpiece of Poe Valley State Park is the 25 acre Poe Lake.

Spillway on dam at Poe Valley State Park.
Spillway on dam at Poe Valley State Park.

The beach at Poe Valley State Park is a popular draw for visitors.

The beach at Poe Valley State Park in Centre County Pennsylvania.
Summer afternoon on the beach.

Fishing, boating, hiking, and camping are also popular activities at Poe Valley State Park.

Kayaking at Poe Valley State Park in Centre County Pennsylvania.
Kayaking near the beach at Poe Valley State Park.

Because Poe Valley is off the beaten path, so to speak, it’s typically one of the LEAST crowded of the 6 State Parks mentioned in this write-up.

Beach at Poe Valley State Park.
Beach at Poe Valley State Park.

Poe Paddy State Park

Poe Paddy State Park entrance sign.
Poe Paddy State Park entrance sign.

Poe Paddy State Park is located 4 miles east of Poe Valley State Park, at the confluence of Big Poe Creek and Penns Creek.

Along the banks of Penns Creek in the Penns Creek Wild Area.
Exploring Penns Creek at Poe Paddy State Park.

Perhaps the biggest draw to Poe Paddy State Park is fishing, as Penns Creek is a nationally-known wild trout stream.

Fishing in Penns Creek near Poe Paddy State Park.
Fishing in Penns Creek near Poe Paddy State Park.

Poe Paddy Tunnel is another popular spot to explore near Poe Paddy State Park.

Cyclists entering Poe Paddy Tunnel through the northwestern portal.
Cyclists entering Poe Paddy Tunnel through the northwestern portal.

This former railroad tunnel is now part of the Penns Creek Rail Trail.

Hiking through Poe Paddy Tunnel.
Hiking through Poe Paddy Tunnel.

You can chack out my detailed write-up on exploring Poe Paddy State Park HERE.


Greenwood Furnace State Park

The dam at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
The dam at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

Greenwood Furnace State Park is a 423 acre park 20 miles south of State College in Huntingdon County.

A boater on Greenwood Lake at the height of fall foliage season.
A boater on Greenwood Lake at the height of fall foliage season.

You can navigate to the Greenwood Furnace park office at GPS coordinates 40.65016, -77.75767.

Fishermen on a crisp October morning at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Fishing at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

The centerpiece of Greenwood Furnace State Park is the 6 acre Greenwood Lake.

The lake and beach at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
The lake and beach at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

Greenwood Furnace State Park features a well-groomed beach and nearby facilities.

The beach at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
The beach at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

The Lake View Trail is a popular and easy loop around Greenwood Lake.

Lake View Trail at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Lake View Trail at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

There are also historical exhibits near the namesake Greenwood Furnace, not far from the park office.

History of the furnace and iron making operation at Greenwood Furnace State Park.
History of the furnace and iron making operation at Greenwood Furnace State Park.

Whether you enjoy hiking, swimming, fishing, or just spending time in nature, Greenwood Furnace State Park is a great choice!

View of the beach at Greenwood Furnace State Park from the Lake View Trail.
View of the beach at Greenwood Furnace State Park from the Lake View Trail.

You can view the official state recreational map of Greenwood Furnace State Park HERE.


Whipple Dam State Park

Whipple Dam State Park sign along Laurel Run Road.
Whipple Dam State Park sign along Laurel Run Road.

Whipple Dam State Park is a 256 acre park 12 miles south of State College in Huntingdon County.

You can navigate to Whipple Dam State Park at GPS coordinates 40.68274, -77.86559.

The spillway at Whipple Dam State Park on 9.1.2021.
The spillway at Whipple Dam State Park.

The centerpiece of Whipple Dam State Park is the 22 acre Whipple Lake.

Sunrise at Whipple Dam State Park.
Sunrise at Whipple Dam State Park.

The glassy calm waters of Whipple Lake are a popular spot for fishing, kayaking, or enjoying the adjacent beach.

Reflections on Whipple Lake at Whipple Dam State Park.
Reflections on Whipple Lake at Whipple Dam State Park.

During the summer, monthly concerts are held right on the beach at Whipple Dam State Park.

Band performing on the beach at Whipple Dam State Park.
Band performing on the beach at Whipple Dam State Park.

The Whipple Lake Trail is a popular spot for hiking through the tall pines that the park is famous for.

Tall pines along the Whipple Lake Trail at Whipple Dam State Park.
Tall pines along the Whipple Lake Trail at Whipple Dam State Park.

Even in the winter, Whipple Dam State Park is a pleasant place to hike.

Whipple Dam State Park in the winter.
Whipple Dam State Park in the winter.

Nearby Attractions

Looking for more places to rise above the fray of State College?

Then be sure to check out The 5 Best Scenic Overlooks Near State College.

Blue skies over David's Vista near State College.
Blue skies over David’s Vista near State College.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is a Penn State owned and operated wildlife center and aviary, located just 12 miles outside of State College in rural Huntingdon County.

A resident bald eagle at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center.
A resident bald eagle at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.

The Arboretum at Penn State is a fantastic collection of botanic gardens, fountains, ponds, walking trails, and pollinator habitats all located on the north end of the Penn State main campus in State College.

Crossing the bridge from Penn State campus towards the Arboretum.
Crossing the bridge from Penn State campus towards the Arboretum.

The 13 Best Scenic Overlooks in Centre County will introduce you to some of the finest vistas in all of Centre County.

Chocolate Drop Vista along Pine Swamp Road in the Bald Eagle State Forest.
Chocolate Drop Vista along Pine Swamp Road in the Bald Eagle State Forest.

Exploring the Ghost Town of Scotia Near State College takes you inside the remains of a iron-mining boomtown gone bust.

View from above of the ore washer remains at Scotia.
Remains of the ghost town of Scotia.

Indian Lookout in Huntingdon County, along the Yellow Arrow Trail in the Rothrock State Forest, is another great nearby hike to a fantastic view.

Exploring Indian Lookout in the Rothrock State Forest.
Indian Lookout in the Rothrock State Forest.

The 12 Best Things to Do in Huntingdon County PA will introduce you to even more recreational opportunities inside Centre County’s southern neighbor.

The Ledges Trail Overlook in Huntingdon County at Trough Creek State Park.
The Ledges Trail Overlook in Huntingdon County, PA.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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