Exploring Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County

Taking in the scenery at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

Parker Dam State Park is a 968-acre expanse in Clearfield County featuring a tranquil lake, a beach area, scenic vistas, and miles of hiking trails.

Beach and boat launch at Parker Dam State Park.
Beach and boat launch at Parker Dam State Park.

The park is only 6 miles north of Interstate 80, but is completely surrounded by the Moshannon State Forest.

The upper vista along the Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park.
The upper vista along the Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park.

So while it’s fairly easy to get to, it feels pleasantly remote once you’re there.

A canoe on the banks of Parker Lake at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County, PA.
A canoe on the banks of Parker Lake at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

Directions to Parker Dam State Park

From Interstate 80, take Exit 111 onto PA 153 North for 5.5 miles.

Turn right onto Mud Run Road, and then drive 2.5 miles to the park.

Parker Dam State Park sign along Route 153 in Clearfield County.
Parker Dam State Park sign along Route 153 in Clearfield County.

The Best Things to Do at Parker Dam State Park

Parker Dam spelled out in stone along the banks of Parker Lake.
Parker Dam spelled out in stone along the banks of Parker Lake.

Hiking at Parker Dam State Park

Officially there are 13 miles of hiking trails within the boundaries of Parker Dam State Park, but many of these trails continue into the Moshannon State Forest and/or the Quehanna Wild Area.

Boardwalk at Parker Dam State Park.
Boardwalk at Parker Dam State Park.

My favorite trail that is contained entirely within Parker Dam State Park is the Trail of New Giants.

The Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.
The Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

This 1.2 mile hike takes you through part of the forest destroyed by a tornado in 1985, and eventually leads to 2 vistas that offer slightly different views of Parker Lake.

The lower vista along the Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park.
The lower vista along the Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park.

The lower vista offers a nice view of the beach at Parker Dam State Park.

View of the beach at Parker Dam State Park from the lower vista along the Trail of New Giants.
View of the beach at Parker Dam State Park from the lower vista along the Trail of New Giants.

While the upper vista, another 150 yards or so uphill, offers a more comprehensive view of Parker Lake and the surrounding woodlands.

View of Parker Lake from the upper vista along the Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park.
View of Parker Lake from the upper vista along the Trail of New Giants at Parker Dam State Park.

Swimming at Parker Dam State Park

Parker Dam has a nice “swim at your own risk” beach (meaning no lifeguards) along the southeast shore of Parker Lake.

The beach at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County, PA.
The beach at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

There is a concession stand near the beach that is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, weather permitting.

Concession stand at the beach at Parker Dam State Park.
Concession stand near the beach at Parker Dam State Park.

The Stepping Stones at Parker Dam State Park

One fairly unique feature at Parker Dam State Park is a series of large stepping stones that allow you to cross Laurel Run below the spillway on Parker Lake.

Crossing the stepping stones below the spillway at Parker Lake.
Crossing the stepping stones below the spillway at Parker Lake.

Like the ultimate hopscotch course, these stones offer a fun fun way to get from one side of the lake to the other.

Giant stepping stones below the spillway on Parker Lake.
Giant stepping stones below the spillway on Parker Lake.

Stairways on either side of Laurel Run lead down to the stones.

Stairway leading to the stepping stones below the Parker Lake spillway at Parker Dam State Park.
Stairway leading to the stepping stones below the Parker Lake spillway at Parker Dam State Park.

The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum

Also located near the spillway on Parker Lake you’ll find a Civilian Conservation Corps Museum.

The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum near the breast of the dam at Parker Lake.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Museum near the breast of the dam at Parker Lake.

In addition to tracing the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, you can see actual heavy equipment used to build Parker Dam State Park in the 1930’s.

Equipment used by the Civilian Conservation Corps to construct Parker Dam State Park.
Equipment used by the Civilian Conservation Corps to construct Parker Dam State Park.

Logging History at Parker Dam State Park

The area encompassing modern day Parker Dam State Park was logged heavily and virtually stripped of all living trees between the late 1800s and early 1900s.

A description of the reproduction log slide at Parker Dam State Park.
A description of the reproduction log slide at Parker Dam State Park.

A replica of a “log slide” used to move felled trees to temporary “splash dams” along Laurel Run can be seen along Fairview Road, near the Parker Dam State Park campground.

The reproduction log slide at Parker Dam State Park.
The reproduction log slide at Parker Dam State Park.

Near the log slide you’ll see a display of actual discarded tools found nearby that were used in the logging process.

Lumbering tools on display near the log slide at Parker Dam State Park.
Lumbering tools on display near the log slide at Parker Dam State Park.

Parker Lake is built on the site of the original Parker Dam splash dam on Laurel Run.

History of Parker Dam during the initial logging era in the area.
History of Parker Dam during the initial logging era in the area.

Picnicking at Parker Dam State Park

There are plenty of picnicking options at Parker Dam State Park, from secluded grills and picnic tables to full-fledged picnic pavilions that can be reserved through the park office.

Picnic pavilion at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.
Picnic pavilion at Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield County.

The Playground at Parker Dam State Park

There is a modern playground area at Parker Dam State Park, nestled in a wooded spot between the beach and the picnic pavilions.

Playground near the beach at Parker Dam State Park.
Playground near the beach at Parker Dam State Park.

Final Thoughts on Parker Dam State Park

Parker Dam State Park is one of the prettiest spots in Clearfield County!

The spillway on Parker Lake at Parker Dam State Park.
The spillway on Parker Lake at Parker Dam State Park.

It’s relatively close proximity to Interstate 80 makes in a natural pitstop if doing the east-west crossing of Pennsylvania.

A beautiful spot to sit across from the beach at Parker Dam State Park.
A beautiful spot to sit across from the beach at Parker Dam State Park.

With so much to see, do, and learn at Parker Dam State Park, it’s a great spot to bring the kids.

The wildlife education center at the Parker Dam State Park office.
The wildlife education center at the Parker Dam State Park office.

Even if you consider yourself just a casual “outdoorsy” person, I highly recommend you add Parker Dam State Park to your list of “must-see” state parks in western Pennsylvania!

Parker Dam stone letters visible from across Parker Lake.
Parker Dam stone letters, visible from across Parker Lake.

Nearby Attractions

Parker Dam State Park is only a 30 minute drive from the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette.

Entrance to the Elk Country Visitors Center in Benezette.
Entrance to the Elk Country Visitors Center in Benezette.

Benezette is the epicenter of elk viewing in Pennsylvania, and no trip to the region is complete without at least a quick swing through the Elk Country Visitor Center and hopefully a few elk sightings along the way!

A pair of bull elk at the Visitor Center in Elk County.
A pair of bull elk at the Visitor Center in Elk County.

Parker Dam State Park is also a short drive from the Quehanna Wild Area, a destination that truly lives up to its name!

Teaberry Loop Trail Vista in the Quehanna Wild Area.
Teaberry Loop Trail Vista in the Quehanna Wild Area.

From waterfalls to wildlife to an abandoned Cold War military-industrial complex, the Quehanna Wild Area is a fascinating area to explore.

Outside one of the Quehanna nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in Cameron County.
Outside one of the abandoned Quehanna nuclear jet engine testing bunkers in Cameron County.

Bilger’s Rocks in Clearfield County is billed by the Bilger’s Rocks Association (the group that owns and maintains the park) as “Pennsylvania’s Best Rock Outcropping”!

Taking in the scene at Bilger's Rocks in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
Taking in the scene at Bilger’s Rocks in Clearfield County.

This 300 million year-old natural “rock city” is a must-see for fans of geology and all things megalithic!

Some of the fascinating tree roots at Bilger's Rocks in Clearfield County.
Some of the fascinating tree roots at Bilger’s Rocks in Clearfield County.

Doolittle Station in nearby DuBois may just be the most eclectic roadside attraction in western PA!

Aerial view of the front half of Doolittle Station in DuBois Pennsylvania.
Aerial view of the front half of Doolittle Station in DuBois.

Doolittle Station is a quirky mix of restaurants, museums, a brewery, and a bed and breakfast, all housed in historic train cars!

Elvis and Marilyn greeting visitors to the Diner Car at Doolittle Station in DuBois, Clearfield County.
Elvis and Marilyn greeting visitors to the Diner Car at Doolittle Station in DuBois, Clearfield County.

The Grice Museum in Clearfield may be the best “cars and critters” museum you ever step foot in!

A grizzly bear guarding the showroom at the Grice Museum in Clearfield PA
A grizzly bear guarding the showroom at the Grice Museum in Clearfield.

At the Grice Museum you’ll find nearly 70 classic cars on display, along with hundreds of taxidermy mounts of wild game animals from around the globe.

The best things to see and do at the Grice Museum in Clearfield Pennsylvania.
The Grice Museum in Clearfield, 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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