The 5 Best State Parks Near State College

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Sunset over Black Moshannon Lake

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

So whether you are a Penn State student, State College local, or just visiting Happy Valley, here are the 5 best State Parks near State College.

Map to the 5 state parks closest to State College and Penn State.
Map to the 5 best State Parks near State College and Penn State.

Bald Eagle State Park

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

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

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

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.

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

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 conveniently located restrooms / changing areas.

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 view the official state recreational map of 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.

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

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.

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

The facilities at Poe Valley State Park are functional AND aesthetically pleasing.

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

Because Poe Valley is off the beaten path, so to speak, it’s typically the LEAST crowded of the 5 State Parks mentioned in this write-up.

Poe Lake at Poe Valley State Park
Poe Lake at Poe Valley State Park

You can view the official state recreational map of Poe Valley 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.

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

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

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

As of August 2020 Whipple Lake was drained for a dredging and repair project, but is expected to reopen in late 2020.

Whipple Lake drained for repairs in the summer of 2020.
Whipple Lake drained for repairs in the summer of 2020.

When it does reopen, the glassy calm waters of Whipple Lake will once again be 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 a normal (non-COVID) summer, concerts are routinely 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.

Also be sure to check out Indian Lookout in Huntingdon County, along the Yellow Arrow Trail in the Rothrock State Forest.

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

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