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.
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.
Bald Eagle State Park
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
You can view the official state recreational map of Bald Eagle State Park HERE.
Black Moshannon State Park
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.
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.
In fact, you can hike through one of those bogs along the raised boardwalk of the Bog Trail.
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.
As with the other state parks on this list, Black Moshannon State Park offers a beach for swimming with conveniently located restrooms / changing areas.
Black Moshannon State Park is a terrific place to view fall foliage!
And if you can’t get enough of winter, the frozen surface of Black Moshannon Lake should be right up your alley!
You can view the official state recreational map of Black Moshannon State Park HERE.
Poe Valley State Park
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 centerpiece of Poe Valley State Park is the 25 acre Poe Lake.
The beach at Poe Valley State Park is a popular draw for visitors.
The facilities at Poe Valley State Park are functional AND aesthetically pleasing.
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.
You can view the official state recreational map of Poe Valley State Park HERE.
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.
Greenwood Furnace State Park features a well-groomed beach and nearby facilities.
The Lake View Trail is a popular and easy loop around Greenwood Lake.
There are also historical exhibits near the namesake Greenwood Furnace, not far from the park office.
Whether you enjoy hiking, swimming, fishing, or just spending time in nature, Greenwood Furnace State Park is a great choice!
You can view the official state recreational map of Greenwood Furnace State Park HERE.
Whipple Dam State Park
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.
As of August 2020 Whipple Lake was drained for a dredging and repair project, but is expected to reopen in late 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.
During a normal (non-COVID) summer, concerts are routinely held right 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.
Even in the winter, Whipple Dam State Park is a pleasant place to hike.
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.
Also be sure to check out Indian Lookout in Huntingdon County, along the Yellow Arrow Trail in the Rothrock State Forest.
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