Visit any quadrant of the state and you can find a rich diversity of national and state parks for you to explore. In the 3,000-mile (4,828 km) region encompassing the Laurel Highlands, you’ll find 5 national parks and 8 state parks.
If you are spoilt of choices and finding it tough to decide which one to visit first, let’s start with the most popular national parks in Pennsylvania. This list of top national parks in the state will help you decide where to start your journey.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Gettysburg National Military Park, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and Independence National Historical Park are some of the well-known national parks of Pennsylvania. some of the well-known national parks of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania National Parks Map outlines the location of all the important historic, scenic and recreational zones of the state. Appalachian National Scenic Trail of Pennsylvania boasts of a pastoral and wooded landscape along with a scope for hiking. Gettysburg National Military Park takes the tourists to the days of Civil War and offers opportunities for a campfire, a walk into the battlefield, and summer ranger activities.
Valley Forge National Historical Park of Pennsylvania reminds of the Revolutionary War and is known to offer many outdoor options like boating, biking, and nature walks, among others. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is intersected by the scenic Middle Delaware river and the Kittatinny Ridge in the nearby location provides hiking opportunities. Independence National Historical Park is yet another interesting site that houses the Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.
Fort Necessity National Battlefield and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site are some other famous national parks of the state. The Pennsylvania state map indicates the geographical position of the prominent national parks of the place.
How Many National Parks in Pennsylvania?
Enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of Pennsylvania with 19 national parks, 7 National Heritage Areas, and 121 state parks.
Best National Parks Pennsylvania
|1||Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area||66,741 acres (27,009 ha)||Sep 1, 1965||New Jersey & Pennsylvania, USA|
|2||Valley Forge National Historical Park||3,466 acres (1,403 ha)||State Park: 1893, National Historical Park: July 4, 1976||Montgomery County and Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA|
|3||Gettysburg National Military Park||3,965 acres (1,605 ha)||1895||Adams County, Pennsylvania|
|4||Independence National Historical Park||55.42 acres (22.43 ha)||Bounded by Chestnut, Walnut, 2nd, and 6th Sts., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
What National Are Parks in Pennsylvania
First State National Historical Park (DE, PA)
First State National Historical Park has many things to offer to both nature enthusiasts and history buffs. The First State was famous for ratifying the Constitution. The conflict for dominating the Delaware Valley among three world powers led to the formation of Delaware. These historical realities led to the development of a distinct character, which values independence and also tolerates diversity in religion and national origin.
First State National Historical Park (NHP) has 7 sites, offering history buffs and nature enthusiasts a lot to explore. These sites are Brandywine Valley, Fort Christina, Old Swedes Church, New Castle Court House Museum, John Dickinson Plantation, Ryves Holt House, and The Dover Green.
The physical address of First State National Historical Park is New Castle Court House Museum, 211 Delaware Street, New Castle, DE 19720.
Almost all the sites have pretty good cellular access. Minor cellular interruptions may be faced at the time of hiking the trails at Brandywine Valley. In the other sites such as the Ryves Holt House, the John Dickinson Plantation, the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House Museum, the Old Swedes Historic Site, and Fort Christina, visitors will not experience many interruptions
Independence National Historical Park (Philadelphia, PA)
Independence National Historical Park preserves national and international symbols of freedom and democracy. The most precious of them all is the Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, representing the founding ideals of the nation. Inside this Independence Hall (which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were both debated and signed.
The physical address of this national historical park is 599 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106. You can reach the site easily because it is located in an urban area. This area is served by both Interstate 95 and Interstate 676. You can also reach Independence National Historical Park by using public transportation including SEPTA and PATCO mass transit routes.
You can visit Independence National Historical Park any time of the year. Fall and springtime are the best time to visit the park because it usually remains mild. While the months of summer remain hot and muggy, winter remains cold. Only normal seasonal snowfall takes place during winter, usually hovering around 22.4 in (57 cm). There are just 12-to-18 wet days per month and the rate of precipitation is usually spread across the year.
It is recommended that you start your tour of the national park at the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets. You may choose any transport (car, bus, train, etc.) to reach the place.
To know the place in a better way, don’t hesitate to ask the knowledgeable park rangers about programs, special events, and walking tours. When it comes to information about lodgings and restaurants, city concierge staff are the best guide. You may also pick up a park map to plan your itinerary. Don’t forget to watch it in the Independence Visitor Center.
Throughout the park, cell service is available. You’ll also get free public WiFi at the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets.
Valley Forge National Historical Park (Valley Forge, PA)
Valley Forge National Historical Park encompasses a total area of 3,500 acres. It includes woodlands, meadows, and monuments for commemorating the sacrifices and perseverance of the generation of the Revolutionary War. This historical park showcases the ability of the American citizens to pull together for overcoming adversity during extraordinary times. Valley Forge was the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army.
Its physical address is 1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA 19406. You can reach this park conveniently by using U.S. Route 422. This park is situated at the intersection of State Route 23 and North Gulph Road. The different routes through which you can reach Valley Forge National Historical Park are: Take Exit 326 from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Take Route 422 West to Route 23 West/Valley Forge from Interstate I-76.
Take State Route 23 East from State Route 252.
It remains cold and damp during winter. While the summer remains hot and humid, spring remains cool. If you are an outdoor recreation buff, sturdy hiking shoes are recommended during the snowy winter season.
Extensive renovations are going on in Pennsylvania. That’s why it remains closed currently. It will reopen sometime in 2021. However, the Visitor Center remains open throughout the year (including Saturdays and Sundays) except for 3 days (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New year’s Day).
Valley Forge National Historical Park was first opened in the year 1978. Walter Ogg of the Philadelphia firm of Eshbach, Glass, Kale, and Associates designed the multi-use Visitor Center building. It houses exhibits, the Encampment Store, and information services.
Gettysburg National Military Park (Gettysburg, PA)
In the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg was a watershed moment. General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North was thwarted by the Union forces at this battle. The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and is often referred to as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion”. It also inspired the immortal “Gettysburg Address” of President Abraham Lincoln.
The physical address of Gettysburg National Military Park is 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325. It is located in Pennsylvania’s Adams County. Both the museum and visitor center are situated at 1195 Baltimore Pike, along Route 97.
You can also enter through a back entrance from Taneytown Road on State Route 134. If you are moving from north to south, follow US 15 towards Gettysburg and look for signs to the museum and visitor center. In case, you are driving from east to west, use US Route 30 towards Gettysburg. Turn south on Baltimore Street (Route 97) and check the entrance signs of the visitor center.
Both the Gettysburg Museum And Visitor Center remain open in winter (from Jan 7-Feb 28) on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm. During the month of March, except for Tuesday and Wednesday, it remains open across the week from 9 am to 4 pm. The summer hours (from April 1 to December 31) will be announced later after the current pandemic protocols.
When you visit Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, you can use free, public WiFi.
Best National Historic Sites in Pennsylvania
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Gallitzin, PA)
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site showcases the first railroad prepared for circumventing Allegheny Mountains. This railroad was Pennsylvania Mainline Canal’s finishing piece. “The Portage” was opened in 1834. It was the first time that a direct route was opened between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Allegheny Portage Railroad served all kinds of people, right from the soldiers of the Mexican War, slaves in pursuit of their freedom, passengers, and merchants.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site (Philadelphia, PA)
Visit the historic site where the great writer Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia for 6-years. The time he lived here is called his happiest and most productive period. Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is his humble home. Considering Poe’s struggles with bad luck, his wife’s illness, and personal demons, this humble home reflects the undying human spirit surmounting crushing obstacles. Described as horrifying, mystifying, and brilliant, celebrate the astonishing creativity of Poe’s writing at this national historic site.
Eisenhower National Historic Site (Gettysburg, PA)
This historic site preserves the farm of General and 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This farm is located adjacent to the Gettysburg battlefield. This retreat also served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s meeting place for world leaders. Eisenhower National Historic Site has a beautiful and peaceful setting with an excellent view of South Mountain. It is at this place where the president and first lady relaxed during the weekends. This weekend retreat was their respite from Washington, DC’s hustle-bustle, especially at the backdrop of efforts in reducing Cold War tensions.
Friendship Hill National Historic Site (Point Marion, PA)
Friendship Hill National Historic Site is the country estate of Albert Gallatin. It highlights his achievements and contributions. He served as the Secretary of the Treasury during the administrations of both Jefferson and Madison. He is best known for reducing the national debt, purchasing the Louisiana Territory, and funding the Lewis & Clark exploration.
Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site (Philadelphia, PA)
Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site acts as the last historic link to a forgotten past. The place was known as New Sweden, way before Pennsylvania came into existence. Don’t forget to visit the pastoral surroundings as well as the burial ground of patriots and ordinary citizens.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (Elverson, PA)
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site showcases the landscape of industrial operations during 1771-1883 in the early American landscape. Get to see the Hopewell and other “iron plantations” that laid the foundation for the United States to transform into an industrial giant. This historic park is spread across a total area of 848 acres, illustrating the business, technology, and lifestyle of growing America.
Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA)
Learn the history of steam railroad transportation from Steamtown National Historic Site. Also know about those people who built, repaired, and rode the steel wheels in a special era that catapulted America to its industrial greatness. All the historic industrial pieces of machinery along with the history of people in that industrial revolution are well preserved in this national historic site.
Best National Historic and Scenic Trails in Pennsylvania
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (Various States including VA, MD, DE, DC, PA, NY)
An Englishman named John Smith led a small crew of adventurers in an open boat 400-years back. He and his team explored around 3,000 miles (4,828 km) of the Chesapeake Bay and rivers between 1607 and 1609. They documented American Indian communities. John Smith’s record of the 17th-century Chesapeake is remarkable. Visit Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail to join the erstwhile adventure of Chesapeake Bay.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (Sixteen States: IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, MT, NE, ND, OH, OR, PA, SD, WA, WV)
This historic trail is around 4,900 miles (7,886 km) long. It starts from Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh city, traverses through 16 US states, and ends in a place near Oregon’s Astoria. Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail preserves the historic outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The trail from Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh to Illinois’ Wood River preparatory section.
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail (MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, DC)
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail preserves the historical alliance between General Washington’s Continental Army and General Rochambeau’s French Army in 1781. These two forces joined to fight the British Army in Virginia’s Yorktown.
This allied army moved hundreds of miles and became the American Revolution’s largest troop movement. The historic cooperation and joint effort helped the allied forces triumph over the British Army at Yorktown, securing American independence. Witness the history unfold before you along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Maine to Georgia, CT, GA, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, VT, WV)
This public footpath trail is more than 2,180 miles (3,508 km) long. It traverses through the scenic, wild, pastoral, and wooded lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Private citizens conceived this concept in 1921 and the project was completed in 1937. This scenic trail is currently managed jointly by the National Park Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, US Forest Service, many state agencies, and thousands of volunteers.
North Country National Scenic Trail (Seven States-New York to North Dakota MI, MN, ND, NY, OH, PA, VT, WI)
Trek the hills and valleys of the North Country in this scenic trail. Watch the glory of nature unfold before you as you stand on the shores of lakes & streams, explore a fairyland of snow, and witness the red and gold glory of autumn. With the North Country National Scenic Trail, adventure is never far away. Witness the history of how America settled and grew to unfold before you.
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (the corridor between the Chesapeake Bay and the Allegheny Highlands, DC, MD, PA, VA)
The Potomac River has flowed through layers of rocks for thousands of years. It carved limestone cliffs and took serene winding bends to create a landscape and shape a nation. With the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, you not only view the history recreate before your eyes but also give you a chance to explore heritage.
Best National Memorials in Pennsylvania
Johnstown Flood National Memorial (South Fork, PA)
Johnstown Flood National Memorial gives a chance to pause and remind us of the horrific Johnstown flooding incident of May 31, 1889. On that fateful day, the South Fork dam failed, unleashing 20,000,000 tons of water. It not only devastated Pennsylvania’s Johnstown but also killed 2,209 people. This memorial reminds us all “that we must leave nothing undone for the preservation and protection of our brother men.”
Flight 93 National Memorial (Shanksville, PA)
The US was attacked on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001, when Islamic terrorists hijacked 4 commercial airliners and crashed them to targets on the ground. It killed around 3,000 people. However, the actions of the 40 passengers and the plane crew of Flight 93 thwarted the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Flight 93 National Memorial helps people remember the incident that shook America to the core and the bravado of a handful of people that restricted the creation of deeper wounds.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial (Philadelphia, PA)
Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a Polish freedom fighter and also a brilliant military engineer. He was well known for successfully designing fortifications during the American Revolution. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial preserves the house where he lived and received notable visitors including Chief Little Turtle and Thomas Jefferson.
Best National Recreation Areas, Watershed, and Battlefield in Pennsylvania
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Headquartered in Bushkill PA; the park is along the Delaware River in the states of NJ and PA)
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area includes the valley that witnessed human hand and voice for 10,000 years. If you are a nature lover, outdoor enthusiast, or love hiking, this is the place you should be.
Scan the valley from the ridges, wade the trout streams, slip down the river between low forested mountains, and peer into the 1000-foot-deep Water Gap. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, spread over 70,000-acres, gives you the chance to unwind and seek the outdoors close to home.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed (DC, DE, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV)
Enjoy North America’s largest estuary. Chesapeake Bay Watershed gives you the opportunity to visit major league cities, American Indian landscapes, and colonial towns. You can also fish and farm in the villages. Take a lighthouse tour, slurp oysters, pick crabs, enjoy kayaking, slurp the oyster delicacies, and enjoy the natural beauty of the Chesapeake.
Fort Necessity National Battlefield (Farmington, PA)
Fort Necessity National Battlefield takes you to the summer of 1754 when the battle at Fort Necessity took place. This clash among the three powers of British, French, and American Indian cultures led to the end of French power from North America. This incident set the stage for the American Revolution. Take a closer look at the history of Fort Necessity National Battlefield closely.
Lower Delaware National Wild And Scenic River (PA, NJ)
The Delaware River is the largest free-flowing river in the eastern part of the US. It flows through villages, farmlands, and forests, linking the most densely populated regions in America. The key segments of the lower Delaware River were organized to form the Lower Delaware National Wild And Scenic River under the National Park System in 2000.
Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River (Pike and Wayne (PA) and Delaware, Orange and Sullivan (NY) counties along the Delaware River, NY, PA)
Enjoy the clean water of the Delaware River, flowing through the rolling hills and riverfront villages in the northeastern part of the US. Canoe through it and get marveled to see the scenery change as you move through the rapids and quiet pools. This is the last major undammed river in the eastern US and supports a healthy ecosystem. It offers a tranquil and exciting environment to enjoy and recoil.