State Parks Near Harrisburg

Check out this list of state parks near Harrisburg if you love visiting Pennsylvania State Parks!

Tory and Hannah (who blogs over at Hikes & Hops) at Cowans Gap State Park in Fulton County

Visiting State Parks Near Harrisburg

Visiting Harrisburg and looking to sneak in a visit to a state park? There are a surprising number of state parks close to our state’s capital! These six state parks near Harrisburg have different things to offer visitors, from scenic overlooks to beautiful lakes. Make sure to bring your PA State Parks and Forests Passport on your visit!

As always, follow the principles of leave no trace when you're out exploring! Pack out all trash, leave wildlife alone, and generally leave it better than you found it - for more information visit the Leave No Trace Center.

Big Boyd Preserve Conservation Area

Big Boyd is the closest park to Harrisburg at only fifteen minutes outside the city. The park features over twelve miles of trails at the base of Blue Mountain. For a trail map, visit the PA DCNR page. Personally, I didn’t feel that this park was anything special (it reminded me of Frick Park in Pittsburgh) and I don’t know that it would be worth a trip just for a visit. However, if you’re in Harrisburg already, it’s worth a stop!

A trail marker in Big Boyd Tree Preserve Conservation Area

Joseph E. Ibberson

This park is about thirty minutes from Harrisburg. It is named after Joseph Ibberson, a conservation champion who worked for the department of Forestry and started the state forester service (so kind of a big deal!) The main attraction of the park is the elaborate trail system which connects to the Appalachian Trail on the northern slope of Peters Mountain. All hiking trails are open for cross country skiing in the winter. Use caution! Part of the park is open to hunting so wear your orange and stay vigilant if you visit during hunting season. For more information, visit the PA DNCR park page.

Looking for more hikes near Harrisburg? Check out my guide to the best hikes near Harrisburg or just skip to my favorite, Hawk Rock!

Little Buffalo

Little Buffalo State Park is located 35 minutes from Harrisburg. The park’s lake, Holman Lake, offers fishing and boating with boat rentals. Little Buffalo has 46 campsites, as well as three camping cottages and one modern cottage. This is a great park for kids as there is a pool with a water slide! Fun fact: the park is the home of the old fashioned apple festival, a fall event featuring apple products! For more park info, check out the Little Buffalo page on the PA DCNR site.

Looking for more things to do near Harrisburg? Check out my guide to the best Harrisburg weekend itinerary, including what to eat and where to stay. 

Cowan’s Gap

At 70 minutes from Harrisburg, this park just makes the cutoff for close to the capital. While the park is on the smaller side, it’s got a large campground and is surrounded by Buchanan State Forest, expanding the area for park-goers to explore. This park is the perfect stopping point if you’re driving from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and want a quick hike. That’s exactly what Hannah and I did when we went on our central Pennsylvania road trip. We chose the Lakeside Trail, a 1.5-mile relatively flat trail that circumnavigated the lake. For more info or to plan your visit, check out the PA DCNR site.

A beautiful summer day at Cowan’s Gap

Memorial Lake

Memorial lake is located about twenty five minutes from Harrisburg on 231 acres at the base of Blue Mountain. The park features the 85-acre Memorial Lake, which is great for fishing and boating (electric motors only). The park offers boat rentals for kayaks, canoes, and rowboats from Memorial Day to Labor Day. While it’s great for those who love water sports, it’s not the best for hikers as there are only two miles of hiking trails. For more information, visit the PA DCNR page.

Exploring the eastern side of Pennsylvania? Check out State Parks Near Philadelphia!

Gifford Pinchot

Named after a noted conservationist, the park is located on over 2300 acres in York County, PA. The main attraction is the 340-acre Pinchot Lake, which features a designated swimming area, boat rentals, and bass fishing. Gifford Pinchot is about twenty five minutes south of Harrisburg. The park hosts over 290 campsites in the park including cabins, cottages, and yurts. The park also has two 18 hole disc golf courses. The main attraction for hikers is the Mason Dixon trail, a 193 mile backpacking trail, that passes through this park. Visit the DCNR site for more info about this park.

Looking for more state parks nearby? Check out my post on the nine state parks near State College or seven state parks near Lancaster. 

Which state park is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Updated May 19, 2024

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