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Boating

Whether you like to quietly row on a small lake or jet around with the wind streaming through your hair, there's lots of opportunities to get on the water in Pennsylvania state parks.

Know and obey the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and DCNR, Bureau of State Parks. For complete boating information visit the PA Fish and Boat Commission.

Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Learn more about the minimum required equipment here.

Canoes and non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Don’t have a canoe or kayak? Many state parks have concessionaires with kayaks and canoes available for rent.

For more on personal floatation devices, go here.

For a complete list and detailed information on boating, see the Pennsylvania Boating Handbook .

Boating permits information is here.

Oftentimes, one of the biggest challenges to boating in state parks is safely loading a kayak or canoe on a vehicle for transport. See this video from REI for detailed information.

For additional tips and information on boating in state parks, visit here.

Fishing

Nearly all state park and forest waters are open to fishing. There are giant lakes like Pymatuning down to small ponds set aside for children. We have ADA accessible opportunities, ice fishing, fly fishing, tournaments; something for every angler.

Remember these important rules:

  • Know and obey the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of State Parks.
  • All anglers 16 years and older must have a current Pennsylvania fishing license. Buy a license.
  • Boat operators are responsible for knowing the rules and regulations for watercraft in the areas that they boat, and are responsible for the actions of all people on board their boat. Children eight years and younger, and non-swimmers must wear life jackets when boating.

For a complete list of fishing rules and regulations, visit the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission website.

Fishing Checklist—this list from the Fishing Tips Depot is basic and is not intended to cover every possibility.

Remember that many parks participate in the fishing tackle loaner program. Contact the park you wish to visit for further information.

Geocaching

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. For more information, go here.

At its most basic, geocaching only requires a GPS unit but many caches hidden in our state parks and forests require maneuvering over uneven terrain. Prepare as you would for any hike or other outdoor adventure.

Don’t know how to use a GPS unit? Try joining a park or forest program to learn more.

Visit the DCNR’s geocaching page for additional information to consider on the way in, at the geocache, after the hunt and more.

Hiking

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Pennsylvania. It is no wonder with all of the outstanding opportunities available, from short loop hikes to long, multi-day options to family-friendly adventures on one of the rail-trails.

Here are steps that hikers can take to stay safe on the trail:

  • Do not overestimate your or your children’s abilities. Do not start out with a long, grueling climb to the top of a mountain. Start short; start level. Stick to a trail that suits your family’s taste and level of fitness.
  • Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. Many shoes, especially sandals, are not practical. Opt instead for enclosed shoes with soles that provide good traction. Broken in shoes are best... blisters are NO fun.
  • Bring a friend. Although hiking can be a valuable solitary escape, many times the enjoyment and safety doubles when you hike with a friend.
  • Stay on the trail. Wandering off the trail can have serious consequences. You could become injured or lost.
  • Be sensible. Take into consideration the weather and the duration of your hike. Bring along any extra clothing, water or insect repellent according to the conditions.
  • Do not drink untreated water sources.
  • Do not make fires.

For comprehensive information on hiking trails in Pennsylvania, visit ExplorePAtrails.com. For trails in state parks, visit here. For trails in state forests, go to here.

Sightseeing

Sightseeing opportunities abound throughout the state and throughout the year. Basic planning and a few additional tools can enhance these experiences throughout our parks and forests.

Spring:

Wildflowers arrive from March through May. Remember to amble slowly to catch the smallest blossoms peeking out. A field guide makes identification easier.

Winter snow melt often heightens the beauty and grandeur of Pennsylvania’s waterfalls. Waterfalls exist due to an ample amount of water and a steep descent. Basic hiking preparation is recommended, but keep in mind a few specific safety tips while around these bodies of water.

  • Use extreme caution near the water’s edge. Slick surfaces can result in trips and falls.
  • Sturdy footwear will keep ankles and toes stable on uneven and wet surfaces.
  • Never climb or swim around the top of a waterfall.

Wildlife watching

From big to small, wildlife thrives in open spaces like parks and forests. Therefore, wildlife watching is extremely popular throughout the year. The best way to spot and view wildlife is to sit quietly, remain still and be patient. For the best results, use binoculars and keep a safe distance between yourself and wildlife.

Do not attempt to handle any wild animal, except small amphibians and fish. If an animal does not run away from approaching people, it might be sick or injured. If you observe any unusual behavior by wildlife, please contact a park employee immediately.

Spring:

Amphibians, migrating songbirds and migrating waterfowl are easy to spot in the spring.

  • Amphibians - Children love to go on salamander and frog searches. Very little is needed in the way of equipment although a small dip net and pocket field guide can be quite handy. Wearing old sneakers or boots is also recommended in case of mud or water. Be cautious when handling amphibians and always wash your hands after handling them.
  • Birds - Songbirds and waterfowl migrate in large numbers throughout the spring. Binoculars can help you and your family catch closer glimpses. A field guide may enhance the experience but isn’t absolutely necessary. Songbirds are generally small, perching birds and are often hidden among the branches of trees and shrubs. Waterfowl - ducks, geese and swans - can be found around large bodies of water like lakes and streams.

To learn more about birding in general, explore All About Birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.