Get Ready

Play Nice

In order for us to be able to enjoy outdoor recreation with our families long-term, there are techniques and considerations to take in account during our adventures. Many state parks and forests promote the ethics of Leave No Trace, which teaches people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

For detailed information, visit the national website here.

The Rules of the Game

Pennsylvania state parks and forests are great places for outdoor activities--camping, boating, fishing, hiking or attending environmental education programs. You can find peace and quiet, have a picnic or watch a sunset, but we must also balance recreational use with the conservation of park resources.

To help ensure your safety and pleasure, please observe the rules and regulations which are applicable to state parks and state forests, including environmental education centers; state park preserves, conservation areas and natural areas; and waters under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of State Parks.

Full list brochure, state parks.

Full list page, state forests.

Adventure-Specific Ethics


  • Schedule your river trip according to appropriate river flows and visibility.
  • Clean and fully dry all equipment between trips to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species. For even more information, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
  • Launch and take out your boat on durable surfaces whenever possible.


  • Learn to identify the species of fish where you plan on fishing so you can follow the proper rules and regulations.
  • Do not to wade in areas, or at times of year, when fish are spawning – laying eggs.
  • Avoid using lead sinkers and jigs. Use items made from other materials.
  • Properly dispose of tangled fishing line to prevent wildlife from becoming trapped and injured.
  • Never transfer fish, or introduce live bait from one waterway to another.
  • Clean and fully dry all equipment between trips to reduce the risk of spreading invasive species. For even more information, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.


Geocaching is gaining steadily in popularity but can also have a negative effect on the resource if not done properly. See the information below for specific techniques to protect the resource while enjoying this exciting, outdoor treasure hunt.

  • Know the rules and policies for the land manager where you plan to go.
  • If you must go off-trail, search for durable surfaces such as rock, sand, gravel and dry grasses. Spread out so you do not create new pathways.
  • If you notice an unintended pathway starting to form near the geocache, inform a park or forest employee so they can move the cache to a new location.
  • For more information on geocaching etiquette, watch this video from


One of the biggest ways to hike responsibly is to stay on the trail. Some trails have been built through very delicate habitats. Wandering off the trail could disturb and destroy parts of the habitat you came to see. Some trails do not originate within state park boundaries. As a result you may occasionally be hiking through some private land.

More specific details on trail etiquette can be found on the Bureau of Forestry’s Trail Etiquette brochure.


No matter what wondrous or special sites you hope to see, keep in mind the quote, “Take only pictures, steal only time, leave only footprints.” Remember, it is illegal to remove almost any natural item from a state park or state forest.

  • Spring wildflowers are particularly tempting but often do not survive outside of their natural habitats. Do not pick, dig, harvest, transplant, or trample them. If you choose to get a closer look by walking off-trail, disperse your group rather than walking all in a line so you prevent creation of a “social” trail.
  • Waterfall viewing is spectacular and these places are often sought after by photographers. Protect the waterways as you visit. Don’t contaminate or throw litter in the stream. Do not take river stones. Never release fish or bait into a stream or waterway where they did not originate.

Wildlife Watching:

Wildlife watching is extremely popular for people of all ages but please keep in mind that state parks and state forests are not zoos nor pens. Here, wildlife is free to be wild. Keep these tips in mind.

  • View wildlife from a distance. If they react to your presence, you are too close.
  • Respect closures. Certain areas within parks or forests may be closed seasonally due to nesting, mating or other events.
  • Never feed or approach wild animals.
  • Do not leave food or other scented item unattended.
  • Maintain control of your pets at all times or leave them at home.
  • If you encounter an animal acting strangely, contact a park or forest employee.
  • Did we mention, never feed or approach wild animals? It “bears” repeating.

EXCEPTION: Children love to catch frogs and salamanders. Be cautious when handling amphibians and keep these tips in mind.

  • Keep your and your child’s hands moist. Remember, amphibians take in some oxygen through their skin so drying out is harmful to them.
  • Don’t use sunscreen or bug spray on your hands that can be absorbed by the frog or salamander.
  • Keep the animal close to the ground in case they jump out of your hands.
  • Return them to their home quickly.
  • Wash your and your child’s hands before handling or consuming any food.