Photo above: Appalachian Trial markings in central Pennsylvania just outside Weiser State Forest.
America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Pennsylvania State Forests and Nearby History
Across the breadth of Pennsylvania, a variety of state lands abound, and some, including State Parks, State Game Lands, and State Forests hold a historic place in the state's upbringing and are near even greater history at every turn. The story of the Pennsylvania State Forest system is an interesting one on its own.
- What is There Now
The history of Pennsylvania's State Forests began out of necessity when conservationists like Joseph Rothrock saw that lumber companies had cut the old-growth forest and was concerned about forest management in the future for those lands. When he was appointed the first commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Water in 1895, he began buying up parcels of used lumber company land. This began in 1897.
Perhaps a little known fact, even for Pennsylvania based folks like ourselves, is that State Forests are open to a variety of uses, including camping, and it's for free. Now, don't expect a KOA. These are primitive sites. Some may have a fire ring, cement pad, and a picnic table (those should be reserved in advance and require a permit). Others are just a place in the forest or in a parking lot. Some of those locations have a pit toilet; some do not. Some have community picnic pavilions; some do not. This is primitive camping, but it is, in many parts of the state, close to historic sites like Gettysburg, about twenty minutes from Micheaux State Forest along Route 30 to the west. In eastern Pennsylvania, the Conrad Weiser State Forest is close to Cabela's (only a couple miles), the Appalachian Trail (just a trail walk from the forest) and Hawk Mountain (again, only a few miles away.)
There are 20 forest districts in Pennsylvania.
Micheaux - South/Central Pennsylvania.
Buchanan - South/Central Pennsylvania.
Tuscarora - South/Central Pennsylvania.
Forbes - Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Rothrock - Central Pennsylvania.
Gallitzin - Southwestern Pennsyvania.
Bald Eagle - Central Pennsylvania.
Clear Creek - Central/Western Pennsylvania.
Moshanin - Central Pennsylvania.
Sprout - Central Pennsylvania.
Lackawanna - Northeastern Pennsylania.
Tiadauhton - Central Pennsylvania.
Elk - Central Pennsylvania.
Cornplanter - Northwestern Pennsylvania.
Susquehannock - North/Central Pennsylvania.
Tioga - North/Central Pennsylvania.
William Penn - Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Weiser - Central/Eastern Pennsylvania.
Delaware - Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Loyalsock - Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania State Forests
Woods for sightseeing, hunting at certain times of the year, and hiking.
Trails for hiking, horse back riding, and ATV's.
Free Primitive camping. Some pad sites. Some pit toilets. Differs by section.
Picnic facilities at some locations.
Each district has a park headquarters, where you get additional information and get park permits, when needed. Not every tract has a headquarters, however, and there can be many tracts within a forest district. Park permits for camping, in general, are needed for pad sites and/or when staying more than one night in any location. Backcountry one night stays generally do not need permits.
How Much to Visit
Year round. Most sites are patrolled on a regular basis by Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Rangers.
Website: Pennsylvania State Forests
Photos, History, and More Spotlights
Pennsylvania State Forest Photos
The top photo shows the sign to the road going up to Weiser State Forest. It's a steep climb, dirt, and there are a few pad sites for camping. You can camp anywhere up there; few open spots, but lots of woods. You're near Hawk Mountain, the Appalachian Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail, and Cabela's, the superstore camping place with exhibits of big game and fish (photo below). That's a neat place to visit, especially with kids.
If you want to visit Gettysburg and want a free place to camp, you can try Micheaux State Forest. It is located ten miles west of Gettysburg National Military Park. The park headquarters will be on your right if you're heading west out of town. They can tell you if any of the regular pad sites are available, but they do have large open areas where you can park an RV or camp. There are even pit toilets and a picnic pavilion available there. If you want a more refined camping experience, right next door to Micheaux is Caledonia State Forest, where they have a campsite with facilities and a pool, plus history in the forge of Lincoln's main ally in the Senate, Thaddeus Stephens.
Photo below: Picnic facility at Michaux State Forest at camping/parking location for RV and tent camping. Michaux State Forest is 20 minutes from Gettysburg west on Route 30.
With all of the major historic sites in Pennsylvania spread from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and in between, you're never real far from some interesting historic sites, some of national, others of more regional, importance.
Micheaux - Gettysburg National Military Park/Eisenhower National Historic Park.
Buchanan - Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park.
Tuscarora - Little Buffalo State Park.
Forbes - Discover Fall Scenic Driving Tour provides driving routes through the Laurel Highlands. Wharton Iron Furnace. Flight 93 National Historic Site. Fort Necessity National Historic Site.
Rothrock - Greenwood Furnace State Park. Penn State University.
Gallitzin - Wolf Rocks. Johnstown Flood National Historic Site.
Bald Eagle - R. B. Winter State Park.
Clear Creek - There is an Auto Tour of the forest with informative stops that show the history and ecology of the area, including Beartown Rocks.
Moshanin - Hoover Farm wildlife and Beaver Run Viewing sites. Sprout - Bald Eagle State Park.
Lackawanna - Kitchen Creek gorge. Steamtown National Historic Site.
Tiadauhton - Upper Pine Bottom State Park
Elk - Elk Country Visitor Center.
Cornplanter - Allegheny National Forest.
Susquehannock - Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Tioga - Leonard Harrison State Park.
William Penn - Philadelphia, Valley Forge. No recreational camping.
Weiser - Hawk Mountain. Cabela's. Appalachian Trail (picture below).
Delaware - Delaware River National Recreation Area.
Loyalsock - High Knob Overlook. Ricketts Glen State Park.
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com and its licensors.