A lovely place to spend a few days, Gifford Pinchot State Park is a gem of a state park. It features Lake Pinchot, with swimming, boating, kayaking or paddle boarding (which you can rent during the summer months), and fishing. A little pocket of second-growth forest, surrounded by farm fields and lightly populated areas, the park also offers 18 miles of trails, including designated horse trails and bike trails.
We decided to stay at a cabin in the park. My sister was taking a weaving class nearby. I came along just to find great things to feature in MidAtlantic DayTrips. We realized that renting a cabin at Gifford Pinchot State Park was less expensive and more enticing than renting a room at a local hotel.
With Harrisburg, Pennyslvania’s capital, about 20 minutes northeast of the park, there’s a lot to see and do nearby. And of course, there’s also hiking, biking, kayaking and fishing at the park itself; check out this article about hikes in the park. Because it was mostly rainy the week we visited, I didn’t get a chance to explore the lake via kayak. It would be a lovely paddle!
Staying at Gifford Pinchot State Park
The park offers 10 modern cabins which are available year round. Sparsely but comfortable furnished, the cabins include a living area, a kitchen and dining area, a full bathroom and either two or three bedrooms. The master bedroom will have a full bed; the other bedrooms have bunk beds.
In the evenings, we walked from our cabin down to the lake and a portion of the lakeside trail. In addition, if we’d brought a boat, we could have moored it for the duration of our stay at nearby Boat Moor 2.
On the southern end of the lake is a modern camping area with 289 campsites. Many of the campsites have electricity as well as water and sewer hookups. The campground has modern bathhouses with hot showers, a dump station and spigots with potable water. Adjacent to the campground is a private swimming area for registered campers. In addition to the cabins and campground, there are camping cottages and yurts.
History of Gifford Pinchot State Park
Gifford Pinchot State Park was created in the late 1950s and dedicated in 1961. Since then, the open farm fields and meadows have gradually transformed into forest. In the spring, park visitors can expect to see the pink blossoms of redbud trees, flowering dogwoods and other native flowering trees. You can still see remnants of the farms that once dominated the parkland. As you hike, you can see retaining walls and steps up to nowhere and rock walls.
You’ll also notice an old-time school house, now being preserved by the park, and an old forgotten cemetery that dates back to the early 1800s.
In case you’re wondering who Gifford Pinchot is: he is a former PA governor. Pinchot also was the first Forester for the United States, having served in President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. During his public service, he brought more than 200 million acres of national forest lands into modern scientific land management. During his time as governor, he designed the work camps during the beginning of the Great Depression that became the model for the Civilian Conservation Corps of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Know Before You Go
Although the cabins offer heat and air conditioning, there aren’t other amenities such as wifi, although there was cell phone service. You have to bring along plates, utensils and pots and pans; small appliances such as toasters and coffee makers; towels and bed linens, including pillows; soaps and sponges; and of course, your own food.
Getting there: 2200 Rosstown Rd, Lewisberry, PA
Website: Pinchot State Park
Check out PA state parks MidAtlantic Daytrips has visited!
Looking for fun things to do near Gifford Pinchot State Park? Check out the list below: