We just returned from our third trip to Pennsylvania’s Parker Dam State Park, and it never disappoints. The 968-acre park is located in the Moshannon State Forest in the Allegheny Wilds area of north central Pennsylvania. Year round activities center around Parker Lake, a shaded, scenic campground, rustic cabins, historical Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) buildings and a thick forest teeming with wildlife. Parker Dam has recently been listed on the Elk Scenic Drive map, as a herd of 25 has migrated to the area. (Elk Scenic Drive download). Nothing is more spine-tingling than hearing an elk bugle in the distance at dawn or as you relax around the campfire in early evening.
Wildlife: Wildlife that I’ve seen wander by my campsite include deer, red and black squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, skunk and groundhogs, and the occasional bear. Or you could take an evening backroad drive and see porcupine, coyote, fox or even a bobcat. A boardwalk on the east side of Parker Lake leads back to a marsh where you will find beaver dams and, if you’re lucky, a frolicking beaver.
Camping: Parker Dam’s gorgeous campground features modern restrooms with flush toilets and showers, a sanitary dump station and electric hookups. Open from the second Friday in April to mid-December, the camping area has shaded and grassy sites. For details, call 814-765-0630, or visit this site.
Cabins: Parker Dam has 16 rustic cabins that can be rented year-round. The cabins sleep four, six or eight, and range from one to three rooms. Each cabin has beds, a refrigerator, gas stove, large bench table and fireplace, and adjacent heated private bathroom/shower with flush toilets, a sink and a table. Campers must bring their own towels, bedding (we just throw sleeping bags on the beds), dishes, cookware and utensils, and purchase their own wood. Take note that these cabins fill up quickly in the summer and on weekends year round; it is recommended that reservations be made well in advance. Rates range from approximately $34 to $78 a night; weekends rates higher. For details, call 814-765-0630, or visit this site.
Group Tent Camping: Two organized group-tenting areas hold 20 people, another holds 60 people, with a maximum number of 100 people. They are located at Mud Run and Tyler Road at the northern end of the park. These areas have non-flush toilets, water hydrants, picnic tables and fire rings; campers can use the campground showers for a fee. Organized group tenting information.
Hiking: Parker Dam is criss-crossed with many marked trails, and backpackers will find over 73 miles of hiking opportunities that connect with the Susquehannock Trail System and continue into Moshannon State Forest. Trail maps are available at the park office.
Swimming, boating, fishing: Parker Lake is open for swimming and boating from late-May to mid-September. During the summer season, a food concession and camp store are open daily, weather permitting. Electric motor-powered boats are permitted and paddleboats, canoes and rowboats can be rented at the Park. The 20-acre Parker Lake and many area trout streams are stocked in the spring, fall and winter, and anglers can catch largemouth bass, bluegills and brown bullhead.
Winter Activities: Winter sports lovers will find Parker Dam a haven for snowshoeing, ice skating, sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. A heated restroom is open in the day use area.
Events: Parker Dam offers year-round Environmental Education programs and special events, including guided walks, interpretive maple-sugaring and apple-cidering. Several historic places and big trees in the park and surrounding forest hide geocaches and letterboxes. Brochures are available at the park office. Each spring, volunteers receive free weekend camping during “Woodsy Owl Weekend,” in exchange for litter clean-up, tree planting, painting, and trail maintenance projects. On Labor Day Weekend Sunday, Woodhick Weekend celebrates the logging history of the Park with log rolling and crosscut sawing contests. Logging demonstrations are also held each October. Calendar of Events.
So, if you’re an elk-stalker or a bird watcher, tent/RV camper or prefer the comfort of a cabin, are an outdoor activities enthusiast or simply want to relax around a campfire, Parker Dam State Park is where I’d send you. I’ll be in Cabin 3 next year. Bring the marshmallows.
Related Content: Elk Viewing in Northwestern Pennsylvania; Sources: Personal Experience, DCNR Parker Dam Site