21 National Parks in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania, the ‘Keystone State’ is classified as a Mid-Atlantic state despite no part of its border touching the coast. Its location on the Eastern Seaboard is believed to be the source of its keystone nickname.

If you are searching for a state with many national parks, Pennsylvania certainly has you covered. There are a whopping 21 national park service sites across the state. From historic sites to scenic trails, recreation areas, to national battlefields, there’s something for everyone. Check out these national parks in Pennsylvania.

National Parks in Pennsylvania

National Historic Site

1- Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

national parks in pennsylvania allegheny portage
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Around 80 miles east of Pittsburg in western Pennsylvania is the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site.

There are a couple of things to see and do at this historic site, including an engine house, historic railroad tunnel, bridge and tavern.

Back in the 1820s, the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania proved to be a big problem for those in railroad construction.

These 19th-century locomotives simply couldn’t handle the gradient of the mountains.

The Pennsylvania Main Line of Public Works built the Allegheny Portage Railroad to solve this problem.

For 20 years, between 1834 and 1854, this was the most effective way of crossing the mountains.

Today visitors can see the remains of this impressive system and learn about the westward expansion and the underground railroad.

While at this historic site, you can also see the Staple Bend Tunnel, the U.S.’s first railroad tunnel.

The Allegheny Portage Railroad is at 110 Federal Park Road, Gallitzin, PA 16641.

2- Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site

The American poet and writer known for his macabre writing was often credited with being the inventor of detective stories.

Although he was born in Massachusetts, he wrote many of his most famous works while living in Philadelphia.

The site of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site was his actual house in early 1843 and is one of the only residences that has survived to this day.

Once at the site, you can tour Poe’s home and look at various images and exhibits that allow you to see how he influenced the world of literature.

Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is at 532 N 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123.

3- Eisenhower National Historic Site

Eisenhower National Historic Site
Eisenhower National Historic Site is another of the Pennsylvania national parks sites to tick off your list.

Located around 40 miles southwest of Harrisburg is the Eisenhower National Historic Site, named after the USA’s 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was best known as the Commanding General of the allied powers during WWII.

This coalition led to the largest amphibious assault in history, it also helped greatly in the defeat of Adolf Hitler.

You can tour Eisenhower’s former home at this national historic site, which the former president and his wife bought in 1961.

They lived there for around seven years before Eisenhower died in 1969.

The National Park Service opened the park as a historic site in 1980, a year after Mrs Eisenhower died.

You can learn more about Eisenhower’s farm and life and his personal and work achievements at this site.

There is a limit to parking, some visitors will need to buy a shuttle pass from the Gettysburg Visitors Center.

The Eisenhower National Historic Site is at 243 Eisenhower Farm Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325.

4- Friendship Hill National Historic Site

Friendship Hill National Historic Site trees along the driveway
Friendship Hill National Historic Site is another national parks site in Pennsylvania worth visiting.

This national historic site is in southwestern Pennsylvania, close to the West Virginia border.

This historic site started because of Albert Gallatin, an immigrant from Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1780 at the age of 19, he immigrated to America, bought land, built a house, and called this place Friendship Hill.

Albert Gallatin served in the Pennsylvania State Legislature before he won a seat in the U.S. Senate but he was removed from the seat because he failed to meet citizenship requirements.

He later helped Thomas Jefferson as President in 1800 and served as the Secretary of the Treasury for 13 years.

This historic site helped preserve his home as well as tell the story of his life and accomplishments.

Parts of the house that are standing today were built in the 1780s.

The Friendship Hill National Historic Site is at 223 New Geneva Road, Point Marion, PA 15474.

5- Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site

This is a great national historic site to visit in Philadelphia and where you can take a tour of the historic church and cemetery.

The so-called ‘Old Swedes’ Church’ was built in 1698 in the Gothic, Georgian and traditional Swedish style.

Before visiting this impressive church, you should check their service times as it’s still a working church.

Within the church are models of ships that brought Swedish colonists to America, as well as an 1801 bronze bell cast.

Gloria Dei Church is at 916 S Swanson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147.

6- Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

national parks pennsylvania Hopewell Furnace
Another Pennsylvania national park site to visit is Hopewell Furnace.

The Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is 15 miles southeast of Reading and those interested in industrial history will love it.

Hopewell Furnace offers the opportunity to see a restored iron plantation.

Mark Bird opened an ironmaking company called Hopewell Furnace in 1771.

This ironwork was in operation until 1883, when steel production made ironmaking obsolete.

Hopewell Furnace wasn’t just an ironmaking facility it was more of a community with self-contained worker’s houses, a church, an apple orchard and a general store.

Today you can head to this historic site and take a self-guided walking tour to the cold blast furnace, ironmasters, house, blacksmith’s shop, the 1782 Bethesda Church and the community store.

It’s a brilliant historic day out for the whole family.

The Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is at 2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, PA 19520.

7- Steamtown National Historic Site

Steamtown National Historic Site man taking a photo of the locomotive
The Union Pacific Big Boy Steam Locomotive X4012.

Head to northeastern Pennsylvania, close to the town of Scranton, and you’ll find the Steamtown National Historic Site.

Before oil and coal, people relied heavily on steam.

At the Steamtown National Historic Site, you will learn about the history of steam railroad transportation as well as the people who built it and rode it.

You can take a guided train tour at this national historic site, look at the working rail yard, and view the historic locomotives.

This site has been excellent at preserving the history of steam locomotives.

Some top locomotives on display include the 1941 Big Boy Union Pacific Locomotive and the 1903 Chicago Union Transfer Railway Company.

If you check the park’s schedule, you’ll be able to organise a ride on a real steam-powered train.

The Steamtown National Historic Site is at 350 Cliff Street, Scranton, PA 18503.

National Scenic Trails

8- Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Pennsylvania is home to 229 miles (368 km) of the 2,190-mile-long (3524 km) Appalachian Trail.

Pennsylvania’s section of the trail is home to flat parts and steep inclines, so if you are searching for easy hiking, you will enjoy this section of the trail.

Many of the walks in Pennsylvania are among the easiest in the entire state.

One word of warning while walking the trail in autumn, check to see where the cross-state game land is because hunting season is in full force.

9- North Country National Scenic Trail

North Country is filled with hills, valleys, lakes and streams, many of which were formed by glaciers 10,000 years ago.

The North Country National Scenic Trail is great for hiking and crosses over eight northern states, including Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

The trail connects many natural, historic and cultural sites across the northern states.

10- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is for history buffs, nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, bikers, and hikers.

Hitting the Potomac trail is the perfect way to escape from the business of urban life.

This trail links the upper Youghiogheny and Potomac river basins.

This scenic trail travels through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia and is 710 miles (1142 km).

National Historic Trail

11- Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

English explorer Captain John Smith had a central role in the founding of America and was best known for leading two expeditions to Chesapeake Bay.

The accounts of conversations with native tribes, detailed maps and journals he kept helped provide English colonists with knowledge about the region.

This trail commemorates Smith’s 1607 to 1609 exploration of the Bay, stretches 3,000 miles, and covers most of Chesapeake’s great rivers.

12- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

This trail follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition route, also known as the Corps of Discovery.

This expedition was carried out between 1804 and 1806 across 16 states.

The aim of the Lewis & Clark expedition was to explore the newly acquired territories that were obtained as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The trail is not a hiking trail but there are opportunities to hike, horse ride and go boating along the way.

Along Pennsylvania’s section of the trail, there are a couple of sites to see, including:

  • Neill Log House in Square Hill, Pittsburgh
  • Point State Park
  • Senator John Heinz History Center
  • Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
  • Three Rivers Water Trail
  • Eliza Furnace Trail
  • Accidental Shooting at Brunot Island

13- Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail

This national historic trail celebrates America and France’s alliance during the Revolutionary War.

George Washington’s Revolutionary War success against the British was only possible because of their alliance with France.

The Washington-Rochambeau National Historic Trail starts in New Hampshire and ends in Virginia, connecting metropolitan areas, other trails, historic sites, and state and national parks.

The trail follows the 680-mile (1094 km) route used by the Continental Army under George Washington. It took 14 weeks to march from Newport, Rhode Island to Yorktown, Virginia.

National Recreation Area

14- Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

delaware water gap national parks pennsylvania
Delaware Water Gap is best viewed in the fall.

The Delaware River flows along Pennsylvania’s border with New Jersey.

This national recreation area protects 40 miles (64 km) of the Delaware Water Gap.

The Delaware River is one of the eastern USA’s last free-flowing rivers.

While visiting the Delaware Water Gap, you can enjoy kayaking, swimming, fishing, rafting and canoeing.

There are several places to rent equipment along the river, and shuttles can be organised to pick you up further down the river.

If you like hiking, you’ll also be pleased to know that there are more than 100 miles (161 km) of hiking trails within the recreation area, including 27 miles (43 km) that are part of the Appalachian Trail.

National Historic Park

15- Independence Hall National Historical Park

Independence Hall National Historical Park Pennsylvania
Independence Hall National Historic Park in Pennsylvania.

Head to downtown Philadelphia in the Old City and you will find Independence Hall National Historic Park.

Independence Hall represents America’s founding ideals and aims to preserve the national and international symbols of democracy and freedom.

The U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were debated and signed at Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you only have time for one national historic park in Pennsylvania, then make sure it’s this one.

If you are interested in history, then this park will allow you to gain much insight into the U.S.’s founding ethos’.

You are only allowed to enter Independence Hall as part of a tour and admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Between March and December, you are required to follow the timed entry ticket policy.

Independence National Historical Park is at 525 Market Street, Philadelphia.

16- Valley Forge National Historical Park

Washingtons headquarters Valley Forge
George Washington’s headquarters in Valley Forge is now a Pennsylvania national parks site.

You’ll find the Valley Forge National Historical Park around 20 miles from Philadelphia in the southwest of the state.

This site marks where George Washington’s troops rested during the winter of 1777 in the American Revolution.

In search of somewhere to camp Washington’s Continental Army decided to camp at a place called Valley Forge while the British were occupying Philadelphia.

Visit the park today, and you can learn about the significance of Valley Forge in the American Revolution.

There are historical exhibits, a park movie and artefacts to discover at this site.

You can take a free trolly tour or a self-guided 10-mile automobile tour to view the park.

The Valley Forge National Historical Park is at 1400 N Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA, 19406.

National Memorial

17- Flight 93 National Memorial

Flight 93 National Memorial Pennsylvania
A modern Pennsylvania national park site to visit is the Flight 93 national memorial.

The Flight 93 National Memorial is one of the state’s newest Pennsylvania national parks.

This memorial was opened to commemorate those who bravely battled the terrorists onboard the fourth aircraft heading for New York City on 11 September 2001.

United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in an open field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

All passengers, crew, and terrorists were killed.

The people aboard Flight 93 started to use phones to call anyone they could to alert them of the aircraft hijacking, they soon learnt of the fate of those in the World Trade Center and realised their own fate.

At 9:57 am the passengers began their assault on the cockpit.

It is believed that the terrorists decided to crash it rather than risk the passengers seizing back control of the plane.

Though this national memorial is harrowing, it allows you to learn about the bravery involved on this devastating day.

The Flight 93 National Memorial is at 6424 Lincoln Highway, Stoystown, PA 15563.

18- Johnstown Flood National Memorial

On 31 May 1889, the South Fork Dam, 14 miles upstream from Johnstown failed.

This devastating event became known as the Johnstown Flood and resulted in the death of over 2,000 people.

The town’s residents blamed the wealthy businessmen from Pittsburg who, as members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, owned the dam.

Today you can visit the former South Fork Dam.

While at the park, visit the Lake View Visitor Center, where you can watch a film about the 1889 event.

This is an interesting outdoor national memorial to visit, and you can also walk to the dam’s remains and look out over the old lake.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial is at 733 Lake Road, South Fork, PA, 15956.

19- Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial

Another national park service site in Philadelphia is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial.

This park commemorates Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.

Kosciuszko became a general in 1783 and was responsible for fortifying locations in the Colonies.

He was wounded while trying to help Poland resist Russian domination and exiled from Poland back to America.

He lived in the house that is now the site of the national memorial.

You can view the artefacts at this site, including photographs related to Kosciuszko’s life and work.

The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial is at 301 Pine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

National Battlefield

20- Fort Necessity National Battlefield

fort necessity national battlefield
Check out Fort Necessity National Battlefield and take a walk into history.

Around 60 miles (97km) southeast of Pittsburgh is the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, where you can see the battlefield and a reconstructed fort.

The battle that took place at Fort Necessity in 1754 marked the opening of the French and Indian War, which was a clash between the British, American, French and Indian cultures.

The war resulted in the removal of French power from North America and the events at Fort Necessity marked the first significant military action in George Washington’s career.

While at the battlefield, you can visit the National Road Interpretive and Education Center to learn about mid-18th century Pennsylvania.

There’s also an interesting bookstore and gift shop.

The Fort Necessity National Battlefield is at National Pike, Farmington, PA 15437.

National Military Park

21- Gettysburg National Military Park

national parks pennsylvania gettysburg little round top
Devils Den in Gettysburg National Military Park is one of the top spots to visit.

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the Civil War’s most important battles, and along with the victory at Vicksburg, this was a key turning point.

You can take an auto tour of the Gettysburg battlefield and cemetery at this park.

On July 1st, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee took his troops into Pennsylvania, where they met the Army of the Potomac.

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted three days, and more than 160,000 soldiers were involved. By the end of the three days, 51,000 people died in the Civil War’s bloodiest battle.

This national military park was established in 1895.

There are more than 1,300 monuments, memorials, and markers to discover at the site alongside a trip to the visitor’s centre.

You can take a 24-mile (39 km) auto tour with 16 stops at important locations, including the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, the National Cemetery and the Site of Pickett’s Charge.

Gettysburg National Military Park is at 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA, 17325.

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!