Test Your Primitive Camping Skills
GO 1-On-1 with Nature … 4 Great Locations
BY: Richard Corrigan, Demand Media
For some, parking an RV in a field just isn’t camping. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania mountains provide plenty of opportunities to throw on a backpack and hike deep into the backcountry, with only the trees to keep you company and the supplies on your back to sustain you during your trip. From the mountains of the Allegheny Plateau to the ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains, Pennsylvania is home to some of the best primitive camping spots in the Northeast.
Peace and Quiet in the Poe Valley
Central Pennsylvania’s Poe Paddy State Park isn’t the most remote spot, but it’s a good starting point for casual backcountry camping. The park includes a few dozen secluded campsites shaded by a thick forest canopy and the towering slopes of White Mountain. Campfire rings, picnic tables, vault toilets and drinking water are the only amenities. Poe Paddy State Park is home to a section of Penn Creek, an excellent trout stream, as well as a segment of the Mid State Trail, a 523-mile hiking path that bisects Pennsylvania from north to south. You can take an afternoon to hike the local section of the trail, or spend a week or more exploring the whole thing. Backcountry camping is permitted along the trail, and you can get maps and guidebooks through the Mid State Trail Association website.
Explore Half a Million Acres of Wilderness
Allegheny National Forest spans a vast 513,175 acres in northwest Pennsylvania. The pristine mountain forests include dozens of campgrounds and two-thirds of the Allegheny Reservoir, which straddles the New York border and provides some of the best walleye fishing in either state. Anyone in search of seclusion has options like the tiny Minister Creek Campground, which has nothing more than six tent sites, vault toilets and a hand-pump for water. The campground is just off State Route 666, but many others in the forest, such as the 20-site Handsome Lake Boat Access Campground, can only be reached on foot or by water. Most campgrounds are first come, first served. If you get an itch to do some exploring, Allegheny National Forest contains hundreds of miles of trails, and backcountry camping is permitted along most of them.
Rough It in Forbes State Forest
In southwest Pennsylvania, Forbes State Forest is home to 3,213-foot Mount Davis, the tallest mountain in the state. The 60,000-acre forest also includes more than 250 miles of hiking trails and back roads, including the rugged High Point trail, which leads to the lookout tower at the top of the mountain. You can stay the night at roadside campsites scattered throughout the forest, but the real attraction at Forbes State Forest is backcountry camping. The vast majority of the forest is open to dispersed backcountry camping, which means you can hike into the woods and pitch a tent at any suitable site, as long as it’s at least 100 feet from water sources, 200 feet from roads and 25 feet from trails. A free permit — available at the district office — is required to camp multiple nights at a single site. No amenities are provided, and visitors are responsible for leaving the forest as they found it.
Find Adventure On the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian trail swings through about 230 miles of the Keystone State, and intrepid hikers could conceivably hike all the way to Georgia or Maine from any point along the Pennsylvania section of the trail. Even if your plans aren’t quite that ambitious, you could easily spend a week or two following the trail through the ridges and valleys of eastern Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains. Backcountry campsites are available along the trail in many areas, and lean-to trail shelters are spaced about every 10 miles. Most shelters have a nearby water source, along with vault toilets and ample room to pitch a tent. Secluded forests and panoramic mountaintop vistas are the norm on the Appalachian Trail, but there are dozens of towns within a mile of the trail where you can stop to gather supplies. Detailed trail maps and guides are available through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
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