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Stone pyramid marking the site of the birthplace of President James Buchanan in Buchanan's Birthplace State Park in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Stone pyramid marking the site of the birthplace of President James Buchanan. Photo: Clint, Wikimedia

At just 18.5-acres in size, Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is one of the smallest of all Pennsylvania’s 124 State Parks. However, what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in idyllic beauty and cultural significance.

Located in Franklin County in South Central Pennsylvania, within a gap in Tuscarora Mountain, the park is flanked by picturesque forested mountains. (Which looks especially attractive during the fall!).

As compared to other Pennsylvania state parks it doesn’t offer a wealth of outdoor recreational activities, aside from picnicking, walking and fishing. But it does feature a notable monument to President James Buchanan, who is America’s only Pennsylvanian president.

That said, it is very close to several other state parks and state forests, which facilitate a range of outdoor recreational activities. So if you visit any of those destinations, it is well worth popping in here for a short while, to tick another state park off your list.

Getting There

Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is within easy driving distance of a number of major cities in the surrounding area.

This includes Washington DC and Baltimore (both 1 hour and 45 minutes), Pittsburgh (2 hours and 30 minutes), Philadelphia (2 hours and 45 minutes) and New York City (4 hours).

The park is situated on Pennsylvania Route 16 along Tuscarora Mountain, close to the village of Cove Gap and in between McConnellsburg and Mercersburg.

To get there from U.S. 30 at Fort Loudon, you will need to take PA 75 south and then follow the signs to Cove Gap and the park.

If you prefer to navigate by GPS coordinates, using 39.870079, -77.952623 will direct you to the parking area, which is located very close to the pyramid.

Activities

Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset.

Recreational activities at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park are quite limited, as compared to most other state parks in Pennsylvania. But here is some more information about what you can do there.

Fishing at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park

For those into fishing the park provides good opportunities to cast a line.

This is done at Buck Run, a scenic waterway that winds itself through the park, and is a known spot native trout.

As with all public recreational spaces in the Keystone state, if you want to fish you will need a valid licence from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to do so.

You will also need to abide by their rules and regulations at all times whilst at the park too.

Hiking at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park

While the park itself does not have any hiking trails, just to the west of it lies the Tuscarora Trail.

Acting as a bypass trail for the Appalachian Trail, it provides an attractive spot in which to stretch your legs whilst taking in your pleasant surroundings.

Monument at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park

The main centerpiece of the park is a large, 31 foot tall pyramid that signifies the birthplace of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States.

Marking the spot where his early childhood cabin once stood, Buchanan lived here for the first six years of his life until 1797, when his father purchased a general store in the nearby town of Mercersburg.

Funded by his niece, Harriet Lane Johnston – who actually served as his first lady as he was a lifelong bachelor – the monument was built out of local stone. Which was transported by a temporary railroad to the construction site.

This stone comprises over 50 tons of hammered American gray granite, and was used to create a tablet, bench and capstone.

All up some 35 laborers spent two months diligently working on the project. Finally completing it on 15th November in 1907.

The pyramid’s base measures 38 feet square. At the front of it there is a granite tablet which features the words:

‘This monument marks the birthplace of James Buchanan fifteenth President of the United States Born 23rd April 1791 Died 1 June 1868’.

These are the only words that appear on it. However, throughout the park you will also see several signs that share the history of James Buchanan’s life.

Picnicking at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park

Picnicking is a popular activity at the park, with a steady number of families coming here throughout the day to enjoy an outdoor meal.

You’ll find a handful of picnic tables at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park, all of which provide a picturesque backdrop for al fresco dining.

As well as the tables, there are also two picnic pavilions available near Buck Run, in a scenic wooded setting – one of which is ADA accessible.

You’ll also find drinking water and restrooms here too.

Pets at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park

Pets are allowed in certain parts of the park, so you will be able to bring your dog with you if you want to.

However, some restrictions may apply. So it is worth contacting the park’s main office to ascertain what they are.

Camping at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park

Unfortunately there are no camping accommodation options available at the park.

However its location does put you within 30 miles of a number of other state parks in Pennsylvania, which do offer places to stay for RVs, trailers and tent sites.

This includes the likes of Cacapon State Park in West Virginia, Trough Creek State Park in Huntingdon County, Mont Alto State Park in Franklin County and Warriors Path State Park in Bedford County.

Between them, these parks offer a range of accommodation options that include sites which have full hookups, as well as primitive sites, cabins, lodges, yurts and organized group camping.

Park Location

Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park
2831 W Stony Batter Rd
Mercersburg, PA 17236
Phone: 814.342.5960

Website

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park: