Nestled within the Doubling Gap of Blue Mountain, the idyllic Colonel Denning State Park is one of Pennsylvania’s most attractive state parks.
Located in Newville, about an hour’s drive from Harrisburg and Hershey, the park encompasses 273-acres. While it is not the biggest, it is perfectly formed, with much of its attraction being centered around the 3.5 acre man-made Doubling Gap Lake.
Fishing is very good here, and boating opportunities are plenty.
The park is also a popular spot for hiking, hunting and winter activities like cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating and sledding.
While there are also plenty of camping options for everything from RVs, to tents and a campground for bigger groups.
The park affords guests plenty of opportunities to enjoy several different outdoor recreational activities.
Here are just a handful of some of the many things you can see and do there.
Boating and Swimming at Colonel Denning State Park
The sparkling waters of Doubling Gap Lake is a beautiful location to enjoy several water based recreational activities.
This includes the likes of kayaking, canoeing and SUP. As well as swimming, which takes place near the sandy beach at the southern end of the lake.
The beach is not lifeguarded so you will have to swim at your own risk.
After you have enjoyed your time on the water, there are plenty of picnic tables to enjoy an al fresco dining experience. There are also restrooms and a children’s playground there too.
Fishing at Colonel Denning State Park
If you are into trout fishing then you will love the opportunity to catch plenty of them at Doubling Gap Lake.
Spanning three and a half acres, you can fish here if you have a current and valid Pennsylvania fishing license.
The ADA accessible fishing ramp is a great place to do this, which you will find on the southwest side of the lake.
Hiking at Colonel Denning State Park
Boasting more than 18 miles of trails, the park is a huge drawcard to hikers of all ages and abilities.
The trails vary in degrees of difficulty, elevation and length. With some connecting directly to Tuscarora State Forest, from which you can also connect to the famous Appalachian Trail.
If you are after an easy, family friendly hike, the Doubling Gap Nature Trail is a lovely one mile trail around the lake that showcases interpretive signs which inform the visitor about the area’s geography and natural history.
For those wanting a taste of the Tuscarora or Appalachian Trails, the Flat Rock Trail will take you directly to them.
Horseback Riding at Colonel Denning State Park
Should you prefer a more genteel trail ride, the park has two equestrian parking areas.
If you stop at either of them, you will find one main equestrian trail directly within Colonel Denning State Park. As well as several other trails that wind their way through in the adjacent Tuscarora State Forest.
Sadly there is no facility for horse camping at the park. But don’t let that prevent you from enjoying a day out here with your favorite horse.
Winter Sports at Colonel Denning State Park
Unlike other state parks in the country, Colonel Denning turns into a magical winter wonderland when the snow hits.
Not only can you partake in ice skating (though you will need to monitor the thickness of the ice yourself), you can also enjoy cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
Hunting at Colonel Denning State Park
For those who want to take part in hunting, the park has a designated area that will enable you to do this during the season. You will also find one in the adjoining Tuscarora State Forest too.
To hunt in the park you will need to make sure you have a current Pennsylvania hunting license. However, if you do you will be able to aim at turkeys, squirrels and deer.
The hunting of woodchucks, aka groundhogs, is strictly prohibited. Although dog training is allowed from Labor Day all the way through March, it can only be done in specific parts of the park.
Pets at Colonel Denning State Park
The park prides itself on being pet friendly. So you can bring your dog with you here.
However, as some restrictions do apply, it is worth contacting the park’s main office to clarify what they are.
Camping at Colonel Denning State Park
For those who are looking for overnight accommodation the park offers a good range of options.
Located on the west side of the park, the Colonel Denning State Park campground offers 44 sites for RVs. Of these 31 come with electrical hookups, while 17 are designated as pet-friendly.
Each of these sites features a fire ring and picnic table, while other amenities include showers, flush toilets, a water fill up station and a dump station.
While the park is open all through the year, this campground only operates from April to December. Reservations for a spot here can be made up to 11 months ahead of time.
As well as the main campground, the park also accommodates six walk to tent campgrounds, just to the south of it. While these sites offer a primitive camping experience, they are close to the amenities that are presented in the main site.
For those who want to camp in larger groups, there is also a group campground that can accommodate up to 20 people. As they are situated at the other end to the tent sites, you will have to hike 500 feet from the main campground to get there.
However, when you get there you will find five tent pads, picnic tables, lantern holders and a fire ring that you can use.
Colonel Denning State Park
1599 Doubling Gap Road
Newville, PA 17241
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Colonel Denning State Park: