Overall Pennsylvania boasts 121 state parks that collectively encompass over 300,000 acres within its boundaries.
Set within a scintillating landscape of sparkling lakes, dense woodland, jagged mountains and flowing rivers, many of these state parks are located within easy reach of Carlisle.
If you live in this city, these state parks provide you with fabulous opportunities to partake in a wide range of outdoor recreational activities. These include the likes of fishing, swimming, boating, picnicking, hunting and camping.
Best of all, none of these state parks in Pennsylvania will charge you a fee to get into them. So you really don’t have an excuse for not going there!
If this has inspired you to explore the great outdoors, below is an overview of 5 state parks near Carlisle we highly recommend you visit.
Map of State Parks Near Carlisle, PA
Here is a map of the state parks in Pennsylvania covered by this post:
List of State Parks Near Carlisle
All five of these state parks near Carlisle can be reached within two and a half hours of driving. So they are excellent destinations to visit on a day trip.
However should you wish to stay at any of them for a few days or more, they all offer a range of overnight camping and other accommodation options too.
1. Trough Creek State Park
Location: 16362 Little Valley Rd, James Creek, PA 16657
Situated a 90 minute drive west of Carlisle, the Trough Creek State Park is a picturesque scenic gorge which attracts nature lovers from all over Pennsylvania.
Formed by the Great Trough Creek, which swathes its way through Terrace Mountain, before depositing itself into Raystown Lake, the 541-acre park is a haven for hikers. With many trails leading you to a number of major highlights including the fantastic cascade of Rainbow Falls and the spectacular balanced rock.
In addition, the lake provides fabulous opportunities for swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding.
The onsite campground is open from mid-April and mid-December. It offers 29 electrical sites for any size of camper, as well as a two storey stone home which you can rent any time of the year.
2. Chapman State Park
Location: 4790 Chapman Dam Rd, Clarendon, PA 16313
Named after Dr. Leroy E. Chapman, a very popular state senator who held office for almost 35 years, The Chapman State Park is a terrific 862-acre state park to visit from Carlisle.
It will take you some 2 hours 30 minutes to get there, but once you have arrived you will be able to swim, or partake in a range of boating activities on the stunning 68-acre Chapman Lake.
Fishing is also a very popular activity here too, with the likes of sunfish, bluegill, yellow perch and brown trout being available in abundance. While there is also a fantastic beach to enjoy as well.
Taking you deep into stunning, forested land, the park has 12 miles of hiking trails which can be used in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. During these colder months the lake is also perfect for ice fishing.
For overnight visitors, the pet-friendly park has a rustic campground which offers 81 campsites, as well as 3 cottages, and two Mongolian style yurts for guests.
3. French Creek State Park
Location: 843 Park Rd, Elverson, PA 19520
Nestled within the spectacular Hopewell Big Woods, which is the largest contiguous forest in southeastern Pennsylvania, the French Creek State Park is a great place to hike, mountain bike, fish and camp.
Located an hour and 20 minutes east of Carlisle, the park features a landscape with two gorgeous lakes and more than 30 miles of trails to explore.
Straddling the Schuylkill Highlands, the 7,916-acre park is also a terrific area to observe the diverse range of flora and fauna which call it home. Most notably, several species of birdlife, some of which are quite rare.
Offering over 200 wooded and modern sites, 60 of which come with electric hookups, the camping facilities are good here. They also include shower and flush toilets as well.
4. Bald Eagle State Park
Location: 149 Main Park Rd, Howard, PA 16841
Situated a two hour drive north of Carlisle, the Bald Eagle State Park is a much loved public recreational space for those who love water based recreational activities.
Incorporating over 5,900-acres, which reside within the spectacular Bald Eagle Valley of north central Pennsylvania, the park is centered around a scenic 1,730-acre lake that skirts along the shoreline around Bald Eagle Mountain.
Framed by verdant fields, thick forest, pretty meadows and lush wetlands, it is a haven for kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing and fishing enthusiasts. You will also find an excellent swimming beach here too, in addition to numerous miles of hiking trails that will take you to various scenic spots within the park.
Also home to countless species of flora and fauna, the park accommodates two campgrounds, which house 175 camping sites, 18 of which come as full hook-ups. They also offer four cottages too, one of which is presented as luxurious.
5. Parker Dam State Park
Location: 28 Fairview Rd, Penfield, PA 15849
Want a state park that provides something for everyone? Then the Parker Dam State Park is where you should head too.
Located a 2 hour and 30 minute drive northwest of Carlisle, the 968-acre park is seen as the gateway to the magnificent Moshannon State Forest.
Its main drawcard is a picturesque lake which offers terrific opportunities for fishing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. The park also affords plenty of chances for hiking, biking and backpacking throughout the picturesque 50,000-acre Quehanna Wilderness.
In terms of overnight accommodation for the visitor, the park offers 133 campsites. Of these, 22 are full hookups while 60 are modern electric.
The campground also features flush toilets, showers and a laundromat as well as a food concession store which sells basic items you might need.
Kids will love the playground located near the campground, whilst boat mooring is also available too.