The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has posted overcrowding alerts for 14 state parks and 2 state forest recreation areas.
They are the first overcrowding alerts issued by DCNR since record visitor numbers overwhelmed some parks last summer as visitors sought outdoor refuge from the pandemic.
“A number of state parks and forest recreation areas have seen extreme crowding during the weekends and when the weather is warm,” DCNR noted in its alerts. “The extraordinary number of people is causing these places to turn away visitors. Overflow parking also may be closed.
“To avoid overcrowding, visitors should look for alternative parks and consider different times and different days to visit.
“Typically, park closures can and will occur Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Please call the park office or check the park’s web page before heading out between these hours.”
State parks that are reaching capacity and experiencing extreme overcrowding and/or turning away visitors include Beltzville, Codorus, French Creek, Hickory Run, Keystone, Kinzua Bridge, Marsh Creek, Neshaminy, Nockamixon, Ohiopyle, Presque Isle, Ricketts Glen, Tyler and Washington Crossing.
In addition, state forest areas that are reaching capacity and turning away visitors include Seven Tubs Recreation Area in Pinchot State Forest and Rock Run in Loyalsock State Forest.
Pennsylvania state parks are packed for the Memorial Day weekend. In 2020, state parks saw 46.9 million visitors compared to 37 million in 2019. In 2021, March visitation was up 20 percent over last year and April visitation was up 8.1 percent over last April’s record number of visitors.
In addition to the overcrowding alerts, DCNR has offered a list of alternative state parks and state forest areas that visitors wanting to avoid the overcrowding conditions might consider. Here’s that list.
Frances Slocum State Park consists of 1,035 acres in northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County. The 165-acre lake is popular for boating and fishing, and numerous hiking and mountain biking trails and the large day use area attract visitors to picnic and explore the forests.
Gouldsboro State Park is in Monroe and Wayne counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. The park includes the 250-acre Gouldsboro Lake which is popular for swimming, boating, and fishing.
The centerpiece of the Lackawanna State Park, the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming at the park pool are popular recreation activities.
Lehigh Gorge State Park follows the Lehigh River from Francis E. Walter Dam in the north to Jim Thorpe in the south. The Lehigh Gorge Trail follows over 20 miles of abandoned railroad grade along the river, providing opportunities for hiking, bicycling, sightseeing, and photography.
Nescopeck State Park encompasses wetlands, rich forests, and many diverse habitats. Nescopeck Creek, a favorite of anglers, meanders through the park. Hiking trails follow the creek, pass through quiet forests, and skirt wetlands.
About 3,000 acres in size, Promised Land State Park is surrounded by Delaware State Forest. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, swimming, camping, and hiking.
Tobyhanna State Park is in scenic Monroe and Wayne counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. The park includes the 170-acre Tobyhanna Lake, which is also popular for swimming, boating, and fishing.
When viewed from Tuscarora State Park‘s lake or day-use area, Locust Mountain seems to drop right into the southern side of Tuscarora Lake. The scenic picnic area plays host to many day trips and family reunions and the lake is a popular fishing spot.
In Pinchot State Forest, alternative recommendations are Black Diamond Trail, the Crystal Lake Tract, Moon Lake Recreation Area, Pinchot Trail and Watres Loop Trail.
In Loyalsock State Forest recommended alternatives are Cherry Ridge Trail, Hawkeye Ski Trail and Old Loggers Path.
DCNR also is asking visitors “to not litter in state parks and forests and to limit the amount of disposable materials brought into these places. Some areas may not have trash receptacles. Please be prepared to take all trash you have with you home.”
— Marcus Schneck/PennLive via Associated Press