Deep in the remote and rustic forests of Pennsylvania, the darkest piece of the East Coast is preserved as Cherry Springs State Park. The brilliantly dark skies are a true haven for astronomers, who readily flock to this location year after year. While you don't have to share a love for the heavens, it certainly helps, as that is what this park is most noted for.
Attractions are scarce out in these parts. This is the wild of Penn's Woods, and that means limited cell coverage as well as rather backcountry settings. The park and surrounding area make up the Pennsylvania Wilds, and allow for public access to hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, and all sorts of other outdoor recreation. That means there is much to share in these parts, with recreations readily encouraged to extend from the park's boundaries.
As the first Dark Sky Park, Cherry Springs is a well-noted advocate for the protection of our heavenly bodies above and the darkest skies to see them with. That means when you come here, you have to anticipate going by some different rules as the sun sets.
Luckily, the park makes it easy to integrate into the surroundings. Options for parking your trailer overnight include staying either within the Rustic Campground or the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field. The richness of this land reflects the beauty held within the arms of the Milky Way. It is a serene, simplistic getaway that makes for a unique East Coast excursion.
RV Rentals in Cherry Springs State Park
Transportation in Cherry Springs State Park
Getting to Cherry Springs State Park is pretty straightforward, as it's about one of the few things out this far. Be prepared for a decent drive and a bit of an elevation climb. Once you've turned off of PA-44 in Potter County, you'll be met with unpaved roads, either leading to public parking or to the campgrounds. All roads to the campgrounds are one way, only.
For guests staying in the Overnight Observation Field, it is a courtesy between park guests, and a general rule, for RVs and trailers to park at outer sites within the observation field. This will help not to obstruct any views. Within the park's campground, there are certain sites marked "tent only" on the campground map to help you identify which are available to your rig, and those that are not. Once parked here, it's only a short walk to get to the public viewing area as well as nearby trails.
Campgrounds and parking in Cherry Springs State Park
Campsites in Cherry Springs State Park
Main Rustic Campground
Cherry Springs State Park hosts a rustic campground with 30 sites that are available for reservation. While reservations are not required for all sites, coming with a rig means you're going to want to be sure you'll have somewhere to park it. With only 30 sites, it's a good idea not to rely on the few first-come, first-served spots. This is a popular destination during peak seasons of May through September, when families and astronomy enthusiasts flock to the fields to get a good view of the night sky. Tucked away, far up in Penn's Woods, the campgrounds are quiet and serene. There isn't much by way of attractions out here, meaning the people who are here often share the same goal - to enjoy nature at her finest.
Rustic means you won't have any hookups for water, electric, or sewer. However, all sites include a fire ring, picnic table, and lantern hanger. There's also a dump station to drop by on your way out. All roads through the campgrounds are marked as one way and you can expect a bumpier ride, as the paths are not paved. Roads are still level and easy to navigate.
While a popular destination for all sorts of folk of Pennsylvania and beyond, the campground does not allow for furry additions to the family to join in on the fun. In short - pets are not allowed.
Overnight Astronomy Observation Field
A nightly fee permit is required in order to set up camp on the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field. Fee envelopes are found at the Registration Kiosk, near the entrance to the field. Simply follow all provided instructions, adhere to the posted fee schedule, and list your location on the field so that you can be located in the event of an emergency. When traveling with a rig or trailer, you can expect to be parking along the outer rim of the field. This is a courtesy to other observers, so as not to take up viewing space. It's also a requirement to not have any white light within vehicles and no headlights can be used after a certain time, meaning: no driving. These strict codes must be adhered to in order for all visitors to enjoy the park as it was intended - as the darkest spot on the East Coast.
Electricity is provided on the field, however, these power outlets are not available for camper hookups. These setups are all here for telescopes to plug in, batteries to recharge, small appliances, and for laptop use. This is a rather popular location during Star Party events, known astrological occurrences, and simply beautiful, clear nights, so don't be surprised to find the field rather packed.
Alternatively, there are other options when staying for the dark skies of Cherry Springs. If the campgrounds of the state park are a little too rustic for your tastes, another park (Lyman Run State Park) is about 9 miles from Cherry Springs. Here, you can at least get a shower and hookup to electric. Other recreations can be enjoyed at this park alternative, as this place is home to a lake. The thick forest between these two state parks makes for some great surroundings for your outdoor favorites. The Pennsylvania Wilds are public lands open to all who wish to hike, bike, fish, hunt, and explore.
Seasonal activities in Cherry Springs State Park
After spending the first part of the day hiking around, exploring other pieces of Potter County, it's nice to take a welcoming sit and enjoy a quaint picnic. Families staying within the campground each have a table within their site. For guests who want to meet outside of their sites, other tables and grills can be found near the Night Sky Public Viewing Area.
Public Stargazing Programs
Throughout the summer, park educators and guest speakers promote stargazing programs. These programs are open to the public as well as park guests and are held on the north side of the park, at the Night Sky Public Viewing Area. Some programs require prior registration. To find out which will be held during your stay, you can look up program schedules online.
Attend The Woodsmen's Show
This yearly three-day show attracts thousands of visitors every August. It's an event that features tried and true lumberjack contests, such as log rolling, tree felling, block chopping, chainsaw events, and ax throwing. This is definitely one to tack under the "unique" column. Besides such attractions, other entertainment is hosted, as well as artisans and food.
Watch For Elk
Cherry Springs is part of Pennsylvania Wilds and these regions of Penn's Woods are also known as "Elk Country". Scenic and remote, the park is not only a perfect location for spotting what's in the sky, but what's on this Earth. Elk are such large, magnificent creatures, and it is a joy to spot one during your PA exploration.
The park's own one mile long trail is easy, by all hiking standards. The trek begins at the information kiosk and continues through the surrounding forest. Along the way, side exhibits are features that inform guests on the landscape and forestry practices. This self-guided trail tour is a great way to take in the park at your own pace and realign with nature.
Whether you've got your camera out to snap some photos of the surrounding wildlife or the awe-inspiring landscape, or are working on your nighttime photography, Cherry Springs State Park is sure to provide the perfect subjects to fill your photo albums. Many come here to perfect their planetary prowess and get the perfect shot of the Milky Way.
While the park does not feature any areas for fishing, visitors can wade on over to neighboring Pine Creek's waters to get a few bites. The dense forest between Cherry Springs State Park and sister, Lyman Run State Park, houses branches of the creek that welcome fishing lines. These woods are part of Pennsylvania Wilds and are open to public fishing. Make sure all permits and licenses are in order for your excursions.
The peak, green seasons aren't the only time you'll see plenty of folks out enjoying Pennsylvania's varied climate. Winter weather typically means seeing plenty of the white stuff, and a higher elevation often helps to keep it so. Certain areas of public land are open for snowmobiling, and rentals can be found right in the heart of Potter County. While no snowmobiling can be done within the park itself, visitors can enjoy this recreation just outside the lands.
The park features two distinct opportunities for astronomy enthusiasts, the Night Sky Public Viewing Area and the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field. Visitors who want to spend the entire night out, taking in the sky, are welcome to use the Overnight Astronomy Field for observation and photography. You can even park your rig out here - just make sure you're courteous of other visitors and park on the field's outskirts.
Brought your bike? The state park's trails don't provide much for those who like to get around on two wheels. The lone trail is too short to enjoy for any length on a bike, however, just outside of the park's boundaries, several other trails wind through the thick Penn's Woods. This area is open to the public for all recreation, as Pennsylvania Wilds.