Nestled in Allens Valley and surrounded by the gorgeous Buchanan State Forest, Cowans Gap State Park is full of natural beauty in all seasons. RV lovers will enjoy the beautiful scenery, recreational activities and plentiful modern electric and primitive RV camping sites. The history of the 1,085 acre park dates back to the French and Indian War when the land was on the western frontier of the Thirteen Colonies. Cowans Gap State Park is named after John and Mary Cowan, who settled in the area after the American Revolution. They were able to trade horses and a broken wagon to a Tuscarora chief for the land and he was gifted a smoking pipe and tomahawk rights as a sign of peace with the Tuscarora.
The park was able to open due to the work of the the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. A camp was built with the workers living in tents and then cabins which are still used in the park all these decades later. Thousands of acres of new trees were planted, bridges were built and many miles of state roads, fire trails and telephone lines. During this time the dam was also constructed that is now known as Cowans Gap Lake.
The lake provides numerous recreational activities that include swimming, fishing, boating, ice skating and ice fishing. There are also many hiking trails to be explored that are a prime attraction for visitors.
The camping facilities at Cowans Gap State Park are very impressive. There are 137 modern electric sites with either 30 and 50 amp connections and a further 25 non-electric with water connections. The park is open year around and peak season lasts from April until the end of October.
RV Rentals in Cowans Gap State Park
Transportation in Cowans Gap State Park
Cowans Gap State Park is located north of US-30 and is situated between the towns of Chambersburg and McConnellsburg. There are a few smaller towns close by such as Knobsville, Metal and Fort Littleton but they don't have any major supply stores or services.The park is a little off the beaten path and does have some tight roads once you make your way into the park, so if you have a larger rig you should be cautious upon entering.
To get to the park from the west: Continue on I-76 and take exit 180. Use the US-522 north to the Burnt Cabins are and follow the signs to the park. From the east: Take I-76 and then take the 189 exit to Willow Hill. From there, take PA 75 south to Richmond Furnace and follow the signs to the park. From US-30 West, take PA-75 north at Fort Loudon. Keep following it to Richmond Furnace and then follow signs to the park. From US-30 East, take Aughwick Road seven miles north to the park entrance.
There is ample paved parking at the park, which is somewhat of a rarity as most state parks offer gravel parking only.
There are no public transport services to Cowans Gap State Park.
Campgrounds and parking in Cowans Gap State Park
Campsites in Cowans Gap State Park
Cowans Gap State Park Campgrounds
Within the Cowans Gap State Park campgrounds there are two sections that offer excellent RV camping. The campground is very quiet and the sites are nicely spaced out from each other. If you have a larger rig the tight roads may be an issue but the park rangers will do as much as they can to help you out. In total there are 137 modern electric sites that offer either 30 and 50 amp connections and a further 25 non-electric sites. Most of the camping can be found in the A camping area but there are also a few electric sties available in the B area. The showers are renowned for being very clean and modern. There are also flush toilets, water available within in the campground and a dump station that is big enough for two vehicles to use at once.
There will be no phone reception in the campground and only some of the sites are pet friendly. Reservations can be made up to the end of the calendar year and camping is available year round.
Seasonal activities in Cowans Gap State Park
Cowans Gap State Park also offers some great boating opportunities before the lake freezes in the winter. Two boat launches are available for you to use and there are also many mooring spots if you want to leave your boat on the water for the duration of your stay. During the summer there is a concession store open that has row and paddle boats available for you to rent. Gas powered boats are not allowed on the lake, but you can bring out boats that have electric motors. Boats must have either a current registration with any state, Pennsylvania launch/mooring permit or a permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The 42 acres of Cowans Cap lake is a great fishing destination all year round. Along with fishing in or on the lake there is also an ADA accessible fishing pier and the south branch of Little Aughwick Creek available for you to check out and enjoy. Commonly caught fish in the lake include perch, bass, panfish and catfish. Little Aughwick Creek also offers some good trout opportunities so you have a nice variation of fishing to do at the park.
On the banks of Cowans Gap Lake there is a 500 foot sandy beach waiting for you to enjoy from May until late September. There is ample room for you to stretch out and sun-bathe and go for a nice refreshing dip at this very popular spot. The beach also has a concession store that sells food, ice cream and other snacks. There are no lifeguards at the beach so don't swim out of your comfort zone and remember to stay safe.
The location of Cowans Gap State Park in the narrow highland valley between Tuscarora and Cove mountains known as Allens Valley gives you some excellent birding opportunities. During the fall season there are many different species of woodland birds that return back to the park as they migrate southward. The highlight is viewing migrating raptors who ride the updrafts of the mountainsides to conserve energy on their long migration journey. In winter you can expect to find woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees as they spend their day hunting for food.
There is a lot of room for hunting in Cowans Park with 630 acres available to use during the season. The common species of game that are found in the park include white-tailed deer, turkeys and squirrels. Groundhog hunting is not allowed. If you are looking for more areas to hunt you can also access Buchanan State Forest by using the parking lots at Cowans Gap State Park and hiking in to the forest from the trails. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may only be uncased in authorized hunting areas during the correct seasons.
Hiking is one of the most popular recreational activities in Cowans Gap State Park due to the superb ten miles of trails being available year round. In total there are ten trails that vary in length from half a mile long up to one and a half miles. The Tuscarora Spur Trail and the backpacking Forbes Trail also pass through the park. We recommend the Cameron Trail for those looking for a challenge or the Logging Trail if you want an easier hike.