Gifford Pinchot State Park, located on Pinchot Lake in northern York County, is a Pennsylvania state park built on rural, sprawling farmlands and rolling, tree-lined hillsides. RVers and visitors who crave recreation but want to experience a quiet and peaceful stay will find Gifford Pinchot a little piece of waterfront-farmland paradise.
The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset for day-use activities. The park office, the beach, and overnight areas have seasonal schedules that change depending on the time of year. Visitors should check with the park for the most up to date information regarding open facilities and current hours of operation. Whether you are staying overnight, or just passing through, Gifford Pinchot State Park should be a stop along your route.
Visitors who treasure visiting our national forests and protecting our lands will love the fact that the park was named after conservationist Gifford Pinchot. In 1898, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Pinchot as the first Forrester of the United States. Together, Roosevelt and Pinchot worked to place more than 200,000,000 acres of national forest land under scientific land management, a move which helped develop the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.
RV Rentals in Gifford Pinchot State Park
Transportation in Gifford Pinchot State Park
Gifford Pinchot State Park is less than half a day’s drive from many locations in Pennsylvania. From Philadelphia, the park is approximately a 120-mile drive northwest of the city. York and Harrisburg, larger metropolitan areas, are located approximately 20 miles away, and the iconic Pennsylvania Dutch Country is about an hour’s drive southeast of the park.
For campers who don’t have reservations, the campground offers same day, first-come, first-serve campsites. Visitors should proceed to the campground office for more information about same-day availability. Please note that the campground office and the park office are two separate facilities, and they are accessible from different entrance stations.
Campgrounds and parking in Gifford Pinchot State Park
Campsites in Gifford Pinchot State Park
Gifford Pinchot Campground
The Gifford Pinchot Campground is a large, seasonally-operated, lakeside campground featuring 289 asphalt-based back in spaces. Each campsite varies in size from 15 to 45 feet with many of the areas giving campers view of the lake. This two-looped campground has many hookup options including full hookups, electric-only hookups (both 30 and 50 amp), and primitive style-camping with no hookups. Please be aware that pets are permitted only on pet-designated spaces. The campground has community hydrants, bathhouses with showers and flushing toilets, a playground, horseshoe pits, a volleyball area, a swim beach, a boat ramp with boat mooring for overnight guests, an amphitheater, and close access to hiking trails. Campers may purchase ice, firewood, and use the campsite dump station for an additional fee. Generators should be silenced between the hours of 9 pm and 8 am.
Seasonal activities in Gifford Pinchot State Park
During the peak season, water enthusiasts should visit the Quaker Race Day Use Area and enjoy a day of fun both in and out of the water. The swimming beach is a smoke-free area located next to the boat rentals, picnic facilities, a playground, a restroom, and a snack bar. People of all ages and interests can enjoy the water, whether they are swimming or observing the lake from the shore. All people interested in water activities should note that there are no lifeguards on duty.
The Quaker Race Day Use Area has a seasonally operated boating concession that rents boats hourly, daily, overnight, and weekly. Visitors can choose to rent canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, row boats, or electric motor boats. Boats are rented when the weather permits. Rental operations can close because of inclement weather. Visitors who want to bring their own boats should contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for rules relating to licenses and registration of motored and non-motorized boats.
The park is known for its clearly-labeled hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. The park has trails ranging in difficulty from easy to very difficult, and visitors can plan short hikes or longer more strenuous hikes using the interconnected, blazed trail system. Yellow blazes indicate hiking-only trails, red blazes mark multi-use trails, and blue blazes indicate that the trail is part of the Mason-Dixon Trail, a 200-mile trail that traverses a seven-mile section of Gifford Pinchot State Park.
Cross Country Skiing
Many people don’t think about visiting state parks when there is snow on the ground, but at Gifford Pinchot, the winter time is a beautiful time to visit. Rolling hills and farmlands covered in snow make cross country skiing scenic and more challenging. In the winter, when the snow is deep enough, the hiking trails turn into multi-use trails. Cross country skiers should bring their own gear and prepare for colder weather. Park at the Conewago Day Use Area or the parking area near the campground entrance to access the Lakeside, Oak, Gravel, and Alpine trails, as these are some of the best skiing trails in the park.
People who understand ice safety and have skated on natural surfaces will enjoy skating on Pinchot Lake when the ice thickness has reached a safe level for recreation. Recommended ice thickness ranges from four to seven inches of solid ice. Four inches of ice is adequate for a single skater, but more thickness is needed for a smaller group of skaters. People skating on the surface of the lake should always skate with a buddy, wear a life jacket, and keep a close watch on weather conditions, as consistent below-freezing temperatures make the safest ice conditions.
The wildlife is diverse and abundant year round, and visitors can find animal watching a fun activity whenever they visit the park. In the winter, seven species of woodpecker inhabit the park. As the weather warms or cools, different bird species migrate through the park.
Gifford Pinchot is a unique resting stop, because the trees provide a haven for resting birds that have spent many hours flying over open farmland. Vireos, thrushes, and warblers are just some of the birds that rest in the park along their migratory flights. During the summer months, campers set up lakeside can watch for waterfowl, bluebirds, or even a thirsty fawn.