Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Gardners, Pennsylvania, is a gorgeous spot for your next RV getaway. In the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can find plenty of fun activities, from biking to hiking and swimming to boating. You can even learn a few things at the Appalachian Trail Museum before hiking along part of the Appalachian Trail. And if you enjoy hiking, there are seven other trails in the park to explore, so make sure you pack those hiking boots with you in your motorhome or trailer.
In the summertime, the sparkling blue waters of the two lakes in the park beckon you for swimming and cooling off from that hot Pennsylvania sun. You’ll also enjoy boating and fishing here on the 25-acre Laurel Lake, which boasts 85 mooring sites and a free boat launch. Both paddle and motorboats are welcome. And if you didn’t bring a boat, you can rent one.
Winter is fun here too with snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, and you can even go ice skating on Laurel Lake. Because there is so much to do at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, it is a good thing they have 68 RV campsites to choose from. However, you need to reserve your spot well in advance, especially if you are planning your trip on a weekend or holiday.
Just south of PA-233, you can find Pine Grove Furnace State Park in the northern section of Michaux State Forest in Gardners. You can reach PA-233 from I-76, I-81, US-30, or US-15. In the southcentral section of Pennsylvania, you will be only 35 miles southeast of Harrisburg, which is the state capital. Right on the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg has two fantastic museums where you can learn about the Civil War and the history of Pennsylvania.
Lancaster is just 76 miles to the east, where the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan, once lived. If you enjoy history, this town has a dozen buildings and places that are on the National Register of Historic Places. And 136 miles to the east, you’ll find Philadelphia, which is the largest city in the state and has a plethora of things to see and do. Take a tour of Independence Hall, see the Liberty Bell, or visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art while you are there.
There is one low clearance alert along US-30 in Chambersburg, just 0.35 miles east of US-11, where it is only 13 feet 2 inches, so you will want to avoid this area if your rig is taller than that. Driving a motorhome or pulling a trailer in some parts of the state is difficult, if not downright scary, if you are not prepared. Get familiar with the route you are taking before you go. The park itself has some excellent roads, but if you are driving a big rig, leave it at the campsite and walk or bike wherever you are going in the park. It is much easier, and you get to see more that way.
Nestled in the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can camp in one of 68 RV campsites that are open from May until the middle of December. All campsites are less than 500 feet from drinking water spigots, modern restrooms, and a shower house with hot water. The length limits for RVs and trailers vary from 20 to 60 feet in length, and one of them (site 10) is only 10 feet long.
You’ll enjoy 30- to 50-amp electric hookups at 46 of these sites, giving you the option of cooking indoors or out on the large campfire grill provided by the park. You and the family can eat together at the picnic table that is also provided. And the kids will enjoy exploring the Creek Trail, which starts at the campground. Sites two through seven and 23 through 45 allow pets as long as they are leashed and supervised at all times. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
For organized group camping, Pine Grove Furnace State Park has six spacious campsites at the group campground, which is located in the southern area of the park off Brickyard Trail. Three of these sites can accommodate up to 20 people with two picnic tables, a large community campfire, and several campfire grills. The other three can accommodate up to 40 people with three picnic tables, a large community campfire, and several BBQ pits. All campsites have access to potable water spigots, vault toilets, and there are modern restrooms not too far away. Sorry, pets are not allowed at the group campsites.
When you are getting packed, make sure you don’t forget your bathing suits and towels. Bring some beach toys and floaties too so that you can play in the water with the kids. Both Laurel and Fuller Lake have excellent beaches for visitors to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The park is open from May until October, and you can visit either of these sandy spots from 8 AM until sunset daily. Make a picnic or bring some meat to throw on the grill because there are picnic areas with BBQ pits where you can chow down between swimming sessions. If you get hungry but forgot the food, don’t worry, they have a snack bar right there at the beach.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park has a myriad of mountain bike trails for you to use, so make sure you bring the bikes. You’ll find the three-mile Cumberland County Biker and Hiker Trail winding through the park past Laurel and Fuller Lake beaches. You will be following along where the South Mountain Railroad ran back in the 1860s. The roads around the park are also great biking paths for everyone to enjoy. And you can check out parts of the Appalachian Trail as well, which is a 2,186-mile trek that has sections that run through the park.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park is an ideal destination for hikers. Not only is the park in the middle of the 2186-mile Appalachian Trail, but it also offers hiking options for all skill levels. If you just want to take a nice short and easy walk in the woods, try the 0.3-mile Brickyard Trail that connects the group tent area to the Brickyard Day-Use Area. For a longer trek, try the six-mile Buck Ridge Trail that takes you through the forest from the park office. If you want a short but difficult trail for a challenge, the 0.75-mile Pole Steeple Trail has some steep and rocky climbs to the top of Piney Mountain, where you can see everything.
History buffs will be amazed by the Ironmaster's Mansion. This renovated historic brick mansion was built during the American Revolution and is operated by the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy with the help of numerous volunteers. The mansion also serves as a hostel with dormitory-style lodgings. Built in 1829 by the Ironmaster himself, Peter Ege, the Ironmaster's Mansion is also known as Ege Mansion. The building has served as a guest spot for many senators in the past. Today the mansion is often a venue for weddings and social gatherings for those enamored with the area. This is a popular venue for scouting retreats and family reunions as well.
You can have fun even when it gets cold at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Pack your ice skates and warm clothes in the rig so you can enjoy some ice skating. Pennsylvania gets mighty cold. Although you are not allowed to ice skate at Fuller Lake for safety reasons, Laurel Lake has a special section of the lake that is maintained just for this purpose. The park staff keeps an eye on the thickness of the ice and other safety measures, so you can stay safe while you have fun.
You can find the Appalachian Trail Museum by the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail inside the park. The building itself was built over 200 years ago when it was a grist mill and now serves as a museum for visitors who come from all over the world. Guests who are hiking the trail typically stop here to celebrate reaching the halfway point of the trail. Their celebration traditionally includes trying to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in a single sitting. Some of the exhibits include a trail shelter made by legendary hiker Earl Shaffer, over 12,000 photos, and hundreds of artifacts owned by many of the hiking pioneers who visited the trail.