Surrounded by gorgeous forests and nestled in a rugged mountain valley, Poe Valley State Park in Pennsylvania is a hidden gem. The 620-acre park is located in Penn Township, just a little over ten miles from the small town of Millheim, and is surrounded by the Bald Eagle State Forest. Development of the park began in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps was formed during the Great Depression. Along with building the original park facilities, the CCC also worked to clear brush to prevent forest fires, managed flood control, and planted trees for reforestation. Some of the infrastructures that were created by the young men of the CCC included roads throughout the forest and constructed bridges.
One of the major highlights of this state park is the 25-acre Poe Lake. This human-made lake provides a home for many species of fish and is also open for pleasure boating. Hunting, hiking, and swimming are also very popular with park guests. During the winter months, the park completely transforms and offers additional recreational activities. Snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and ice fishing are typically the most popular winter activities at this state park.
Camping at Poe Valley State Park is provided in one campground which is comprised of 45 campsites suitable for either tents or trailers from 20 to 40 feet long. Out of these 45 sites, 27 have 50 amp electrical hookups. You can camp at Poe Valley State Park during the peak season from April through December. While there is still plenty to do at this state park during the winter, there is very little maintenance performed during these months.
Poe Valley State Park is located in central Pennsylvania, a little over 25 miles east of Penn State University. The park is close to many small towns, including Potters Mills, Millheim, and Siglerville. There is only one road that leads into the park, and it can be accessed from the north off Penns Valley Road. The roads that lead into the park contain a large number of twists and turns which may be challenging to navigate if you have a larger rig or are towing a trailer or boat. There is also no entirely paved road access to the park, and at least eight to 10 miles of this wilderness road is either dirt or gravel and tends to get dusty. The roads and driveways inside the campground itself are also composed of dirt and gravel. Maintenance is not performed on either the park or state forest roads that access this area during the winter, so access to Poe Valley State Park during the winter months is often limited. Call the park office to make sure that the roads to the park are passable if you are planning to visit it during the winter months.
Poe Valley State Park Campground is located to the east of Poe Lake. The road into the park consists of eight to ten miles of dirt and gravel, so it might be a bumpy ride if you have a big rig or trailer, but it is worth the effort to visit this spectacular state park. The campground is made up of two loops that feature 45 RV-suitable campsites of various sizes, each with a campfire ring and picnic table. Make sure you check the details of your site when you make your reservations, particularly if you have a larger rig, need an electrical hookup, or you are bringing a pet. Campsites range in size from 25 feet to 40, only around half of all the sites are designated as pet-friendly, and 18 of the 45 sites do not have any modern hookups at all. Electric generators that create excessive noise are prohibited at all times. There is a bathhouse with flush toilets and warm showers centrally located at the northern end of the park, a sanitary dump station near the entrance to the park, and trash and recycling containers as well as potable water faucets scattered throughout the grounds.
You are still welcome to visit the park in the winter, however, neither the roads nor the campgrounds not frequently maintained during these months. There is no guarantee that the roads will be clear enough to traverse in the winter, and the park often closes due to poor weather. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.
If you are planning to visit Poe Valley State Park in the depths of winter, you will want to be sure that your ice skates are packed in your campervan. While the backcountry roads to this state park are often closed during the winter, when they are open, both ice skating and ice fishing on the frozen lake is permitted. It is important to note that the thickness of the ice is not tested by the state and ice thickness should be checked with an auger before venturing out to skate. The minimum ice thickness for a single skater is four inches, with a minimum of seven inches if there are multiple skaters.
There are a few short, easy trails that are entirely within the park's boundaries. Hunters Path is a 2.2-mile combination trail that links with the Little Poe Trail. Both trails are great for novices and will allow you to explore flora and fauna within the park. Poe Valley State Park also has plenty of other trails that pass through the park and connect with the Bald Eagle State Forest's system of hiking trails. Reeds Gap Spur Trail is a moderately difficult 9.4-mile hiking trail that begins in Reeds Gap State Park and ends in Poe Valley State Park. The 306-mile long Pennsylvania Mid State Trail, the longest and widest footpath in Pennsylvania, is popular with backpacking enthusiasts and also passes through the park.
During the established hunting seasons, typically in the late fall through early spring, there are more than 450 acres available for hunting, trapping, and for the training of hunting dogs. Dog training is only allowed from the day following Labor Day through the end of March. The most popular game species found in Poe Valley State Park are deer, turkey, bear, grouse, and squirrel, although rabbits, beavers, and porcupine are also hunted here. The lake itself is closed to hunting and trapping at all times, and hunting woodchucks is strictly prohibited throughout the park.
Birdwatching is also a popular activity in Poe Valley State Park as well as in the nearby Bald Eagle State Park. The bird populations often change from one season to another. In the spring you may see tundra swans as well as a variety of warblers, sparrows, while in the summer it is grebes, sandpipers, catbirds, and tanagers. Autumn visitors often include coots, loons, nuthatches, and more sparrows. Some year-round residents can even be spotted in the winter, such as Canada geese, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, and ruffed grouse, and wild turkeys.
Poe Lake is a popular destination for both warm water and cold water fishing, particularly in mid-April, when trout season begins. Naturally occurring fish species found in the lake include rainbow trout, brown trout, pickerel, sunfish, perch, and catfish. The natural populations of fish in this lake are bolstered by the fact that the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources stocks the lake with additional trout several times throughout the fishing season. If you prefer stream fishing, you can try casting your line at either Penns Creek or Big Poe Creek, both of which are located very close to the state park.
If you like to get out on the water in the summer, then you should be excited to visit Poe Lake State Park. There are 12 seasonal mooring spaces and two developed boat launch areas available on the 25-acre lake. If you can tow your boat along, you can moor it by the dam during your stay. Don't worry if you are unable to bring your boat to the lake. There are rentals of paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes available near the swimming beach during the summer months. Powered boats must have electric motors as gas-powered motors are prohibited on the lake.
What is a better way there to relax during the heat of the summer than by going for a swim in the natural waters of the lake? The designated swimming beach at Poe Lake is open from late May to early September. There are no lifeguards at the beach, so make sure you are confident in your swimming abilities or bring a friend along with you. The lake is only five feet deep at its deepest point and swimming is permitted from 8:00 AM to sunset. Need a snack? There is a food and refreshment concession stand near the swimming beach that offers hot foods, refreshing drinks, snacks, and ice cream. While dogs are allowed in most areas of this park, they are not permitted on the designated swim beaches.
Make sure that you bring your camera along with you in your campervan when you visit Poe Valley State Park. This verdant valley is home to many different types of photogenic wildlife, from large mammals such as black bear and white-tailed deer to smaller animals such as minks, raccoons, and several varieties of squirrel. If you stay up late, you may even snap a shot of the critically endangered bats that make this area their homes, including the eastern small-footed myotis, the Indiana bat, and the little brown bat. If you prefer capturing images of amphibians, reptiles, or insects, you are also in luck. There are several varieties of frogs, snakes, turtles, and lizards to photograph, as well as interesting and beautiful insects such as monarch butterflies, rosy maple moths, dogbane leaf beetles, and endangered dragonfly species such as the spatterdock and comet darners.