The largest lake entirely within the state of Pennsylvania, Raystown Lake is the perfect playground for outdoor activities in a beautiful setting. Whatever you want to do on your next vacation, you can do it here. Swimming, hiking, fishing, boating - the sky's the limit.
The Army Corps of Engineers Park that is Raystown Lake centers around its namesake reservoir. Completed in 1973, the dam and resulting 8,300-acre lake were predominantly built for flood protection, hydropower, and habitat preservation. The winding lake is fed by the Juniata River's Raystown Branch tributary. It is more than 25 miles long and features a main channel and numerous coves worthy of exploration. This clear COE lake is set among 21,000 acres of old oak-hickory forest and the panoramic views are second to none in Huntingdon County. It's a piece of paradise just two and a half hours east of Pittsburgh.
The Corps of Engineers camping options at Raystown are abundant. You'll have the choice of two COE campgrounds that can accommodate your large rig. You can go with a more luxurious experience with hookups or a more primitive one. You can even select a site that can only be accessed by boat. If you're open to exploring the surrounding area a bit, Rothrock State Forest is less than 40 miles away and the Tuscarora State Forest is around 70 miles to the southeast.
Traveling this area of the country during the winter can be tough, especially in a large RV. If you're planning to visit this COE lake in the winter months, make sure you are prepared for the conditions. Trips can take longer than anticipated and some of the nearby winding roads can be difficult to maneuver if there's ice or snow.
In the summer months, Raystown Lake is a population attraction for both locals and out-of-towners. As a result, parking can be an issue, especially at the lake's boat ramps. If you are arriving late and need to park near a boat launch, head to the one at Seven Points. It has the largest parking area, and you can often get a spot, even on a busy day, due to their overflow parking.
The parking lots at the boat launches are so busy in peak season that this Army Corps of Engineers park runs a launch status hotline. You can get current info on parking availability. It's recommended you give them a quick call to know what to expect, especially on holidays and summer weekends. Plan to leave as early as possible to make sure you get a spot.
Open from mid-May to the beginning of September, the Susquehannock Campground is a popular vacation spot for visitors to Raystown Lake. It has a central location on the north side of the lake. Each of the over 60 sites has its own fire ring and picnic table. The campground is primitive, with no available hookups and only vault toilets.
Drinking water is available for campers here via the hydrant near the entry station. If needed, campers can use the shower facilities at nearby Seven Points Beach. You can even do laundry for a fee at the Seven Points Campground, less than four miles away.
Trailers and motorhomes up to 75 feet in length will find enough room at this COE campground. There is a selection of waterfront campsites, and others are only a short walk away. Sites offer shade from the surrounding trees and welcome your pets.
Make your reservations in advance if you can for the Seven Points Campground. It's a large, central lakefront area with 266 campsites open from the beginning of April to the end of October. Each campsite has a fire pit and standard picnic table, and about a quarter of the sites are waterfront. No matter where your campsite is, luckily you'll have access to swimming, hiking and cycling trails, a visitor center, and fishing.
The largest sites here can accommodate rigs up to 140 feet in length - that's almost too much space for most people. All the amenities you need for a pleasant stay are provided at this COE campground. Electric hookups are available, and the service is either 30 amp or 50 amp, depending on your site. They also have flush toilets and showers.
Younger campers will have fun spending time at the playground in their campground loop. For boaters, there's a full-service marina onsite. Bait for anglers, groceries, and gas can be found around one mile away.
If you have a boat and want to do something a little different, park your RV and head to Nancy's Boat To Shore Campground. There is no road access, so camping is for tents only, and the services are limited. A total of 100 reservable campsites, open from April to October, await you here. Over 30 spots are waterfront and grassy, while the others are well-shaded.
Picnic tables and fire pits are standard, and the COE campground is pet-friendly. The only real amenities are the onsite vault toilets.
The location is the key at Nancy's. Camping here offers seclusion and a chance to stay off the beaten path. Wildlife viewing and boat-related activities are popular with the campers that stay here. The campsites are found near the Aitch and James Creek boat ramps for convenience.
There are two main beaches at Raystown Lake: Seven Points Beach and Tatman Run Beach. They are open seasonally from Memorial Day to Labor Day and are one of the most popular attractions at this COE lake.
Seven Points Beach is ideal for families with young children. The beach is separated into two sections, and the shallow, sandy area suits kids best. The other beach is larger and has a concrete bottom. This recreation area is full of amenities like flush toilets, showers, drinking water, and change rooms. For the kids, there's a playground as well as water trampolines.
Tatman Run Beach is found on the eastern shore in the main channel of the lake. The beach is sandy, and there are ample grassy areas to sunbathe. Shade is limited, so plan to bring a beach umbrella if you're planning on spending the day here. Vault toilets and drinking water are available.
Eight boat ramps open to the public are scattered around Raystown Lake. One of the most popular, due to its access to the main channel of the lake, is the launch at Tatman Ran. It's a double lane ramp and is open year-round. The ramp at Seven Points is open year-round as well and offers access to the main channel.
For boat enthusiasts not fortunate to be traveling with their own boat, you can find kayak and pontoon boat rentals at the Seven Points Marina.
You don't need to look very far at this COE lake to find hiking opportunities that suit all tastes. A total of five trails in the surrounding 21,000 acres are available to tempt you. All in all, the trail system here runs over 65 miles.
For an easy hike, the Hillside Nature Trail is fun for both young and old. It's a loop with gravel and some stairs. Pick up a trail map at the Visitor Center for this half-mile walk, and the kids can also do a scavenger hunt.
Another short trek, at 0.5 miles, is the Riverside Nature Trail. The Old Loggers Trail covers 4.5 miles, and the Allegrippis Trail is much longer with a total path 32 miles long. For a strenuous hike, the Terrace Mountain Trail runs for 29 miles with excellent views and the chance to see the local wildlife.
While driving, cycling, and walking through the COE park at Raystown Lake, you're bound to encounter some of the local wildlife. For bird lovers, you should look for the iconic bald eagles which are found in the area year-round. Other birds of interest include various songbirds, osprey, waterfowl, great blue heron, and Canada geese.
If you're traveling through more heavily wooded areas, keep an eye out for white-tailed deer and, less commonly, black bears. A camera and a pair of binoculars certainly wouldn't go amiss at Raystown Lake.
Whether you're a bank angler or prefer to fish from the comfort of your boat, Raystown Lake has you covered. There are plenty of different types of sportfish that thrive naturally in the lake. Other populations are stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in order to maintain their numbers.
Some of the types of fish you can catch as a result of the stocking efforts are striped bass, muskellunge, walleye, and lake trout. The ones that reproduce naturally are large and smallmouth bass, both black and white crappie, catfish, and yellow perch.
The Army Corps of Engineers manages ten different picnic shelters that are reservable in advance online. They are spread out between multiple recreation areas and each offers some great features.
The Tatman Run picnic shelter is a popular one for visitors wanting to swim. It's easily found off Route 994 on the south side of the lake. The shelter doesn't have electric hookups but it has ten tables and will accommodate up to 80 people at one time. The swimming beach is close by, as is the boat ramp.
Another option is one of the picnic shelters at Seven Points. They will also house up to 80 people and have 20 amp electric outlets. For the best views of the lake, choose the Allegheny Shelter and for the most convenient beach access, the Oak Shelter is ideal.