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Cherry Springs State Park in rural Pennsylvania may be a small park, but it has the distinct honor of being named the second International Dark Sky Park in the country and is consistently rated as one of the top ten places in the world for stargazing. If you’re into astronomy, you’d be missing out if you didn’t search for an RV in Potter County to witness the night sky.
Located approximately four hours north of Pittsburgh and not too far south of Syracuse, Cherry Springs State Park sits atop the Allegheny Plateau in an area known for its native black cherry trees. It was initially home to a log cabin hotel where weary homesteaders would stop for a night of rest. Eventually, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a camp, clearing many of the trees for an airfield that no longer exists. Thanks to this clearing, the park’s remote location, and its high elevation, Cherry Springs State Park is the perfect place to camp out and marvel up at the stars.
Most people come to Cherry Springs State Park for the stargazing, visiting from all along the eastern seaboard and even internationally. A majority of the events hosted at the park revolve around astronomy. When you're camping at Cherry Springs State Park, you'll have access to their dedicated Overnight Astronomy Observation Field. This pitch-black field contains numerous guides, astronomers, and telescopes for your nighttime exploration. On a clear night, when atmospheric conditions are right, you can even view the aurora borealis. Photography enthusiasts will enjoy the lessons offered by professional photographers who are staples at the park.
Cherry Springs isn’t just about astronomy. There’s also a fascinating forestry history in this area. You’ll find an easy hiking trail with interpretive signs explaining the park’s history of lumber milling, and how forestry science is benefitting both nature and man in the Allegheny Mountains. Various environmental education programs are held throughout the year, as well as campfire programs featuring wonderful historical and scientific stories.
Hunting is prohibited within the boundaries of Cherry Springs State Park; however, hunters can access Susquehannock State Forest from Cherry Springs, where hunting is permitted. This vast state forest also features over 85 miles of hiking trails and is one of the most popular hiking spots in Potter County.
Cherry Springs State Park is open year-round, but the state park RV campground is only open seasonally, from spring until late fall. The campground contains 30 sites at the astronomy field which can accommodate vehicles up to 20 feet long. You won't find any privacy in this campground, as the sites are somewhat close together and in a wide-open area. It's a very social campground, though, and most visitors stay busy watching the heavens all night.
Campground amenities include picnic tables, potable water, and fire pits. There are no RV hookups, but a dump station is available. Vault toilets are accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed to join you while you’re camping at Cherry Springs State Park.
Potter County and the surrounding area offer a wealth of activities for visitors exploring northern Pennsylvania in a motorhome. Cherry Springs State Park hosts a wildly entertaining Woodsmen Show in early August each year, where you’ll find the lumberjack culture celebrated with contests like log rolling and block chops. If you venture outside of the park and into the rural towns, you’ll find local artisans selling beautiful work in small shops. Jewelry, pottery, paintings, woodcarvings, and stained glass will all make great souvenirs of your trip.
Pennsylvania has even more beautiful parks near Cherry Springs. Lyman Run State Park, just a few minutes north, is a lovely location for swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, and RV camping. Patterson State Park is just a few minutes west and offers a rest area for hikers tackling the Susquehanna Trail. Continuing a half-hour west of Patterson State Park, you'll come across Austin Dam Memorial Park, where you can see the ruins of a dam that broke in 1911, taking the lives of 78 residents of the town of Austin. The ruins naturally formed an amphitheater, and the park hosts an annual music festival and light show during the summer.
When it’s time to fill up the RV rental and continue on your journey, you can stock up on provisions along Highway 6, which runs a few miles north of the Cherry Springs State Park campground. You'll find numerous gas stations and grocery stores, but keep in mind that this is a rural area. It's a rural area with fantastic dining and drinking options, though, including steaks, craft beers, and ice cream.