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The largest contiguous forest between New York City and Washington, D.C. is the 8,000-acre French Creek State Park, one hour northwest of Philadelphia. This popular park is made up of a mix of woodland, wetlands, and lakes, and is a hot spot for fishing, hiking, and RV camping. There are numerous natural areas throughout the park, helping preserve various species of birds, mammals, and plants that inhabit the area. You too can book an RV in Berks County and join the fun.
French Creek State Park has another interesting distinction, that of being one of the first industrial parks in the United States, dating back to the year 1771. The blast furnaces that were constructed here provided some of the earliest iron for a growing America and some of it still remains here at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Visitors who visit French Creek State Park have a hard time believing that these thick forests were repeatedly stripped bare to provide charcoal for these furnaces. The furnaces closed in the late 19th-century, allowing the land to heal and return to a more natural state. Many of the park’s current recreational facilities can be attributed to Civilian Conservation Corps projects in the 1930s and 1940s. Pennsylvania took over administration of the land in 1949 and became French Creek State Park.
French Creek State Park has 35 miles of hiking trails that can be enjoyed by wildlife watchers, wildflower enthusiasts, and those looking for a great physical challenge. The six-mile Boone Trail is one of the more popular hikes, a moderately difficult trail that will take you to many of the park’s attractions, including Hopewell Furnace. Additional trails include 20 miles of mountain biking trails and one equestrian trail.
If watersports are your thing, you may launch your own boats at either Hopewell Lake or Scotts Run Lake. Boat rentals are also available at Hopewell Lake during the spring and through fall. For those with a Pennsylvania fishing license, Scotts Lake is stocked with trout, while Hopewell Lake is slightly more challenging with bigmouth bass, walleye, and northern pike. Both lakes are open to ice fishing in the winter, and Hopewell Lake also features an ADA-accessible pier. Swimming is prohibited in these lakes; however, there is an outdoor swimming pool on the shores of Hopewell Lake. The pool has lifeguards, a snack bar, and a large patio area.
French Creek State Park is an essential plant and animal habitat, and it’s managed to allow hunting. Wildflowers include mountain laurel and rhododendron, and the swampy areas are home to a variety of rare species. Audubon Society members are perhaps already familiar with this park, as it’s been designated an Important Bird Area, home to numerous songbirds, migratory birds, and birds of prey. Game hunters have plenty to choose from with wild turkeys, deer, rabbit, and pheasant.
The campground at French Creek State Park is open year-round, and winter RV campers can participate in sledding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and ice fishing. The campground has over 200 sites, 60 of which have electric hookups. A smaller number of sites also include water and sewer hookups. Almost all sites are back-in and can accommodate vehicles up to 50 feet in length.
The campsites at French Creek State Park are mostly shaded with thick trees, though some of the sites are close together, so keep that in mind when looking at privacy. Campground amenities include a dump station, showers, drinking water, flushing toilets, and a general store. All sites are equipped with fire rings and picnic tables, and some sites are also wheelchair-accessible. Alcohol is prohibited in the park, and leashed pets are only allowed in one of the RV campground loops.
Berks County is known as Pennsylvania's Americana Region, and the name should say it all. Reading is only 20 minutes northwest of French Creek State Park and has something for everyone. During the summer, Reading hosts farmers markets, music festivals, and folk fests. Get a taste of Pennsylvania Dutch country with Dutch pies, Bavarian pretzels, craft beers, and one of the best Oktoberfests in the region. Along with all of these seasonal events, you’ll also find charming antique shops, pottery stores, and captivating historic sites. Pennsylvania's infamous Brandywine Valley is next door in Chester County and also features excellent festivals, wine tasting, and recreational opportunities throughout the year.
Provision in either Reading to the west or Pottstown to the east, both along highway 422 where you’ll find plenty of gas stations. Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall are only one hour to the southeast. Driving your rental RV further down the Delaware River will take you to many other historic sites, charming villages, and scenic wildlife refuges and forests. Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor is only two hours to the southwest, with the world-renowned museums of Washington, D.C. an extra thirty minutes after that, a great cap to your RV adventure.