To the north, an opportunity to camp right along one of the very best trout streams in the state. To the west, a chance to travel back in time to a once-booming town that's no longer there. Head south, and the water lover in you finds a lake, a pool and dozens of ways to enjoy the water.
Truth is, pick any compass point from the Lewistown area, travel less than 25 miles, and you'll find a state park that is guaranteed to satisfy your needs for outdoor adventure, education, solitude and just good old-fashioned fun!
There are 120 state parks spread across the state, and the Lewistown area is blessed with six of these natural gems right in the backyards of residents in Mifflin, Juniata, Huntingdon and Snyder counties.
Poe Paddy State Park, located in central Pennsylvania, offerings hiking, camping, fishing, tenting, picnicking and snowmobiling.
Nestled in the hardwoods of Bald Eagle State Forest to the north, three state parks form the Reeds Gap State Park Complex: Reeds Gap, in Mifflin County, and Poe Valley and Poe Paddy in Centre County. It is the latter that provides camping almost streamside along the premier Penns Creek. Rothrock State Forest, to the west, envelopes Greenwood Furnace State Park, where visitors can envision a town that flourished from 1834 to 1904 as a busy iron-making complex.
Finally, a short drive along Route 322 brings visitors to Little Buffalo State Park, Perry County, where anglers can fish the designated "Big Bass Lake" waters of Lake Holman. An expansive swimming pool offers campers, bikers, hikers, picnickers and many others a chance to cool off and have fun.
To be sure, there are other state parks a short distance from the Lewistown area. Visit DCNR's website: www.dcnr.pa.us. On the website, select "Find a Park," then, "Find a Park by Region." On those pages, you'll find something else - so many activities offered. There are trails to hike, award-winning environmental education programs to attend and all types of camping alternatives that provide a wide selection for the adventuresome and the discerning.
Visit our state parks and you'll find something else - very good things are about to get better.
"As a strategic investment in our future, we'll make the largest, short-term investment in state park and forest history," Gov. Tom Corbett said in early February, as he launched "Enhance Penn's Woods."
The goal of the two-year, more than $200 million initiative is to repair and upgrade our state parks and state forests.
"The hunters, anglers, campers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types not only enjoy our natural treasures in Pennsylvania, but they also spend money in our local communities," he said. "This short-term investment will make sure we enjoy the long-term benefits of a first-class park and forest system, such as healthy outdoor recreation, protecting our natural resources and attracting residents, tourists and private investment to communities around the state."
Enhance Penn's Woods offers the potential to add 20,000 acres to the state forest system and support at least a dozen major state park campground improvements and 50 public access projects to roads, bridges and trails throughout the state.
"DCNR is grateful for Governor Corbett's commitment to honor the legacy of our state parks and forests," DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said. "Our staff works tirelessly each day to protect these resources and ensure our visitors have a meaningful and enjoyable experience. This will allow us to be better stewards of the parks and forests entrusted to us."
The department estimates about 200 projects will be covered under the investment that is scheduled to span two years and started in early April. Included will be more than 50 public access improvement projects to roads, bridges and trails; 17 state park drinking water or wastewater system projects; repairs and replacements at state fire towers across the state; and new visitor centers and park offices at several state parks across the state.
Meanwhile, our website tells visitors all they need to know about camping and other activities at our state parks, but the system's toll-free reservation center also helps the undecided fine-tune their choices. And the beauty of the system? If a park is filled, the representative will be able to not only offer nearby alternatives with similar features, but ensure they have vacancies too.
Pets in the parks? What's allowed; what's not? Always best to check at a specific park in advance, but pet lovers should be aware of this: What started as a pilot project more than ten years ago has evolved to offer more features to more pet owners in more parks across the state. The inclusion of selected cabins that now are open to pets is an example of how the Bureau of State Parks is moving to meet the requests of pet owners while always keeping the enjoyment of all park campers in mind.
Alas, criticism of pets in our parks almost always comes when owners ignore clearly stated guidelines: leashing and barking requirements; leaving pets unattended; failing to clean up after them; or letting them roam off the leash.
Here are some invaluable links to everything you need to enjoy some fun in the sun at one of the many nearby state parks:
Reservation details, camping accommodation descriptions, prices and more: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/staythenight/camping/
Traveling with a pet: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/thingstoknow/pets/
What to do: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/whattodo/index.htm.