Whether you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of life in Philadelphia or you want to explore the many mountains and valleys that make up the Pennsylvania landscape, there’s no better way for the outdoor enthusiast to spend the weekend than with free camping in Pennsylvania.
Contact your state park or forest for a current camping permit, pack a bag of camping equipment, and start planning out your next camping trip to one of our 23 best spots for free camping in Pennsylvania!
Free Camping in Northwest Pennsylvania
Allegheny Reservoir/ Allegheny National Forest
First up for free camping in Northwest Pennsylvania is Allegheny Reservoir/Allegheny National Forest! This forest straddles the Pennsylvania-New York border and provides many of your traditional outdoor activities. Its 27-mile-long, man-made body of water is a popular spot for swimming, boating, and especially fishing. In fact, multiple record-breaking catches have been made at Allegheny Reservoir!
While many of the forest’s campgrounds require a fee, there are a variety of nearby campsites that are free to use—including Clarion River Campsites. These 26 developed tent and RV campsites are complete with toilets and fire road access!
Moshannon State Forest
Moshannon State Forest’s 190,031 acres of land is sprawled out across the Allegheny Plateau—covering Centre, Clearfield, and Elk Counties. The forest boasts a 244-mile hiking trail system, which includes the winding 75-mile Quehanna Trail.
As you weave through Moshannon’s many slopes and mountain streams, you’ll also spot all kinds of wildlife—from deer and elk to foxes and birds!
Elk State Forest
Named after its many elk that roam the woods, the 217,000-acre Elk State Forest boasts a few dozen campsites—including both RV camping sites and primitive sites. Hicks Run, Dark Hollow, and Gaswell Equestrian are just a few of many!
As most of these prepared sites are first-come, first-serve, make sure you show up early to claim a camping spot!
Cornplanter State Forest
With just 1,585 acres to explore, Cornplanter is far from the largest state forest in Pennsylvania. However, despite its size, the forest is filled with all types of fun nearby activities—including day hiking, hunting, geocaching, and more.
While backpacking is permitted along the trails, those who want to reserve a motorized campsite will need to get in touch with the forest district office regarding campsite availability days in advance.
Clear Creek State Forest
Clear Creek’s 16,229 acres are spread out across the counties of Clarion, Forest, Jefferson, Mercer, and Venango. The Clarion River, Callen Run, Clear Creek, and Maple Creek are all stocked with trout and bass, so remember to pack a fishing rod!
Aside from the Beartown Rocks and Little Clear Creek trails, primitive backpacking is permitted throughout the forest. If you plan on bringing a motorized vehicle, there are also five designated campsites that can be reserved.
Free Camping in North Central Pennsylvania
Tioga State Forest
First up for Free Camping in North Central Pennsylvania is Tioga State Forest! This forest’s 161,890 acres of land are sprawled out across both Tioga County and Bradford County—providing a handful of campsites for backpack and motor vehicle campers alike.
In addition to camping, there are a host of outdoor activities to enjoy—including hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and hunting. One of the forest’s highlights is undoubtedly the 30-mile West Rim Trail, which runs parallel to Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon and provides scenic views of the Pine Creek Gorge!
Bald Eagle State Forest
Bald Eagle State Forest covers more than 194,000 acres across five counties—Snyder, Union, Centre, Mifflin, and Clinton.
Marked by its combination of mountain ridges, valleys, streams, and forestry, Bald Eagle provides its campers with a dynamic environment. The forest is also home to East Kettle Trail, which happens to be one of Pennsylvania’s few ATV riding trails!
Tiadaghton State Forest
Tiadaghton’s 146,000 acres of land are primarily located within Lycoming County, though certain tracks reach Clinton, Potter, Tioga, and Union.
While tent camping, take advantage of the forest’s many hiking opportunities. The 42-mile Black Forest Trail, specifically, is considered by many to be the centerpiece of the park.
Loyalsock State Forest
Loyalsock’s 100,000-plus acres of hardwood forests span across the counties of Sullivan, Lycoming, and Bradford.
With more than 20 waterfalls and scenic trails, the forest certainly isn’t short on breathtaking views and fun activities. What’s more, Loyalsock provides parking lots with more than 80 free car spots to use during your camping adventure!
Susquehannock State Forest
Susquehannock’s 265,000 acres span across Potter County, Clinton County, and McKean County. Although the forest has over 550 miles of hiking trails, only 150 miles of trails are properly marked.
Primitive backpack campers are allowed to camp throughout the forest, while 12 Mile and Dyer are two of the more popular designated campsites!
Sproul State Forest
Sproul is the largest state forest in all of Pennsylvania, boasting a whopping 305,450 acres of land loaded with rocky terrain and stunning views.
While primitive backpack camping is permitted at various locations throughout the forest, groups of 10 or more people are required to provide a Letter of Authorization from the district forester.
Free Camping in Northeast Pennsylvania
Pinchot State Forest
While far from the largest forest in Pennsylvania, Pinchot State Forest’s 50,000 acres manage to lie in five different counties—Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming.
Pinchot’s seasonal campsites include Carvolth, Fireline, Moon Lake, Manny Gordon, and Sassafras. Just be sure to book your trip after April 2, 2022!
Delaware State Forest
With gorgeous landscapes forged by the Delaware River and Pocono Mountains, the Delaware State Forest is easily one of the best places for free camping in Pennsylvania. In addition to plenty of hiking trails, there are 13 bodies of water where visitors can fish and boat!
The forest also offers 29 campsites where backpackers and camper trailers can make themselves at home. Each campsite is equipped with a picnic table, fire ring, and signboard!
Ricketts Glen State Park
If gorgeous landscapes and scenic views are what you hope to get out of free camping in Pennsylvania, consider spending a few nights at Ricketts Glen State Park.
Home to Glens Natural Lands (a national natural landmark), the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, and 20 other park waterfalls, Ricketts Glen is a little piece of paradise tucked away in northeast Pennsylvania!
Free Camping in Southwest Pennsylvania
Apache Springs Campsite / Dravo’s Landing Campsite
Apache Springs and Dravo’s Landing are two adjacent campgrounds for free camping in Pennsylvania that are tucked behind Dravo Cemetery in Elizabeth Township. While neither campsite is part of a national forest system, they both provide access to the Great Allegheny Passage.
Dravo’s Landing Campground, specifically, is large enough to accommodate 25–30 tents with drinking water and toilet amenities!
Raccoon Creek State Park
As one of the most popular locations for free camping in Pennsylvania, Raccoon Creek is largely known for its array of winter activities—including cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, ice-skating, and others.
The park is open year-round and is equipped with 172 tent and trailer campsites—complete with modern facilities and other amenities!
Forbes State Forest
Forbes State Forest is home to the highest point in Pennsylvania—the 3,213-foot Mt. Davis. Be sure to explore the many high, rugged ridges of the Laurel Highlands during your stay!
Campers can backpack in most areas throughout the forest or opt for more developed campgrounds at one of six motorized campsites.
Free Camping in South Central Pennsylvania
Rothrock State Forest
Next up for free camping in Pennsylvania is Rothrock State Forest! Named after Dr. Joseph Trimbel Rothrock—who is considered the “Father of Forestry” in Pennsylvania—Rothrock State Forest offers eight designated locations for motorized camping and miles of primitive camping areas for backpackers.
What’s more, Rothrock is home to just shy of 300 miles of hiking trails and mountain bike trails. Positioned on Raystown Lake, Rothrock is an ideal location for fishing, kayaking, and other water-related activities!
Tuscarora State Forest
Aptly named after Tuscarora Mountain, this state forest sprawls across Cumberland Valley—providing campers with more than 90,000 acres of rocky terrain to explore.
As Sherman’s Creek, Juniata River, and multiple streams run through Tuscarora State Forest, boating and trout fishing locations abound. Dogwood Acres, Paradise Stream, and Locust are just three of the many available individual sites!
Michaux State Forest
Michaux State Forest is often referred to as Pennsylvania’s “cradle of forestry” and for good reason. The forest’s diverse landscape features mountain ridges, streams, and more than a dozen different tree species.
Camping permits are free—just be sure to put in your request as soon as possible. Campsites book quickly!
Buchanan State Forest
Buchanan State Forest boasts a 157-mile, multi-use trail system that is commonly used for hiking, mountain biking, ATV-riding, horse riding, and other activities.
While primitive tent camping is allowed throughout the forest, there are also 12 designated campsites and 69 designated motorized campsites that you can reserve.
Free Camping in Southeast Pennsylvania
Five-Mile Meadow Road
Five-Mile Meadow Road, also known as E-16, is a quaint campsite that is nestled against the eastern border of Pennsylvania.
Technically part of the much-larger Delaware State Forest, this campsite is the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to claim his or her own miniature bubble of peaceful primitive roadside camping for a weekend!
Weiser State Forest
Eastern Pennsylvania’s own Weiser State Forest is a 30,000-acre camping area of forest land that lies in seven different counties.
One of the unique opportunities that Weiser provides is a hang-gliding launch point on the Haldeman Tract. Backpack throughout the forest or reserve one of the 17 designated roadside campsites!
Take Advantage of Free Camping in Pennsylvania!
Thanks to the sheer number of free Pennsylvania camping spots, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a weekend in the wilderness on a budget. Be sure to call ahead and reserve a campsite at one of our top spots for your next getaway!
Looking to get away on more Pennsylvania adventures? Check out our recommendations below!
- The 20 Best Places For Lake Camping in Pennsylvania
- 21 Beautiful Places To Go Glamping In Pennsylvania
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Ben Morgan grew up on the island of Tasmania, Australia, where he discovered a love for outdoor sports, activities, and other pastimes at a very early age. In his adolescence, he was enrolled in a program that taught all kinds of wilderness survival skills, which he has carried with him throughout life and now shares with the camping community.
Now living at the foothills of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Ben frequents the mountain range for a dose of the great outdoors. Whether it’s hiking, sightseeing, or exploring, Ben finds few things to be more therapeutic than an impromptu outdoor adventure.