Gifford Pinchot State Park
Gifford Pinchot State Park, a 2,338-acre full service park, is in northern York County along PA 177 between the towns of Rossville and Lewisberry. The park consists of reverting farm fields and wooded hillsides with the 340-acre Pinchot Lake serving as a prime attraction.
Hiking - Biking - Horseback Riding - Picnicking - Swimming - Boating - Fishing - Hunting - Disc Golf - Education - Cross-country Skiing - Ice Fishing - Ice Skating - Iceboating - Organized Group Tenting - Yurts - Cabins - Camping Cottages - Camping
Seasons and Hours: The park is open every day of the year, sunrise to sunset. Day use areas close at dusk. The park office is open specific hours. The beach, overnight areas, and other areas are open specific seasons and hours. Contact the park office for facility seasons and hours.
Picnicking: The ADA accessible Quaker Race Day Use Area is on the west side of the lake and the Conewago Day Use Area is on the east side of the lake. Picnic tables, charcoal grills, convenient parking lots, drinking water, modern restrooms and horseshoe pits are throughout the areas. The Quaker Race area has a volleyball court. The Conewago area has a softball field. Four picnic pavilions, two that are ADA accessible, may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Swimming: A large, ADA accessible beach in the Quaker Race Day Use Area is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. Please read and follow posted rules. Boat rental, picnic facilities, snack bar and children’s play area are near the swimming beach.
Beginning in 2016, smoking is prohibited on half of the beach and in half of the swimming area. For visitors who smoke and still want to use this beach, designated areas adjacent to the beach are provided. The restriction includes cigarettes, pipes, cigars, e-cigarettes or other handheld, lighted smoking devices.
Explore swimming for more information.
Boating: electric motors only
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. Complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Boat Rental: The boating concession, located in the Quaker Race Day Use Area, offers rentals by the hour, day, overnight, or for the week. Types of boats include canoes, one and two-person kayaks, paddleboats, and row boats. Electric motors are available for rent. Weather permitting, the concession is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and weekends beginning mid-May and after Labor Day to mid-October.
Fishing: The 340-acre Pinchot Lake has largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, muskellunge, catfish, carp, walleye, crappie and sunfish. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. Pinchot Lake is designated a big bass lake. Special regulations cover the minimum size and creel limits for all species of bass. ADA accessible fishing pads are near Boat Launch 2 and a pier is in the Quaker Race Day Use Area.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply. Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Hunting and Firearms: About 1,780 acres are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs from fall archery season through the end of the traditional winter seasons. Common game species are deer, rabbit, squirrel, and waterfowl.
Because of the adjacent residential development and the many non-hunting visitors, special regulations apply to all hunting in the park. Hunting weapons are restricted to bows and arrows until November 1, when shotgun and muzzleloader use are also permitted. Center fire rifles and handguns for hunting in the park is prohibited. Detailed information about hunting in the park is available at the park office. Dog training is permitted from the day following Labor Day to March 31 in designated hunting areas.
To help protect the safety of hunters, non-hunting visitors and nearby residents, signs designating hunting areas, no hunting areas and safety zones are posted throughout the park. Hunters should be especially alert for other park visitors who may not be familiar with hunting and for safety zones near park buildings and private residences in and around the park.
The Bureau of State Parks reserves the right to participate in or conduct special hunts at other times if necessary to adequately control specific wildlife populations or to conserve park resources. Please contact the park office if you have any questions or need more specific information.
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.
Use extreme caution with firearms at all times. Other visitors use the park during hunting seasons. Firearms and archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner’s vehicle or enclosed trailer. Exceptions include: law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms are authorized to carry a firearm concealed on their person while they are within a state park.
Complete information on hunting rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site.
Hiking: 18 miles of trails
Alpine Trail: 0.5 mile, easiest hiking
Beaver Creek Trail: 1.5 miles, most difficult hiking
Gravel Trail: 1.2 miles, easiest hiking
Lakeside Trail: 8.5 miles, most difficult hiking
Midland and Fern Trails: 0.5 mile, more difficult hiking
Oak Trail: 0.4 mile, easiest hiking
Old Farm Trail: 1 mile, easiest hiking
Pinchot Trail: 1.4 miles, most difficult hiking
Quaker Race Trail: 1.7 miles, more difficult hiking
Ridge Trail: 1.2 miles, more difficult hiking
Mason-Dixon Trail: 200 miles, most difficult hiking
Biking: 4 miles of trails
Horseback Riding: In the northeast section of the park is an area set aside for horseback riding. This area includes several miles of wide, mowed, interconnecting trails that wind through reverting farm fields, pine plantations and deciduous woodlands. There is a large, gravel parking area off of Alpine Road, a short distance south of the intersection with PA 177. There are no horse rentals.
Disc Golfing: There is an 18-hole disc golf course on the east and west sides of the park. In the Conewago Day Use Area, Boulder Woods is a fairly level course that is great for families. In the Quaker Race Day Use Area, Quaker’s Challenge Course has recreation and pro tees in a challenging, hilly course.
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
Explore camping for more information.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 2 host positions
Camping Cottages: Three cottages sleep five people in bunk beds. Cottages have wooden floors, windows, electric heat, lights and outlets, porch, picnic table, fire ring and are adjacent to potable water and restrooms with showers.
Yurts: These round, canvas and wood walled tents have a wooden deck and sleep five people in bunk beds. Yurts have a cooking stove, refrigerator, countertop, table, chairs, electric heat and outlets, fire ring, picnic table and are adjacent to potable water and restrooms with showers.
Modern Cabins: Ten modern cabins can be rented year-round. Cabins are furnished and have a living area, kitchen/dining area, toilet/shower room and two or three bedrooms. Renters provide their own bed linens, bathroom articles, kitchenware and eating utensils. Cabins also have boat mooring areas on the lakeshore. One cabin is ADA accessible.
Explore cabins for more information.
Organized Group Tenting: The 50 sites, which can hold up to 250 people, are in the campground. This modern area is for scout, church or other organized groups that wish to camp together. Advance reservations are required.
Explore organized group tenting for more information.
Cross-country Skiing: When adequate snow cover is available many of the hiking trails provide an excellent opportunity for cross-country skiing. The best trails are accessed from the Conewago Day Use Area or the special parking area at the campground entrance. These trails are marked for bicycling and include portions of Lakeside, Alpine, Oak and Gravel trails. Other good trails are the network of spur roads and trails in the interior of the park campground, which are closed to camping and vehicle use during the winter season.
Ice Fishing: When conditions permit, ice fishing is a popular attraction on the 340-acre Pinchot Lake. Ice fishermen most often catch largemouth bass. Walleye, muskellunge, crappies, and sunfish may be caught through the ice. Ice thickness is not monitored.
Ice Skating: Ice skating is permitted on the natural ice of the lake. Ice thickness is not monitored.
Iceboating: When lake ice conditions permit, iceboating is enjoyed on the natural lake ice. Iceboats must display a current state park launch permit. Ice thickness is not monitored.
Ice conditions should be carefully assessed before participating in all ice-related activities.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
The park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs year-round. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources. Pontoon boat tours of the lake are offered spring through fall. For more detailed information contact the park office.
A park-operated interpretive center in the Conewago Day Use Area is open weekends during the summer. Wayside exhibits and informative brochures help visitors learn more about the park’s natural environment.
Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be arranged in advance by calling the park office.
Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of upcoming events.
Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.
Access for People with Disabilities
The park office is a completely ADA accessible building.
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
The diverse habitats of Gifford Pinchot State Park support a variety of wildlife through all seasons. The basis for the many habitats is diabase rock that underlies most of the park and was created when molten rock intruded the sandstone and melted it into a new kind of rock. Many of the diabase rocks have unique cracks that formed as the rocks slowly cooled. Winter is the best time to see the plentiful boulders and rock outcroppings because the trees have no leaves and the undergrowth is gone.
Winter is also a good time to see woodpeckers and evidence of their presence. Gifford Pinchot has at least seven species of woodpeckers.
Spring and fall is the time of bird migrations. Gifford Pinchot State Park is an area of forest surrounded by many farm fields and is a rest stop for many migrating forest birds. Warblers, vireos and thrushes stop to rest and eat before flying on to their breeding or winter homes. Pinchot Lake and its shoreline wetlands are a beacon that lures waterfowl by the thousands. Mergansers, geese, mallards, loons, teal and many other ducks can be seen swimming, diving and dabbling for vegetation and small fish.
Spring is the time for wildflowers. Fields and forests get a carpet of bluebells and marsh marigolds and many other flowers. Before it grows leaves, the redbud tree bursts into pink to lavender flowers. In Pinchot Lake, male largemouth bass make nests and aggressively defend their territory and fry (baby fish).
Summer is the time of lush green vegetation and growing young animals. In fields, watch for spotted fawns and for frantic bluebirds searching for food to feed their hungry chicks. Butterflies reach their peak numbers and can be seen floating from flower to flower in the fields and wetlands. In the fall, the deciduous trees lose their chlorophyll and their leaves reveal beautiful reds, oranges and yellows. While the other trees lose their leaves, the eastern red cedar keeps its green needles throughout the year. Look for this oval-shaped tree growing in old fields. Many of the old farm fields are “reverting” to forest and red cedar is usually the first tree to grow in the fields and will improve the soil for other trees.
Straight Hill Area: East of the campground, the Straight Hill Area is an interesting place to study nature. All stages of forest succession are present. Abandoned farm fields are being replaced by eastern red cedar, and the cedar stands are being replaced by deciduous forests dominated by red and white oaks. The area also features some mature oak stands along the hillsides.
For detailed information on the geology of diabase boulders, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey created the brochure Trail of Geology 10 Park Guide, Gifford Pinchot State Park.
The park honors Governor Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946). Pinchot is credited as being the foremost American apostle of conservation. Appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as the first forester of the United States in 1898, Gifford Pinchot acted as the President’s “Chief Advisor” in the conservation movement. With the guidance of Roosevelt and Pinchot, over 200,000,000 acres of national forest came under scientific land management.
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Join a Friends Group
The Friends of Pinchot State Park (FOPSP) is a chapter of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and qualifies as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The mission of the FOPSP is to preserve, protect and enhance the natural and recreational resources of Gifford Pinchot State Park for present and future generations. www.friendsofpinchot.org
Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation
Believing that each generation is responsible for leaving behind a better legacy of good conservation, the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation (PPFF) was created in 1999 to give supporters and users of Pennsylvania's parks and forests a positive way to contribute to the conservation of our publicly-owned properties. The Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation welcomes the support of individuals and businesses who share a commitment to conserving, protecting, and enhancing the natural, scenic, and recreational areas of this commonwealth. www.paparksandforests.org
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We love when young people ask us how to get involved!
DiscoverE has programs for young people ages 4 to 17, provided by Pennsylvania State Park educators. By combining recreation and education, we hope to motivate children to learn more and return often, leading to a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment and conservation leadership.
In Watershed Education, teachers and students assess water quality of a local stream on a quarterly basis and develop strategies to solve local water quality problems.
ECO Camp - Exploring Careers Outdoors - is a week-long residential camp for a cross-section of high school youth from across Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Participate in action-packed, hands on activities and recreational adventures in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests that expose youth to conservation, recreation and careers in natural resources. Learn how people make a living working in the outdoors.
Explore education for more information on these and other programs.
Explore the Calendar of Events to find a program near you.
Do you take conservation personally? iConservePA is a Web site managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources whose vision is to inspire citizens to value their natural resources, engage in conservation practices and experience the outdoors. Take conservation personally.
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Pennsylvania State Parks and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources offer a wide range of civil service and non-civil service jobs, from foresters, to rangers, to engineers, to educators, to botanists and so much more. Learn what is currently available.
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Gifford Pinchot State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. www.yorkpa.org
The State Capitol, Hershey, Gettysburg National Historical Park and Lancaster County’s Amish Country are nearby.
Maps and Downloadables
Below are many of the maps and publications for this park. You can read them or download them and might need special software (all free) to view the publications.
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Gifford Pinchot State Park Map (.pdf) (1,453 kb, 5/12)
Interactive GIS Map
The Interactive GIS Map uses Geographic Information Systems to create a map that does not need to be downloaded and features driving directions, searchable park amenities and customizable maps. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Lake Depth Map
The park is near the metropolitan areas of York and Harrisburg. It is reached from Harrisburg via the Lewisberry Exit (35) of I-83 south, then PA 177 south; or by US 15 south to Dillsburg, then to PA 74 south. From York, take PA 74 north or I-83 north. From I-83, take the Newberrytown Exit (32), PA 382 west to PA 177 south.
GPS DD: Lat. 40.087 Long. -76.888
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park Information Window. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Gifford Pinchot State Park