Little Buffalo State Park

Certain places just attract people. The cool, clear water of Little Buffalo Creek has been attracting people for centuries. American Indians frequented Little Buffalo Creek on hunting trips. Farmers and merchants used to gossip and pass news while the grain was ground at Shoaff’s Mill. Nearby, merchants, local people, and travelers met at Blue Ball Tavern. Today, thousands of people meet at Little Buffalo State Park to picnic, swim, fish, hike, and experience nature and history.

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Hiking   -  Picnicking   -  Swimming   -  Boating   -  Fishing   -  Hunting   -  Education   -  Cross-country Skiing   -  Ice Fishing   -  Ice Skating   -  Cabin   -  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 pool, overnight areas, and other areas are open specific seasons and hours. Contact the park office for facility seasons and hours.

The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.Picnic tables and a charcoal grill are near the lake at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania.Picnicking: Many picnic tables offer nice views of the lake and most are shaded by beautiful oak, maple and ash trees. Charcoal grills are scattered throughout the picnic areas. All picnic areas are open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Main Picnic Area is a large, shaded lawn surrounding the swimming pool. There are showers, first-aid station, play field, seasonal food concession, playground equipment, boat rental, two picnic pavilions that each seat 80 people, horseshoe pits, restrooms and many picnic tables. Main Picnic Area is closed November through April.

East Picnic Area, by the Little Buffalo Historic District and open year-round, features picnic tables, restrooms, horseshoe pits, Classroom Annex, a picnic pavilion that seats 50 people and the Entertainment Pavilion.

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Families enjoy the blue water and sprayground of the pool at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania.The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.Swimming: A large, ADA accessible swimming pool is located in the main day use area along Holman Lake. The pool has two zero entry areas and a maximum depth of five feet. It also has two waterslides and a sprayground.

The daily hours are 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. The pool opens for the Memorial Day weekend then weekends only until the second weekend in June when it begins seven days a week operation until mid-August. It is then open on weekends through Labor Day. There is a fee for pool use. Swimmers arriving after 4 p.m. receive a discount. Season passes are available at the park office.

The pool is very popular and reaches capacity on holidays and many weekends. Mid-week swimming is often less crowded.

A seasonal snack bar has hot and cold foods and beverages.

Swimming is prohibited in Holman Lake.

Explore swimming for more information.

Boating: electric motors permitted
There are two public boat launches on the north side of Holman Lake. Mooring sites for private boats are available for a fee from April 1 to November 1.

Next to the swimming pool, a boat rental operates the weekend of Memorial Day through Labor Day from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM daily, unless otherwise posted. Canoes, rowboats and pedal boats are available.

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.

The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.Fishing: The 88-acre Holman Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. This warm-water fishery enjoys natural reproduction of largemouth bass, catfish and panfish.

The lake is designated as a “Big Bass Lake.” Bass must be at least 15 inches long with a daily limit of four. Brook, brown, and rainbow trout, and fingerlings of tiger muskellunge are stocked several times a year. An ADA accessible fishing pier is by the Main Boat Launch.

Holman Lake Depth Color Map (.pdf)  (2,903 kb, 8/15)

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.

The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.Hunting and Firearms: About 300 acres of Little Buffalo State Park are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, turkey, grouse, rabbit, pheasant and squirrel.

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.

Recreation Hall: Located in the campground, the rentable Recreation Hall seats 200 people for wedding receptions, family gatherings and meetings. Contact the park office for reservations and additional information.

Hiking: 8 miles of trails
A hiker in a bright shirt walks a dog at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania.Sturdy footwear is recommended because of rocky footing on some trails.

Volksmarching: Governed by the American Volksport Association and the International Federation of Popular Sports, Volksmarchers earn awards for hiking. Little Buffalo State Park has a Volksmarcht Year Round Walk. White arrows point out the 10K (6.2 miles) walk on Mill Race, Fisherman’s, Buffalo Ridge, Little Buffalo Creek, Middle Ridge and Exercise trails and Little Buffalo State Park Road. For official information contact the park office.

Little Buffalo Creek Trail: 1 mile, easiest hiking, blue blazes
Located at the west end of the park, this trail offers hikers the beauty and sounds of water and good opportunities for viewing wildlife. This trail runs between Main Picnic Area and the west end of the park. During the winter season, Creekside Trail makes a nice cross-country ski trail especially when skiers include the Newport and Sherman’s Valley Railroad trace and the mowed strips in the west end of the park.

Exercise Trail: 1.2 miles, easiest hiking, mowed path,
This loop trail has 18 permanent stations where hikers can do many different exercises, including balance beam, pull-ups, hand walks, bar vaults, sit-ups and many other exercises. It is a good trail on which to see bluebirds.

The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.Blue Ball Trail: 0.25 mile, easiest hiking, paved
This paved trail is ADA accessible from East Picnic Area and runs near Blue Ball Tavern.

Campground Spur: 0.5 mile, easiest hiking, green blazes
This trail begins at the campground pond. It drops down an easy grade in a hollow to connect with Middle Ridge Trail.

Fallen leaves blanket a hiking trail near a creek at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania.Fisherman's Trail: 1 mile, easiest hiking, yellow blazes
This hiking trail wanders through a mature hemlock forest between East Picnic Area and Main Picnic Area. A dense canopy of hemlock trees allows very little sunlight to reach the forest floor making for a relatively cool walk even on the warmest days. The dim light prohibits the growth of most plants, but ferns and small hemlocks manage to grow under the canopy. A vista overlooking the lake and dam is on the east end of the trail near East Picnic Area.

Mill Race Trail: 0.5 mile, easiest hiking, orange blazes
This trail can be accessed by Shoaff’s Mill and by the Classroom Annex. The trail follows the Furnace Run and the mill race. The race is the narrow channel that supplies water to power the mill. A wayside exhibit explains how the mill race was dug using a mill race scoop pulled by horses. By Furnace Run, hikers can find pieces of slag, a green colored stone that is a waste product of the iron furnace that was located upstream. This trail is good for seeing wildflowers.

Middle Ridge Trail: 2.5 miles, most difficult hiking, red blazes
This trail runs from Exercise Trail to the west end of the park. It offers many short, steep climbs while traveling through a variety of habitats. Open fields feature nice views of the lake. In the mixed hardwood forest, hikers may see large, cone-shaped mounds of earth which may house tens of thousands of Allegheny mound ants. These ants have very strong jaws and can inflict a painful bite on those who disturb their mounds.

Buffalo Ridge Trail: 1.5 miles, most difficult hiking, white blazes
This trail runs from East Picnic Area to the Newport and Sherman’s Valley Railroad trace by Main Picnic Area. This difficult trail winds up Buffalo Ridge and offers glimpses of the industrial history of the area. A mixed hardwood forest with scattered hemlock giants covers the area today, but before it was timbered, the ridge was covered in giant oaks, hickories and American chestnut. Colliers scoured the ridge to make charcoal for the Juniata Iron Works. Look for flat areas of dark ground where wood was stacked, covered with soil and leaves, and burned slowly to make charcoal.

Stay the Night

A tent over a pick-up truck and mountain bikes are in a campsite at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania.Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
The modern campground is open from the day before trout season to the third Sunday in October. There are forty sites. Some have electric and water hook-ups. Some sites are full service. All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring. Pets are permitted on all campsites. A sanitary dump station is in the campground.

Explore the campground map.

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Camping Cottages: Four rustic cottages sleep five people in single bunks and double/single bunks, and have a dining table and chairs, wooden floors, windows, electric heat, picnic table, fire ring, electric lights and outlets. The nearby campground shower house provides toilets, showers and drinking water. Up to two dogs are permitted in cottages 4 and 5 for a fee.

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The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.This modern log cabin can be rented at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania.Modern Cabin: The ADA accessible cabin sleeps 12 people in three bedrooms and is open year-round. Amenities include heat and air conditioning, stove, refrigerator, microwave oven, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer (HE detergent required). Renters should bring their own bed linens, bathroom articles, kitchenware and eating utensils. Pets are prohibited in the cabin.

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Winter Activities

Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths. Please be safe on the ice.

Cross-country Skiing: All hiking trails in Little Buffalo State Park are open for cross-country skiing, but skiing is recommended on Little Buffalo Creek Trail. A 2.5-mile loop can be skied by taking Little Buffalo Creek Trail to Main Picnic Area, then ski the Newport and Sherman’s Valley Railroad trace. Return to Little Buffalo Creek Trail along the edge of woods.

A popular loop in East Picnic Area starts in the parking lot and follows the path to Clay’s Covered Bridge. The trail passes Shoaff’s Mill then returns to the starting point on either Mill Race Trail or the shorter service road.

Skiing is also permitted on service roads and unplowed roads in the day use area.

Ice Fishing: Ice fishing is permitted on Holman Lake except in the ice skating area. The lake is noted for a high panfish harvest, along with trout and warm water game fish. Ice thickness is not monitored.

Ice Skating: Conditions permitting, a two-acre skating area is maintained on the east end of the lake by the Main Boat Launch. Heated restrooms are provided. The skating area is open from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Ice thickness is monitored in the skating area only.

Environmental Education and Interpretation

Little Buffalo State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and campfire programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.

Curriculum-based environmental education programs are available to schools and youth groups. Teacher workshops are available. Group programs must be arranged in advance and may be scheduled by calling the park office.

Programs are offered year round. Many programs feature Shoaff’s Mill. Over 12,000 people visit the mill annually. Contact the park office for more detailed information on programs.

Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of upcoming events.

Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.

Special Events

Old Fashioned Apple Festival: Held the third weekend of October in time for fall foliage, this festival will take your taste buds back to the mid-19th century. You can see and taste apple butter cooked in a large copper kettle in front of Shoaff’s Mill. Apples are ground and squeezed in a century-old water powered press. Shoaff’s Mill grinds cornmeal, cracked corn and apples. Visitors may taste samples of apple cider, apple butter and cornmeal recipes as long as supplies last.

Halloween Night: Held in East Picnic Area on the Saturday before Halloween, this program features storytelling, pumpkin carving, refreshments and haunted hayrides. Activities start at 6 p.m.

Christmas Walk:This family-oriented activity has become a popular holiday event in the county. Thousands of lights and holiday cutouts dot East Picnic Area and provide the perfect holiday atmosphere. Santa always makes an appearance. Local 4-H Clubs sell cookies and hot chocolate. Area choirs sing carols many of the nights. The program runs December 17 through December 23 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

Explore the Calendar of Events to see when these events are scheduled.

Access for People with Disabilities

An ADA accessible fishing pier is at the main boat launch. There is a paved trail from the swimming pool to the boat rental. Blue Ball Trail is paved and ADA accessible in East Picnic Area.

The ADA symbol indicates that this activity or structure is ADA accessible.If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.