Swatara State Park
The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park consists of rolling fields and woodlands situated in the Swatara Valley, between Second and Blue mountains. Scenic Swatara Creek meanders the length of the park and is surrounded by forests and wetlands that support a diversity of wildlife.
Swatara State Park was acquired with capital development funds appropriated by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Planned facility and infrastructure improvements will support day use outdoor recreation such as canoeing, fishing, hiking, picnicking and bicycling.
Although presently undeveloped, Swatara State Park still provides these recreational opportunities.
Boating: non-powered boats only
Be aware of naturally occurring hazards which may be encountered on Swatara Creek.
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.
Complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Fishing: Spring attracts many anglers to Trout Run; the park’s only trout stocked stream. Other cold-water tributaries within the park support native populations of brook trout.
Warm-water fish like smallmouth bass and panfish can be caught in Swatara Creek. Wagners Pond provides opportunities to catch largemouth bass and panfish.
Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Hunting and Firearms: Most of Swatara State Park is open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Common game species are deer, turkey, ruffed grouse, pheasant, rabbit, squirrel and waterfowl, with populations of furbearers including muskrat, raccoon, opossum and fox. Be alert for trail users and the 150-yard safety zone surrounding each of the occupied buildings in the park.
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 car, trailer or leased campsite. The only exception is that law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may carry said firearm concealed on their person while they are within the park.
Complete information on hunting rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site.
Hiking: The trails of the park are generally flat and wide.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail: Stretching from Georgia to Maine, this backpacking trail traverses two miles of the southern portion of Swatara State Park. Kittatinny Ridge, also known as Blue Mountain, has been designated by Audubon Pennsylvania, as the largest of the state’s “Important Bird Areas.” Overnight parking for through or section AT hikers is on SR 443 just west of SR 72. Hikers may leave an itinerary with the park for emergencies. www.nps.gov/appa/index.htm
Swatara Rail Trail: Swatara Rail Trail is ten miles in length from Lickdale Interchange (Exit 90) of I-81 to the Pine Grove Interchange (Exit 100) of I-81. The trail grade is relatively flat, with variable surfaces (stone, gravel, and pavement) requiring wide tires. Please note the bridge over Mill Creek is out and SR 443 is the alternative route.
Bear Hole Trail: Running along the eastern side of Swatara State Park, Bear Hole Trail (previously Old State Road) is a wide, rolling trail for hiking and biking. A ten-mile loop can be completed by using Swatara Rail Trail and Bear Hole Trail and crossing the creek at the Waterville Bridge and the Swopes Valley Road.
Mountain Biking: Accessible from the State Park Lane trailhead, six trails are designed as mountain bike trails. These single track natural surface trails are a maximum 24” wide with log obstacles and stream crossings. They are considered “most difficult” by DCNR trail standards, but “easy” by International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) standards. Each trail loop is about 1.5 miles in length and twist through the woods and up and down hills.
Horseback Riding: Horseback riding is permitted on Bear Hole Trail and Swatara Rail Trail.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Cross-country Skiing: The Swatara Rail Trail is good for skiing with adequate snowfall.
Trash Disposal and Recycling
Swatara State Park participates in a carry-in/carryout trash disposal program for small parks. There are no trash collection or recycling facilities. Visitors are asked to limit the amount of disposable items brought to the park and to take all trash and recyclables home.
Access for People with Disabilities
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
Swatara State Park has a combination of woodland and old fields in various stages of forest succession. The blending of these habitats results in a remarkably wide variety of trees, wildflowers and wildlife. Bird boxes are maintained for game and non-game species like bluebirds, hawks, wrens and ducks.
The geology of Swatara State Park is predominately sedimentary rocks that formed in a shallow ocean during the Middle Devonian Period of the Paleozoic Era, about 375 million years ago.
An Upper Mahantango Formation that contains significant marine fossil beds is exposed at a site along Bear Hole Trail. It provides excellent opportunities for fossil collecting, including the state fossil Phacops rana, a type of trilobite.
The area in and around Swatara State Park is rich in American history. American Indians originally used the land along the Swatara Creek as a transportation route.
After settlement by Europeans in the 1750s, anthracite coal was discovered in the Tremont area. In the 1820s, as the demand for coal rose, a need for better transportation led to the construction of the Union Canal that connected the Schuylkill and Susquehanna rivers. From Lebanon, a branch canal was constructed to Pine Grove through what is now the Swatara State Park. A dam and 672-acre reservoir in the park area supported canal traffic to Pine Grove and supplied water for the Union Canal at Lebanon.
The dam was washed away in the Flood of 1862, destroying the canal and reservoir. Remains of the old dam and five canal locks are on the Bear Hole Trail side of the creek. The dam was never rebuilt because the railroad soon went into operation on the opposite bank of the Swatara Creek. The Swatara Rail Trail is what remains of the railroad bed.
The Commonwealth began acquisition of the park in 1971 and was completed in 1987 by the Department of General Services.
This cast iron bridge was built in 1890 to cross the Little Pine Creek in Lycoming County. The bridge design is a lenticular truss (parabolic) and is one of three such bridges still in Pennsylvania. In the 1980s, the bridge was determined to be too narrow for modern use. Instead of being demolished, the bridge was dismantled, repaired, moved and rebuilt across the Swatara Creek to allow hikers on the Appalachian Trail to cross the stream.
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Swatara State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. www.hersheyharrisburg.org
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Interactive GIS Map
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Swatara State Park is in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties, 14 miles north of Lebanon and 3 miles west of Pine Grove. The park is easily reached from I-81: at Exit 90, Lickdale, follow PA 72 north; at Exit 100, take PA 443 west.
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.
Swatara State Park