Pennsylvania State Parks:
Best in the Nation

Pennsylvania’s 117-state park system competed with the best systems in the country, and was awarded the top honor as the 2009 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.

This prestigious award honors the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for its skill in planning for and managing the diverse state park system, and also for its innovative approaches that have drawn people into state parks in new ways and connected them to nature through outdoor recreation.

Pennsylvania will carry the prestigious title of "Best in Nation" until the next medal is awarded in late 2011.

This designation honors the hard work of the men and women at DCNR that see themselves as the protectors of the land, recreation providers, as a model of best practices, conservation advocates, and as educators of future stewards.

Some of the Bureau of State Parks new and innovative programs that set the system apart from the rest include:


  • This logo inspired by a compass declares Pennsylvania as the best state park system.A "green" parks initiative DCNR launched in 2007 to address climate change and energy consumption in Pennsylvania’s parks. The goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of the state’s parks by 20 percent over the next five years.
  • Get OutdoorsPA , a guided outdoor recreation program, which offers hundreds of activities annually for people to learn about outdoor recreation opportunities such as kayaking, fishing and hiking, and learn about how the public can help protect Pennsylvania’s natural resources, their role and why they should care.
  • Adventure Camp, a joint effort of the Bureau of State Parks, city parks and recreation programs, and youth organizations, to create a summer camp program that exposes urban area teens to experiences in nature. More than 150 kids attended camp in eight metropolitan areas in 2008.
  • New types of amenities like the system’s first nature inn will expand overnight accommodations and attract new visitors. The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle will have modern accommodations and feature wildlife watching.


There are abundant opportunities for adventure in Pennsylvania State Parks including paddling the wild whitewater of Ohiopyle State Park, gazing in awe at the old growth forests of Cook Forest State Park, experiencing the darkest night skies in the East at Cherry Springs State Park, viewing the majestic elk at Sinnemahoning State Park, sunbathing at the Lake Erie beach in Presque Isle State Park, climbing a natural boulder field at Hickory Run State Park, hiking and biking hundreds of miles of trails throughout the state park system, photographing the vibrant fall foliage that envelopes many parks in the fall, taking part in thousands of innovative educational and recreational programs, and so much more.

Explore Pennsylvania's award winning state parks.