Nature Awaits: The Ultimate Guide to the Midstate’s Parks, Preserves and Forests, Part 1

June 15, 2016

Cumberland & Dauphin Counties



A         Appalachian Trail


ATV    All-Terrain Vehicle Trails


B         Boating


BC      Bicycling


C         Camping/Cottages


DG      Disc Golfing


E         Educational Programs


F         Fishing


H        Hunting


HR     Horseback Riding Trails


HT      Hiking Trails


MB     Mountain Biking


O        Orienteering


RC     Rock Climbing


S        Swimming


SC     Scuba Diving


Photo gallery here.


Cumberland County

Adams-Ricci Community Park


100 E. Penn Drive, Enola


Much more than ball fields and pavilions, the 82 acres of Adams-Ricci Community Park provides five trail loops as well as boating and fishing access to the Conodoguinet Creek.


B, F, HT

Cave Hill Nature Center


16 Cave Hill Drive, Carlisle


This 20-acre, borough-owned park offers visitors everything from fishing and rope-swinging to bouldering, caving and access to the Conodoguinet Creek Water Trail.


B, F, HT, RC, S

Children’s Lake Park


4 E. 1st St., Boiling Springs


The Appalachian Trail runs alongside this seven-acre park surrounding a man-made lake filled with the bubbling waters of Boiling Springs.  The lake is a haven for a variety of birds and is trout-stocked.


A, B, F, HT

Colonel DenningState Park


1599 Doubling Gap Road, Newville


Located in north-central Cumberland County, this 273-acre park features a 3.5-acre lake (Doubling Gap Lake) as well as two miles of hiking trails.


B, C, E, F, H, HT, S

Kings Gap


500 Kings Gap Road, Carlisle


Mountainous terrain, extensive forest land, panoramic views, 20 miles of trails and an environmental education center can all be found at this 2,531-acre, South Mountain park.


C, E, H, HT, O

Mount Holly Marsh Preserve


1 Lakeside Drive, Mount Holly Springs


Along the rocky slopes of South Mountain, this 913-acre nature preserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including sensitive habitats and associated rare species.  There is also fishing opportunities in the trout-stocked Mountain Creek as well as more than eight miles of hiking trails.


F, H, HT

Opossum Lake Park


Opossum Lake Road, Carlisle


A 59-acre lake created by a dam located on Opossum Creek, angling, boating, bird-watching and four miles of hiking can all be found at this 274-acre recreation area.


B, BC, F, HT, MB

Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch


Waggoner’s Gap Road, Carlisle


Boasting the largest concentration of raptors in the nation, this 125-acre hawk-watching rock outcrop on Kittatinny Ridge is one of the best locations to spot a Golden Eagle.



Wittlinger Nature Preserve


2 Mountain Road, Boiling Springs


With access to the Yellow Breeches Creek, the 50-acre nature preserve gives opportunity for hiking, boating and fishing.


B, F, HT

Willow Mill Park


80 Willow Mill Park Road, Mechanicsburg


Offering 18 acres alongside the Conodoguinet Creek, Willow Mill Park has a boat launch, a 9-hole disc golf course and educational talks.


B, DG, E, F, HT

Dauphin County


Boyd Big Tree Nature Preserve Conservation Area


Fishing Creek Valley Road, Harrisburg


Encompassing over 1,000 acres, Boyd Big Tree features 12 miles of hiking trails that range from flat to steep inclines. This mountain preserve is also a great spot for bird-watching enthusiasts.


E, H, HT

Bullfrog Valley Pond Park


Bullfrog Valley Road, Hummelstown


Home to an annual fishing derby, this three-acre park offers a nature trail, fishing and a camping area.  It is also a trail head site for the 11.5-mile Johnathan Eshenour Memorial Trail.


B, C, F, HT

Capital Area Greenbelt Harrisburg


A 20-mile loop trail, the Capital Area Greenbelt traverses through and around Harrisburg.  The trail passes along and through the Susquehanna River, Riverfront Park, Reservoir Park, Wildwood Park and the Five Senses Garden.



Fort Hunter Mansion & Park


5300 N. Front St., Harrisburg


Along the Susquehanna River, Fort Hunter’s 40 acres encompasses walking paths and trails, bird-watching, historic buildings and boating and fishing access.


B, E, F, HT

Hocker Park


Blue Mountain Parkway, Harrisburg


This 12-acre park, located on the Blue Mountain Parkway, offers hiking along the Darlington Trail, a picnic area, nature study and vistas from atop of Blue Mountain.



Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area


Camp Hebron Road, Halifax


With 8.4 miles of trails, the 803 acres of Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area is home to large hardwood trees and wildlife, like forest warblers and other deep-woods animals.  An additional 433 woodland acres on the northern slope of Peters Mountain, called the western portion, was added in 2012.


A, E, H, HT

McCormick’s Island


Susquehanna River, Harrisburg


This 100-acre island in the Susquehanna River offers walking trails, camping, fishing and boating and is home to a variety of wildlife.


B, C, F, HT

Wildwood Park


100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg


Located on the outskirts of Harrisburg, Wildwood Park is a haven for countless species of flora and fauna native to the area, some endangered.  It also offers walking trails, blinds for bird-watching and programs and special events at the Nature Center.





A        Appalachian Trail


ATV   All-Terrain Vehicle Trails


B        Boating


BC     Bicycling


C        Camping/Cottages


DG     Disc Golfing


E        Educational Programs


F        Fishing


H       Hunting


HR    Horseback Riding Trails


HT     Hiking Trails


MB    Mountain Biking


O       Orienteering


RC    Rock Climbing


S       Swimming


SC    Scuba Diving


It is important to note that these parks, forests and nature preserves encompass hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of land. Many parks have multiple points of entry with no nearby landmarks or notable towns – some even cross county lines. The addresses included can accurately get visitors to within a few miles of the park, but at times are not the precise address for the park. Follow signs when possible, and please be aware of your surroundings.  Most of all, enjoy the natural beauty and grandness our area has to offer.

Compiling this guide was challenging for a number of reasons. Not every local park, ball field or recreational area could be added to the list. Our staff compiled the list with the idea of presenting parks and outdoor areas that offer the most to outdoorsmen and nature lovers.

For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation’s website at

This article appears in the June 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine