Cowans Gap State Park is a 1,085-acre park in the beautiful Allens Valley of Fulton County.
A 42-acre lake, large campground, rustic cabins, and many hiking trails are prime attractions.
Buchanan State Forest surrounds the park, providing additional options for recreation and natural beauty in all seasons.
Hiking at Cowans Gap State Park
13 miles of trails
Trails vary in difficulty from flat to very steep. Hikers should be in good physical condition, wear sturdy boots, and use caution due to slippery/wet conditions and steep trail sections.
0.5 mile, more difficult hiking
This very steep, boundary trail is on the south end of the park and ends atop Cove Mountain.
The CCC built this trail for firefighting access to Buchanan State Forest.
0.2 mile, easiest hiking
This short spur trail connects Parking Lot #7 with Logging Road Trail above Camping Area B.
0.5 mile, most difficult hiking
This rather steep boundary trail passes through areas of mountain laurel. The trail starts along Aughwick Road then climbs Tuscarora Mountain to Tuscarora Trail.
North and South Logging Road Trail
1.7 miles, easiest hiking
This old logging road can be walked from one end of the park to the other and is a good trail to use to make loop hikes with other trails on the side of Cove Mountain.
0.5 mile, most difficult hiking
This very steep and very rugged trail passes over loose stones on steep slopes.
The trail starts at the intersection of Tuscarora Trail below the park dam and climbs to the top of Cove Mountain ending on Knobsville Road Trail.
Experienced hikers only! Not suitable for equestrian or bicycle use.
Knobsville Road Trail
1.3 miles, more difficult hiking
This old road climbs to the top of Cove Mountain, past the park’s landslide interpretive exhibit, a CCC-era incinerator, and a park overlook. Cresting Cove Mountain, the trail ends at the park boundary. Hikers can continue on Standing Stone Trail to Horseshoe Trail or join state forest trails by taking either the Knobsville road trace or Knobsville Trail to connect to Tailgate Road and hike to Route 522. This will add an additional two miles or more.
1.5 miles, easiest hiking
This very pleasant, nearly level, scenic trail encircles Cowans Gap Lake. This is the most popular trail in the park.
One Mile Trail
0.4 mile, easiest hiking
This mountain laurel shaded trail begins along Aughwick Road just above the park office, then winds along the bottom of Tuscarora Mountain to join the Three Mile Trail. Hikers can then follow Three Mile Trail to the left returning to Aughwick Road across from Parking Lot #3, then follow Aughwick Road back to the beginning of One Mile Trail, having walked about one mile.
1.1 miles, more difficult hiking
This rocky, streamside trail meanders alongside Aughwick Creek and is a great access trail for anglers and a pleasant walk for wildlife watchers.
Three Mile Trail
1.1 miles, more difficult hiking
This trail begins along Aughwick Road across from the upper end of Camping Area A.
The trail wanders through mountain laurel on the side of Tuscarora Mountain and is a nice trail to walk in June when the mountain laurel is in bloom.
Be aware, there is a short, 200-foot section of very steep trail.
Standing Stone Hiking Trail
76 miles (2.4 miles in the park), orange blazes, most difficult hiking
Starting at the Cowans Gap Lake spillway, this trail goes north to join Greenwood Furnace State Park.
Part of the Great Eastern Trail System, Standing Stone Trail offers a challenging experience for seasoned hikers. Standing Stone Trail connects to:
Mid State Trail
Overnight hikers must fill out an overnight parking permit which is available at the park office. They are encouraged to park at the park office.
110 miles (2 miles in park), blue blazes, more difficult hiking
The more popular section to walk is a 1.5-mile section beginning across Aughwick Road from Parking Lot #3, climbing along Tuscarora Mountain to the junction with Geyer Trail. Once at the junction with Geyer Trail, hikers have several options to continue their hike.
They can return to the day use area by retracing their steps or by following Geyer Trail to Cameron Trail then to Plessinger Trail. They can also take Tuscarora Trail another 2.4 miles south to the top of Big Mountain and a spectacular overlook of the Path Valley and Franklin County.
From the Big Mountain Overlook, hikers will have a 3.9-mile return hike back to the park.
The Cowans Gap section of the trail is renowned for its unusual rock outcroppings and rock fields.
Picnicking at Cowans Gap State Park
Picnic areas are along the eastern side of Cowans Gap Lake. They are mostly shaded with several CCC-era stone fireplaces and charcoal grills scattered throughout.
Four picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis. Pavilions #2, #3, and #4 are stone and have a fireplace.
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. Some picnic tables are ADA accessible and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Pavilion #1 is accessible for people with disabilities.
Stay the Night at Cowans Gap State Park
flush toilets, warm showers, electric hookups
Cowans Gap has 201 campsites in two areas. The camping area is open from the second Friday of April until the day following deer season in December.
The campground has a sanitary dump station and modern comfort stations with flush toilets and warm showers.
The campsites can accommodate campers from a small tent to a large motor home. Seven walk-in tent sites are adjacent to Camping Area B.
Pets are permitted on designated campsites.
An overnight courtesy boat mooring area is provided for registered campers during their stay at the park.
This activity or structure is ADA accessible.
Swimming at Cowans Gap State Park
The 500-foot sand beach is open from May to late September, from 8:00 A.M. to sunset.
Please read and follow posted rules for swimming. Swim at your own risk.
Smoking is prohibited on the beach and in the swimming area. For visitors who smoke and still want to use the beach, designated areas adjacent to the beach are provided. The restriction includes:
Other handheld, lighted smoking devices
Wildlife Watching at Cowans Gap State Park
Cowans Gap State Park is in Allens Valley, a narrow, highland valley between Tuscarora and Cove mountains. The valley floor is more than 700 feet lower than Tuscarora and Cove mountains, yet Allens Valley is still several hundred feet higher than the surrounding valleys.
The highland nature of Cowans Gap State Park makes the park an interesting place to see wildlife in all seasons.
Lush vegetation and warm days are hallmarks of summer. Early June is the best time to see the grand displays of mountain laurel along the trails and forestry roads.
Watch for deer, bear, and even box turtles raiding berry patches. While walking, listen for the ovenbird’s “teacher-teacher-teacher” call and the “drink-your-tea” call of the eastern towhee as they move about in the brush.
As evening approaches, enjoy the flute-like calls of the veery and wood thrush.
Warm summer evenings bring out the bats of Cowans Gap to feast on night-flying insects. Watch the park’s bat boxes for the evening emergence then enjoy their antics while catching insects and swooping low over the lake to drink.
This is a good time of the year to listen to the bullfrogs as they call into the night “jug-o-rum” and the twanging call of the green frog.
Fall offers warm, breezy days with tree leaves turning to shades of red, golden yellows, and orange.
Many species of woodland birds make their return visits as they migrate southward. This is a great time to view migrating raptors riding the updrafts of the mountainsides to conserve energy on their long migration journey.
Watch for squirrel, chipmunk, and turkey as they compete with the deer and bear for acorns. As you sit around an evening campfire, listen for the far off calls of swans and geese as their V-shaped formations negotiate the dark sky.
Winter reveals the ruggedness of the mountains with their steep, rock-strewn slopes interspersed with evergreen mountain laurel and rhododendron.
Look for deer and winter birds, like chickadees, titmice, and woodpeckers as they spend their waking hours hunting for food.
Spring brings renewal to the natural environment as early wildflowers, such as spring beauty and sweet white violets, bloom in the sunlight before the tree canopy blocks the sun from striking the forest floor.
Animals come out of hibernation and many species of migrating birds return or stop at the park on their northward journey. It is a great time to observe warblers as they migrate through or set up their breeding territories.
During the mornings, listen for the courtship songs of birds, while during the evenings, the courtship calls of frogs and toads fill the air along the lakeshore and wetlands.
Boating at Cowans Gap State Park
electric motors only
There are two boat launches and many mooring spaces on 42-acre Cowans Gap Lake.
Fishing at Cowans Gap State Park
The 42-acre Cowans Gap Lake offers excellent trout fishing and also has:
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. There is an ADA accessible fishing pier.
The South Branch of Little Aughwick Creek offers good trout fishing.
The 42-acre Cowans Gap Lake is open for ice fishing except for the ice skating area.
Ice thickness is not monitored outside the ice skating area.
Hunting at Cowans Gap State Park
During established seasons, about 630 acres are open to:
Training of dogs
Common game species are:
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.
Cross-Country Skiing at Cowans Gap State Park
Closed park roads and some hiking trails are suitable for cross-country skiing.
Ice Skating at Cowans Gap State Park
A section of the Cowans Gap Lake near the beach is available exclusively for ice skating.
Ice thickness is monitored in the beach area.