Gifford Pinchot State Park
Gifford Pinchot State Park, a 2,338-acre full service park, is in northern York County along PA 177 between the towns of Rossville and Lewisberry. The park consists of reverting farm fields and wooded hillsides with the 340-acre Pinchot Lake serving as a prime attraction.
Hiking at Gifford Pinchot State Park
18 miles of trails
There are more than 18 miles of marked and maintained trails at Gifford Pinchot State Park. Most trails interconnect to allow hikers to tailor their outing to meet their individual desires.
The park is open to hunting. Information on hunting seasons is available at the park office. For your safety, wear orange.
Trail Blaze Colors
Yellow blazes mark hiking only trails
Red blazes mark hiking trails that are shared-use trails with mountain bike riding or horseback riding
Mason Dixon Trail is marked with a blue blaze
Hiking Trails at Gifford Pinchot
0.5 mile, easiest hiking
This wide, flat trail has a gravel surface. Alpine Trail has an outstanding crop of wildflowers in April and May, with bluebells and marsh marigolds. The trail begins on the east side of Conewago Day Use Area.
Beaver Creek Trail
1.5 miles, most difficult hiking
This trail runs between a small parking area off Squire Gratz Road and Mooring Area # 1 in the northwestern corner of the park. The trail meanders through low lying wooded terrain and can be muddy in wet weather. Sections of the trail can also be rocky.
Many habitats, including wetlands, can be seen in this undeveloped section of the park.
1.2 miles, easiest hiking
This trail runs through second growth forest from the campground to the area of the boat rental at the eastern end of the Conewago Day Use Area. This wide trail follows an old woods road and has a gravel surface.
A loop can be made by using part of Lakeside Trail making a nice trail for hiking, jogging, cross-country skiing, and bicycling. Concrete supports from an old toboggan run can be seen along this trail.
8.5 miles, most difficult hiking
This is the longest and most scenic trail in the park. It may be accessed from all major use areas of the park. Walking time is five to six hours. Many parts of the trail are easy walking with gravel surfaces, but some of the remote sections are narrow with uneven footing and wet in other places.
Many hikers combine portions of this trail with other trails like Alpine, Gravel, Oak, and Quaker Race to make shorter loops.
Midland and Fern Trails
0.5 mile, more difficult hiking
These small side trails off Lakeside Trail can be reached from near Boat Mooring Area #3. Both trails have dirt and rock surfaces and steeper slopes, but wind through the most mature forests in the park. There are many wildflowers under the large oak, hickory, and tulip popular trees.
0.4 mile, easiest hiking
This short trail connects the campground to the interpretive center at the western end of the Conewago Day Use Area. The trail is gently rolling and wide with a gravel surface. The trail passes through a maturing oak and hickory forest and past a large diabase rock outcropping near the interpretive center.
This trail connects with Gravel and Lakeside trails.
Old Farm Trail
1 mile, easiest hiking
This trail runs along the northeastern border of the campground and is a connector between Lakeside, Oak, and Ridge trails. Old Farm Trail follows an old farm road to the top of Straight Hill.
1.4 miles, most difficult hiking
Wear good shoes on this trail because the surface can be rocky in some places and wet in other places. The trail begins at the environemtal learning center and climbs past a large diabase rock outcropping that once formed the beginning of the long abandoned toboggan run. The trail then crosses Gravel Trail and eventually splits into two branches that connect along the top of Straight Hill to form a loop.
The habitat is mostly maturing oak and hickory forest. A number of old stone walls provide reminders of long abandoned efforts at farming.
Quaker Race Trail
1.7 miles, more difficult hiking
This trail is best accessed from the Quaker Race Day Use Area or from the cabin colony for cabin occupants. This trail has a dirt or rocky surface, uneven terrain and one steep but short hill. This trail connects to Lakeside Trail at its end to form a three-mile loop that passes through diverse habitats.
1.2 miles, more difficult hiking
This trail begins near the campground entrance where it intersects Lakeside Trail, then meanders through old overgrown pasture, then climbs into a maturing oak and hickory forest along the top of Straight Hill. The trail surface is dirt and can be rocky and there are some wet areas near the campground entrance.
Stay on the trail to avoid prickly ash. Butterflies may be abundant near openings in the forest.
Mason-Dixon Trail (National Recreation Trail)
200 miles (6.8 miles in the park), most difficult hiking
This trail system runs through Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The trail has blue blazes and follows portions of Lakeside, Alpine, Pinchot, Ridge, and Beaver Creek trails as it traverses the length of Gifford Pinchot State Park.
The trail enters the park along Conley Road in the east and Squire Gratz Road in the northwest. Through-hikers may only camp at the park campground.
Picnicking at Gifford Pinchot State Park
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. The ADA accessible Quaker Race Day Use Area is on the west side of the lake. Two picnic pavilions are ADA accessible.
The Conewago Day Use Area is on the east side of the lake.
Both picnic areas feature:
Convenient parking lots
The Quaker Race area has a volleyball court.
The Conewago area has a softball field.
Four picnic pavilions, two that are ADA accessible, may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
Stay the Night at Gifford Pinchot State Park
Flush toilets, warm showers, and some electric hook-ups
With 289 campsites at the southern end of the lake, this park provides one of the largest state park campgrounds in the commonwealth.
The campground opens the second Friday in April and closes by the end of October.
All of the sites have macadam pads and can accommodate virtually any piece of camping equipment from a large motor home to the smallest tent. Many sites have electric hook-ups. Some sites have full service hook up, which includes:
Pets are permitted on designated campsites.
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. The campground has:
An ADA accessible swimming beach
Some ADA accessible campsites
Boat launching and mooring area
Sanitary dumping stations
Staffed campground office
Modern bathhouses with flush toilets and showers
Swimming at Gifford Pinchot State Park
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. A large, ADA accessible beach in the Quaker Race Day Use Area is open from late-May to mid-September, 8:00 A.M. to sunset.
Near the swimming beach are:
Children’s play area
Swim at your own risk. Please read and follow posted rules.
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 Gifford Pinchot State Park
The diverse habitats of Gifford Pinchot State Park support a variety of wildlife through all seasons.
The basis for the many habitats is diabase rock that underlies most of the park and was created when molten rock intruded the sandstone and melted it into a new kind of rock. Many of the diabase rocks have unique cracks that formed as the rocks slowly cooled.
Winter is the best time to see the plentiful boulders and rock outcroppings because the trees have no leaves and the undergrowth is gone.
Winter is also a good time to see woodpeckers and evidence of their presence. Gifford Pinchot has at least seven species of woodpeckers.
Spring and fall is the time of bird migrations. Gifford Pinchot State Park is an area of forest surrounded by many farm fields and is a rest stop for many migrating forest birds. Warblers, vireos, and thrushes stop to rest and eat before flying on to their breeding or winter homes.
Pinchot Lake and its shoreline wetlands are a beacon that lures many species of waterfowl. Mergansers, snow geese, mallards, loons, and many other ducks can be seen swimming, diving, and dabbling for vegetation and small fish.
Spring is the time for wildflowers. Fields and forests get a carpet of bluebells, spring beauties and many other short-lived flowers. Before the redbud's leaves grow, the tree bursts into pink to lavender flowers. In Pinchot Lake, male largemouth bass make nests and aggressively defend their territory and fry (baby fish).
Summer is the time of lush green vegetation and growing young animals. In fields, watch for spotted fawns and for frantic bluebirds searching for food to feed their hungry chicks. Butterflies reach their peak numbers and can be seen floating from flower to flower in the fields and wetlands, while dragonflies and damselflies can be seen along the lake shoreline.
In the fall, the deciduous trees lose their chlorophyll and their leaves reveal beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows. While the other trees lose their leaves, the eastern red cedar keeps its green needles throughout the year. Look for this oval-shaped tree growing in old fields.
Many of the old farm fields are “reverting” to forest and red cedar is usually the first tree to grow in the fields and will improve the soil for other trees.
Boating at Gifford Pinchot State Park
electric motors only
The 340-acre Pinchot Lake has three launch areas available 24 hours-a-day.
There are 286 shoreline mooring and canoe rack spaces that may be rented from April 1 to October 1. Mooring areas include a number of larger spaces designed to accommodate day sailors and catamarans, while rack spaces accommodate canoes, kayaks, and small sailboats.
Fishing at Gifford Pinchot State Park
The 340-acre Pinchot Lake is a warmwater fishery. Pinchot Lake is designated a Big Bass Lake. Special regulations cover the minimum size and creel limits for all species of bass.
Common species are:
Hybrid striped bass
This activity or structure is ADA accessible. ADA accessible fishing pads are near Boat Launch #2 and a pier is in the Quaker Race Day Use Area.
When conditions permit, ice fishing is permitted on the natural ice of the 340-acre Pinchot Lake.
Anglers most often catch:
Ice thickness is not monitored.
Hunting at Gifford Pinchot State Park
About 1,780 acres are open to hunting and trapping from fall archery season through the end of the traditional winter seasons. Dog training is permitted from the day following Labor Day to March 31 in designated hunting areas.
Common game species are:
Because of the adjacent residential development and the many non-hunting visitors, special regulations apply to all hunting in the park:
Hunting weapons are restricted to bows and arrows until November 1 -- when shotgun and muzzleloader use are also permitted.
Center fire rifles and handguns for hunting in the park are prohibited.
Detailed information about hunting in the park is available at the park office.
To help protect the safety of hunters, non-hunting visitors, and nearby residents, signs designating hunting areas, no hunting areas, and safety zones are posted throughout the park.
Hunters should be especially alert for other park visitors who may not be familiar with hunting and for safety zones near park buildings and private residences in and around the park.
DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks reserves the right to participate in or conduct special hunts at other times if necessary to adequately control specific wildlife populations or to conserve park resources. Please contact the park office if you have any questions or need more specific information.
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.
Biking at Gifford Pinchot State Park
4 miles of trails
The trails between the campground and the Conewago Day Use Area are for joint-use by hikers, cross-country skiers, and bicyclists.
The Multi-purpose Trail network consists of a 3.5-mile outer loop with a number of internal connectors. The trail surface is packed gravel and the terrain is mostly flat with a few gentle hills. The trail is suitable for family use and most bicycles.
The trail winds through woodlands and along the lakeshore and is designed for a slow, leisurely ride. Trail access for the general public is from the Conewago Day Use Area. Campers can access the trails directly from the campground.
A seasonal bike rental is in the Conewago Day Use Area.
Please be considerate of other trail users; ride to the right and signal when passing. Fast and reckless riding is prohibited.
Horseback Riding at Gifford Pinchot State Park
In the northeast section of the park is an area set aside for horseback riding. This area includes several miles of wide, mowed, interconnecting trails that wind through reverting farm fields, pine plantations, and deciduous woodlands.
There is a large, gravel parking area off of Alpine Road, a short distance south of the intersection with PA 177.
There are no horse rentals.
Disc Golfing at Gifford Pinchot State Park
There is an 18-hole disc golf course on the east and west sides of the park.
In the Conewago Day Use Area, Boulder Woods is a fairly level course that is great for families.
In the Quaker Race Day Use Area, Quaker’s Challenge Course has recreation and pro tees in a challenging, hilly course.
Cross-Country Skiing at Gifford Pinchot State Park
When adequate snow cover is available, many of the hiking trails provide an excellent opportunity for cross-country skiing.
The best trails are accessed from the Conewago Day Use Area or the parking area at the campground entrance. These trails are marked for bicycling and include portions of Lakeside, Alpine, Oak, and Gravel trails.
Other good trails are the network of spur roads and trails in the interior of the park campground, which are closed to camping and vehicle use during the winter season.
Ice Skating at Gifford Pinchot State Park
Ice skating is permitted on the natural ice of the lake.
Ice thickness is not monitored.
Gifford Pinchot State Park is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media