If you are heading to south central Pennsylvania and looking for a great place to use as a base for exploration in the area, then Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a great option! Surrounded by the beautiful Michaux State Forest and full of history, this state park is worth checking out.
While not quite as popular as some of the other state parks in the state, Pine Grove Furnace is fairly quiet and has a large campground that is quiet and well kept. The day use areas are pristine as well, and the swimming and facilities offered won’t leave you wanting for more.
We visited Pine Grove Furnace State Park in the spring and camped for a few nights on our way down south. We loved it, and know you will too. We hope this guide will help you plan out your trip here and what to expect!
PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK HISTORY
The area around Pine Grove Furnace has a long history of manufacturing, starting in the mid-1700’s when the first iron furnace was built. With the area having both access to coal and plenty of wood, the furnaces were created to create iron products by processing them in large furnaces.
The businesses that owned the furnaces changed hands several times over the years as the economy grew and shrank. The last owner was Jay Cooke, who also owned the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Over the years, Pine Grove Furnace created iron for such products as wrought iron, stoves, kettles and even may have supplied munitions during the Revolutionary War.
Technological advancements ultimately caused the furnaces in Pine Grove to stop production in 1895. The land was sold to the state of Pennsylvania in 1913 and became Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Much of the infrastructure to the park was first built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, up until World War 2.
Today, Pine Grove Furnace State Park encompasses 17,000 acres of land, ready to explore!
ACTIVITIES IN PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK
Pine Grove Furnace State Park map, courtesy of Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
While using Pine Grove Furnace as a home base to explore the larger area is definitely what we’d recommend, you can definitely spend a few days in the park and have plenty of activities to do. The great thing about it is that there isn’t much in the way of pre-planning that you need to do, other than to be sure you have the proper clothing for whatever adventure you plan on taking on.
While visiting Pine Grove Furnace State Park, our recommendations include the following:
- Learn about the history of the area. Nearby the day-use area is one of the restored furnaces. This is a must-do stop that is worth checking out. The size of these furnaces really is amazing, especially considering when they were first built.
Swimming and hanging out on the beach. There are two main swimming areas in the park, and each offers their own benefits. Both have snack bars and ample picnic areas.
- Fuller Beach is the smaller of the two lakes (1.7 acres total) and only allows swimming. There are lifeguards during the day to help keep an eye on swimmers. Fuller Beach is located in the central part of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, where Pine Grove Road meets Highway 233.
- Laurel Lake is the larger of the two lakes. It’s 25 acres, so much larger than Fuller Lake. Boating is allowed (but only with electric motors), and there are kayaks and canoes available for rent. There are no lifeguards on duty. Laurel Lake is located at the northeast end of the park, on Pine Grove Road where it meets Cold Springs Road.
- Appalachian Trail Museum. The center of the Appalachian Trail is in Michaux State Forest, so this is a perfect place for a museum about one of the most famous hiking trails in the United States. The museum is housed in a 200+ year old building that used to be used as a grist mill. Inside are artifacts and information about the famed trail. Plan on spending about 30 minutes checking out the museum.
- There are terrific picnicking facilities located at both beach areas. There are plenty of picnic tables and the grass areas are great for stretching out and to let the kids play.
THE BEST HIKES IN PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK
There are a lot of trails in the area that pass through Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We’ll keep our guide mainly to family-friendly hikes that originate and spend all or most of their distance inside the park. There are plenty of other great hikes that are in nearby Michaux State Forest as well!
- The Pole Steeple Trail is a moderately challenging hike that is 1.2-miles (round-trip) and climbs just over 500 feet. The hike starts off by heading southeast from Laurel Lake and ascends immediately. The climb is stead and will get your heart pumping, but ends up at the top of Pole Steeple, which has great views. Be careful, as there is a bit of rock scrambling and you’ll need to watch your step. The Pole Steeple Trail is on the southern side of Laurel Lake on Railroad Bed Road.
- The Mountain Creek Trail is flat, but is about 4.7-miles (round-trip). This out-and-back trail has little in the way of elevation gain and connects Laurel Lake with Fuller Lake. The hike travels along a former railroad bad and is great for all ages as it heads through the forest and wetlands. You can also cut the hike short and hike as long or as short as you want to, since it is essentially a walking path. The trailhead for the Mountain Creek Trail begins either at Fuller Lake or at Laurel Lake. Find the Old Railroad Bed on the north side of Fuller Lake (or the south side of Laurel Lake).
- The Koppenhaver Trail is a short loop that is quite easy. This 1.6-mile (round-trip) hike begins at Fuller Lake and has about 100 feet of total elevation change. Along the way are signs about the history of the area. The trailhead for the Koppenhaver Trail begins behind the restroom at the Fuller Lake area. Look for an opening at the tree line.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO NEAR PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK?
- Michaux State Forest. We highly recommend exploring around Michaux State Forest. There are a ton of hiking trails and back roads to explore. You can read all about the forest in our blog, What to See and Do in Michaux State Forest.
- Caledonia State Park. Just to the south is Caledonia State Park. It’s located to the north of Highway 30 and has beautiful grounds that are worth checking out.
- Gettysburg National Military Park. Gettysburg National Military Park is incredible, and is only about 30 minutes away. Plus, the town of Gettysburg is really cool and neat to walk around.
HOW TO GET TO PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION
While not particularly hard to get to, driving to Pine Grove Furnace State Park does take a bit of planning, as you won’t just “happen upon” the park while driving around the state. In fact, it’s a bit off any major thoroughfare (which makes it quieter!).
The park is located in Cumberland County, PA, in the south-central part of the state. It’s fairly close to Harrisburg, PA, Gettysburg and not too far from the Maryland border. It’s about 7 miles east of Interstate 81.
- Directions from Harrisburg, PA to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. This will take about 50 minutes, depending on the traffic (you can expect some near Harrisburg).
- Directions from Hagerstown, MD to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. This will take about one hour, and the traffic should be fairly light after you leave Hagerstown.
ENTRANCE FEES AND REQUIRED PASSES FOR PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK
There are no fees to enter Pine Grove Furnace State Park!
WHERE TO STAY IN PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK
Pine Grove Furnace State Park Lodging: There are no hotels or inns inside of Pine Grove Furnace State Park, but there is a historic house that you can stay in, if you are lucky enough to get reservations. The Paymaster’s Office is a great place to stay and is available for rent year-round.
PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK CAMPING
We loved camping in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The campground was large, the facilities were immaculately kept and it was extremely quiet. Here are the details:
Pine Grove Furnace State Park campground map, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Charcoal Hearth Campground:
- Location: The Charcoal Hearth Campground is located in the heart of the park, just south of the intersection of Highway 233 and Pine Grove Road.
- Accessible via: Vehicle.
- Reservations: Offered March through mid-December. Pine Grove Furnace State park Campground Reservations.
- Capacity: 74 sites.
- Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: Yes / No / Yes.
- Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets and showers.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK
Okay, so the weather in Pennsylvania can get cold. However, when you visit the park depends on what you want to do. If you want to swim, then May through October are the best times. In the fall, the foliage is amazing (and the crowds are a bit high). However, if you want to get peace and quiet, visiting in April and November is your best bet.
No matter what time of year, this place is worth checking out! Just be ready for lots of people in the summer months, in particular.
ARE PETS ALLOWED IN PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK?
Pets are welcome! However, they must be leashed at all times, and they are not allowed in the swimming area or on the beaches.
RELATED INFORMATION ON PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- While you are in the area, check out our blog on What to See and Do in Michaux State Forest.
- After you get back from your time in Sedona, check out our custom, vintage travel poster, where we take a photo that you send to us and turn it into an amazing travel memory!