10 breathtaking natural wonders of Pennsylvania

Peter Watson

From an ice cave that forms icicles in the summer, not the winter, to the "Niagara of Pennsylvania," the Keystone State is home to some of Mother Nature's finest work.

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Pennsylvania is home to some incredible natural wondersMihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock

From miles of challenging hiking trails to majestic waterfalls, Pennsylvania provides an abundance of natural wonders.

Hiking, fishing, biking and boating are just a few of the activities offered at these captivating destinations.

Natural wonders of Pennsylvania

And while you’re visiting, don’t forget to sit back and enjoy some of the most picturesque views in the country. 

1. Pine Creek Gorge

Region: Pennsylvania Wilds

The Pine Creek Gorge, almost 50 miles long and over 1,000 feet deep, is known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

It offers spectacular views, abundant wildlife and beautiful foliage that promise a brilliant fall display of deep reds, yellows and purples in early October.

Be sure to make a stop in the quaint town of Wellsboro where you'll see gas-lit streets and Victorian mansions that date back to the early 1800s.

The drive along the west rim of the gorge provides beautiful scenery and an impressive density of northern PA birds and other wildlife.

Migratory and breeding birds that can be seen include woodpeckers, mourning and black-and-white warblers, wild turkey, and wood and hermit thrushes.

Pine Creek Gorge received national acclaim in 1968 when the National Park Service designated a 12-mile section as a National Natural Landmark.

2. Ringing Rocks

Region: Philadelphia & The Countryside

Make your own music on rocks! An eight-acre geologic wonder, the Ringing Rocks boulder field consists of primordial igneous diabase boulders that resonate when struck by a hammer.

Bring your own mallet to strike the boulder field in the 123-acre park and hear the stones ring like a church bell!

Bucks County's largest waterfall is also here. Picnicking and biking are available, and the park is open from sunrise to sunset.

3. Bushkill Falls

Region: Pocono Mountains

Open since 1904, the "Niagara of Pennsylvania," Bushkill Falls is among the Keystone State's most famous scenic attractions.

This unique series of eight waterfalls, nestled deep in the wooded Pocono Mountains, is accessible through an excellent network of hiking trails and bridges which afford fabulous views of the falls and the surrounding forest.

See number seven on my list – the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – for more information on what you can see in this delightful area of Pennsylvania.

4. Presque Isle

Region: Pennsylvania's Great Lakes Region

Lake Erie gives Presque Isle the only “seashore” in the state. With eleven designated beaches, there are chances to surf, swim, boat, fish, picnic, and play.

The park also has many trails, most under a mile, that range in difficulty from easy to difficult.

BirdWatching Magazine rated Presque Isle one of the top birding spots in America, with waterfowl, shorebird, and warbler migration.

5. Laurel Caverns

Region: Region: Laurel Highlands

Laurel Caverns is home to Pennsylvania's longest cave, a 435-acre geological park that has four miles of underground trails and passages and a mean temperature of 62°F.

Split into two sections, the cave's entrance into the upper cavern is a network of interconnecting grid-like passages, while its unlit lower cavern, known as its branchwork, consists of subterraneous watercourses within a dendritic system of passages.

The cave system is privately owned and can be explored in a number of ways including a 45-50 minute self-guided tour, a 30-minute guided tour or a guided caving (spelunking) adventure tour.

There are also other activities including panning for gemstones in a cave-like setting in a room adjacent to the Laurel Caverns Gift Shop and the Grottos of Learning, the world’s largest simulated limestone cave designed to help scientists measure the rate of “soda straw” formation in terms of centimeters per year and also observe how they transition to stalactites.

6. Glens Natural Area

Region: Upstate PA

Ricketts Glen is home to the Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark.

The area is known for the old-growth deciduous forest and 24 named waterfalls along Kitchen Creek, which flows down the Allegheny Front escarpment from the Allegheny Plateau to the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians.

The area is generally considered to be one of the most scenic areas in Pennsylvania.

7. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Region: Pocono Mountains

Located on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Delaware Water Gap cuts through a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains and includes nearly 40 miles of the free-flowing Delaware River.

This sacred land has been cherished by people for over 10,000 years. Its fields and forests are a bounty for those that have come before us, and a national treasure for all to enjoy today.

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is a boon for canoeists, kayakers, hikers and scenery seekers.

The recreational area includes manifold waterfalls, over 100 miles of hiking trails and three swim beaches.

It also includes the abovementioned and spectacular Bushkill Falls, near a Native American museum, which is worth the short hike alone.

8. Coudersport Ice Mine

Region: Pennsylvania Wilds

The Coudersport Ice Mine is an ice cave located in Sweden Township, that inexplicably forms icicles in the spring and summer but NOT in the winter!

The ice mine was discovered by prospectors searching for silver in the mountains outside of Coudersport in 1894.

In the spring, as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere thaws, ice begins to form in the 40-foot-deep Coudersport Ice Mine, increasing in volume as the temperature outside gets hotter.

Visiting on a hot summer day, tourists can stand outside the mine, and feel a cool breeze coming up from the ice that has formed inside the rocks.

Then, in the fall, the ice starts to melt, diminishing down to nothing over the course of the winter, only to begin the cycle again once the chill finally starts to leave the air.

9. Cherry Springs State Park

Region: Pennsylvania Wilds

Open every day of the year, Cherry Springs is the darkest spot on the Eastern Seaboard and
as such, possesses the best stargazing in the state.

The park has exceptionally dark skies and a wide variety of educational programs to explain astronomy, as well as accommodations for overnight stargazing.

In the areas surrounding the park are ample hiking trails and hunting areas within Susquehannock State Forest.

10. Archbald Pothole

Region: East Pennsylvania

Archbald Pothole State Park is a 150-acre park in northeastern Pennsylvania and is home to a big hole in the ground. A very big hole.

The park is named for Archbald Pothole, a geologic feature that formed during the Wisconsin Glacial Period, around 15,000 years ago.

The pothole is 38 feet deep and has an elliptical shape. The diameter of the pothole decreases downward. The largest diameter is 42 feet by 24 feet.

The pothole has a volume of about 18,600 cubic feet, so could hold about 140,000 gallons. It would take 35 fire truck tankers to fill the pothole.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

Phoenix, AZ
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