Camp at Cherry Springs State Park
Pennsylvania › Cherry Springs Visitor Center
Added by Brittany Weber
Experience a darkness so dark that it's actually bright! Cherry Springs State Park is perfect for photographers, campers, backpackers and more with it's easy 1 mile trail and access to over 550 miles of trails in the Susquehannock State Forest. This is the place to experience the wilderness as it's meant to be.
Cherry Springs State Park was my first ever International Dark Sky Park and it stole my heart, and I promise it will steal yours too.
The park itself is very quaint, but don't let it's size deter you! The park is still as remote and wild as it was nearly two centuries ago, and that's nearly impossible to find East of the Mississippi anymore.
The 82-acre park sits at around 2,300 feet above sea-level and is surrounded by the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest which has about 550 miles of trails to explore! The Cherry Springs Interpretative Trail begins by the information kiosk and features wayside exhibits on forests and forestry practices. This 1 mile self-guided and easy trail will open your eyes to the ways forests are and will continue to be vital to human survival. Beside the Cherry Springs Working Forest Interpretive Trail, the Susquehannock Trail passes nearby and offers 85 miles of backpacking and hiking as well.
Other than hiking, picnicking, and camping, the park is now most known for its dark skies. Its dark skies make it a haven for astronomers and is one of the best places on the eastern seaboard for stargazing and the science of astronomy. A dark night sky is a natural resource, just like plants, waterways and wildlife. Recognizing that this unique resource needed to be managed and protected, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources declared Cherry Springs State Park the first Dark Sky Park in 2000 and was later designated an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2008.
Other than stargazing from the viewing field or from the comfort of your tent, the park also offers access to an Astronomy Observation Field. It offers an excellent 360 degree view of the night sky and all of the lighting in the park has been shielded and upgraded to protect night vision. The Astronomy Observation Field does require you to register and pay a user fee. The park bulletin board has the fee schedule and is also where you will be able to acquire a fee payment envelope. Just follow the written instructions, posted fee schedule, and list your location on the field so that you can be located in an emergency, then deposit it in the fee tube. For more information about the Astronomy Observation Field I suggest checking out the park webpage on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' website as it has separate stipulations from the park itself. It's also where you can find any contact information for the park and where you can make a reservation for a campsite in the park's 30-site campground. The campground is open from the second week in April through November and offers vault toilets, potable water, picnic tables, a dump station, and more.
When going to Cherry Springs to star-gaze there are some important things to remember though! It takes a minimum of 15 minutes outside in the dark for your eyes to adapt to the lack of light, so it's important to be careful not to look at any bright lights. Cover your flashlight with red cellophane or use a red lens - many headlamps have a red light option built in. Red light will not lessen your night vision (or your fellow campers') and it also doesn't effect any of the nocturnal wildlife that may be in the vicinity. The best viewing time for dark skies is during a new moon, so if you want to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way I suggest checking the lunar calendar and planning your trip around the lunar phases. And star maps and charts will help you learn the position of constellations at different times of the year, and the positions of major stars and constellations, many of which can be seen with the naked eye and are easy to print off and take with you on your adventures! Meteor showers are also an excellent time to view the night sky, adding the excitement of ‘falling stars’ as they are sometimes called. The park offers a program for the Perseid Meteor Shower each August as well as other programs that are listed on the park's calendar of events that I highly recommend checking out.
In daylight the forest is a magical place, but it's even more captivating and full of life when lit only by starlight. Check out Cherry Springs if you're feeling adventurous or even if you're just looking for some solace among the stars. There's something for everyone here.
- Campsite Reservation
- Park brochure and map
- Flashlight/headlamp with red covering
- Star charts/telescope
- Map of the area - especially if backpacking
- Trash bags - the park is pack-in and pack-out
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Firewood/cook source
- Water bottles
- Hiking boots/shoes
- First Aid Kit
- Toilet paper (just in case!)
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Camping, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
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The park is best enjoyed during a new moon with clear skies. Very hard to plan a trip out here and sort of hard to find. Overall, if you're lucky you'll get to see probably the best view of the night sky you can get in the northeast US. Spent one night here and saw the Milky Way and more shooting stars than I've ever seen in my whole life
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