Exploring Pine Grove Furnace State Park Near the Appalachian Trail Midpoint in Pennsylvania

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When exploring Pine Grove Furnace State Park, visitors have a wealth of recreational opportunities to enjoy. Situated in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, the park offers miles of scenic trails, including an important portion of the long-distance Appalachian Trail.

Laurel Lake and Fuller Lake provide opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating, while the park’s historical features, such as the charcoal-fired iron furnace and the Appalachian Trail Museum, offer a glimpse into the area’s rich past.

Families can enjoy picnicking at the park’s designated picnic areas, and camping facilities are available for those who wish to spend the night in this beautiful park.

Whether you’re looking for hiking, swimming, or learning about the local history, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is the perfect place to visit. It also provides a great base for exploring Gettysburg, 30 minutes to the southeast, and Harrisburg, 45 minutes to the northeast.

A rocky overlook looks down on green forests surrounding a lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
Pole Steeple Overlook in Summer

Pine Grove Furnace State Park – What to See and Do

Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking to relax by a lake, this state park nestled in the Michaux State Forest is one you won’t regret visiting.

We love the hiking opportunities in and near Pine Grove Furnace, but there is so much more to see and explore. We have some great ideas to help you plan your next visit to this state park.

Hiking

Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers an abundance of hiking trails that cater to all skill levels and offer some fantastic bird’s-eye views of the park.

One of the most popular trails is the Pole Steeple Trail, which leads hikers straight uphill out of the state park and into the Michaux State Forest to a breathtaking overlook of the Cumberland Valley and the lakes of Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

The hike to the overlook is short, at 0.75 miles, but would not be classified as easy! Once you enter the trail across from Laurel Lake, you head straight uphill over rocky terrain. You’ll definitely get a little leg workout on this one!

It is perfect for those looking for a shorter but rewarding hike.

As an access point for the acclaimed Appalachian Trail, Pine Grove Furnace State Park also provides options for more ambitious hikers. A designated parking area can be found near the furnace stack. If planning to leave your vehicle overnight, just make sure you register it with the park office!

Park visitors will also enjoy the recent installation of a new bridge, connecting the Koppenhaver Trail and the Mountain Creek Trail. This enhancement provides greater accessibility and convenience for hikers looking to traverse between these two trails.

With its diverse trail options and connections to much longer routes including the Appalachian Trail, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a haven for hiking enthusiasts seeking both personal challenges and leisurely nature experiences.

The Appalachian Trail wooden sign welcomes hikers to Pine Grove Furnace State Park and directs them along the trail.

Appalachian Trail

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is not only a beautiful natural oasis in southern Pennsylvania, but it also holds a special significance for hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Located near the midway point of the 2,186-mile-long trail, Pine Grove Furnace marks a major milestone for those embarking on this epic journey.

One unique tradition that has become synonymous with Pine Grove Furnace is the hiker’s challenge of consuming a half-gallon of ice cream at the park. This delicious endeavor has become a rite of passage for hikers reaching this midway point, providing them with a much-needed treat and moment of celebration.

In addition to the trail itself, there are also several attractions along the Appalachian Trail section at Pine Grove Furnace. The Appalachian Trail Museum provides visitors with a glimpse into the history and heritage of the trail, while the Ironmaster’s Mansion offers hostel rooms for hikers looking for a warm shower and a mattress to sleep on for the night.

History at Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is not only a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, but also a treasure trove of history and heritage.

As you explore Pine Grove Furnace State Park, you can’t help but notice the interesting old buildings and the furnace stack in the middle of the park. From the Appalachian Trail Museum to the Ironmaster’s Mansion and the historic charcoal iron furnace, this park offers a unique opportunity to connect with the area’s industrial past.

Appalachian Trail Museum

Located within Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the Appalachian Trail Museum is a must-visit attraction for hikers. This unique museum is the only one of it’s kind in the US, and it’s completely dedicated to the Appalachian Trail and its hikers.

The Appalachian Trail Museum showcases a variety of fascinating exhibits and artifacts. Visitors can explore personal belongings and artifacts from the trail’s founders and notable thru-hikers, including Benton MacKaye, Grandma Gatewood, and Myron Avery. The museum also displays a collection of pictures and stories from thru-hikers, providing a vivid portrayal of experiences along the 2,186-mile trail.

Whether you’re interested in learning about the trail’s history or simply taking a break while on your own hike, the Appalachian Trail Museum at Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a must-visit.

Ironmaster’s Mansion

Just a short distance from the Appalachian Trail Museum, the Ironmaster’s Mansion stands as a glimpse into the park’s rich history but now offers modern-day functions. This historic brick mansion has served as a hostel, dormitory-style lodging, and an educational facility for years.

Serving now as a hostel-style accommodation for thru-hikers, the Ironmaster’s Mansion has bunk-bed rooms and serves hot dinner and breakfast for those passing through. It can also be used as a resupply point for those going the distance.

Additionally, the mansion houses meeting rooms that can be rented for various events and occasions. From intimate gatherings, such as small wedding receptions and family reunions, to larger-scale special events, the Ironmaster’s Mansion offers a versatile space with lots of different uses.

Over the years, the Ironmaster’s Mansion has welcomed a range of notable guests. Senators, federal department leaders, a millionaire, and even a university founder have all experienced the charm of this iconic mansion.

Water Activities at Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Pine Grove Furnace State Park also offers plenty of water activities for visitors to enjoy! It’s home to not one, but two lakes. Both Fuller Lake and Laurel Lake provide the perfect settings for a day of water fun.

Whether you prefer canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), or boating, you can spend the day on the lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Both the 25-acre Laurel Lake and the 6-acre Fuller Lake are open to water activities.

Laurel Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park provides a space for boating, swimming, fishing, and birdwatching.
Laurel Lake provides a space for all the water activities!

Swimming

Swimming at Pine Grove Furnace State Park is open with two beautiful lakeside beaches. Laurel Lake and Fuller Lake offer refreshing swimming options for visitors looking to cool off during the swimming season.

At Laurel Lake, visitors can enjoy swimming from sunrise to sunset during the swimming season. The sandy beach provides a perfect spot to take a dip in the crystal-clear waters and bask in the sun’s warmth.

For those looking for a lifeguarded swimming experience, head to Fuller Lake. Lifeguards are on duty at Fuller Lake from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM on most days during the swimming season. Fuller Lake’s beach area is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy the water under the watchful eye of trained lifeguards.

Fuller Lake does have drop-offs and colder undersurface water, so use caution while swimming in this lake.

Laurel Lake’s beach is not guarded. The area is open to swimming at your own risk. There is a ramp here that does provide accessibility at this beach.

During the swimming season, from May through September, you can also grab a snack or drink at the snack bar conveniently located near the beach area.

Boating

Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers fantastic boating opportunities for visitors to enjoy the outdoors and explore the scenic beauty of the park. The highlight for boaters is the stunning 25-acre Laurel Lake, which is perfect for a peaceful cruise or a fun-filled day of fishing.

Only electric motors are allowed on Laurel Lake. There is a convenient boat launch area where visitors can easily launch their boats and set off.

For those who don’t have their own boat, Pine Grove Furnace State Park also offers boat rentals, making it easy even for novice boaters to get out on the water. The rentals are conveniently located near the boat launch area right next to Pine Grove Road.

Fishing

Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers a variety of opportunities to reel in some impressive catches. From pickerel and perch to bass and stocked trout, you never know what you might reel in next.

For those looking to try their luck in the lakes, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission stocks them with a variety of trout species. These stocked fish provide an exciting challenge for both beginners and experienced anglers alike.

In addition to the two lakes, Mountain Creek also provides excellent cool-water fishing opportunities. Various trout species are most likely to be caught in Mountain Creek.

A wooden sign marks the trail to Mountain Creek where you can fish for trout.

Biking

Biking is somewhat limited in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, but there are a couple of options for those looking to explore the park on two wheels.

Biking at the park is permitted on park roads and service roads unless signage says otherwise. This means you can freely explore the park and enjoy a scenic ride anywhere that a car can go.

There is also a 3-mile Hiker-Biker trail connecting the Furnace Stack area to the back side of Fuller Lake. Continue on the full 3 miles to reach the Pole Steeple Trailhead!

Birding

Birding enthusiasts will find plenty to explore at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, with diverse habitats and a wide range of bird species that both reside in and travel through the park throughout the year.

The park offers numerous birding hotspots, including along the wooded trails, wetland areas, and the shores of both lakes, making it an ideal location for spotting a variety of bird species.

Vireos, thrushes, and warblers make their way through during migration season. You can often hear various species of owls hooting, but these creatures are more difficult to spot.

Geese, ducks, and other water birds can be found floating and feeding in the lakes, especially Laurel Lake. 

Birding enthusiasts will find Pine Grove Furnace State Park to have plenty of great spots for sightings. Make sure you bring your binoculars or telephoto lenses to get the best views and capture these birds on camera. 

Things to Do at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Winter

Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers a variety of exciting winter activities for outdoor enthusiasts, so it’s not just a summer destination! During the winter months, you can enjoy the beautiful landscape and activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating.

Cross-country skiing is a popular activity during the winter, especially on the hiker-biker trail, when there is adequate snowfall. The conditions are better some years than others, but the relatively flat trail is a great place to practice for those who are new to the activity.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park also offers ice skating and ice fishing opportunities when Laurel Lake freezes. Part of Laurel Lake, near the boat launch, is designated and maintained for ice skating, while the rest of the lake is open to ice fishing.

If you enjoy getting out on the ice during the winter, check out Laurel Lake!

Visiting Pine Grove Furnace State Park: Where to Stay

When visiting Pine Grove Furnace State Park, there are various accommodation options available for visitors. Camping is a popular choice in the Charcoal Hearth Campground. There are 70 campsites here, some equipped with amenities such as electric hook-ups and access to a bathhouse with showers. Others are primitive with no hookups, and some are tent-only.

The paymaster’s cabin is also available for reservation year-round. It can accommodate up to 6 people for overnight stays. You must bring all of your linens when staying at the cabin.

Those looking to stay near the park in a comfortable turn-key cabin should check out the Forest House at Warren Lake Grounds. You’ll have everything you’ll need and it’s only about 3 miles from the park!

➡️ Check Availability and Book the Forest House @ Warren Lake Grounds

Mountain laurel blooms in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in early summertime.
Check out the mountain laurel blooms in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in early summer!

More Places to Explore Near Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Surrounded by the scenic Michaux State Forest, Pine Grove Furnace State Park offers you a gateway to a wide array of outdoor adventures. While the park itself provides ample recreational opportunities, there are also several nearby attractions that are well worth exploring.

If you’re looking for more places to explore near Pine Grove Furnace State Park, you’re in luck! There are several nearby attractions that are worth checking out.

Caledonia State Park offers more great hiking and is connected to Pine Grove Furnace by the Appalachian Trail. Head south on the AT to reach Caledonia.

Kings Gap Environmental Education Center is connected via hiking trail to the north. You can drive to the top of South Mountain and take in the view from the Cameron-Masland Mansion or hike some of the trails along the road on the way up.

Exploring the Gettysburg Battlefields for a day is a great way to break up days of hiking. Take a driving tour around the battlefields and the town or take a tour of the Gettysburg battlefields on horseback. Traveling from Pine Grove Furnace State Park to Gettysburg only typically takes about 30 minutes!

For those with even more time to explore, continue your road trip, you can reach Philadelphia in a about two and half hours and take in all that the City of Brotherly Love has to offer.

With so many nearby attractions and natural wonders to discover, a visit to Pine Grove Furnace State Park promises endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a gem of a park, just waiting to be explored. Breathtaking landscape views and rich iron industry history are the highlights. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply looking for a peaceful getaway, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is the perfect destination for your next adventure.