Photo: Bald Eagle State Park

Pittsburgh Camping: Bald Eagle State Park

From its facilities to activities, this scenic lake boasts camping opportunities for all.

Located 150 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Bald Eagle State Park offers as many camping options as it does potential adventures. Though there’s no entry or day-use fee (like other Pennsylvania state parks) to take advantage of the various activities, you’ll want to consider extending your outing—the overnight stay offerings range from basic to bodacious. There’s something for just about everyone, whether you’re new to camplife, or want access to modern conveniences. The park’s accommodations, though numerous and disparate, can be grouped into three broad locations: The Russell P. Letterman Campground, the Rustic Campground, and the Nature Inn.

Russell P. Letterman Campground

Named for the former state representative, the Russell P. Letterman Campground is a modern camping facility open from the second Friday in April to mid-December, with accommodations ranging from non-electric sites to cottages and yurts. Arranged in two paved road loops, all accommodations have access to shared restroom facilities with flush toilets and heated showers. Many sites are also handicap accessible.

The non-electric, electric and full-hookup sites are what you might expect at any modern campground: a space to park, a place to set up a tent or auxiliary hang-out spot, fire ring and picnic table, all within a reasonable walk from facilities. Ranging from $26-44 per night, the difference betweens these sites is water and electric connectivity, and depending upon what sort of rig/setup you have, may determine which you choose. 

No tent or camper? No problem. Get into one of the campground’s three electrically lit and heated cottages to sleep soundly on a double bed surrounded by four sturdy walls. In addition, cottages also have porches, dining tables, chairs and electrical outlets all for $50 per night. One additional Deluxe Cottage is available for $87 and, in addition to the amenities of the regular cottages above, offers guests a microwave, stovetop and refrigerator. 

Looking for a more novel way to stay? Check out one of the campground’s two yurts. A modern take on the circular Mongolian dwelling of old, yurts offer a large open space for up to six, and all of the amenities mentioned previously in the deluxe cottage. At $84 per night, yurts are one of the pricier overnight options in the campground, but might be worth it for the personality. More Info: elibrary.dcnr.pa.gov

Rustic Camping

Set into the hillside on the southern shore of the Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, opposite the main hub of Bald Eagle’s offerings, the Rustic Campground at Bald Eagle offers a pared-down and more, well, rustic version of its more contemporary counterpart to the north. Open from the first Friday in May to the third Friday in October, the campground offers both drive-thru and walk-in sites, each with its own picnic table and fire ring, and within close proximity to pit toilets and running water. If you’re up early and on it, snag one of the walk-in sites (RO49 is an especially well-placed site) as they get you off the road and into trees. As with all the camping at Bald Eagle State Park, day-of sites may be available, though it’s always good to reserve a spot in advance (visit pennsylvaniastateparks.reserveamerica.com). Rustic camping will set you back $20 per night, with a two-night minimum on weekends during the summer months. More Info: elibrary.dcnr.pa.gov 

Photo: Bald Eagle State Park

The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle

If your idea of camping includes four walls, indoor plumbing, a country-style breakfast, high-speed Wi-Fi, and a library of field guides, natural history books, games and DVDs, then lodging here might be the best fit. The energy-efficient, LEED-certified B&B sits atop a rise overlooking Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, and offers sweeping views of the valley below and adjacent ridgeline. While not directly associated with Bald Eagle State Park, the Nature Inn offers guests the same accessibility as other park goers, albeit with luxury, and charging stations for one’s electric vehicle. Pricing starts at $114 per night for a single room (without a view). More Info: natureinnatbaldeagle.com

Things To Do

The park’s obvious feature is Foster Joseph Sayers Lake. Named for the WWII Medal of Honor recipient, the 1,730-acre lake is open to motorized and non-motorized boat traffic alike and is home to many species of game fish. For those who don’t bring their own, you can rent an array of watercraft (and bikes as well) from Boats and Bikes, located in the main marina (boatsandbikesatbaldeagle.com). Motorized watercraft are required to be registered with any state; same with non-motorized watercraft, or have a launch permit for Pennsylvania State Parks or from the Pennsylvania Game and Boat Commission.  

If being on the water isn’t your thing, over 14 miles of multi-use trails wind their way through the park, most offering an easy and open walkway to explore. Favorites include the Butterfly Trail, which takes you around the frog pond and through wetland rich in biodiversity and birding opportunities, or the Woapalanne Trail, which skirts the edge of the lake. If you camp in the Rustic Campground, or simply want a slightly more challenging trail, check out the Lakeside Trail, which serves up lovely views of the lake and opportunities for shore fishing. More Info: dcnr.pa.gov

Pitstop

The small hamlet of Howard on the lake’s southern shore is a good place to refuel. Be sure to stop in at the Kitchen Witch for a bit of hearty fare before heading out, or heading home. This friendly, woman-owned establishment serves up conventional breakfast and lunch items like pancakes, omelettes and a smattering of sandwiches and burgers, many of which are offered in veggie and gluten-free alternatives.

Kickoff Consideration

Penn State football games impact every facet of life in the areas surrounding State College, Pa., and Bald Eagle State Park is no different. Starting in September, home games can dramatically increase the cost of overnight stays, so make sure to plan ahead. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.