Pennsylvania is a special kind of beautiful. Quiet, untouched woodland, small towns, and rolling hills make for a serene setting that's perfect for an escape. Whether you're looking to get back in touch with nature, or just feel like you've stepped back into a simpler time and place, you can't beat Raystown Lake for your beautiful Pennsylvania escape. The state's largest lake is just the beginning of the gems in the Raystown area; as you loop around Huntingdon County, you'll pass a cave filled with whispering rocks, incredible hiking, and much more.
Every good trip starts with great accommodations. For those in search of something a little bit more unique, you can rent a houseboat at Seven Points Marina. There's nothing quite like spending the night out on the lake. There are 15 in their houseboat fleet, each with a gas grill, patio furniture, A/C and heat units, fully equipped kitchens, full baths with showers and all required safety equipment. Options with slides, hot tubs, or boats that are pet friendly are also available, and their various boats can fit between 2-10 people. The Marina also offers daily pontoon rentals for those looking to fish, tube, or waterski.
Lake Raystown Resort is a 400-acre natural playground right on the water. It has a variety of ways to enjoy a stay here, from the lodge and cute cabins to yurts and camping. Amenities like a waterpark complete with slides and splash pools, boat and paddleboard rentals, fire pits, wifi, hiking trails, and stellar onsite dining mean you don't have to go far to find enjoyment. Make sure to book a ride on their Proud Mary Showboat, which offers dinner, breakfast, and sightseeing cruises around massive Raystown Lake.
Trough Creek follows a breathtaking gorge through Trough Creek State Park before emptying into Raystown Lake. In addition to the stunning landscape of the gorge and Terrace Mountain, there are some awesome natural features worth hiking for, like Balanced Rock and Rainbow Falls, both off the Balanced Rock Trail. The Ledges Trail is another must-hike adventure, with sweeping overlooks. There's also a suspension bridge over the creek, an abandoned 1830s iron furnace, and the unique ice mine, a natural tunnel where cold air escapes from the mountain, forming ice in the summer that weirdly melts come winter. Camp, hunt, or fish to further take advantage of Trough Creek.
In a lot of ways, Raystown Lake is reminiscent of a simpler time, and you can really feel that at attractions like the Rockhill Trolley Museum. The museum features dozens of old-fashioned electric trolley cars built between 1895 and 1945, and you can see some in the process of being restored. Don't miss out on the opportunity to take scenic rides on the historic trolleys as well. You'll learn local history, the history of the cars you'll ride on, and how streetcars work. It's only $8 for an all-day adult ticket, and with five departures a day, you can really take advantage. The museum even offers special seasonal events, with themed rides for Easter, Halloween, and more. The volunteers are knowledgeable and helpful, and make for a memorable trip.
A hike is the perfect way to soak up the beauty of Central Pennsylvania. The 1,000 Steps Trail at Jacks Mountain not only offers incredible views, but a touch of history as well. The staircase built into the mountain was used by quarry workers to mine rock for brickyards during the 1930s. Today, it’s a popular trek for locals and visitors alike. Watch trains and the town below as you ascend the steps. There are actually more than a thousand stairs up the mountain, so the hike is quite the workout ... but if you take your time and make sure to bring along some water, it should be doable.
There's no better place to learn about the history of the car than at one of the country's oldest auto museums. Huntingdon's Swigart Auto Museum started off as a private collection in 1920, a mere 25 years after the first patented combustion engine automobile. Though the museum has more than 100 historic cars in its collection, it usually only displays 30 or 40 at a time, rotating out objects each year. The staff’s dedication to auto history goes beyond cars themselves, too. You might see vintage carriages, old photos of vintage races, works from renowned artists, auto emblems, bicycles, car badges, hood ornaments, old licenses plates, and tons more.
Central Pennsylvania might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about ghost towns, but believe it or not, there are a few around. Greenwood Furnace State Park preserves one, a town once called Greenwood that sprung up around an ironworks. The town reached its peak in the 1870s, when 300 families called the community home. They even had their own baseball team, the Energetics. But once technological advances made the iron furnaces obsolete, the town was abandoned. Today, you can still see the iron furnaces, a graveyard, the blacksmith shop, and more. There's also the lake, which was created to power the town's gristmill, that's still perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing. In addition, the park has miles and miles of trails as well as a campground.
The Isett Heritage Museum is a total hidden gem. More than 40,000 artifacts are on display, spread across several historic buildings and 40 impeccably landscaped acres. The emphasis is on rural and local history from the 19th and 20th centuries, and paints a picture of what everyday life was like back then. From a massive collection of antique radios and to a wild array of vintage washing machines, it almost feels a bit like an antique store. Guided tours are included in the price of admission, and can really help add a lot of context to the almost overwhelming displays.
You don't have to climb a thousand steps up a mountain or hike into the forest to find a ghost town to get a one-of-a-kind view in Raystown Lake. Hawn's Overlook is one of the most underrated yet completely spectacular views in the whole state; in fact, it was once featured on the official Pennsylvania visitors' guide cover, back in 1996. It faces west, overlooking the lake and the Juniata Valley. While it naturally has a great view during sunset, it's beautiful in the morning as well. It feels super secluded, which adds to the experience. You can also stop by the nearby Ridenour Overlook when you're in the area.
End your adventure at Lincoln Caverns and Whisper Rocks. Take a guided tour of this two-cave complex to see all kinds of enchanting geological oddities, like flowstones, stalactites, calcite, crystals, and more. The first cave was discovered during the construction of Route 22, and the second was uncovered by Myron Dunlavy Jr., the son of the man who operated Lincoln Caverns throughout the 1940s. The caverns are still operated by the Dunlavy family, which continues its dedication to preserving, protecting and studying the caves. In fact, in 2005, it was discovered that the Whisper Rocks cavern was roughly twice as large as originally thought. It's fascinating to think about what other hidden secrets might lay in these mysterious and twisting passageways below ground.
Somewhere between hiking through incredible natural beauty and stepping back in time at charming little museums, you'll find yourself falling in love with Raystown Lake. This picture-perfect slice of Central Pennsylvania is an absolute gem that feels miles away from the stress of everyday life.
Banner Photo Credit: Raystown Lake
The Raystown Lake Region of Pennsylvania has opportunities aplenty to breathe in the fresh air, walk through the forest or enjoy the unspoiled shoreline scenery. Bring your boots, kayak, fishing pole and mountain bike to really get the most out of your time in Huntingdon County.