Update for March 23: All facilities at state parks and forests in Pennsylvania will be closed until April 30, 2020. Trails, lakes, roads, and parking remain open.
On March 16th, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that all state parks and state forest facilities would close for fourteen days to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. That includes all bathrooms, campgrounds, public programs and pavilions. Hiking trails, lakes, forests, roads and bike trails are still open.
Terry Brady, press secretary for DCNR, said if you head out to a state park or forest, just take some precautions, including practicing social distancing.
“There is nothing wrong with getting on a trail and hiking,” he said, “We’re just strongly cautioning not to socialize with people and just to maybe wave from a distance. But our trails are open.”
Pennsylvania has 121 state parks, and 20 forest districts. Together, they encompass more than 2.2 million acres. The department realizes there are a lot of benefits to being outside, especially right now.
“Unfortunately the timing of this is bad,” Brady said, “but we have parks and state forest lands coming alive with a lot of blooms, vernal pools – there’s so much to see and you can do that without interacting with other people.”
DNCR will be providing full refunds on all reservations through March 31st for campsites, cabins, cottages, pavilions, lodges, and the Nature Inn. That may be extended depending on the public health situation in two weeks.
Brady said people should follow CDC guidelines as well as safety precautions for being outdoors. He recommends planning ahead, bringing extra food and water, carrying a cell phone and limiting activities that could require an emergency room visit.
DCNR will evaluate the situation before reopening facilities after the two week closure and make a decision about future reservations then.
Brady advises people to check the website of a specific state park before setting out and to use the bathroom before leaving home.