Pennsylvania is famous for many things—Hershey Chocolate, Penn State, Philadelphia, Independence Hall, the Mason-Dixon Line, and the Little League World Series, to name a few. But what about mountains? The answer to “does Pennsylvania have mountains” may surprise many people.
Barrier ridges of the famous Appalachian Mountains stretch diagonally across Pennsylvania—from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. The most significant subranges in the state are the Pocono and the Allegheny Mountains. Because of these ranges, most of Pennsylvania is mountainous.
The mountains that cover Pennsylvania provide beauty and recreation during all four seasons. Adding to the many sites to see in Pennsylvania, the PA mountains are breathtaking and relaxing. Read on to discover more about the state’s mountains and what they provide residents and visitors.
The Mountains of Pennsylvania
The mountains in Pennsylvania are some of the most naturally beautiful parts of the state. One of the largest mountain ranges in North America, the Appalachians, created most of the mountains throughout the state. These mountains are most abundant throughout central Pennsylvania, though mountains dot the entire state. Nearly 70% of the state is mountainous. The mountainous terrain includes large mountains, small mountains, foothills, saddles, canyons, plateaus, and more.
When it comes to flora and fauna, the mountains in Pennsylvania are filled with a variety of both. Some of the main trees are the sugar maple, the eastern red cedar, and green ash. In addition, the mountains and forests are home to whitetail deer, elk, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, red and gray foxes, and black bears. The ecosystems of the various mountains provide ideal environments for different plants and animals, so while the above is a general list, there are many other plants and animals unique to certain areas.
The variety of Pennsylvanian mountains is vast—there are ridges, rolling hills, canyons with steep mountains on each side, and plateaus overlooking valleys. While none of these mountains reach the heights of the tallest mountains in North America, Pennsylvania’s mountains still provide beautiful scenery, landscapes, and recreational areas.
The Pocono Mountains in western Pennsylvania are categorized by mountains that lead to gently sloping valleys with meandering rivers and calm lakes. The rivers in the mountains often drop off to create magnificent waterfalls among the densely wooded mountainsides. The Poconos are cold in winter and hot in summer and receive precipitation during all parts of the year.
There is a lot to do in the Poconos when it comes to recreation. Those who visit or live in the area enjoy things like,
- Hunting: Deer, rabbit, grouse, pheasant, and other waterfowl are common game hunted in the Poconos. Check specific areas for hunting guidance.
- Fishing: Hundreds of miles of rivers and streams combined with thousands of acres of lakes make for an angler’s dream. There are even stocked lakes and guided fishing tours for those looking for a guaranteed catch.
- Skiing and snowboarding: Ski resorts in the Poconos offer runs that range from beginner to double black diamond. The region has six major ski areas, all of which have rental shops. Some vacation packages offer overnight stays, lessons, and equipment.
- Whitewater rafting: The Pocono’s whitewater has wild whitewater for the extreme adventurer, family-friendly whitewater, and every level in between.
- Resorts: Some Poconos resorts have waterparks and activities for children, and others are couples retreats focused on romance and relaxation.
The Poconos have hotels, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and more. With almost endless lodging opportunities, visitors are sure to find precisely what they are looking for in a stay. There are possibilities to enjoy the luxury of a resort and all its amenities or get away from crowds to enjoy the solitude of nature in the unique Poconos Mountains.
What is the Most Mountainous Part of Pennsylvania?
The other sub-range of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania is the Allegheny Mountain Range. The Allegheny Mountains are in West Virginia and Virginia and extend into Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, this range begins in the middle of the southern PA border and continues into the northcentral part of the state. These mountains have rivers, lakes, dense forests, and pieces of Pennsylvanian history.
The most mountainous part of Pennsylvania is the middle section. Since the Appalachians divide the state diagonally from southwest to northeast, that diagonal center line is where most of the major mountains are. Therefore, this middle section has the most dramatic elevation changes along the various mountain ridges.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: The Mid State Trail, a trail that stretches from the southern border of the state to the northern border, passes up and over Gillespie Point. This 323-mile trail is known as Pennsylvania’s wildest trail, traversing all kinds of terrain as it passes through the mountain-dense middle of the state.
One of the main attractions in the Alleghenies is Raystown Lake, the Crown Jewel of Pennsylvania. This 8,300-acre manmade lake winds through part of the mountain range. Thickly forested mountainsides lead to the lake shore. This lake is touted as the least developed body of water in the state. The 118 miles of shoreline are primarily undeveloped, which makes Raystown Lake perfect for hikers, swimmers, boaters, fishermen, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
In the Allegheny Mountain range, there are many kinds of trees—red spruce, mountain ash, balsam fir, red cherry, and red maple. Many of these trees change to beautiful colors during the fall months, making the mountains come alive with color before winter arrives.
The Allegheny Mountain range sits next to the Allegheny Plateau. This plateau gives texture to the landscape of western Pennsylvania. The Plateau contributes to places like Buttermilk Falls Natural Area, where waterfalls cascade down steep mountainsides.
Another interesting part of the Alleghenies is approximately a 13-mile stretch of abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike. In the past, the section of road was used to help reduce traffic, but now it’s unused. This area is where adventurers explore the overgrown turnpike with its abandoned tunnels.
Does Pennsylvania have Big Mountains?
There are several peaks in Pennsylvania over 3,000 feet and even more over 2,000 feet. The tallest mountain in Pennsylvania is Mount Davis, which stands at 3,123 feet. This mountain sits in the Forbes State Forest and is only four and a half miles from the Maryland border.
There is a road to the summit with a parking lot near the top, just 100 yards from the peak. The top is different from what many visitors may expect because the peak does not come to a sharp point like many mountains; instead, the peak is a large, rounded area. In addition, the top is wooded, and it is difficult to see the surrounding countryside.
However, there is the Mount Davis Observation Tower, a metal structure that stands about 50 feet above the trees, where visitors can get a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. The top of the tower is the exact highest point in Pennsylvania, and there are views of rich green hills covered in trees. The view from the top is magnificent in the fall when the leaves on the trees fade into shades of yellow, red, and orange.
There are many other notable peaks in Pennsylvania:
- Blue Knob: At a mere 100 feet lower than Mount Davis, Blue Knob is often touted as the highest skiable mountain in Pennsylvania. Blue Knob resort offers year-round activities, including a ski resort, golf, various events, and weddings.
- Schaefer Head: A 2,950-foot peak in the Allegheny Mountains. This mountain is less accessible than Blue Knob and Mount Davis. There are no official trails or roads to the summit, though there is a Jeep/snowmobile trail that leads toward the heavily wooded summit.
- Beam Rocks: This summit stands at 2,661 feet. Hike the Laurel Highlands Trail to get to the summit. The rocks in the area bring many rock climbers to this mountain. There are also caves to explore in the area. This feature makes it a popular stop for many tourists and locals.
- Wolf Rocks: This 2,639-foot rock outcropping provides impressive views of the surrounding area since it isn’t covered in trees like many peaks throughout Pennsylvania. The area at the top of Wolf Rocks is a cliffside of 150 feet. There is a 4.5-mile loop trail that leads to the top and back.
- Gillespie Point: This is one of the more unique mountains in Pennsylvania due to its triangle shape. The mountain comes to a point unlike many of the rounded peaks that are common around Pennsylvania.
Are the Smoky Mountains in Pennsylvania?
The Smoky Mountains are a mountain range that runs along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Like the ranges in Pennsylvania, the Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, but the Smoky Mountains end in North Carolina, over 300 miles from Pennsylvania, so the Smokies aren’t in PA.
A State Covered in Mountains
Though it doesn’t have any of the major peaks in North America, Pennsylvania is covered in mountainous terrain. The Alleghenies and Poconos, each part of the Appalachians, offer many unique views to anyone who visits them. These mountains provide vistas of green valleys, snaking rivers, steep gorge walls, and thunderous waterfalls. The mountains in Pennsylvania help give it variety and offer exciting stops for anyone visiting.