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Cowans Gap State Park

Pennsylvania

Allegheny Mountains + Valleys, Pennsylvania

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Cowans Gap State Park

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  • A welcome flag greets visitors at the park office.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • An overview of the park showing the forest, lake, and beach volleyball area.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • Special vehicle permits are provided that allow access to areas not normally open to vehicles.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • A trail leads through the beautiful Pennsylvania forest.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • There's a 500-foot sand beach and roped swimming area.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • The depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps built cabins, picnic shelters, and the dam.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • The park's nature center features native plants and multiple bird feeders.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • A park pavilion and an amphitheater offer great outdoor places for environmental education.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • The park has informative signs about bats and has special boxes to house bats.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • There are walk-in tent sites with convenient parking.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • The walk-in tent camping section has seven sites in the woods.- Cowans Gap State Park
  • There are over 200 campsites in the park that accommodate from tents to large motor homes.- Cowans Gap State Park
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful wooded park. Nice lake with a variety of activities. Multiple trails.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Allegheny Mountains + Valleys, PA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

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A broken wagon, a Native American chief and slashes on a tree led to the naming of Cowans Gap State Park. The story goes that in the late 1700s, John Samuel Cowan and Mary Mueller eloped from Boston. While crossing the Conococheague Creek near Fort Loudon, Pennsylvania, their wagon broke down. John traded the wagon and horses to a Tuscarora chief in exchange for land. After obtaining peace pipe and tomahawk rights, John marked a big chestnut tree with three slashes, a sign of peace to the Native Americans. The terrain includes a gap, or pass, in the Tuscarora Mountain. Today, the land is called Cowans Gap.

Thanks to the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, Cowans Gap State Park opened to the public in 1937. When the CCC arrived, the land had suffered from a period of excessive logging. The young men of the CCC planted thousands of acres of trees, built bridges, roads, trails, and a sandstone dam that took three years to construct using a single bulldozer. Four pavilions were built by hand. The Cowans Gap Rustic Cabins made by the CCC are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ten original rustic cabins are available for overnight stays; dogs are permitted in three cabins. The park also features a campground with over 200 sites, for tents to large motor homes.

The park has plenty of activities to excite adventurers. Stop at the visitor center and get a park map that shows the variety of trails, including the most popular Lakeside Trail that circles the 42-acre lake. Rowboats, kayaks and paddleboats are available to rent seasonally. Or bring your own motorboat, (electric motors only). Fishermen will enjoy the excellent trout, bass, perch, and panfish fishing. There’s even an ADA-accessible fishing pier. A 500-foot sand beach and roped swimming area invites visitors for a refreshing swim. Picnic areas, modern restrooms and concessions are available. Watch for wildlife including turkey, deer and bear. Enjoy some birdwatching or visit the park’s bat boxes and read the exhibits dedicated to these unique creatures. Visit the nature center, take a guided walk, play volleyball, or go horseback riding. There’s a lot to do in this 1,085-acre park, and state forest land surrounds the park for even more outdoor fun!

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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