Weekend Adventure: Poe Paddy State Park

Over the mountain and through the woods perfectly describes the drive into Poe Paddy State Park.  Located 12 miles off of PA route 45 in the southeast corner of Centre County, the park is nestled between two mountain ridgelines, and Penns Creek.  Here you find yourself in an outdoor paradise that rivals any public lands in the state.  From your campsite at Poe Paddy, you have access to some of PA’s best outdoor recreation, and here you’ll get a glimpse into how you can hit the river, roads, and trails easily in one weekend’s stay.

Open from the beginning of April through the beginning of December, Poe Paddy campground provides camping for everyone, from modern RVers to rugged backpackers passing by on the Mid State Trail.  With five small Adirondack-style lean-tos and 34 tent and trailer campsites, the grounds offer toilets, potable water, trash receptacles, and sites with electric hookups.  Check-in to your site doesn’t begin until 3pm, still giving you plenty of time to set up your camp before dark and enjoy some dinner.  The early bird gets the worm, so wake up early, brew your favorite Boil Line Coffee, and test your luck fishing one of the two creeks flowing by.

Camping at Poe Paddy State Park. Sites with electric hook-ups are available but limited. All sites must be reserved in advanced at www.dcnr.pa.gov.

Morning of day 1:

Now that you’ve gotten yourself around, had your coffee and breakfast, it’s time to get out on the water.  Situated at the confluence of Poe Creek (aka Big Poe Creek) and Penns Creek, you have the choice between a river-like fishing experience or small stream fishing.  Penns Creek is the larger stream and gives anglers a chance to catch large rainbow trout and brown trout on a wide, easy to access creek.  Navigable by raft, canoe, or kayak, Penns Creek features class II rapids, along with large, deep, flat-water pools.  Poe Creek is a relatively small tributary to Penns Creek and runs directly through the campground.  Being a smaller stream, Big Poe provides a different style of fishing compared to the larger Penns Creek.  A well-worn trail parallels Poe Creek, giving easy access, perfect for a quick fishing session.  If the fish aren’t biting, don’t fret because Poe Paddy offers challenging gravel bike rides, and also flat rail trail rides right out of the campground.

Penns Creek is home to not only trout. Here you see both a rainbow trout (right) and a smallmouth bass (left). During the morning hours fish can be found aggressively feeding. These two fish were caught on the same cast, using a dropper rig setup, which means two flies are tied to your fishing line at the same time.

Afternoon of day 1:

Take a break at camp and have some lunch because it’s time to switch gears and hop on the bike.  The gravel riding is nearly endless around Poe Paddy, and features challenging climbs, sweeping vistas, and rolling country roads.  One quick ride is to take Poe Valley Road up along Poe Creek to Pine Swamp Road, clearly marked on your right-hand side 2 ½ miles from camp.  Pine Swamp Road turns directly uphill, taking you onto the ridge north of the campground.  Once out of the valley you have flatter ridgeline riding, with amazing vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. 

Views from Poe Paddy Drive looking north. Penns Creek is below, flowing past the village of Ingleby.

In another 2 miles you’ll make a right onto Poe Paddy Drive, looping back towards camp, and finally descending directly back into the campground, totaling just under 10 miles, and 1,000 feet of climbing.  For a quick ride for all abilities, Tunnel Spur Road runs through the campground, and turns into a rail trail heading in both directions parallel to Penns Creek.  Head downstream to the tunnel that bores through Paddy Mountain for a longer ride in a remote area (although you will actually get cell service on this trail), or upstream for a short ride that offers easy access to the creek for fishing or cooling off in the water.  One thing I love about going through the tunnel is seeing that once on the other side, the water is flowing in the opposite direction and is much further below you, because the creek makes a mile (5280ft) long horseshoe curve around the mountain, as you only journey 500ft through the tunnel.  This trail also makes a great hike for all ability levels, however, a classic, no-nonsense footpath also calls Poe Paddy home.

Morning of Day 2:

Cabins and camps are found throughout the area, so be sure to respect private property.

The second morning is always my favorite.  Brewing up a large pot of press coffee and fixing breakfast outdoors is just what the doctor ordered.  Once breakfast is digested and you’ve taken some time to relax (you are on vacation you know, so it’s OK to relax) a good hike is that one last activity you can check off the list.  PA’s Mid State Trail runs through Poe Paddy campground, and hiking sections of this historic trail range from mild to wild.  Hiking is the only mode of transportation allowed on many sections of the Mid State Trail, making it a true footpath.  Heading north, the MST will take you through the tunnel on the rail trail discussed earlier, but if you head south, you’ll find a rocky and rugged trail, as the MST climbs up the ridge just south of Poe Valley Rd.  From Poe Paddy the trail extends south all the way to the Maryland border, and north to the New York border, totaling over 500 kilometers (the trail uses the globally universal metric system), or 324 miles.  The Poe Valley offers miles of trails other than the Mid State Trail, so be sure to research or buy a map of the area to explore other options.  Remember to enjoy the moment and spend a little time relaxing before it’s time to pack up camp and head home for the weekend. 

Checkout is at 3pm on your final day, so you can easily knock out this entire list and head home on day 3 or stay the extra night.  It’s important to remember that you are on vacation.  You might hike 10 miles, catch 20 trout, and/or ride 30 miles, but take time to sit back, relax, and enjoy being in nature.  Poe Paddy State Park is essentially located in an east coast canyon and is the perfect place to unwind from our daily lives and break our normal routines.  This is why we go camping, to break that cycle, recharge, and keep us moving All Forward!

You can still catch a view on your way home.