Thursday, May 16, 2013

Local wilderness vacations: Chapman State Park

While staying at a cabin near Pittsfield, PA we took a day trip to Chapman State Park, in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest. From our cabin base, it was less than a 45 minute drive, so even if you're travelling from Erie, you'd have less than 2 hours windshield time. A little long for a daytrip, but I think that's not unreasonable.

Since we had never been there, we stopped at the Park Office to pick up some brochures. I love it when the brochure racks are well taken care of and well stocked. As much as I love finding new areas, I love to peruse brochures making plans for our next adventure.  And it didn't hurt to have a lovely garden of native Pennsylvania flowering plants.

After a quick scan of the map we decided to take a look at the camping area. Just passed the dam, and the parking lot used heavily this time of year for trout fishing, we passed a couple other parking areas near picnic pavillions, and playgrounds before we arrived at the campground itself. Simple and quaint, just how the campground at a State Park should be. Lot's of woods, and plenty of spots to either pitch a tent or park your camper.

At Chapman State Park, there are a couple cabins, and a couple Yurts, just like the one we stayed in at Pymatuning Campground. My biggest gripe is the fact that any of the structures in a campground in the State Park system must be rented for the entire week during the summer season. It's not that the prices are unreasonable, it's more the fact that I don't want to be locked down to just one campground on my week of summer vacation. Maybe we spend 3 nights at Chapman, then maybe 2 at Willowbay, and then 2 more at Cook's Forest. All have cabins to rent, however if they're on state land, you can't rent them for just one night.

After circling the campground, we headed around the lake to check out some of the trailheads for their system of trails in the park.  We quickly decided on following Adam's Run Trail. The parking was easy, and the trailhead was handicap accessible for about a quarter mile, when it turned and looped back to the parking lot. We continued on and found the trail to be a mix of grassy to gravely, crossing through every imaginable habit.

I think exploring the diverse habitat that PA has to offer was the best part of this trail. The trail followed it's namesake Adam's Run, which is a prototypical mountain run off stream. Clear and cold with a gravel bottom. Very easy to picture the old days when you could stumble on a native brook trout just around the next bend.

Trail improvement projects have installed several nice wooden bridges that made the early portions of the trail quiet enjoyable. However, in the picture below, I think Jen would have preferred better drainage in this section. Then maybe Robert wouldn't have needed a piggy-back ride!

By the end of the trail we walked out onto one of the large dirt parking lots the services the boat ramp for Chapman Lake behind Chapman Dam. With Trout season in full swing, and regular stocking still happening, this shoreline was a busy place the Saturday afternoon that we visited.

This was a great place to have some fun and get our camping season off on the right foot. Great hiking, and fun exploring of a new park for us to visit in the future.

What State Parks have you visited? What would attract you back to visit again? Leave your experiences in the comments. I'd love to explore your favorite spots.

Happy exploring,
Scott M

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