Cowans Gap State Park: The complete guide for camping

Cowans Gap State Park Camping Guide

Cowans Gap State Park is honestly one of my favorite PA State Parks that we have visited thus far. Nick and I have taken two trips there, once with his sister and nephew, and another time with our group of friends. This state park really has everything, hiking, bicycling, fishing, kayaking, and swimming. There are also a few cool attractions that are short drives away. The hiking trails have some really beautiful payoffs, and the beach is very well maintained for those who like swimming and laying out on the beach.

Cowans Gap State Park Campsites

Tent Camping

Cowans Gap has great sites for camping in tents. If you’re looking to book a tent site, you can do so on the pa state parks website here.

Electric Sites

The modern electric sites are actually really nice. We haven’t used one of these sites, but they are leveled out and have a gravel base. We have had our tent slightly not level in the past, and we woke up in the middle of the night sliding down the air mattress. An example of a modern electric site is shown here.

Non-Electric Sites

The non-electric sites are basically the same as the electric ones, with a leveled gravel campsite. The only difference of course is that there is no electric. An example of one of these sites is shown here.

Walk-In Sites

Both times we went to Cowans Gap, we chose the Walk-In campsites. There aren’t very many of them, only seven. On the campground map, they are in the top right corner labeled W1 to W7. These sites are pretty secluded in comparison to the others. They all are a short walk into the woods, but they are not gravel base and level, it is just some cleared out patches of woods. If you prefer the full camping experience, this would be your best bet. Check out an example here.

RV Camping

The RV sites are spaced adequately, and are actually the same as the modern electric tent camping sites. Many of the campsites in Cowans Gap you can use either a tent or RV. An example of a modern electric site is shown here.

Non-Full Hookup Sites

RV Sites here are actually one and the same as the modern electric sites for tent camping, as stated above. Each of the modern electric sites has a different back in length, so you’ll want to verify that before you book a campsite. There are no full hookup sites available unfortunately, but there are enough water pumps and a place to drain sewage.

Cabins

Rustic Cabins are available to rent also, with showerhouses nearby. The Cabin has a full kitchen with stove and fridge, with lights and electric outlets as well.

Check out one of the cabins here.

Group Tenting

A large group tenting area is also available for groups of any size it seems, the lowest price is for 20 or less. If you are looking to have a large group tenting event, this could be it since this park has a bit of everything. Currently due to COVID19, group tenting is not available.

Pets

Cowans Gap allows pets! There is a ring of campsites that allows for pets. Use this map to pick out your pet-friendly campsite. Our dog Astro is a happy boy.

Nick and Astro

Cowans Gap State Park Amenities

Bathrooms and Showers

The bathroom situation at Cowans Gap is great. The shower stalls have a changing room attached with benches and hooks to store your clothes while you shower. The men and women’s shower houses have four showers each and the water can get pretty hot. There is also a family bathroom available with a shower. They clean the bathrooms often and honestly this is one of the best parks as far as bathrooms are concerned. Also, they are only a short walk away from most campsites.

 WiFi and Cell Service

I know you might be thinking: “but you’re camping!”, we dont personally require WiFi and Cell service in order to go camping. We love to visit all state parks, but I know there are some out there who need to be connected whether it be for work purposes or personal choice.

Cowans Gap State Park does not provide any WiFi, and the cell service is not great. We personally have Verizon and get two bars. Friends who have gone camping with us in Cowans Gap experienced no service at all, so as usual it is cell carrier dependent.

Water

There are many water pumps located throughout the campground, if you want to see where they are in relation to your chosen campsite, you can consult the park map.

Things to do in Cowans Gap State Park

Hiking

Cowans Gap State Park has many trails to choose from, ranging from easy to very difficult. For a full list of trails and their difficulty levels, click here. Once you reach the park, the park office should have maps so you can find each of them. When hiking be sure to wear hiking shoes and be aware of where you’re stepping. Some of the trails can be really steep.

Kayaking

The lake at Cowans Gap is 42 acres, so there is plenty of room for kayaking! There is a trail that wraps around the entire lake that is decently wide and well maintained. There are many places to get into the water along it.

My husband out on the lake.

Bicycling

While there are no mountain biking trails available, the roads throughout the park kind of wind around trees and are paved, so if you enjoy road biking this isn’t a bad option.

Fishing

The lake is stocked with quite a few fish. As stated in the kayaking section, there is a trail that wraps around the lake. There are many fishing spots to choose from along this trail. The fish you can catch in this lake are:

  • Trout
  • Bass
  • Perch
  • Catfish
  • Panfish

Swimming

In the past, there were concerns about the lakes water quality. There were some reported illnesses in the past from swimming at the lake, but we had no issues personally. They test the water relatively often, but if you want to inquire about the current water quality, you can call the Cowans Gap State Park number: 717-485-3948

The beach is 500 ft long and sandy, and is overall really nicely maintained.

Paddleboats

This is pretty unique, you can rent paddleboats to go on the water for $12 per hour. I haven’t seen any other state parks with something like this.

Cowans Gap Paddleboats

Volleyball

Inside the park, there is a sandy volleyball court. We had a group of about 10 with us when we went there last, so volleyball was a lot of fun.

Concession Stand

Beside the beach, there is a concession stand that sells food, ice cream. Additionally, they sell some camping essentials such as milk, bread, eggs, charcoal, and ice for coolers. There is also a store that sells T-Shirts and other souvenirs.

Things to do near Cowans Gap State Park

There are some cool places to visit nearby the park too, if you’re staying awhile and have the time. Hit the links to start navigating to them.

Big Mountain Overlook (16 minute drive)

The Big Mountain Overlook is a must visit even if its just real quick, you get to see a really scenic view of the forest.

Big Mountain Overlook

Buchanan’s birthplace (18 minute drive)

Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is a quiet small park to visit and isn’t too far away from Cowans Gap. Why not visit the birthplace of one of the worst U.S. presidents?

Cowans Gap State Park Buchanan's Birthplace

Tiny World (46 minute drive)

This one is quite a drive in comparison to the others, but it’s definitely worth a mention. Tiny World is a miniature town you can walk through. They often have Christmas displays set up during the winter time.

Cowans Gap State Park Tiny World

Groceries near Cowans Gap State Park

Let’s face it, sometimes we forget stuff. Here are some nearby stores for groceries and other supplies, just hit the links if you want to start navigating.

Dollar General (13 minute drive)

For some of the more basic food needs.

Save A Lot (19 minute drive)

If you require a larger selection of food or haven’t done your food shopping ahead of time.

Giant Food Stores (22 minute drive)

Also has a good selection for all kinds of food. Good for if you shop after you get to the campsite.

Walmart (41 minutes)

In case you need other non-food related items, such as bug spray, air mattress, etc.

Wrap-Up

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Cowans Gap State Park has many things to offer, if you like hiking Cowans Gap is great for that. Kayaking is also great here since there is a 42 acre lake with easy access to the water. The lake is stocked with plenty of fish. The campsites are well maintained, and most are level with a picnic table and a fire pit. Cowans Gap is one of my favorite state parks, and I hope you visit it soon! Stay tuned for more PA State Park reviews, we won’t stop until we’ve visited them all.

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