Cherry Springs State Park: The Complete Guide

Stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park, PA

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Cherry Springs State Park

Address
4639 Cherry Springs Rd, Coudersport, PA 16915, USA
Phone +1 814-435-1037

The secluded and scenic Cherry Springs State Park is situated in Potter County in upstate Pennsylvania, within the north-central part of the Keystone state. With over 80 remote and wooded acres, this expansive destination is surrounded by nearly 300,000 acres of wilderness within the Susquehannock State Forest. Located not far from the New York State border, the entrance to this state park is located along Pennsylvania Route 44 in West Branch Township.

A favorite among hikers and campers, the Susquehannock Trail passes close to Cherry Springs State Park, offers 85 miles of meandering picturesque trails, many with steep inclines and descents.

Famous for its spectacular stargazing opportunities, Cherry Springs State Park happens to be home to exceptionally dark skies. It’s in a prime location for viewing the stars and other celestial beings—and attracts both professional astronomers and novice stargazing enthusiasts throughout the year. This park usually hosts special events that coincide with views of the night sky, such as appearances of planets and constellations that draw avid stargazers from across the world.

 History

 Officially established in 1922, Cherry Springs State Park was developed from acres of wilderness and green space within the remote Susquehannock State Forest. It is uniquely situated at the highest point on the mountain, making it a long-time favorite for those who wished to enjoy the natural wilderness and admire the pretty views of the surrounding valleys. Not surprisingly, it was named for the large black cherry trees that grew in the area. Over the years, it's maintained its appeal as a park for experienced campers and hikers to experience the state's natural beauty. It's also grown in popularity with stargazers.

Flowers at Cherry Springs State Park, PA

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Things to Do

 The focus of Pennsylvania’s Cherry Springs State Park is stargazing-related activities, and there are several for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy here, including:

 Stargazing

 Cherry Springs State Park is known worldwide for its exceptional stargazing opportunities due to several factors, including its positioning atop a 2,000-foot high mountain. The local communities are in valleys, so lights are not an issue when peering at the stars and planets. The park’s exact positioning on the globe offers a 360-degree view of the center of the Milky Way. Cherry Springs State Park offers a variety of stargazing programs throughout the year, as well as night-sky photography classes and more.

The park’s Overnight Astronomy Observation Field is the optimal place to camp if you plan to enjoy some serious stargazing. At night, all-white lights are to be avoided at all costs. In fact, all-white lights have been changed to red to provide an incredible view of the night sky.

Annually every June, the park hosts the Cherry Springs Star Party in the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field, a major event sponsored by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg (ASH). Astronomy lovers worldwide have been known to make the pilgrimage to this park to gaze at the night sky, camp overnight, and socialize with other astronomers of all levels.

Visitors who wish to register for this event must do so on the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg's website, and it's recommended to plan your attendance in advance.

Hiking

Although there are over 80 miles of mostly difficult hiking throughout the adjacent Susquehannock State Forest, the most popular and informative trail at Cherry Springs State Park is the “Working Forest Interpretive Trail,” an easy, 1-mile walk for visitors to learn about the area and the park. The trailhead is at the park’s information kiosk, and the pathway features exhibits and information about the forest.

 Educational Programs

Cherry Springs State Park offers several environmental education programs throughout the summer. These feature guest speakers, guided walks and stargazing presentations, and related tours. These activities are for adults and children and can be viewed on the park's website’s calendar.

Woodsman Show

 For nearly 70 years, Cherry Springs State Park presents an annual (and world-famous) “Woodsman Show” every August. It's known to bring experts from across the globe, and it attracts thousands of participants and spectators with a multitude of activities all focused on wood.

The park hosts several events all weekend long with various lumberjack competitions, such as log-rolling, tree-felling, chain saw expertise, and much more. This well-attended annual event also hosts music and other entertainment, chainsaw carving competitions, raffles, and a market where wood-carving artisans sell their handmade products.

Be sure to reserve your camping spot in advance if you plan to attend this event, as spaces fill up quickly, sometimes a year in advance!  

Where to Camp

 You can camp at Cherry Springs State Park at their “rustic campground” from April through October and must reserve your spot in advance. The campground has space for 30 (non-electric) campsites with picnic tables, lantern hangers, and fire rings. No pets are allowed at the campsite. Restrooms (with non-flush toilets) are nearby.

Campers here must respect the stargazers and place red filters on their lights (avoiding any white lights if possible) and keep campfires small.  

 There is also a “picnic grove” with charcoal grills near the camping “check-in” area of this park.

Tips For Your Visit

  •  Cherry Springs State Park is open all year long. Avid stargazers often plan their visit far in advance if they wish to be there for specific nights of the year. If your visit is for stargazing, there are three specific areas of the park that are available for this activity:
  • Night Sky Public Viewing Area: This area was created for those who wish to visit and stargaze for only a few hours.  There is free parking with easy access from the main entrance and provides stargazing information for novices without camping facilities.
  • Rustic Campground: Although there are no lighting restrictions, visitors are asked to respect those who are stargazing and use red-filtered lights and keep campfires as small as possible.
  • Overnight Astronomy Observation Field: The Overnight Astronomy Observation Field is the primary area of the park for astronomical night sky viewing, which means it’s the most popular area within this destination for serious stargazers. There are stringent rules about lighting, and there are no campfires allowed in this area. You must register in advance to use this area of the park.
  • Each June, the park hosts an annual Cherry Springs Star Party in the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field, a major event sponsored by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg (ASH). Anyone who wishes to register for this event must register in advance. When this event occurs, certain areas of the park may be closed for private events, so be sure to check in advance when planning to visit.
  • Visitors should be aware that this park is located on top of a mountain, and the weather is often cold, rainy, and damp. Be sure to check the temperature in advance of your visit and plan to bring jackets, hats, blankets, and other gear for this type of climate.
  • Hunting is prohibited at Cherry Springs State Park, but it’s allowed in areas within Susquehannock State Forest. It’s best to check their website for information about rules and regulations.
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Cherry Springs State Park: The Complete Guide