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Alert iconEffective Thursday, November 3, 2022: All designated state forest campsites will be reserved through the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Reservations website.

To learn about the reservation system and why this change was made, please see the DCNR Bureau of Forestry Camping Reservation System Frequently Asked Questions (PDF).

Camping in Rothrock State Forest

Rothrock State Forest is an ideal location to spend the night outdoors. The forest’s rugged, rock-strewn ridges contain hundreds of miles of hiking and shared-use trails, including two trails named as Pennsylvania Trail of the Year.

Rothrock is known for its awe-inspiring vistas, extensive network of hiking trails, and intriguing natural areas.

To ensure the long-term sustainability of these valuable natural resources and recreation experiences, be sure to practice Leave No Trace Principles.

Motorized, Roadside Camping at Designated Sites

Motorized camping or roadside camping is defined as overnight camping in or near a vehicle where the vehicle is used for storage or transportation. This type of camping may only be done at designated campsites and always requires a permit.

There are no developed facilities, modern conveniences, or other improvements at state forest campsites.

There is one type of motorized, roadside camping opportunity in Rothrock State Forest:

  • Roadside campsites are singular, remote sites located along dirt and gravel state forest roads. They may be pull offs or have a short driveway. These sites allow for overnight camping in or very near a vehicle. Depending on layout, the sites may accommodate different types of equipment such as tents, small RVs, or trailers.

Check campsite details to determine the suitability for your equipment and desired experience.

There are no electric hookups, dump stations, or trash disposal facilities on state forest land.

Permits and Reservations for Motorized, Roadside Campsites

Camping permits and reservations are required to stay at motorized, roadside campsites.

Reservations can be made online at the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Reservation website at any time, or by calling 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), Monday through Saturday, 7:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Motorized, roadside campsites may be reserved up to eleven months in advance.

Use the Interactive Pennsylvania State Forest Camping Sites GIS Map to view locations and visit the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Reservation website to see pictures and additional detailed information on each campsite.

Stays are limited to seven nights at a motorized, roadside campsite.

Check in and check out time is 3:00 P.M. Campers must vacate for at least 48 hours before returning. Please be considerate of other visitors’ opportunities to use this valued resource.

Please review your permit for additional rules and conditions.

Primitive Backpack Camping

Backpack campers are permitted to camp in most areas of the forest without a permit if staying no more than one night in any location.

Backpackers may camp overnight anywhere except:

  • In designated Natural Areas
  • Within 200 feet of a forest road
  • Within 25 feet of a trail
  • Within 100 feet of a stream or any open water

Backpack camping is typically done at trailside campsites and does not allow for access to motorized vehicles during overnight stays.

Primitive, trailside camping is part of an overall backcountry travel experience.

It involves hiking from campsite to campsite, far from your vehicle and nearby buildings, roads, and trailheads where you will find no modern conveniences or campsite improvements.

Remember, if you are camping close enough to your vehicle to access it to store gear and supplies, you are not primitive camping -- you are roadside, or motorized, camping.

A permit and reservation is always required for motorized, roadside camping, and it is only permitted at designated sites. Please plan appropriately.

The Mid State Trail and Standing Stone Trail offer some of the best opportunities for backpacking; however, other Rothrock State Forest hiking and shared-use trails can be used to form short loops or out-and-back overnight trips.

Note that some portions of the Mid State Trail and Standing Stone Trail pass through different ownerships which manage camping differently.

Primitive Backpack Camping Permits

A free primitive camping permit is required if a backpacker desires an emergency point-of-contact or if a campfire is requested during the annual spring wildfire season (March, April, and May).

Camping permits are also required for primitive camping at the same site for more than one night.

To request a primitive backpacking permit in Rothrock State Forest, please contact the district office at 814-643-2340.

Group Camping

Backpacking or motorized camping groups of more than 10 people must obtain a Letter of Authorization from the state forest.

These are processed through the Rothrock State Forest district office and may take up to two to three weeks to obtain. Please plan accordingly.

Water Trail Camping

The Juniata River Water Trail winds through portions of Rothrock State Forest. There are limited opportunities for designated primitive, water trail camping on DCNR Bureau of Forestry managed lands.

Water trail camping is allowed without a permit, but is limited to two nights at a site. If unsure of land ownership, please do not stop for camping.

The Little Juniata Natural Area is closed to camping.

Campfires

Campfires are not permitted when the fire danger is high, very high, or extreme; and from March 1 through May 25, unless authorized by Rothrock State Forest.

Additionally, if the camping date is several days away or more, campfire permission may not be determined until closer to the dates of the camping trip.

Winter Camping

State forest roads do not receive winter maintenance and are not plowed --motorized, roadside camping access is not guaranteed. Travel at your own risk.

Contact Information

Contact the Rothrock State Forest district office at 814-643-2340 for more information.

Enjoy your stay in Rothrock State Forest!