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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 Tuscarora State Forest

Tuscarora State Forest is an ideal location to spend the night outdoors. Nestled in the ridge and valley region of Pennsylvania, its 96,000 acres offer endless opportunities to explore the forested landscape.

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. Visitors must take trash with them upon departure.

There are three types of motorized, roadside camping opportunities in Tuscarora 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.

  • Roadside hike-in campsites are singular, remote, and tent-only sites with designated parking along a dirt and gravel state forest road and a defined trail or gated road that is followed to the campsite. These campsites offer more solitude than most roadside campsites, but still allow easy access to a vehicle for storage and transportation. Hike-in distances vary, so be sure to check campsite attributes in the reservation system.

  • State forest equestrian campsites are situated in a campground setting and usually laid out for and include amenities specifically for horses. These may include things such as hitching posts and manure pits. Additionally, riding opportunities are found nearby. Most of these campgrounds are for equestrian use only, but some may allow other campers during the off season. These sites are not recommended for individuals without horses. The Showaker Camping Area contains five separate campsites that offer a high line, picnic table, and fire ring. Restrooms are available at the nearby day use parking area.

Tuscarora State Forest offers approximately 55 motorized, roadside campsites that are marked with red fiberglass posts.

The sites may include a fire ring, picnic table, and off-road parking.

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

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
  • The Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry Area and the Hemlocks Natural Area

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.

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 backpack camping at the same site for more than one night.

To request a primitive backpacking permit in Tuscarora State Forest, please contact the district office at 717-536-3191.

Water Trail Camping

Opportunities for primitive water trail camping exist at six river island campsites along the Juniata River Water Trail.

The sites are located on DCNR-managed river islands within the Tuscarora State Forest. A permit is not required for overnight camping.

Groups of 10 people or less may stay for no more than two nights at any one campsite. All other State Forest Rules and Regulations apply.

River island campsites receive minimal maintenance and can be difficult to identify. If unsure of land ownership at a given location, please do not camp.

Group Camping

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

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

Camping groups may be directed to specific sites able to accommodate larger gatherings.


Campfires are not permitted when the fire danger is high, very high, or extreme; and from March 1 through May 25, unless authorized by Tuscarora 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 Tuscarora State Forest district office at 717-536-3191 for more information. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., closed state holidays.

Enjoy your stay in Tuscarora State Forest!