French Creek State Park
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:1183 Harmony Hill Road, Downingtown, PA
Hours:Sunrise to sunset daily (camping and fishing permitted 24 hours)
Fee: Trails, free; fees charged for pool, boat rental, and camping (see website for details)
Bathrooms: At park office, Scotts Run and Hopewell Lake boat launches, and many picnic areas
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at restrooms; snack concession at pool (in season)
Map: (click on Find a Park)

A wide variety of trails in lush forested hills surround quiet lakes, offering delightful family hiking, boating, fishing, mountain biking, or camping.

French Creek State Park
Photo by: Susan Charkes

At more than 7,700 forested acres, with two lakes, miles of trails, a swimming pool, playgrounds, campsites, and many other amenities, French Creek State Park is a destination worth heading to no matter what your family wants to do outdoors. Because so many options await you, it is advisable to check a map beforehand and plan ahead. A good place to begin is at the day-use area by Hopewell Lake, where you can gain access to trails, boat rentals, and a swimming pool.

The deep, rich forests in the park are surrounded by several thousand acres of additional woods in parks and game lands, making it a haven for birds and wildlife of all kinds. The park naturalist leads guided walks suitable for families, and evening programming for campers.

More than 35 miles of well-maintained, color-blazed trails weave through the woods. Some of the trails are open to mountain bikes; others are open to horses. For families with young children, a good introduction to the park’s trails is the level, hiking-only path that starts at the day-use area parking lot. It goes about 0.75 mile along the southern Hopewell Lake shore, providing close-up views of turtles, frogs, and dragonflies. For young kids, this may be enough. Just past the lake, the path intersects the yellow-blazed Horse-Shoe Trail. By continuing on the footpath into the woods for another 0.5 mile, you’ll arrive at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. For a more challenging loop hike, turn left onto the Horse-Shoe Trail; it goes uphill back above the lake and returns to the day-use area via a brief walk on Boone Trail (note that both of these are open to horses, and Boone Trail is open to bikes).

In winter, most trails are suitable for snowshoeing, and ice fishing and skating are permitted on the lakes.

The park is a prime spot for learning the art of orienteering—finding your way by map and compass. Head to the self-guiding course west of Hopewell Lake. Be sure to get a map of the course at the park office, and bring your own compass.

Hopewell Lake and Scotts Run Lake offer easy, contained canoeing and kayaking with a mostly natural shoreline. Boats may be rented at Hopewell Lake in summer. Both lakes are stocked and are excellent for fishing; Scotts Run is a fishery for trout and other coldwater species. Visitors cannot swim in the lakes, but the large and popular pool on the south shore of the lake is open during summer months (fee charged).

Picnic areas are scattered around the park. Near the south entrance is a playground. The park is one of the few in the Philadelphia region with individual tent campsites; more than 200 are available (access from the road is off of Park Road beyond the day-use area). Cabins and yurts can also be rented. 

Remember: Pets are permitted but must be controlled. There are mountainbiking trails but there is no access for road bikes.

Plan B:

Adjacent to French Creek, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is a restored iron-making village that kids will enjoy touring, and there are numerous hiking trails. Natural Lands Trust’s Crow’s Nest Preserve, nearby, has many hiking-only trails.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It’s best to bring a picnic. A seasonal concession stand is available by the pool.


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