How to Camp (for free!) in Tiadaghton State Forest

Picnic table, fire ring, and our tent in our campsite in Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Picnic table, fire ring, and our tent in our campsite

Last August, several of my siblings and I decided to go camping in Pennsylvania.  It was just a fun long weekend together: relationships are so different but so much fun when you’re all adults.  But being that we all grew up sleeping in our van, we thought it would be fun for once to sleep in a tent under the stars, roast marshmallows over a real fire, and hang out in a real camp site (instead of pulling over 0.5 miles down a dirt road in the closest national forest – or any of our other free camping hacks).  As it turns out, the area we were visiting (Tiadaghton State Forest) offers several campgrounds as well as backcountry campsites (both drive-in and backpacking) – and they’re all free!

Quick Stats

Attraction Type: Campground Ambience: Forest, river, or trail Permit Required: Yes Fees: None

Little waterfall near the Naval Run Campsites, Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Little waterfall near the campsite

Unless you’re backpacking, you’ll need to get a permit for your campsite (if you’re backpacking and you’re staying more than one night in a site, you’ll also need a permit).  Call Tiadaghton State Forest (<a href=”tel:5707535409″>570-753-5409</a>) to request a permit, or, if you’re more than a couple of days in advance, you can also request a site via email (fd12@pa.gov).  They’ll ask you where you want to camp and give you choices about which site will best suit your needs.

Roasting a marshmallow in the fire ring at the Naval Run Campsites, Tidaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Roasting a marshmallow in the fire ring

A few things to remember:

There are two kinds of sites – ones in the official campgrounds (Black Walnut, Tomb Flats, Hoffman Campground, etc.) and primitive sites tucked into the forest along dirt roads.

Many of the official campgrounds are along the Pine Creek Rail Trail.  This is great for bikepacking, but if you’re looking to kick back and relax, realize that there will be people on bicycles nearby.

Group size is limited to 10 people without a special permit.

The restrooms in the official campgrounds are pit toilets.  The primitive sites are more… primitive.

Each site (primitive or official) has a picnic table and a fire ring.  Most sites also have space to set up a tent.

Official campgrounds are tent-only.  You cannot sleep in your vehicle (RV, van, car, etc.) at an official campground.

You can sleep in your vehicle or a tent at the primitive sites.

Most of the official campgrounds have a dearth of shade, so you might want to bring a shelter of some sort.  However, many have direct access to Pine Creek, so you can play in the creek and (if the water is high enough) launch a canoe or kayak.

Reflections in a pool in Naval Run, Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Reflections in a pool in the nearby creek

When you reserve a site, you’ll need to provide some information, including:

Your name

The specific dates of your stay

What campsite you’re reserving (they’ll help you figure it out, but you can also do your research ahead of time)

The make and model of your vehicle(s)

Your vehicle’s(‘) license plate number(s)

Your driver’s license number

The number of people in your group

A phone number

Your email address

An alternate person to call in case of emergency

An osprey over Pine Creek, Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
An osprey over Pine Creek

It sounds long and involved, but the woman I spoke with was very friendly and helpful.  Within 15 minutes (and that with being on hold and a lot of trying to figure out which site I wanted) we were all signed up for a campsite!  They sent us the permit via email, and we were good to go.

Roasting marshmallows over an open fire at a primitive campsite in Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
We were so sophisticated as to bring camp chairs!

I arrived at my primitive site (you knew we couldn’t just be normal at an official campground, right?) shortly before dark on Thursday evening.  There were two primitive sites at the end of the road, and since we arrived first, we got our choice of sites.  (According to the woman I spoke with, you’re reserving one of the sites in the area, not the exact site if there are two or three sites right next to each other.)

The driveway into our primitive campsite in Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
The driveway into our campsite

A short, but rough, driveway led down to the site, itself.  (Our high clearance van handled the roughness just fine.)  It had the requisite fire ring and picnic table; beyond the table was room enough for our big blue 8-man tent if you didn’t mind sleeping on a few rocks.  Good thing we thought to bring foam pads for sleeping on! There was also a social trail down to the nearby stream and from there down to Pine Creek.  We went swimming both nights (after we went hiking on the Golden Eagle Trail and in Colton State Park).  We also explored up the stream – all moss and rocks and little waterfalls.

Mossy waterfall in Naval Creek.  The creek was very low due to regional drought. Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Mossy waterfall. The creek was very low due to regional drought.

Overall it was a pretty idyllic setting.  Our second night, some noisy motorcyclists roared (literally) into the second site – but they didn’t bother us and we didn’t bother them.  And since it was free, I really can’t complain!

The other campsite at Naval Run, Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
The other campsite

Check out my hikes near Tiadaghton State Forest!

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

Getting to Tiadaghton State Forest (Slate Run)

Many of the campgrounds are near Slate Run (41.470968, -77.500935), thus, these directions take you to the “town.”  From there, you can go to your campground/campsite.

Drippy little waterfall not far from Pine Creek, Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Drippy little waterfall not far from Pine Creek

From the north, from Wellsboro, PA, drive south on PA-287S (aka Central Avenue).  After 11.7 miles, take a sharp right to stay on PA-287S and begin driving on State Route 414W.  About 0.6 miles later, turn right onto State Route 414W for 16 miles to cross the bridge into Slate Run.

Mossy rocks along Naval Run, Tiadaghton State Forest Pennsylvania
Mossy rocks

From the south, from Williamsport, PA, drive west on US-220S for about 15 miles.  Take Exit 120 for PA-44N toward Pine Creek; turn right onto PA-44N at the bottom of the exit ramp.  After 12.3 miles, take a slight right onto State Route 414E.  Drive 14 miles into Slate Run.

Tiny little waterfall in Naval Run, Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
Tiny little waterfall in the nearby creek

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Personnel ★

Cleanliness ★

Price for value ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

It was so dry that the creek was more dripping moss than waterfalls.  Tiadaghton State Forest, Pennsylvania
It was so dry that the creek was more dripping moss than waterfalls

This Week’s Featured Product!

Explore the Pine Creek Trail mile-by-mile in this book.  The campgrounds mentioned here are usually right along the trail – the perfect place for bikepacking, backpacking, or day tripping on the rails-to-trails.