Camping in Cook Forest State Park
Cook Forest is a beautiful, forested camping area located in Cooksburg, Pennsylvania. The area is approximately halfway between Erie, PA and State College, PA. The campground associated with the state park is called Ridge Campground, and is located within walking distance of most of the hiking trails within the park.
We camped over Father's Day weekend, which meant that the campground was full. The number of trees and decent site size allowed us to feel relatively secluded, despite the full campground status. If camping over a holiday weekend, advance reservations are required!
We camped in both a cabin-style tent and in hammocks. Our two boys are scouts and prefer to camp in their camping hammocks, which suits Dennis and I just fine. We get the large cabin tent to ourselves and the boys can stay up reading (with flashlights) as long as they desire in their hammocks.
Our tent set-up is more along the lines of "glamping" than camping. I like having a rug in the tent to have something more than a plastic floor to walk on. We did have issues with our new air mattress deflating the first night, but we were able to top it off and it was fine for the remainder of our trip.
Cook Forest is perfection for hammock campers. The sites have a lot of trees at perfect spacing for hammocks. Rain was in the forecast, so my boys made sure to bring their rain flies. Fortunately, we somehow managed to avoid all rain that weekend, and we were grateful for the sunny weather!
Each loop contains a dedicated bath and shower house. We were camping in the summer of 2020, and masks were required in the bath houses to prevent the spread of COVID. Each bath house contains a center area with sinks for emptying gray water from washing dishes, electrical outlets, and a washing machine and dryer (if you need to do emergency laundry on your trip)! The bath houses had fantastic showers, with free hot water and a dressing vestibule inside each shower.
Getting water to do the dishes!
While tent sites do not have electricity or water, the ease of access to the bathhouses and water taps in each loop meant that every necessary item for a successful trip was close at hand. Each tent site comes equipped with a fire ring (with attached grill), and picnic table.
Dinner is a breeze with a sheltered picnic table and fire ring!
I would recommend avoiding holiday weekends, if possible, for quieter nights. While alcohol is prohibited in Pennsylvania State Parks, we had a large family behind us that became very drunk and unruly the first night we were there. The Forest Ranger became involved, and there was a very rowdy scene at 3:00 am. This is likely a fairly rare occurrence, but it was not a pleasant first night! Fortunately, our remaining nights were peaceful and silent!
There are pet loops available at the Ridge Campground. Do not try to camp in a not-pet area, as the ranger will force you to move. We watched this happen to our neighbors, and they were lucky the ranger found them a pet site on a holiday weekend. Pet sites are clearly labeled on the reservation website.
Reservations can be made here: Cook Forest Ridge Campground Reservations.