Located in scenic Tioga County, the 407-acre Hills Creek State Park abounds in wildlife. Osprey, loon and waterfowl visit the lake that boasts a variety of warm-water fish species. Camping, cabins, swimming and picnicking make this an ideal spot for a family vacation.
There are two picnic areas and three reservable picnic pavilions. Picnic Area No. 1 is at the south end of the lake near the breast of the dam. Picnic Area No. 2 is just north of the swimming beach along a large cove of the lake.
The picnic areas have picnic tables, charcoal grills, picnic pavilion, centrally located drinking fountains and modern comfort stations. The picnic areas are open year-round, but all other day use facilities are closed seasonally. Picnic pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. Unreserved picnic pavilions are free on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the day use area, on a hill overlooking the lake and beach, the concession offers a wide variety of food like hamburgers, sandwiches, candy, ice cream, and drinks. It also has milk, camping supplies, firewood and fishing bait.
A sand beach is open from late-May to mid-September, 8 a.m. to sunset. Swim at your own risk. The sandy lake bottom and grass beach are quite popular. The modern bathhouse and snackbar is nearby and open seasonally.
Boating: electric motors only
The 137-acre Hills Creek Lake has three boat mooring areas with a total capacity of 30 boats. Two of these areas also double as boat launching areas with concrete launching ramps.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
The warm waters of the 137-acre Hills Creek Lake provide excellent fishing for warm-water species. Common fish are muskellunge, walleye, largemouth bass, carp, bullhead catfish, bluegill, crappie and yellow perch. The lake record for largemouth bass is just over eight pounds. A valid PA fishing license is required. All Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission laws apply.
Hiking: 5.5 miles of trails
Lake Side Trail - 3 miles
Beginning at the entrance to the camping area this trail follows the lake shore in a westerly direction for about one mile, finally arriving at the Beaver Hut Boating Area. A beaver house plus many signs of beaver activity may be seen in this area. From the boating area the trail generally follows the lake shore in a southerly direction for about one mile, ending at the dam breast of Hills Creek Lake. This section of the trail offers an excellent variety of bird life attracted by seeds from white spruce, red-osier dogwood and viburnums that dominate this moist area. The trail then parallels the park road through Picnic Area No. 1 and passes the park office. It ends at a parking lot beyond the gate on the main entrance road, a distance of about 0.5-mile.
Tauschers Trail - 1.5-miles
This trail circles the northeast section of the park from the cabin area. It winds through pine plantations, dense stands of alder and fields containing numerous wildflowers. Wildlife abounds in this section of the park and it is not uncommon to startle deer or grouse along the trail
Yellow Birch Trail - 1-mile
This trail starts at the entrance to the camping area but travels in an easterly direction for about one mile. Although short in length, this trail leads through a diversity of forest habitats from stands of hardwoods to hemlock swamps and marsh areas. The observant hiker may see a variety of wildlife and animal signs along with interesting tree development.
Northern Extension of the Mid State Trail
This long-distance backpacking trail passes through the park and connects to the main trail.
Stay the Night
Camping: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
The 85-site camping area is at the north end of the park and can be reached by the main park road. The campsites range from grassy open areas to sites dominated by immense hemlock trees. The campground opens the second Friday in April and closes the third weekend in October. Modern washhouses with warm showers, restrooms, and water fountains are in central locations throughout the camping area. A sanitary dump station is just outside the camping area. Six sites are ADA accessible. Pets are permitted on designated sites.
Free Camping for Campground Hosts: 1 host position
The campground host site amenities include 50-amp electric service. Hosts are required to assist park personnel for 40 hours per week with a two (2) week minimum stay. Contact the park office for additional information and availability.
Three cottages sleep five people in single bunks and double/single bunks, and have wooden floors, windows, electric heat, porch, picnic table, fire ring and electric lights and outlets.
These Mongolian-style tents are round, on a wooden deck and sleep four people in two bunk beds. Yurts have a cooking stove, refrigerator, countertop, table, chairs, electric heat and outlets, fire ring, picnic table and are adjacent to a water pump.
Ten modern cabins can be rented year-round. Cabins are furnished and have a living area, kitchen/dining area, shower and two bedrooms. Cabin seven is ADA accessible. Cabin renters should bring their own linens and kitchen utensils. Weekly reservations are required during the summer.
Organized Group Tenting:
Qualified adult and youth groups may use this 40-person capacity area equipped with picnic tables, pavilion, fire rings, water and flush toilets. Campers may shower in the campground. This wooded peninsula is open from the second Friday in April to the third Sunday in October, weather permitting. Advance reservations are recommended. Some of the larger hemlock, beech, maple and ash trees in the park are found on this very picturesque peninsula.
Explore the Winter Report for the current snow and ice depths.
Skiing is permitted on trails and open areas of the park.
This hill at the beach is good for sledding with adequate snow cover.
Ice fishing success in the 137-acre Hills Creek Lake is exceptional for yellow perch, bluegill and an occasional walleye. Be safety conscious when on the ice.
Ice skating is permitted at the beach on the natural ice of the lake. Ice thickness is not monitored.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
The park operates a seasonal visitor center in the camping area. A variety of interpretive programs are offered between the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
Wildlife abounds in and around Hills Creek State Park. Along with an active beaver colony, there are other water-loving creatures including muskrat, wood duck, great blue heron and osprey. Bald eagles are frequent visitors to the park.
Visitors may see transient black bear, wild turkey, or deer. Hills Creek is also a perfect habitat for rabbit, grouse, pileated woodpecker and woodchuck.
In the spring, Hills Creek Lake becomes home to migrating waterfowl like loon, bufflehead, and common merganser.
Hills Creek Lake
The focal point of the park is a 137-acre lake developed by impounding Hills Creek. The earth dam, built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is 34 feet high and 422 feet long. The basin of Hills Creek Lake is long and narrow ending in an irregular triangle at the north end. The elevation is 1,486 feet and the nearby mountains rise to an elevation of 2,200 feet.
The temperatures and chemical characterizations of the lake support a good warm-water fishery.
The general area now covered by water has almost continually, since the end of the last ice age, been under the influence of beaver dams and beavers. Beavers still abound in the area, including in Hills Creek Lake. The depth of the beaver marsh (vegetation and sediment) is as great as 20 feet deep.
The land, originally known as Kellys Swamp, was purchased in 1950. Within this swamp, at the present location of the swimming beach, was a small mine from which pigment for the paint industry was extracted. The park opened in 1953 and is named for the creek that runs through it. The stream was named after Captain William Hill who settled in the area around 1820.
111 Spillway Road, Wellsboro, PA 16901-9676