The 587-acre Erie Bluffs State Park lies along the Lake Erie shoreline in western Erie County, twelve miles west of the city of Erie. The park has:
One mile of shoreline
90-foot bluffs overlooking Lake Erie
Elk Creek -- a shallow stream steelhead fishery
Several plant species of conservation concern
Uncommon black oak woodland/savannah
Great Lakes region sand barren ecosystems
The only developed areas in the park are the Elk Creek Access area and the Main Entrance parking lot.
Erie Bluffs State Park is designated as a day-use park, with the exception of fishing and boating. Swimming is prohibited at the park.
Hiking at Erie Bluffs State Park
5.16 miles of trails
A variety of trails allow visitors to explore much of the park with ease. Former farming roads circle vast open fields and savannas. Wooded paths lead to vistas with scenic views of Lake Erie from atop the 90-foot bluff wall.
Visitors are encouraged to stay on existing trails when possible, and travel on durable surfaces to prevent vegetation damage and erosion.
All of the trails at the park are designated for hiking only. Horseback riding, mountain biking, and ATV use are prohibited.
Black Oak Savanna Trail
0.3 mile, easiest hiking
Where you are walking was once the shoreline of Lake Erie. As the lake receded, it left behind a relict dune that is unique to the area and home to black oak trees. This trail connects to the trails on the western part of the park.
Bluffs Edge Trail
0.39 mile, easiest hiking
The name says it all. This trail takes you along the bluffs edge with wonderful views of Lake Erie 75 to 90 feet below. On clear days the Conneaut Harbor Lighthouse can be seen off to the west.
Duck Run Trail
0.69 mile, easiest hiking
This trail was once a dirt road leading to a boat launch near the mouth of Duck Run. An old growth forest with a thick understory of spicebush grows on the west side of the trail. The remains of a small building used to store commercial fishing nets can be seen along the trail.
0.13 mile, more difficult hiking
The scenic trail along the western bluff of Elk Creek leads you to the mouth of the creek and provides a bird’s eye view along its western shore. As you approach the mouth, look for the remains of a stone foundation from a former Boy Scout camp.
0.22 mile, easiest hiking
As you walk through the old growth forest, take notice of the large oaks, cottonwood, and black cherry trees in the area. The trail winds through the forest toward a scenic lookout over Lake Erie. As you stand at the bluffs edge, you are about 90 feet above the lake.
0.97 mile, easiest hiking
This interior trail through the heart of Erie Bluffs travels through some of the oldest trees in the region. Part of the trail is an old logging road and very large stumps left from logging many years ago can be seen. This trail is great for birding and wildlife viewing and features many types of plants.
1.1 miles, easiest hiking
As you walk this trail you will be on the edge of various ecosystems providing the opportunity for great wildlife viewing. This trail offers a loop around the eastern portion of the park.
West Overlook Trail
0.57 mile, more difficult hiking
The eastern side of Duck Run features many eastern hemlocks and an open forest understory. The trail meanders along the edge of the stream to the bluff’s edge where it is a steep walk down to the Lake Erie shoreline.
Whitetail Crossing Trail
0.6 mile, easiest hiking
To the north of the trail is an old farm field, which has been restored as a native plant meadow. This is a great wildlife viewing area for deer and many bird species. Eagles and hawks are seen regularly as they search the open fields for prey.
0.19 mile, more difficult hiking
This winding trail climbs the hill and is lined on both sides by many wildflowers, especially in the spring.
Picnicking at Erie Bluffs State Park
Several picnic tables and a small pavilion are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Elk Creek Access. A rustic restroom is open year round.
This activity or structure is ADA accessible.
Wildlife Watching at Erie Bluffs State Park
The site of Erie Bluffs State Park traces its origin to glacial advances and retreats associated with the last glacial stages of the Pleistocene period -- 11,000 years ago. The forces of this period shaped the Lake Erie basin and altered the region’s topography and drainage patterns.
Soil types typical of lake bed deposits and the relict dunes that characterize much of the site are associated with the higher water levels of ancient glacial lakes that preceded the present Lake Erie.
In modern times, the land and waters surrounding the area have been used for a variety of activities including logging, agriculture, and commercial fishing. A Boy Scout camp run by former owners of the U.S. Steel Company once flourished on site.
In 2004, the land was acquired by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy from Reliant Energy. The conservancy transferred the land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to be managed by DCNR. On June 4, 2004, the area was officially established as Erie Bluffs State Park.
Within the boundaries of this biologically rich land, one can find a diversity of natural habitats ranging from:
Tranquil creek corridors
Climax forest of rare and endangered plants
Steelhead fishery stream
The towering bluffs along the length of the park provide unique scenic vistas.
Sections of the park formerly used for agriculture are undergoing extensive restoration efforts to reclaim the black oak woodland/savanna and Great Lakes region sand barren ecosystems. Black oak savannas are relict lands formed thousands of years ago when the water levels of the Great Lakes were higher.
Savannas share characteristics of both prairie and forest ecosystems, in which widely spaced trees are mixed among sand barrens with sparse vegetation.
The diversity of landforms found in the park provide habitat for plant species rare or absent in other part of Pennsylvania -- the most unusual being the pumpkin ash and the Shumard oak. Wildflowers abound in the spring, while autumn brings an array of color to the landscape.
Many species of wildlife also reside in the park, including birds, mammals, amphibians, fish, and insects, like:
Bald eagles soaring above the fields and lake
A large colony of bank swallows nesting in the bluff face
Steelhead -- a form of rainbow trout -- inhabit the cool water off the park shoreline and seek creeks for spawning in the fall
Fairy shrimp, wood frogs, and red-spotted newts live in seasonal woodland wetlands known as vernal pools
Boating at Erie Bluffs State Park
A 24-hour boat launch suitable for small motorized watercraft, kayaks, and canoes is available at the Elk Creek Access, allowing boaters and fishermen to access Lake Erie. Fluctuations in lake and stream elevation may impact launching.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following:
Launch permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania state parks -- available at most state park offices
Launch permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations and laws apply.
Fishing at Erie Bluffs State Park
Anglers can enjoy fishing for steelhead in Elk Creek and the mouth of Elk Creek as it enters Lake Erie. The Elk Creek Access is open 24 hours for use by anglers.
Elk Creek is a world-class shallow stream steelhead fishery with steelhead runs from late fall to early spring. Steelhead -- a type of rainbow trout -- reach 30 inches or longer and inhabit the cool waters of Lake Erie and seek rivers for spawning.
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations and laws apply.
Hunting at Erie Bluffs State Park
During established seasons, more than 500 acres are open to:
Training of dogs
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas.
Cross-Country Skiing at Erie Bluffs State Park
There is a certain peace and tranquility in Erie Bluffs State Park during the winter, and the view can be breathtaking.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are great ways to enjoy the park in winter, especially with a lot of snow on the ground.
Ungroomed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are located on hiking trails and service roads throughout the park.