Kristin and I have fond memories of Ole Bull State Park from when we visited and camped during our first year of marriage back in 2005. We were excited to be able to return this year–and bring the kids!–to this campground located in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Campground: This 81-site campground is situated in a valley along the Kettle Creek shaded below a large grove of pine trees. Even in the heat of summer the cool trout stream and the tall pine trees help keep this campground cooler and comfortable. There are two camping areas located on opposite sides of Kettle Creek. Camping Area 1 (sites 33-81) does not allow pets; Camping Area 2 (sites 1-31) does allow pets.
Ole Bull is kind of “out there” and since it is a pretty good drive to just about anywhere it seems like most people use this as a destination camping location rather than a base camp from which to tour. The campground hosts we chatted with love this campground so much that they stay for nearly two months a year.
When we arrived at Ole Bull we learned that the park has had a bear problem in recent years. And the night before we checked-in, a bear trap even caught one of the culprits. We were cautioned to be very careful with food and not to even burn leftover food scraps in our fire pits.
We happened to be staying at Ole Bull the weekend of the annual kids’ fishing tournament (more on this later), which meant the campground was FULL (I honestly did not see an empty site). Unfortunately, the night before we arrived, the Camping Area 1 bathroom suffered a water line break, and so the whole bathroom had to be closed. The park staff did their best to accommodate the full campground–including bringing in porta potties–but it still meant everyone was using the bathhouse in Camping Area 2.
Some of the sites are closer together than other PA state parks that we’ve camped at, so it felt much more crowded when it was full than it did when we camped during the week and it was less busy. While we had a great time at Ole Bull, it wasn’t quite like we remembered, probably due in large part to the craziness of the fishing tournament and the water line break. Perhaps we have romanticized our memories 🙂 or maybe we need to go back again when the campground is not at max capacity.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms were remodeled over 10 years ago (if memory serves me correctly, I believe the year before our first visit in 2005) and were as clean as could be expected on a very busy weekend (especially since the bathhouse in Camping Area 1 was closed due to the waterline issue). There did seem to be an issue with showers not draining properly or water pooling on the floors as the park provided floor squeegees to push water into drains. (The pictures below were taken right after the park staff finished cleaning the bathroom.)
Amenities: We can see why families enjoy Ole Bull as a camping destination as there is a good deal to do right in the campground including:
- Shelter houses
- Sand volleyball
- Swimming beach
- Fantastic trout stream (although we did not catch any of the 700 trout that had been stocked the night before 🙂 )
- Hiking trails
- Annual kids’ fishing tournament–this was an awesome family event! Lots of prizes, stocked trout, family friendly, and all around great time!
Ole Bull also offers the DiscoverE program for children. We have done this outdoor program at Black Moshannon State Park as well, and the kids loved completing the educational activities to earn a certificate and special badge. We find these sorts of programs are a great way to reinforce and enhance their educational experience all year long. To find other parks in Pennsylvania that offer this or other educational programs, visit this link.
Touring: Since Ole Bull is fairly remote, plan to do some driving if you want to explore the surrounding area. It is a solid 20-30 minutes north or south on Route 144 to get to any towns. However, if you drive about 30 minutes north you will find yourself at Cherry Springs State Park, which boasts some of the darkest skies on the East Coast just perfect for stargazing. We went up on the clearest night we had and, before the clouds moved in, the kiddos got to see Jupiter’s moons with the help of the park ranger and an awesome telescope!
During our first trip to Ole Bull we visited Wellsboro and the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon but it was a solid hour drive away, so on this trip we visited those locations while we were staying at Leonard Harrison State Park.
Dates of stay: 6/3-5/2016
Cost: $31.50 per night