The centerpiece of 406-acre Hills Creek State Park, which is located midway between Wellsboro and Mansfield, is its 137-acre lake. The park itself is surrounded by low, wooded hills, and the lake is lined with viburnums. The lake is a good waterfowl attractor, especially in the fall and spring. Common loons, double-crested cormorants, horned and pied-bill grebes, various diving and puddle ducks, tundra swans, and, of course, the ubiquitous Canada geese can be seen, depending on the season.
A number of conifer plantations have been planted by DCNR throughout the park, but primarily along the west side. Access this area via the Lakeside Trail, but be aware that the trail may be wet and muddy after a rain. There is a small marsh by the northernmost (Beaver Hut) boat landing that you will want to check for swamp sparrows, yellow warblers, and great blue herons. There are usually a few wood ducks here, and if you are lucky you many see an American bittern. A short distance up the trail past the privy is a good place to look for red-breasted nuthatches, golden-crowned kinglets, ovenbirds, and red-eyed vireos.
There are two other small marsh areas on each side of the road as you enter the campground. One of these can be viewed via the Yellow Birch Trail which starts at the footbridge. The other can be seen from the campground's boat landing and the lakeside trail across from Loop A. Typical marsh species can be found here, and there is usually a variety of warblers high in the trees.
Another good place to look for birds is the picnic area right across the dam just before the park office. Here you may find brown thrashers, eastern towhees, indigo buntings, and a variety of flycatchers.
The park is rightfully very popular with campers, both local and from all over Pennsylvania and nearby New York. If you are planning on camping in the region, this is the place to go. The campsites are noticeably more spacious than in other parks, most are shaded, and many are on neatly-trimmed, grassy meadows separated by tall viburnums and honeysuckle bushes, which afford privacy and attract many birds.
Driving Instructions: From US 15, take US 6 west. Follow the signs for Hills Creek State Park. The route is well-marked. From Wellsboro, either go east on US 6 or turn right out of McDonald’s onto Charleston Road (jog over the bridge) and follow the signs.
PA Game-Commission Lands No 37 are located within walking distance of the campground and are worth some time. This is a managed area with both forests and open habitat. Best bet is to get a map of the park at the headquarters building; the game lands and parking area are marked on it. If you want to walk from the campground, follow the short service road at the entrance to Loop D (good place to camp) just north of the restrooms to the park boundary (only a couple of hundred feet), turn right on the road then left at the intersection. The parking area for the game lands is a short distance ahead on the left and is well-marked. It’s a nice, short walk with virtually no traffic, and you may see some birds on the way.