We embraced our "outdoor selves" as a family this past weekend by reserving a campsite at Gifford Pinchot State Park in neighboring York County (Lewisberry, to be exact - only a few miles from Ski Roundtop). Just off of route 83, Gifford Pinchot offers over 300 campsites and was recommended in "The Best of Pennsylvania Tent Camping", a book by Matt Willen that I leaned on for my decision.
The lakeside option was appealing to us and we selected a site in the "A" loop. sites 114-131 are the best in the "A" loop, in my opinion. We were in site 131. Keep in mind that all those sites are non-electric; you can view the campground map here for the best site for your RV or pop-up. I had done my homework and our site was adjacent to a water source & bath house. By the way, the bath house we used was excellent and the showers were in good shape.
We also rented a canoe from a local source in Lancaster and brought that over - our campsite had "access" to the lake, but the brush in between was LOUSY with poison ivy - making it off-limits for the kids unless we were using the canoe. It was handy, however, to be able to push out into the lake without any additional steps. Better sites are close by with clean access to the lake.
We had a clear day on Thursday and Friday morning as well.
We were able to canoe both days and also went swimming at the private beach area for campers (rigidly enforced - a ranger got on the bullhorn while we were out there warning all non campers that they would be getting tickets). The beach area also has a small play area that our kids put to good use - we had to pry them off the slide!
A HUGE thunderstorm roared through on Friday afternoon but my meager camping knowledge got us through without major mishap. Hearing hail on the tent was an interesting experience...
One suggestion I have is to bring bikes - there are lots of paved byways in the park to ride on and it's a family pastime to cruise around. We had plentt to deal with on this, our first family camping exercise, so bikes were left at home. I will definitely bring them next trip, however.
Gifford Pinchot State Park is impressive in size at 2.338 acres, and the lake encompasses 340 acres all by itself. We only covered a small portion by canoe but it's very peaceful and uncrowded. There are 2 large day-use areas with beaches and boat rentals. Everything seemed very orderly and the people were a pleasure to deal with. The Park is even on Twitter!
While our experience was excellent, be aware that if you have a pet life will be more difficult. Only a small portion of sites are pet friendly, and the park does not allow them in common areas.
One nice thing was meeting the "neighbors", a nice family who were more experienced campers who gave us some good pointers and advice. Seems like the family factor is very high and it's not hard to meet people should you prefer.
For a fee of $44 this campground was very reasonable. If you're interested in camping in the Lancaster PA area, Gifford Pinchot is hard to beat. If you're looking for an opportunity to canoe, Pinchot Lake is very accessible and easy to get around on. The kids were asking when we could come back even as we were packing up!