Last summer, Trevor Nordquist was in Colorado, exploring every inch of that state while he worked for the volunteer public-service program Americorps. With a newfound love of the outdoors, he returned to Pennsylvania.

Nordquist, 27, a graduate student at Slippery Rock University in Butler County, north of Pittsburgh, realized he didn’t really know his home state at all. So he packed up his camping gear and pointed his Hyundai Elantra, well, everywhere. He visited every state park in Pennsylvania — 121 of them in 303 days — and finished up last week in Lancaster County.

A motorcycle club also accomplished the “every park” feat in recent years, according to the PA Parks and Forests Foundation. The state gives out bandannas to those who log all of them.

Nordquist, who studies Japanese and Arabic, said he hopes to create a website about his journey and possibly write a children’s book.

What’s the first state park you visited on your journey?

It was Oct. 15, 2019, and the park was Oil Creek State Park, near Oil City [in Venango County, Western Pennsylvania].

What constitutes a visit in your eyes? Is it overnight? A few hours?

There are a few state parks that are basically a picnic bench or a plaque, and I stepped out and took a photo there. At each park, I tried to see a scenic vista or a point of interest. In some I kayaked, in others I hiked. I tried to do something different at each one.

How did you plan them out?

I planned by geography. I would look on a map and plan to see a certain amount with each trip. Some days, I would hike so much, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep in a tent and wake up uncomfortable. I did tent by myself for the first time, though. I have friends across the state, too, so sometimes I stayed with them, and sometimes I got a local hotel room.

Do you have a favorite of all the 121 parks you visited?

Salt Springs State Park [in Susquehanna County] was my favorite. Nearby there is Ricketts Glen State Park and it seemed like everybody knows about that and its waterfalls. It was extremely crowded and not that enjoyable for me. But at Salt Springs, there’s also waterfalls and you drive up this dirt road to the top and there’s a giant meadow full of wildflowers. I just wanted a really peaceful experience and found it there.

Trevor Nordquist at Lyman Run State Park in Potter County.
Trevor Nordquist
Trevor Nordquist at Lyman Run State Park in Potter County.
What was your least-favorite park?

Marsh Creek State Park in eastern Pennsylvania [Chester County] was pretty underwhelming. It was right outside of a big housing plan. It just felt unnatural.

See any interesting animals along the way?

In Elk County, as I was driving, I had to stop multiple times to let elk cross the street. I had never seen them before in Pennsylvania. At Susquehannock State Park, my last park just the other day, I made it to the last overlook and saw a bald eagle right over the Susquehanna River. That felt like a fitting end.

What’s the best piece of advice for someone trying to repeat your accomplishment?

Have a reliable car. Also, be mind mindful of your waste. Every park I traveled to reminded visitors to take out what they take in, but I saw a lot of trash at many parks. Everyone should carry a trash bag with them.

What’s the most interesting thing you ate on the road?

Well, I’m vegan, so I can’t say that I did scrapple or the Philly cheesesteak. In Lancaster, I stopped at an Amish farm and had real, fresh root beer, and that was a great experience.