Pittsburghers, are you looking for a mid-summer adventure close to home? If so, look no further than some of our state’s best parks and trails. The rugged, rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania offer a picturesque setting where you can hike, swim, run, kayak, bike, canoe, rock climb, and more!
Here are some of my favorite spots to spend the day:
McConnells Mill State Park
About 45 minutes north of Pittsburgh, McConnells Mill State Park is one of my favorites because there is something for everyone in the family. Visitors can climb, rappel, canoe, mountain bike, walk, kayak, hike, or sight-see. Nestled within the park, Slippery Rock Gorge Trail is a moderate to difficult 6.2-mile hike with rocky boulders, spectacular views, and beautiful waterfalls.
The Laurel Highlands
If your sense of adventure tends to be a little outdoorsy and rustic, you have plenty of options in the Laurel Highlands. This area has been ranked as one of the best hiking trails in Pennsylvania due to its accessibility, amenities, and natural beauty. In addition, the Laurel Highlands offers great opportunities for canoeing, white-water rafting, rock climbing, biking, swimming, fishing, hunting, and bird-watching.
Raccoon Creek State Park
This beautiful 101-acre state park surrounds Raccoon Creek Lake. You’ll find adventure around every corner: a swimming beach, Wildflower Reserve, natural mineral springs, hiking and biking trails, camping, fishing, canoeing, and much more! There are 44 miles of foot trails and 16 miles of bridle trails for horseback riding. Raccoon Creek State Park is just 40 minutes north off State Route 18. And the best part: Entrance into the park is free, with fees for some activities (like camping) and equipment rentals.
While having fun in the great outdoors, don’t forget these safety tips:
- Take a cell phone for emergencies, or know where the park’s emergency phones are located.
- Watch the weather report to avoid getting caught in unexpected heat or storms.
- Never feed or approach wildlife. Clean up after yourself to ensure you don’t attract unwanted visitors.
- Out on the water, always wear a properly fitted water flotation device.
- Stay on designated trails to avoid dangers like unstable footing, poisonous plants and snakes, and other creatures that are better left alone.
- Stay hydrated. It’s best to carry water with you. Also bring proper gear and clothing for the trip.
- Don’t hike alone if you can avoid it. Always let someone know when to expect you back.
Pack up the family and try a day trip to one of these nearby destinations. You’ll be sure to love all that our forests and parks have to offer!
What is your favorite Western Pennsylvania escape?
Images from laurelhighlands.org