As spring slowly gains momentum toward summer, many of us have probably already started planning how we’re going to spend our spring and summer weekends and free time. Outdoor lovers, nature enthusiasts, and hikers have plenty to keep them busy just with the many state parks spread throughout Western Pennsylvania. Here are 10 underappreciated state parks near Pittsburgh you’ll definitely want to check out this spring.
1. Yellow Creek State Park –170 PA-259, Penn Run, PA 15765
Spanning 2,981 acres in Indiana County, Yellow Creek State Park boasts a 720 acre lake, a sandy beach, and plenty of activities, including swimming, boating, and fishing. Hike the five miles of trails or explore 18 miles of trails on your mountain bike. Yellow Creek State Park also has camping cottages and yurts.
2. Kooser State Park – 943 Glades Pike, Somerset, PA 15501
Kooser State Park, a cozy park hidden in Somerset, attracts Pennsylvanians all year around with its many summer and winter activities. Spend long summer days hiking the 1.5 miles of trails or fishing for trout in the four acre Kooser Lake. Pitch a tent or rent a rustic cabin for a camping adventure.
3. Hillman State Park – Burgettstown, PA 15021
Travel just 25 miles west of Pittsburgh to discover the sprawling 3,600 acre Hillman State Park. The park features a model airplane field for flying enthusiasts. Visitors can also hit the hiking trails or go hunting for wild turkey and deer.
4. Raccoon Creek State Park – 3000 PA-18, Hookstown, PA 15050
Escape the madness of city life by trekking 30 miles from Pittsburgh to Raccoon Creek State Park. Spanning more than 7,500 acres, the park offers a full menu of things to do. Visit the Wildflower Reserve where you can view 700 species of plants. Relax on the sandy beach. Or, go hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, or fishing.
5. Linn Run State Park – 770 Linn Run Road, Rector, PA 15677
Embrace nature's tranquility at Linn Run State Park. The 612-acre state park features hiking and horseback riding trails, fishing, and hunting. Or, simply pack lunch for a delightful picnic at one of the park's many picnic tables. Spend a week (if you're visiting in the summer) camping in one of the rustic cabins or book the lone modern cabin well in advance.
6. Laurel Hill State Park – 1454 Laurel Hill Park Road, Somerset, PA 15501
Stretched across nearly 4,000 acres, Laurel Hill State Park features mountain terrain and a stunning 64 acre lake. Throw your beach towel on the sandy beach - open from late May to mid-September each year - before swimming, boating, or fishing in the picturesque lake. Climb aboard your mountain bike and take on the 15 miles of trails or opt to hike. Camping is also available at the park.
7. Ryerson Station State Park – 361 Bristoria Road, Graysville, PA 15337
Not far from the West Virginia border, the 1,164 Ryerson Station State Park features plenty to do year-round. Go swimming in the park's pool from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hike the more than 13 miles of trails or enjoy a peaceful picnic at one of the many picnic tables. Extend your stay by camping out in one of the cottages in the park.
8. Oil Creek State Park – 305 State Park Road, Oil City, PA 16301
Uncover the rich history of Oil Creek State Park, the home of the first commercial oil well in the world. Stop by the Train Visitor Center - open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends - or check out the three historic tableaus. You'll also find plenty of outdoor activities available, including hiking, hunting, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
9. Shawnee State Park – 132 State Park Road, Schellsburg, PA 15559
Boasting nearly 4,000 acres, Shawnee State Park's main attraction is, arguably, the 451 acre lake that allows for swimming, boating, and fishing. Hit the biking or the hiking trails or start a game of disc golfing at the state park. Spend the night, the weekend, or longer by camping out in one of the camping cottages or yurts.
10. Laurel Summit State Park – Linn Run Road, Somerset, PA 15501
Spend a relaxing and quiet few hours at the coziest of all Pennsylvania state parks. At only six acres, Laurel Summit State Park is the perfect spot for a tranquil picnic or to go horseback riding, hiking, or mountain biking.
How many of these underappreciated state parks near Pittsburgh have you visited? We’re also lucky to be within easy driving distance of some of Pennsylvania’s most popular state parks, including
Moraine State Park.