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Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

August 27, 2011 5:55 AM

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(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Sara Petyk

If you’re still looking for something to do during Labor Day weekend why not try camping? Camping is a great way to get away from all the digital distractions in our lives and really spend time with family and friends. And you can spend time in the great outdoors before the first snowfall. Here is a list of the some of the best camping resources in Pittsburgh for everyone from novice campers to experienced backpackers.

frankfortmineralsprings1 sara petyk Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

(Photo Credit: Sara Petyk)

Camping 101:

If you’ve always wanted to go camping but just weren’t sure how to do it, I suggest signing up for a class from groups like REI or Venture Outdoors who can show you the ropes. These classes can range from in-store lessons like “Camp Cooking Basics” to overnight trips that introduce you to camping and backpacking. You can ask questions and get comfortable learning from the experts, then go ahead and try it out on your own.

REI Pittsburgh
412 S. 27th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Monday – Friday 10 AM – 9 PM
Saturday 10 AM – 9 PM
Sunday 11 AM – 6 PM
Website

REI Pittsburgh-Settler’s Ridge
600 Settlers Ridge Center Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15205
Monday – Friday 10 AM – 9 PM
Saturday 10 AM – 9 PM
Sunday 11 AM – 6 PM
Website

camping 2108929 Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

(Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Rentals:

Another option is the First-Time Camper Program offered by the Pennsylvania State Parks and Gander Mountain. For $20, the program provides two nights of camping, equipment rental (including tent, sleeping mat, lights, and cooking gear), and instruction. Nearby parks participating in this program are Laurel Hill, Ohiopyle, and Keystone.

First-Time Camper Program

  • Keystone State Park: 724-668-2939
  • Laurel Hill State Park: 814-445-7725
  • Ohiopyle State Park: 724-329-8598
  • Website
  • frankfortmineralsprings2 sara petyk Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

    (Photo Credit: Sara Petyk)

    Making Reservations:

    When you’re finally ready to go camping, your most complete resource will be the Pennsylvania State Parks website. It lists all of the state parks, their facilities, when they’re open for camping, and what type of camping they offer. This site is also where you go to reserve your camping spot online. I love to take advantage of the online reservation because it guarantees me a camping space (and the parks do fill up during the summer) and I can pick the exact camping space I want from their online maps. I generally try to pick a space away from the bathrooms, because you’ll get a lot of foot traffic around there which can keep you awake at night, and I try to stay in tent-only areas when possible.

    Website: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

    familycamping 103741235 Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

    (Photo by Mychele Daniau/AFP/Getty Images)

    Camping Out:

    If you want to try camping but prefer not to stay in a tent, many Pennsylvania state parks now offer cottages/cabins and yurts for rental. And of course you can always choose a camping space that allows you to drive in, so you can camp from your car. The nice thing about “car camping” is that you can bring the tent, the gear, the food, and give it all a try; but if things don’t work out, you always have a secure place to sleep and a backup option for getting dinner.

    raccooncreek sara petyk Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

    (Photo Credit: Sara Petyk)

    Best Parks For Camping:

    Raccoon Creek State Park
    Open year-round
    Website

    Raccoon Creek State Park is my top pick for beginner campers in Pittsburgh. It’s less than one hour away from the city and offers plenty of camping and recreation options. For camping, you have the option of tent camping in prepared spaces that allow you to drive right up or hiking in to some more remote spots. The hike-in camping areas do include some facilities (like bathrooms) and you’re never very far from the parking lot, so you don’t need to feel too isolated. If you prefer not to hike in, there is also a rustic camping area that you can drive up to but which does not have electricity.

    Raccoon Creek State Park offers plenty to do on a two-day camping trip. The park includes a 101-acre man-made lake for boating, fishing, and swimming, as well as many multi- and single-use trails for hikers, bikers, and even horses. The Wildflower Preserve at Raccoon Creek is located in the southeast corner of the state park, and includes 1.5 miles of trail. This area contains one of the most diverse stands of wildflowers in western Pennsylvania

    Also located in the park are the Frankfort Mineral Springs. There is a small parking area to access the springs along Route 18, just before the main park entrance to the northern side of the park. This natural spring was quite famous in the 1800s as a health spa for its rejuvenating and healthy properties, and also as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The foundations of the spa buildings, along with the natural spring, are still there today.

    quebecrun1 rich petyk Best Camping Around Pittsburgh

    (Photo Credit: Rich Petyk)


    Quebec Run Wild Area
    Open year-round
    Website

    Summit Inn Resort
    101 Skyline Drive
    Farmington, PA 15437
    Website

    For more experienced backpackers, I suggest the less well known but gorgeous Quebec Run Wild Area. Quebec Run is 7,441 acres of forest located in Fayette County, almost at the Maryland border. It’s part of Forbes State Forest and, as such, camping is restricted to backpackers only. No RVs or camping out of cars is permitted. Expect to pack in and out all that you will need for your trip. There are no prepared campsites and no facilities in this area, so camping here is recommended only for those with experience.

    Beyond the beautiful scenery and chance to really get into out into the woods, Quebec Run offers challenging hiking and some of the most technical mountain biking in Western Pennsylvania. For outdoor enthusiasts looking for a challenge this is a hidden gem.

    As a bonus, Quebec Run is close to Ohiopyle and the activities and food options it offers. On a sunny day, however, I like to make a stop at the Summit Inn on the way to Quebec Run for a snack or a drink on the porch. The view from the Summit Inn is truly spectacular and has been a popular stop for over a century.

    Sara Petyk started her company Your Active City to show off the great city of Pittsburgh. Her biking and walking tours can found at her website, www.youractivecity.com.

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