If the wilderness fascinates you, but you aren’t too keen on properly roughing it, check out these five places to experience nature without, ahem, substituting leaves for TP. Read on to learn about the best nature reserves, state parks and retreats with lovely accommodations for both the ruffian and pampered soul within us all.
Raccoon Creek State Park
Hookstown, PA 15050
If swimming, horseback riding, mountain biking and picnicking are all activities after your own heart, give this 7,572-acre park a whirl. Raccoon Creek State Park offers all of the aforementioned activities plus a 500-foot ADA accessible sand and turf beach to kick off your fishing and boating adventure, if you’re so inclined. Available amenities include rustic camp sites, modern cabins with finished living quarters, enormous group lodges and organized group cabin camps to appease even the most particular of travelers. Reservations are required for any overnight accommodation and can be obtained through the website or by phone.
777 Waterwheel Drive
Seven Springs, PA 15622
A scenic drive through a majestic expanse of farmland and mountain ranges, which eventually winds through a resort nestled into one of Pennsylvania’s most historic and naturally breathtaking regions is what you can expect on your trip to Seven Springs. Once settled into a chalet, condo or hotel room, plan to dive headfirst into nonstop action. In the summer, ziplining, horseback riding, sporting clays and dozens of festivals await, while tubing, skiing, sledding and snowboarding delight winter sport enthusiasts. Dine in one of the resort’s award-winning establishments, shop to your heart’s content and even play a little indoor bowling or mini golf to delight the kid inside. Seven Springs is truly one of the only Pennsylvania destinations to effectively combine the natural beauty of a wilderness retreat while maintaining the comfort of a five-star resort and makes for a memorable, fulfilling trip.
Railey Mountain Lake Vacations
5 Vacation Way
McHenry, MD 21541
One of the nation’s most beloved places to vacation, Deep Creek is just under a two-hour jaunt from East Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities. Many rental homes in Deep Creek are dog-friendly, and if your furry friend ends up at the kennel instead, plenty of other condos, hotel suites, log cabins and rental homes are available for the two-legged variety. Two state parks offer plenty of wilderness for the outdoor enthusiast, and this family-friendly retreat offers a staggering array of other year-round activities for everyone in your entourage. Many vendors have partnered with www.deepcreek.com and allow you to plan your trip down to the minutiae with convenient one-stop browsing for your accommodations, dining and fun.
Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle, PA 15470
Located near the southern arm of the Laurel Mountains, Ohiopyle State Park spans nearly 20,500 acres of land and serves as the portal to the Laurel Highlands. The ever-rushing waters of the Youghiogheny River, which cut through the centre of the park, are the centerpiece for Ohiopyle. Looking for breathtaking scenery and some of the best whitewater boating in the eastern United States? Look no further than the Youghiogheny. Recreation includes hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, natural waterslides, snow sports and horseback riding. Amenities include free campgrounds for recreational vehicles, group tenting, fully modernized yurts and cottages.
Canoe Creek State Park
205 Canoe Creek Road
Hollidaysburg, PA 16648
Indoor aficionados beware: Canoe Creek State Park has nothing to offer but stunning wetlands, a shimmering lake and mature forests (which happen to house one of the largest bat colonies in PA’s commonwealth). A sand beach is conveniently accessible for the swimmer and sunbather at heart, and boating, fishing and ice skating are all feasible pastimes on this park’s beautiful 155-acre lake. Join an educational program or prepare for a relaxing wildlife watch during your stay in one of Canoe Creek’s updated cabins. Under a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs, this magnificent reserve will take your breath away.
Related: Camping Safety
Nikki Tiani-Moroney is a full time mum of two boys, wife of a professional poker player/photographer/amateur pencil-sharpening competitor and writer from Pittsburgh, PA. When she isn’t studiously neglecting her housework in favor of a good book, she’s out simultaneously fighting crime and picking up sidewalk litter while savoring an occasional cigarette. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.