MERCER COUNTY (KDKA) – The weather has broken and the family is itching to go, but no one wants to empty the bank account on a little weekend fun which is why the Pennsylvania State Parks are so attractive.
They are free!READ MORE: Toddler Taken To Hospital With Gunshot Wound, Police Investigating
A drive north on I-79 into Mercer County will bring you to Lake Wilhelm, the centerpiece of the 3000-acre Maurice K. Goddard State Park.
“Within that lake, we have opportunities for boating and fishing,” said Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Assistant Regional Manager Kevin Blair. “There is a 20 horsepower limit within that lake, but without also there’s a boat rental there for those that may not have their own boat.”
However, Blair says that’s not the only drawing card Goddard has to offer.
“A 12 mile paved bike trail that goes around the lake itself,” he says.
You can also do some biking at Oil Creek State Park in Venango County.
“We also have Oil Creek that goes down through the park itself, opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, fishing,” Blair says.
If you’d rather do some hiking, “There is 52 miles of trail within Oil Creek State Park, one of the more popular is the Girard hiking trail which is 36 miles,” Blair explains.
Oil Creek also offers Adirondack shelters for backpacking as well as group tent camping.
There is also an opportunity to take a trip to the past.
“You know some oil well exhibits, and also a historic train station,” he says.
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Blair says if you’ve never been to the Ohio/Pennsylvania line and explored Pymatuning State Park you are missing out.
The 17,000-acre park has, “many boat launches throughout the park areas we have three marinas, one in the south one in the center one of the North. Lots of shoreline fishing areas.”
Pymatuning has a couple of campgrounds, as well.
“We have 25 Modern cabins, we have an organized group tenting area,” Blair adds. “Then there’s the spillway which is up in the Linesville area which is an attraction for folks to come and see the carp within that spillway area.”
The experience of watching the Carp almost boil in the water going after the bread you toss at the Linesville spillway is indescribable, the kids will love it.READ MORE: Suspect Sought In Penn Hills Shooting That Injured 17-Year-Old Boy
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At the confluence of Clarion, Jefferson, and Forest Counties you will find Cook Forest State Park.
“On Cook Forest, we have 45 miles of hiking trails, and several miles of the Clarion River,” he describes. “So there are opportunities for kayaking and canoeing on the Clarion River.”
Blair says Cook Forest has campsites galore and of course the reason it’s called a forest.
“We have the old-growth forest and the forest cathedral natural area really is a unique opportunity that we have in Pennsylvania for some old-growth forest trees that are larger than most people have seen,” Blair says.
Just 11 miles away is Clear Creek State Park which also offers miles of hiking.
Want to sit by a campfire and sleep under the stars?
“The campground is actually 52 site campground that is right on the edge of the Clarion River,” he says. “We also have another river campsite there as well. We have 22 rustic cabins over at Clear Creek.”
Looking for a bit bigger water?
A bit further to the north you might want to check out the Erie Bluffs State Park.
As its name implies there are some incredible views of Lake Erie.
“It’s a smaller in size area, but good opportunity for folks to get out and hike and see some of the areas of shoreline, on the bluffs there of Lake Erie,” Blair says Erie Bluffs has a boat ramp that gives you creek access to Lake Erie.
Of course, not far away is Presque Isle State Park offering a beach, a hike or bike along the water front and
“Within the park itself we have a lot of history with Presque Isle lighthouse, the North Pier Light, and Misery Bay and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center,” he says.
Admission to all the parks is free.MORE NEWS: Police Looking For Stolen Dirt Bike From Indiana County
There are charges for cabins, campsites, rentals, and concessions.