Plan a day trip or an overnight stay to experience the greatoutdoors at any of these seven spots, all within a two-hour drive fromPittsburgh. Each area has the natural amenities to support a range ofactivities, including hiking, biking, boating, climbing, camping, and more!Many of the parks and campsites are open from April through December, or evenyear-round in some spots, so you can go on an adventure whenever it strikesyour fancy.
Cheat Lake &Coopers Rock State Forest
We’re venturing over the Pennsylvania border for this one,but trust us, it’s worth it for the wild and wonderful views that you’ll get! Cheat Lakeand the adjoining Coopers Rock State Forest are located justoutside of Morgantown, West Virginia, about an hour and 40 minutes fromPittsburgh. Cheat Lake is a gorgeous reservoir that’s full of options foraquatic activities, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating. Look foralcoves to pull off into with your group if you want to swim or just hang outon the lake; you may just come across some rope swings too. Head into the stateforest for the hidden waterfalls, the stunning view from the main overlook, andthe hiking trails, including the unique Rock City Trail. For camping, Coopers Rock has 25 sites with electric hookupsand 25 primitive camp sites, all of which are pet-friendly and can be reservedin advance. Rumor has it that there are plenty of unofficialareas to camp that are only accessible by boat from Cheat Lake, butif you prefer something that’s on the grid, you could also try ChestnutRidge Park or Sand Springs Campground for tent and RV sites.
McConnells Mill StatePark
McConnells Mill State Park, which lies just northof Pittsburgh, has over 2,500 acres of spectacular scenery, including aNational Natural Landmark called Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Tour a 19thcentury gristmill and step back in time over the covered bridge, take in thesights of the Cleland Rock Overlook and the sounds of the rushing water at theSlippery Rock Creek, or hike 14 miles on the Slippery Rock Gorge Trail. If youhave an adventurous spirit, McConnells Mill State Park is also a popularhangout for the rock climbing, bouldering, and whitewater kayaking crowds. BreakneckCampground offers both primitive and semi-primitive sites for tentcampers, as well as huts, decks, and cabins for those who prefer to sleep witha layer of lumber between themselves and the ground. They also have fire pitsand sand volleyball courts on site, plus recommendationsfor local attractions and activities on their website.
Moraine State Park& Lake Arthur
Moraine State Park and Lake Arthur are just ahop, skip, and jump away from McConnells Mill State Park, but they offer avariety of other activities and camping options. Boating, biking, and swimmingabound here, with thousands of acres of state park and manmade lake availablefor your enjoyment. The subtle rolling hills and paved trails that weavethrough the park are perfect for biking and running, or you can find mountainbike trails in the woods if you prefer terrain that’s a bit more rugged. Thepark also has an excellent disc golf course that overlooks the water. You canrent boats from Crescent Bay Marine at Lake Arthur, includingpontoons, tillers, kayaks, and canoes, or take a Nautical Nature Boat Tours with the MorainePreservation Fund, so grab your friends for a chilled out day on the lake.Additionally, there are multiple public beaches with swimming and amenities.Moraine State Park has cabins and organized group tent sites forcamping, or head to Bear Run Campground for both RV hookups andprimitive sites (both car camping and secluded options are available).
Ohiopyle State Park
Ohiopyle State Park is one of the most popularoutdoor getaways in Pennsylvania, with good reason. The Youghiogheny RiverGorge that runs through the park offers some of the state’s best whitewaterrafting and kayaking, and fishing spots are plentiful. Hike to Cucumber Fallsor if you’re more of a risktaker, ride the park’s natural waterslides. Ohiopyleis part of the mountainous Laurel Highlands region, but the flat, widetrails that run through its woods adjacent to the water make for a peacefulbiking experience (it’s also part of the long distance GAP bike trail).Stay in the State Park’s Kentuck Campground, which has just abouteverything imaginable in addition to standard tent camping, from walled-intents to yurts to walk-in sites. Additionally, the Laurel Highlands websiteoffers a list of 44 different campsites, including RVresorts and family campgrounds with in-ground pools, plus cabin and tentcamping sites.
Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park isn’tfar from Ohiopyle in the Laurel Highlands, but it offers its own set of outdooractivities and unique scenery. For the best photo ops, hike through the woodsto the top of Jones Mill Dam or stand amongst the tall trees in the HemlockTrail Natural Area. Laurel Hill State Park has a large garden where you canfrolic in the flowers or watch the butterflies and the birds, and the beach isjust a short walk away. You’ll enjoy the surrounding views of the three-coveredhills from this lowkey lake, and activities include a fishing pier, a swimmingarea with a beach volleyball court, plus canoe, kayak, rowboat, hydrobike,stand up paddleboard, and paddleboat rentals. The neighboring Roaring Run Natural Area, a protected naturalarea, has eight hiking trails, a mountain stream, and infinite opportunities toobserve the local wildlife. For a relaxing 14-mile rail trail ride, bike thenearby Indian Creek Valley Trail from Jones Mills to Indian Head and back.Seven Springs is also close by and has tons of outdoor activities, including its Downhill Mountain Bike Park, a paintball course,the Alpine Slide and Alpine Tower, skiing and snowboarding during the winter,plus restaurants, bars, and indoor amenities if the weather doesn’t hold up.For camping, stay at any of the 262 sites that are available year-round at LaurelHill State Park, or check out privately owned sites in the area like HickoryHollow Campground and Pioneer Park Campground.
Raccoon Creek StatePark
For a laidback outdoor experience that’s under an hour’sdrive from Pittsburgh, look no further than Raccoon Creek State Park! The focus of thiswooded park is on nature and environmental conservation. Hike through 42 milesof trails, explore the colorful Wildflower Reserve, or attend an environmentaleducation program. Take an easy mile-long hike to the Frankford Mineral SpringFalls and notice the ruins of an old 1800s and 1900s resort hotel along theway; the hotel was based around the mineral springs, which were thought to havehealing powers at the time. To incorporate even more water into your outing,canoe, kayak, or row at Raccoon Lake, fish at the lake and nearby creeks, orlay out on the beach and get an ice cream cone. Modern cabins, tent camping,and organized group camping are all available for onsite camping options.
Pymatuning State Park& Reservoir
At 16,892 acres, Pymatuning State Park is one of the largest stateparks in Pennsylvania, and the attached reservoir is actually the largest lakein the commonwealth. Picnicking, kayaking, boating, and swimming are some ofthe most popular activities here, with multiple beaches, boat rental shops, andramps dotting the lakeshore. Pontoon boating may be the best way to see thePymatuning with family and friends, and if you’re lucky enough that the cloudsstay away, maybe you’ll catch one of the lake’s stellar sunsets. The park isalso famous for its fish, so grab your gear and get down to the water, or stopby The Spillway to feed the carp, ducks, and geese. For more wildlife, eaglewatch at the Wilson Boat Launch, or swing by the Pymatuning Deer Park.Pymatuning State Park has hundreds of campsites with full hookups for RVs,modern cabins, and rustic tent camping. Other private campgrounds surround thearea, such as Crystal Springs Campground (a modern campgroundwith amenities) or camping at the neighboring Conneaut Lake Park (tent, cabin, and RV sites).
This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.
Paige Creo is a marketing consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has 9 years of experience specializing in marketing, strategy, and brand management. Paige earned her MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and she has also spent time working in Dublin, Ireland. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, playing and watching sports, and spending time outdoors.
|Primitive – no water or electric at site||$59||$69|
|Electric Only – 15 Amp tent site||$75||$87|
|Water and electric – Back in 30 Amp||$82||$92|
|Water and electric – Pull in 30 Amp||$85||$95|
- Allegheny National Forest.
- Moshannon State Forest.
- Elk State Forest.
- Clear Creek State Park.
- Pine Creek Gorge.
- Bald Eagle State Forest.
- Loyalsock State Forest.
- Pinchot State Forest.
Hiking in and putting up a tent where you choose, is NOT permitted in Pennsylvania state parks. All camping must be in a designated camping area and on designated sites. Many Pennsylvania state park campgrounds have walk-in sites which are for tents only and are more private than campsites with a paved camping pad.What is the 28 day camping rule? ›
Under permitted development rights, planning law across the UK already allows for the temporary use of land for any purpose for up to 28 days in a calendar year without the need to make an application for planning permission - the '28-day rule'.Why is Hocking Hills so popular? ›
With 2,300+ acres, Hocking Hills State Park encompasses some of the most picturesque landscapes in Ohio. There are plenty of beautiful places to visit in Hocking Hills and outdoor activities like hiking, biking and kayaking are the main Hocking Hills attractions.What is the 56 camping day rule? ›
The change in regulations to allow farmers to establish “pop-up” campsites for up to 56 days was introduced in July 2020, to help the rural economy recover from the Covid pandemic. Previously, they were able to operate for only 28 days a year without applying for planning permission.What does Boondocking mean when camping? ›
Boondocking in an RV is when you camp without hookups to electricity, water, or sewage. You can boondock in many different ways, like staying overnight in a business parking lot or camping on public lands.Can you sleep at PA rest areas? ›
Pennsylvania: There's a 2-hour (or other posted) time limit within a 24-hour period at rest areas and welcome centers managed by PennDOT—camping isn't allowed. Turnpike service plazas managed by the state's Turnpike Authority allow parking for up to 24 hours.Can you camp for free in Allegheny National Forest? ›
In the Allegheny National Forest there are a variety of back country roads, offering primitive roadside camping. Campsites are free to use, and have no facilities except for a fire ring and a pull-off from the road, and sometimes a site reinforced with gravel. As noted below, some campsites have additional facilities.How much does it cost to camp at a PA state park? ›
|Site Amenities||Time Frame||Resident Price|
|Great Gathering Friends and Family: 2-unit Water and Sewer||Per Night||$26.00|
|Great Gathering Friends and Family: 2-unit Electric||Per Night||$14.00|
|Great Gathering Friends and Family: Multi-campsite||Per Night||$36.00|
Not only is it legal, but Pennsylvania also has some of the best boondocking campsites on the East Coast. Sure, finding a good free campsite close to urban areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can be challenging, but the vast swaths of state and national forest in between are ripe for boondocking.What is the 2 2 2 rule for camping? ›
The RVing 2/2/2 rule is a safe and effective way to plan your travel. It means drive no more than 200 miles a day, stop every 2 hours, and stay 2 nights in each place. Some RVers also put an appendix on the rule encouraging drivers to arrive at an overnight destination by 2:00 p.m.What is the 333 rule for camping? ›
By adhering to this simple rule of thumb, you can make traveling easier for your whole family. What is this? First, limit your travel to no more than 300 miles in one day. Second, arrive no later than 3 p.m. Finally, stay at your destination for at least three days.What is the number 1 rule of wild camping? ›
The general rule is – leave the area in exactly the same condition as it was discovered. Be considerate and camp high: Whenever wild camping it's important to stay away from settlements and respect the privacy of others. Camping on high ground helps to prevent causing a problem.What are the 5 W's of camping? ›
There are five important factors of wilderness survival to take into account to stay safe and stay comfortable. The five factors include: wind, water, widowmakers, wood, and wildlife. These factors are referred to as the “5 W's.”Do campsites allow you to sleep in your car? ›
This is a tricky question because the rules surrounding this will vary from campground to campground. There are many that welcome car campers with open arms but others that do not permit it at all. Some campsites will rent you a pitch and this will include a space to park your car for the duration of your stay.What is croatias law on camping? ›
In Croatia, as almost everywhere in the EU, wild camping is officially not allowed. This law affects campers as well as tents and bivouacs, private land, as well as state land, and makes no exception for “free standing”.Are there snakes in Hocking Hills? ›
The dusky and red-backed salamanders enjoy the park's cool recesses. Copperhead, black rat and ring-necked snakes can be found in remote rocky ledges.Does Hocking Hills have waterfalls? ›
The classic waterfall: Cedar Falls
Where a plunge waterfall is essentially water dropping down from high above, Cedar Falls is the go-to for your more traditional cascading waterfall. The short hike is only a 1/2 mile-long trail to the most famous waterfall in Hocking Hills.
Bear sightings in the eastern half of Ohio have increased but they are still quite rare. Your chances of encountering a bear in Hocking Hills are pretty low and you can explore the area alone and unarmed safely. Just be aware of your surroundings and if you see a bear, back away slowly.
Boondocking is dispersed camping on public land.
Dispersed camping is camping outside of a designated campground, on lands that are managed for this purpose.
Toilets and basins
Toilets should be adequately spaced. For sites with up to 120 pitches, there should be 2 toilet facilities for women, 1 toilet facility and 1 urinal for men, per 30 pitches.
in your back garden and for your own personal use, then you likely won't need planning permission. However, if the hut is to be used to make money, whether at your home or on commercial land such as a camp site, then you will most certainly require planning permission.Is it free to camp in Hocking Hills? ›
We offer Private Primitive Campsites minutes from Hocking Hills State Parks. Prices start at $25, kids enjoy free.How much does it cost to camp at an Ohio state park? ›
|Campground||Type of Camp Site||Apr 1-Oct 31|
Set up camp wherever you like! There are 12 acres of open field space, surrounded by 50 acres of wooded hills and hollows with hiking trails and level spots to pitch tents. Vehicles can be driven to the field sites; we are still working on a road to access the hill sites by vehicle.Where is it free to camp in Ohio? ›
Most of Ohio's free campsites are located on public land — state parks, state forests, along with a few county and city parks. Ohio's sole national park, Cuyahoga Valley, does not allow camping within its boundaries, but there are a few state parks and recreation areas with camping facilities just outside it.How many waterfalls are in Hocking Hills? ›
Depending on the time of year and recent weather conditions, Hocking Hills can have anywhere from seven to fifteen active waterfalls. This is includes my top five favorite waterfalls to photograph when visiting Hocking Hills State Park in southeastern Ohio. Each waterfall can be reached after a short hike.Is Hocking Hills worth the trip? ›
Why should you visit Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio? Because the towering cliffs, waterfalls, and deep gorges this park offers will captivate anyone who enjoys the outdoors. And it's an affordable option for families. The park itself is free.Can you live in an RV on your own land in Ohio? ›
It is illegal to live in an RV in your backyard for one simple reason – because the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development does not classify them as permanent dwellings. The federal government states that RVs should only be used for recreational, travel, or camping purposes.