PGH Camping Guide

Published On July 14, 2014 | By Chelsea Strub | Lists

campfireAre you and your friends trying to plan the ultimate summer camping trip, but are not really sure where to go? Well we’ve done some research and have compiled a list of the best places to camp and explore within an afternoon drive of the 412. All you have to do is pick one!

Ohiopyle State Park

Located about 70 miles outside of the city and situated around the Youghiogheny River, Ohiopyle State Park is definitely a rockstar among other campgrounds. If hiking and biking are what you like to do, this park’s got over 100 miles of trails for you to utilize plus weekly organized hikes where you can meet other travelers and learn about the area from a guide. This is also the park to go to if you are a rock climber. Meadow Run and Bruner Run are two streams that have climbing areas along them inside the park and there’s also a series of walls along the Great Allegheny Passage. You can cool off on one of the natural water slides located in the park. You don’t have to worry about roughing it here, either. There’s flushing toilets, hot showers, and electricity for campers to use during their stay. As far as continuing the fun into the night back at your campsite, well, we’ve heard of people bringing in libations and not getting caught, but the rules of the park prohibit alcoholic beverages. You can check out their brochure here.

Scarlett Knob Campground

10286771_642392849143814_4446727049628387352_oAlso located in Ohiopyle, PA is the Scarlett Knob Campground that shadows the Youghiogheny River Valley. This park has beautiful overlooks, allows pets, and has a fishing lake where you can do so without a license. The great thing about this park are the two separate camping areas. One for families with strict quiet hours and another with later quiet hours, camping sites for groups of 2 – 40 people, and allows you to bring in alcohol. We’ve read some of the reviews though, and apparently this park has pretty strict rules about visitors and checking out on time. So party all you want, but make sure your guests check out with the main office and you’re out of your site on time. Otherwise, you’ll get slapped with some buzz-killing fees.

Other stuff to check out while you’re camping in Ohiopyle…

As Pittsburghers, we are really lucky to be close to a town like Ohiopyle. If you are looking to try out something new, like rock climbing for example, and don’t want to do it on your own inside the park, there are places like Wilderness Voyageurs that can guide you through your first experience and show you the ropes…pun intended. They’re located right in town and can also take you on guided white water rafting excursions, bike tours, and even teach you a thing or two about fly fishing.

DSC04028There’s tons of other hidden treasures in town too. Fallingwater is a one of the most unique homes in the world by architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The home used to belong to the Kaufmann family of the multi-million dollar department stores and has been inviting tourists through it’s doors and around since 1964. If you like Fallingwater, you should check out Wright’s other masterpiece nearby: Kentuck Knob.

If the alcohol prohibitions are really putting a damper on your trip, you can visit a number of bars and restaurants in town. Falls City Restaurant and Pub has a large micro and macro brew selection along with a full bar and live entertainment. We don’t think you could ask for more from a bar in the middle of nowhere…

Quebec Run Wild Area

Quebec_Run_waterfall_Fayette_County_Pennsylvania_2013-12-06Seventy miles from Pittsburgh southwest of Ohiopyle along the Quebec Run watershed is an area open to backpack-type camping only, for those of you who are really looking for the ultimate wilderness experience. Yes, there are certain rules about how many paces you need to be from certain areas to dig a hole and do your ‘business,’ but the experience is unlike anything else.  Eighteenth American patriot, George Mason, referred to the Quebec Run Wild Area, as the “wild of wildes.” If you are going to keep the same camp for more than one night,you’ll need to obtain a permit. But you’ll want to move around and explore through the 26 miles of intersecting trails along Big Sandy Creek. If you’re looking for something really interesting, you can check out Barton’s Cave–a limestone solutional cave that is occupied by hibernating bats in the winter time.

Raccoon Creek State Park

Photo Credit: Brian Calhoun
Photo Credit: Brian Calhoun

Raccoon Creek State Park is located about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh in Hookstown, Pennsylvania. It’s nestled near Raccoon Lake where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and row boats for a day out on the water. There are over 40 miles of hiking trails and different camping options available. There are group camping sites or cabins available with nearby toilets and showers. You could also stay in the lodge, or rough it outside. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources explains the different types of camping here. Like other campgrounds, Raccoon Creek offers different nightly events and hikes. The only downside is that both pets and booze are prohibited.

Moraine State Park

sp-moraine-beach (Resize-350 wide)About 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, right off Route 79, is the ‘Butler County Gem’, Moraine State Park located on Lake Arthur. You can rent cabins at the park, with plumbing, or camp at a nearby campground like Muskrat Cove or Five Points–no showers there though. Moraine State Park is known for its insane disc golf course and great fishing. There’s over 25 miles of hiking trails and you can join in a group activity, like a nature walk, with a guide. There are two beaches for swimming and a variety of boats available for rent. Windsurfing is also available and you can try kayaking for free at the annual Lake Arthur Regatta the weekend of August 2nd.

Coopers Rock State Forest

coopers-rock-state-forestIf your willing to cross the border and venture into West Virginia for your camping trip, one of the campgrounds we recommend is Coopers Rock State Forest. All 53 reviews on Trip Advisor give this place an overall 5-star rating for its beauty and 50 miles of hiking trails. For all you art enthusiasts out there, this is the place to see the ‘eco-bear’ created by sculptural artist Ben Gazsi. Camping is limited to one tent per site and there are only 25 campsites available, so be sure to make your reservations early to secure your spot. There is access to showers and plumbing during your stay and you can also go swimming or boating on Cheat Lake nearby.

Thanks for checking out our recommendations for camping near the 412. We haven’t been to all of these places yet, but we’ll be checking them out later this season. Be sure to follow us on Instagram @nakyouout to see photos from our excursions and other Pittsburgh events.

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