Raccoon Creek State Park is a gem for hikers in southwestern Pennsylvania. This massive park contains miles of paths, creeks, a lake, waterfalls, and even is home to an impressive wildflower reserve that has a twice a year bloom.
We were very fortunate to check out the wildflower reserve during peak bloom in 2017, and we wanted to share our experience to encourage you to get out and explore this one during the next bloom event as it was our highlight of the spring season!
An Absolute Gem for Pennsylvania Wildflowers – If You Time it Right
The wildflower reserve is a special section of Raccoon Creek State Park as it is dedicated for the preservation of what is considered to be Pennsylvania's most abundant and diverse wildflower blooms. This section of the park has been visited for nearly 100 years in order to appreciate its twice-a-year blooms, which makes it a special spot to visit if you can time it right.
Generally speaking, the spring wildflower bloom is often at its best during the last two weeks of April, while the fall wildflower bloom typically takes place at the end of August (note- the fall bloom has not been verified by us first hand so we could be wrong). During this time the 100-acre reserve is covered in thousands upon thousands of flowers from over 700 different species of plants, including the rare Trillium which we thought was even better than our visit on the Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel during the same weekend.
It is a weird sensory experience as you walk through the path and come across a massive bloom of bluebells, then a hillside of white trillium, then more bluebells, and flowers of other colors, shapes, and sizes almost as far as the eye can see. I only wish my botany experience was better, as identifying them all would've been quite the fun challenge.
If fields of wildflowers are what you seek, then exploring Raccoon Creek State Park is a must during these blooms as there truly is no better spot in the state for these- as the rangers will tell you at least. We can certainly see why it is considered the best, and are planning on making the journey to visit a bi-annual tradition ourselves!
Hiking at Raccoon Creek State Park's Wildflower Reserve
For those who wish to visit, hiking at the wildflower reserve at Raccoon Creek State Park is fairly easy. The paths are of decent width most of the time, well maintained (which is more than we can say about other parts of the park), and generally do not require a lot of exertion such that visitors of all ages can appreciate the trails.
Going further, when trails split most of the time there is signage highlighting which trail is which- helping minimize your chances of getting lost quite a bit.
The full loop typically follows the Jennings Trail for about two miles, and numerous small trails branch off this one if you want to check out Raccoon Creek or other themed areas such as the meadows, the beaver trail, and more. In spring 2017 we found that the best concentration of wildflowers was along the Jennings Trail, and would be our first one to try in a future visit. (A full reserve map can be found here, which we recommend having on your phone, and was also available in print at the parking area during our visit at least.)
That being said, it is worth noting that there are some steps that need maneuvered, and that the trail has some low-lying areas near the creek that can get especially muddy after a rainfall. So it is best to be prepared for the potential of getting a bit muddy during any visit (although we visited on a rather dry day and only had one or two big puddles to deal with on the side trails).
More to See at Raccoon Creek State Park
The great thing about Raccoon Creek State Park is that it is one of the largest state parks in the region, and at over 7,500 acres offers a lot to do beyond the wildflower reserve. To check out more from Raccoon Creek State Park, click the previous link to read about our hike on the forest and lake trails as well as our visit to the Mineral Springs Waterfall just a few miles down the road!
Note: The wildflower reserve at Raccoon Creek State Park is off-limits to dogs. Please leave your furry friend at home to help maintain this beautiful reserve! The rest of Raccoon Creek State Park is dog friendly, however.
Raccoon Creek State Park is located 30 miles west of Pittsburgh in Beaver County- just a few minutes west of the Pittsburgh Airport. A list of hiking trails and blaze colors is available on the Raccoon Creek State Park website. The park is also one of the features in the amazing book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Pittsburgh Edition” that we are working through as a part of this series. If you are interested in day hikes near the city we highly recommend picking this one up!