This past weekend, we braved the gloomy, damp weather to go for a hike in Raccoon Creek State Park. In case you don’t know, Raccoon is one of the largest parks in the state and it’s only about 40 mins away from downtown Pittsburgh! The park features waterfalls, a lake beach, fishing, and a gorgeous wildflower reserve. I highly encourage a visit during the springtime when the wildflowers are at their peak! After your hike and hopefully lots of pictures of delicate wildflowers, drive to Coal Tipple Brewery (located at Kramer’s Greenhouse), a small local brewery that offers fresh beer and a down home vibe. Also they’ve got a popcorn machine, so really what more could you want?
THE HIKE: Forest and Lake Loop
Length: 4.25 miles
Elevation Gain: 620ft
Time: 2-2.5 hours
Trail use: hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Gravel lot with Port-a-Potty
Ah Spring in Pittsburgh! Grass is growing, trees are blooming and it’s…snowing?! Yup, springtime here doesn’t really mean sunshine and daffodils. It means waiting for a break in the chilly rain to finally get a hike in. Luckily, J and I managed to time our trip to Raccoon Creek State Park just perfectly so that we got there right when the rain let up for a few hours. My raincoat has been my best friend on our recent outings!
Raccoon Creek State Park is one of the biggest state parks in Pennsylvania! At over 7,000 acres, it boasts 44 miles of trail, a 100-acre lake open for fishing, boating, and swimming, and multiple campgrounds and picnic areas. No wonder it’s so popular! While in summertime, Raccoon Creek State Park is quite busy at the lake, my favorite time to visit is during the spring. Raccoon is famous for its Wildflower Reserve which has some of the greatest biodiversity of wildflowers in the whole state. In fact, along just 4.5 miles of trail, there are over 700 species of plants. Wildflower blooms peak in late April through early May and then again in August through early September.
For our trek, we decided to do a 4 miles loop that incorporates sections of the Lake Trail (blue blaze) and the Forest Trail (white blaze). If you go any time soon, be prepared for MUD. Spring is a very muddy time in the Pittsburgh region and there’s no avoiding mud on the trails. Just remember to wear good shoes and walk through the mud not around it! The Lake trail was by far the muddiest section of this trail but we managed to keep our feet mostly dry! I really liked the Forest trail portion, since it had some elevation changes and it was so cool to see the woods slowly turning green. I would call this a moderately difficult hike since there were some steep inclines and some stream crossings.
After we had finished our hike, we hopped over to the other side of the park to visit the wildflower reserve. A few years ago, I did a short hike here with my parents and it was a great beginner hike. There’s a lot to see and it’s fairly flat. This time around, J and I only wanted to do a short loop to check in on the wildflowers. It’s definitely a week or two too early for peak blooms but I was so excited at the number of little ones popping out! We took so many pictures and used iNaturalist to try to identify them! So much fun!
THE BEER: Coal Tipple Brewery
Address: 1905 Steubenville Pike, Burgettstown, PA 15021
Distance from Trail Head: 9.3 miles, 13 mins
Food?: BYOF (Popcorn machine!)
Details: Outdoor seating & dog friendly
H&H Rating: 4/5
Coal Tipple is a delightfully tiny brewery located at Kramer’s Greenhouse. They also have an onsite winery (Raccoon Creek Winery) so really this place has got it all! There’s usually only one or two people working and it feels like having a beer in someone’s dining room. I love it! They also have a small window in the taproom that looks out into the brewing garage so you can see the guys at work.
For such a small operation, Coal Tipple has quite the selection of beer! They had 8 beers on tap with quite a range of styles. We went for the Pit Pony Wheat and the White Hat Stout. I’m not really a fan of this trend of light stouts, but this one wasn’t bad! The Pit Pony was very refreshing and they can serve it with blueberries, if that’s your thing. We also split the Dead Canary which is an American IPA that really packs a hoppy punch. Aside from their beer, another thing I like about Coal Tipple is their popcorn machine! They have complimentary bags of popcorn for their guests which really hit the spot. Every time I come here, I just love to sit back and relax. And if the owners are in, say hello! They’re super nice and love to chat with their guests. And of course, while you’re in check out their farm market, bakery, and plants. Honestly, what more could you need?
- Dead Canary – American IPA – 7.28%
- White Hat Stout – White Stout – 5%
- Pit Pony – Wheat – 5%
SUM UP: Raccoon Creek State Park is a large park about 40 mins away from Downtown Pittsburgh. It offers 44 miles of hiking, a large lake for swimming, boating, and fishing, and plenty of sites for camping or picnicking. The Forest and Lake Loop is a 4-mile trek that shows off the best of Raccoon, including a walk along the lakeside and meandering trails through the woods. There are some steep sections, so I’d rate it as moderate. Also in the Spring and Fall, check out the wildflower reserve and see how many different types of flowers you can spot! After your time in the woods, head over to Coal Tipple Brewery for small batch brews in a quaint farm market. You can even pick up some wine and greenery too! This is an ideal spring day trip!