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Pennsylvania State Parks Represent An Affordable, Nearby Weekend Getaway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - As we head into the weekend how about a couple of ideas of places to get away with the family that are an easy distance from Pittsburgh.

Between Pittsburgh International Airport and the Ohio line, you will find Raccoon Creek State Park, 7,500 acres of wooded land, and the hundred-acre Raccoon Lake.

"Lots fishing opportunities there," says DCNR Asst Regional Manager Kevin Blair, "There's a swimming beach, for those that might want to cool down in the summer heat. There are about 44 miles of trails that you can hike on out in the park there."

Raccoon Creek offers modern, and rustic campsites and, "We have 10 backpacking shelters for some that might want that more rustic feel of being out on the trail."

There are ten rentable cabins and a lakeside lodge (but act quickly - rentals fill up fast) and Blair says a 314-acre wildflower reserve, "Where you can find over 700 species of flora and fauna."

Next door to Raccoon Creek is Hillman State Park.

It's run like a state games land so it's not as developed as most state parks.

Popular with the hunters, hikers, and bikers it features a five-mile trail and something you won't find anywhere else.

If you have a love of flying it has look for the Hillman runway.

Yes, runway, but not a large runway.

"It's a model airplane field," says Blair. "So there's one other designated field out there for those that might want to be using the remote control airplanes and things in the sort."

Hillman and Raccoon Creek are both off Route 18 between Route 22 and Route 30. Hillman is on the Washington County side of the line, Raccoon Creek on the Beaver side.

WATCH: One Tank Trips To The North

Off to the north of Pittsburgh in the Portersville and Route 422 area are three state parks.

Moraine State Park's main drawing card is Lake Arthur.

Blair says boats with small motors (20hp or less) are allowed, "it is more of the fishing boats pontoon boats, that kind of sort. We get a lot of sailing on the lake. Because of its size, and we get a lot of non-powered boats as well, kayaks, and canoes."

Like to fish from shore?

There are 42 miles of shoreline and speaking of the shoreline, "There are two swimming beaches on the lake. So there's one on the North Shore and one on the South Shore." Both have concession stands.

Moraine also has eleven cabins, camping, and picnic areas.

Plus Blair says, "Numerous miles of trails both single-use and multi-use from horseback riding to mountain biking."

If you are not quite a mountain biker, or you're looking for a biking opportunity for the entire family, "We have a seven-mile paved bike trail at Moraine, which is fairly popular. It kind of winds along the shorelines and into the woods."

On the northeastern edge of Moraine, you will find Jennings State Park.

"An Environmental Education Center, so there's a staff of environmental educators that are available for putting on programs for the public and really help folks understand the environment, and how it ties to them," Blair says.

Jennings also features a prairie ecosystem complete with, "the Massasauga rattlesnake, so it's a unique snake it's a smaller rattlesnake.'

Just to the west of Interstate 79 is McConnells Mills State Park.

Water is the headliner here as well.

"It is well known for the Slippery Rock Creek, which is a class two class for whitewater depending on the water level. Also a lot of folks that come down for fishing opportunities on the creek," says Blair.

Swimming is not allowed and wading is not advised since the creeks bed is just what it says in the name, slippery.

McConnells Mills is a day trip destination with hiking trails, picnic areas, and of course the namesake.

"There's a historic grist mill at the park, and there are opportunities for folks to go into that gristmill," he says.

Make sure to check the park's website for availability.

All of the parks are less than a tank of gas drive and entry into the parks is free.

The parks' websites will lay out any fees that might be involved if you decide to rent anything like the campsites, bikes, and boats.

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