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Raccoon Creek State Park Backpacking

September 1, 2009
By Andrew Blanchard
We showed up to the Raccoon Creek State Park (Beaver County, PA) park office around 11a.m. on a recent Thursday to make our reservations for an adirondack shelter and obtain our backpacking permits. You provide a little bit of information and it is all for your own safety in the event you require assistance. (Number of hikers/campers, make and model of vehicle(s) being left in the park and the license plate numbers for them, along with the route you intend to take and the area(s) in which you intend to camp.) Also, you can leave an emergency contact number.

As a side note, you should always leave an agenda with someone when you go into the woods. Be it backpacking, hiking, camping, fishing, or hunting – there simply is no substitute for someone knowing when you “should” be home. We registered our route and planned to stay in the Pioneer shelter area that night. The fee for nonresident campers is a modest $5 per person. We received a ticket to display in our vehicle and a ticket to place on the shelter.

Paperwork having been taken care of, we were off the leash. My hike mates, Brandon Parsons and Anthony Garcia, were raring to go. We made a quick equipment check, got our packs on and hit the trail. Having had a map at home we had plotted out our hike and figured the most bang for our buck was the western side of the park. There is a 19.5 mile backpacking loop available in the park, but due to time constraints we elected to shave it down to just over 13 miles.

We began our hike on Forest Trail where is crosses state Route 18, just north of the park office and headed west on the trail. Forest trail runs along the northern edge of the park and is 6.2 miles long with white blazes. We jumped on this trail just about at the half way point. The park map says this is a moderate hiking trail with a few difficult hills. We agreed that this is an accurate description of this trail but it should not discourage people from trying it. To quote a friend of mine “It isn’t a race out here. We’ll get there when we get there.”

The first shelter area along the route was the Sioux shelter area. We jumped off of Forest trail long enough to check it out. Sioux shelter area is accessible by vehicles as well, should you want to have a resupply or meet up with people to camp mid-hike. The picnic area and restrooms are very well taken care of as well as the shelters. There are also primitive tenting sites available here. A potable water station is also provided in this area. We proceeded along a connector trail to get back onto the Forest trail and continued on our way.

Forest trail’s Western terminus is on Nichol Road, a short walk on the road found us at the trailhead for Appaloosa trail. We took a break here and refilled our water bladders and canteens from a stream that crosses under Nichol Road. The Appaloosa trail is a three mile “multi-use trail”, meaning it is not restricted to only hiking. These trails allow mountain biking, horse back riding, as well as hiking. The parks map rates this trail as easy hiking with a few moderate hills and yellow blazes. Horse traffic tends to rough up the trail a little more but the trade off is it is twice as wide as the hiking-only trails.

The Pioneer shelter area consists of five adirondack style shelters on the rim of a shallow valley maybe 80 yards across. The shelters are spread out in an arc about 30 yards apart. We happened to have the entire area to ourselves but even if all the shelters were in use there would be no problem with being cramped. In the center of the valley is a bear pole and a hanger as well as a few picnic tables. We dropped our packs immediately and relished in that springy feeling of not having them on our backs.

The evening was spent in good company, we set a fire and sat around talking and playing cards. We made dinner and hung up our clothes to air out and dry. A storm was rolling in so we set up our sleeping pads early and got everything inside to stay out of the weather. The shelters are about 10 foot square and are rated to sleep four people. It is a simple design but very effective. The main deck is built a few feet off the ground and there are three walls. The roof is pitched steeply to the back and projects forward of the main deck. That night a thunderstorm hit. We sat with a tarp ready to cover the opening if we needed to and watched as a veritable monsoon hit. After the worst of the rainfall had passed we were amazed that not only had we not needed to put the tarp up to stay dry - but the pots we had set on the edge of the sleeping deck, expecting to collect rain water, hadn’t even gotten damp.

The next morning we had our breakfast, got all of our equipment ready, snapped a group photo, and hit the trail. We connected back to the Appaloosa trail via a spur trail and continued on to its terminus at the Western end of the park and the beginning of Heritage Trail.

Heritage trail is a 9.5 mile multi-use trail rated as moderate to difficult hiking with blue blazes and crosses the southern borders of the park. This was actually my favorite trail though the elevation changes were challenging. There was a fine variety of ridgeline and creek bed trails all well maintained. Even considering the heavy rainfall the night before the trail was in fair to good shape. The Heritage trail also has a high concentration of connector and spur trails so you can access it at a number of points. We followed the blue blazes back to Route 18 and a short walk along the road found us back at our vehicle. I let the staff in the park office know we were out of the woods.

Raccoon Creek State Park is located near Hookstown, PA in southern Beaver County, accessed from the west on US Route 22 and US Route 30, or state Route 18. The 7,572-acre park features the 101-acre Raccoon Lake. There are 44 miles of hiking trails. For information visit the Website at: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateParks/parks/raccooncreek.aspx or call the park office at 724-899-2200.

Article Photos

The author’s backpacking partners were Anthony Garcia (leff) and Brandon Parsons. The trio hiked the trails of Raccoon Creek State Park, located near Hookstown, PA in southern Beaver County. Photo by Andy Blanchard

Fact Box

Raccoon Creek State Park is located near Hookstown, PA in southern Beaver County, accessed from the west on US Route 22 and US Route 30, or state Route 18.

 
 

 

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