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Hiking Raccoon Creek Lake To Forest Trail – 5 Simple Steps

Raccoon Creek State Park Lake Trail sign with Robyn and Pawdrick

Welcome to our latest piece, where we’ll explore the Raccoon Creek State Park Lake and Forest Trails in Pennsylvania. We’re about to embark on a 4-mile loop combining the beauty of both trails, offering an experience that’s as refreshing as it is picturesque.

The Raccoon Creek Lake To Forest Trail offers hikers a little of everything. It meanders on a wide-open path next to Raccoon Lake before cutting into a dense, hilly forest. Your lungs will be burning with all the elevation gain, but it makes the end of the hike all the more fulfilling.

This guide will take you step-by-step through the 4-mile Lake to Forest Trail loop. Grab your gear, and remember your furry pal – this trail is dog-friendly! Let’s go!

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Getting To The Lake Trailhead Parking Lot

First things first, let’s find a parking spot. Parking at the Lake Trail is limited, with only about ten spots available if everyone parks correctly. In the summer, the parking lot can get packed.

Parking lot for Hiking Raccoon Creek Lake To Forest Trail

The lot is located off Raccoon Park Road, which is off Route 18, in Raccoon Creek State Park PA:

  • GPS: 40.50163, -80.42239
  • Google Maps: Type in “Lake And Valley Trail Parking Lot”

If you can’t find a spot in the lot, more parking is available across Route 18 off Cabin Road. The Lake and Valley Trail Parking Lot has a port-a-john and a bear-proof trash can for convenience. 

Lake and Valley Trail Parking Lot has a port-a-john and a bear-proof trash can for convenience.

Finding The Lake Trail Trailhead

You’ll have to walk down Raccoon Park Road before reaching the trailhead. From the parking lot, turn towards the road. Head right (southeast) for about 300 feet until you see a bridge on the left side of the road.

For a detailed look at the trailhead, you can check out the Raccoon Creek State Park Map. Head for the bridge and walk across.

Bridge at the start of the forest and lake trail at Racoon Creek State Park.

You’ll see a sign for the Lake Trail at the end of the short bridge. Here, you can either go right or left. Since it’s a loop, it doesn’t matter which way you go. 

However, to the right will give you an easy start but a challenging finish. To the left, a challenging start and an easy finish.

Lake trail to the right and Forest Trail to the Left. Choose your path!

Hiking Raccoon Creek Lake To Forest Trail: A Step-By-Step Guide

Your bag is packed; your dog is ready to go outside and explore. It’s time to conquer this 4-mile loop trail! We’ll head left first to hike through the forest for this scenario. 

By the way, do you have your bag packed? If not, we have a fantastic guide on what to pack in your hiking bag!

On a more safety-related note, Raccoon Creek is notorious for having horrible cell phone service. Download gpx files or an offline map if you need clarification on the trail.

Step 1: Into The Forest We Go!

After crossing the bridge, hang a left to start the Raccoon Creek Lake to Forest Trail loop. Shortly after you make the left, you’ll want to look for the Lake Trail that cuts off to the right. It will be an obvious trail with signage pointing you in the right direction.

Once you hop on this trail, trek uphill for 0.2 miles to the first intersection. At the T, turn right onto the Forest Trial. You’ll notice white blazes on the tree to guide your way.

White blazes on the trees to indicate the correct trail.

Step 2: Hill Drills

For the next 1.8 miles, you’ll feel like you’re back in high school gym class doing hill drills. The elevation gain and loss will have your legs and lungs burning!

This is the most challenging part of the trek, but stick with it! The trail can be difficult to follow in the fall or early winter due to all the leaves.

Robyn hiking down the hill at Raccon Creek State Park.

If you have a tripod dog like us, the elevation gain can be difficult for them. You can read our guide on prepping your tripod dog for adventure to learn how to prepare them for hikes like this!

Pawd the tripod dog in his orange harness hiking the trail.

Step 3: Back To The Lake Trail

After your 1.8-mile trek through the hills of Raccoon Creek State Park, you’ll come to another intersection. If you go straight, you’ll stay on the Forest Trail. To the right is the Lake Trail. You’ll want to go right here.

Robyn and Pawd standing by the lake trail sign showing which way to go.

On the lake trail, the blazes switch from white to blue.

Blue blazes on the Lake trail.

Follow the lake trail for about 0.3 miles. At this point, you should be able to see Raccoon Lake ahead of you. The trail will bend to the right, and you’ll cross a bridge over a tributary that feeds the lake.

Bridge near the lake at Raccoon Creek State Park.

Step 4: Wide Open Path

Once you cross the bridge, you’ll walk alongside Raccoon Lake for a few tenths of a mile. You’ll see the Raccoon Creek State Park Beach across the lake. 

There are a few pull-off spots where you can let your pooch cool off in the lake. On quieter days, you can see slider turtles basking on the tree branches.

Pawd standing in the lake at Raccon Creek State Park.

Speaking of keeping your dog cool, you can check out our article on the best dog cooling vests to keep your pup comfortable in the sweltering summer heat. Our favorite is the Swamp Cooler Dog Cooling Harness by Ruffwear. Its got the extra straps to keep it in place for our tripod dog!

As you leave the lake behind, the trail opens up into a wide grassy path for the remainder of the trail.

Walking back to the parking lot from the Lake Trail at Racoon Creek State Park.

Step 5: Return Journey

Toward the end of the Raccoon Creek Lake to Forest Trail loop, you’ll approach the 4-mile mark. The grassy path will turn to gravel as you return to the original intersection you started from.

Last turn before going across the bridge back to the parking lot.

Hang a left to go back across the bridge towards Raccoon Park Road. Head down the road toward the parking lot to finish the hike.

Walking back to the van in the parking lot.

Nearby Trails At Raccoon Creek State Park

Raccoon Creek State Park offers many activities, such as hiking, cross country skiing, horseback riding, kayaking, and swimming. Various trails meander and intersect throughout the park.

Its location in Southwest Pennsylvania makes it a convenient day trip from nearby cities like Pittsburgh, Washington, and Wheeling.

Let’s take a look at some other Raccoon Creek State Park Trails that are nearby.

Long Trails

The Raccoon Creek Lake To Forest Trail is considered a mid-sized length at 4 miles. If you’re looking for something a bit longer, you have three choices:

  • Heritage Trail – 9.5 miles
  • Forest Trail – 6.2 miles
  • Raccoon Loop Trail (combine the Heritage, Forest, and Appaloosa) – 20 miles

If you’re considering hiking one of these long hikes by yourself, check out our article on how to hike alone for safety tips when hitting the trail on your own.

Mid-Sized Trails

Looking for a trail similar to the Raccoon Creek Lake to Forest Trail Loop? There are several mid-sized trails throughout the park:

  • Appaloosa Trail – 3 miles
  • Nichol Road – 3.5 miles
  • X-C Trail – 2.1 miles

If you’re in the mood for a shorter trail, there are plenty of those too!

Short Trails

Just across the road from the Raccoon Creek Lake to Forest Trail near the park office is the Frankfort Mineral Springs, a 1-mile loop well worth the views of the springs flowing over a stone grotto.

We have a step-by-step guide on hiking Mineral Springs if you decide to give it a try! 

Mineral Springs trail sign.

In addition to the Mineral Springs trail, there are several other short trails in the park to give a try:

  • Appaloosa Spur Trail – 0.7 miles
  • Beach Trail – 0.3 miles
  • Buckskin Trail – 1.0 miles
  • Camp Trail – 1.8 miles
  • Heron Trail – 0.5 miles
  • Lake Trail – 1.9 miles
  • Palomino Trail – 1.1 miles
  • Pinto Loop Trail – 1.7 miles
  • Upland Trail – 0.6 miles
  • Valley Trail – 1.1 miles
  • Wetlands Trail – 1.2 miles

If you enjoy waterfall hikes like the Frankfort Mineral Springs, check out our list of the best hikes with waterfalls in southwest PA!

Journey’s End

That’s a wrap on the Raccoon Creek Lake to Forest Trail loop. This Pennsylvania state park is filled with wonder and beauty, just waiting to be explored by the adventurous hiker (and maybe their furry sidekick!).

The loop trail is 4 miles long, making it a mid-sized hike. Nearby trails in Raccoon Creek State Park offer a variety of longer and shorter trails to fit the needs of any hiker.

Have you hiked Raccoon Creek State Park? Let us know your favorite trail in the comments below! For more hiking guides, check out our blog!

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4 comments

  1. Have taken that Lake to Forest trail loop many times. Especially when my two dogs were younger. I’ve always gone the counterclockwise direction, I don’t know why. Will have to try the clockwise direction next time. Good article.

  2. I’ve always just stuck to the raccoon state park. I did the Heritage Trail-Appaloosa Trail-Forest Trail loop once just on the west side of 18. My go to now is the campground with my dog Shelby. Not that long, but she is beat by time we get done. She’ll be 17 this coming June.

    1. At least she is still active at 17! I bet she enjoys it! I would suggest trying Tomlinson Run State Park. They had some easier trails that go by beaver ponds and some near the lake. Even had a paved trail down the creek if dirt trails aren’t your style!

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