Matthew D.

Sewickley, PA

Joined August 2020

Great Backpacking Camping

I'm not reviewing the campground at the Minister Creek trailhead. I'm reviewing the camping options available to backpackers along the North Loop of the Minister Creek Trail.

Here are my notes from our recent trip:

When we went there in August of 2020 and backpacked the North Loop of the Minister Creek Trail, we camped at the (unbridged) stream crossing just downtrail (if hiking the loop counterclockwise) of the first intersection with the North Country National Scenic Trail, which is sort-of at 2 o'clock on the loop. It was neither our first choice, ideal, nor terrible. There weren't many flat places for a tent. There was no fire ring. It was not a "durable" surface. But it was raining, it was getting late, and it's all we could find. 

There were tons of great pre-made campsites as the trail approached and crossed the stream from the northernmost point (what I would call 12 o'clock on the loop) and headed south until the trail leaves the stream and heads south-west. We also saw a few pre-made campsites as we started our trip (at about 4 o'clock on the loop). You could pretty easily hike in and make camp right away, then do most of the 6 mile hike on the second day.

Not Ideal Tent Camping

I've only camped in state parks before. We went to Bear Run during the pandemic, when the state parks weren't open yet.

We were tent car-camping. We felt as if Bear Run really catered to RVers.

The tent sites were small and crammed together. There was no bathroom (only a porta-potty). There was no place to wash dishes (the closest thing we could find was a hose that was FAR away). There were no grates on the fire-pits for cooking (as there are at DNCR facilities).

Now that said, you CAN drink alcohol there (which IS a plus).

And the staff was awesome … we could CALL them on our phone and they would bring us stuff (more fire wood, a grate for cooking). THAT was nice.

But without a closer bathroom and a place to wash dishes, we would just as soon go back to state parks.

No Camping

"Camping is prohibited in the park." (That is directly off the DCNR website.)

I am not reviewing Moraine State Park (which is awesome). I am reviewing the CAMPING options at Moraine State Park. Which brings me back to the DNCR website. It says "No Camping" and "Camping is prohibited in the park. Private campgrounds nearby offer camping."

It DOES list cabins, group tenting, and a backpacking shelter, which is available by reservation only.

But this park is not where somebody looking for CAMPING would want to be.

Let a Local Give You The Scoop!

In the past 5 years, I've made 13 trips to Raccoon Creek State Park and spent 16 nights in a tent there. It is my local state park and I can tell you lots about it.

The D loop is really great tent camping at Raccoon Creek State Park. It's tents only, no RVs. So it gets a really fun, party vibe on Saturday nights during the summer. There's a trail right to the beach near the D loop, so it's a great place for families to go with pets. The sites are big, wooded, and all close to the bathroom.

The C loop, however, doesn't take pets (which stinks). When we have our dogs with us, we gravitate towards the C loop. It's fine, but it's not as fun as the D loop.

When we don't make a reservation and we have our dog, we end up in the F loop. It's not our preference (but--let's be clear--even the worst site in the F loop is better than NO trip!).

A Pretty Typical Pennsylvania State Park Campground

The pet loop mixes tent camping with RVs, which isn't our preference. The sites are arranged around a big field, which means many of them have no trees or shade. If you planned to hang a hammock at some of these sites, you would be in trouble.

But it's a good park. They've got firewood at the contact station.