Although Yellow Creek State Park is not often thought of as a premier hiking destination, it offers some of the most astonishing, if not unexpected scenery in all of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
One of our state’s first “highways”, the Kittanning Path followed a southwest course, through Yellow Creek State Park to Route 422. Today, visitors roughly trace this old Indian path, first used by the Delaware and Shawnee nations.
Named for the rich yellow clay that lines the lake’s banks and bottoms, Yellow Creek State Park boasts 2,981-acres. The park’s main attraction, 720-acre Yellow Creek Lake, was created in 1969.
Yellow Creek Lake is stocked with warm-water game fish and panfish, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, northern pike, tiger muskellunge, yellow perch, bluegill and catfish.
Laurel Run, Yellow Creek and Little Yellow Creek, all cold water fisheries, are abundant in brown and brook trout.
An 800-foot beach is open to swimming, and boat rentals are available from Memorial Day to the end of September. Popular choices include motorboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboats, pontoon boats and small sailboats.
5 miles of hiking trails offer their own unique treasures. At 2.5 miles, the Damsite Trail is the park’s longest. Consisting of remnants of the roads used to build the lake, this trail may be hiked a myriad of ways. Mileage markers begin every 0.2 miles, and end at 1.8 miles. Although the trail is well-marked, there are many spurs. Interestingly, our GPS indicated that we hiked 4.2 miles round-trip.
The Damsite Trail, intended as a loop, could be hiked as an out-and-back trail. We found the loop moderately cumbersome due to its steep switchbacks. Those who prefer the easier out-and-back hike, should pass by the trailhead and veer towards the pavement on the right. Both routes lead to a view of the Yellow Creek Dam.
A short albeit steep scramble beyond the dam leads to a gushing waterfall.
Returning via the loop, hikers will marvel at the steepness of the hillside they conquered on the first half of the hike!
The view at the end of the Damsite Trail overcompensates for any injustice you may have perceived along the way. Indeed, the final stretch of this trail gives hikers full restitution for the teasing glimpses of the lake first offered through the vast expanse of forest.
Gazing beneath the surface of the lily pads, schools of fish glide effortlessly back and forth across the crystal clear water.
The Laurel Run Trail begins at the park office and follows Laurel Run along a scenic 1/2 mile loop.
Educational classes and nature programs are offered at the Environmental Learning Classroom.
With the purpose of showing how alternative energy sources reduce pollution and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) installed a small-scale wind turbine.
A short but scenic loop encircles Dragonfly Pond. Keep an eye open for local residents!
The absence of pesky mosquitoes is due to the bat boxes housed around the pond’s perimeter.