I discovered that there aren't many hiking trails in Indiana county Pennsylvania. There is a gap in "trail density" from the Johnstown area to the south and the Allegheny National Forest to the north. The Baker Trail that goes from the Pittsburgh area to the Allegheny National Forest does touch the north western tip of the county, but all-in-all, hiking is scarce. Luckily the residents of Indiana county have Yellow Creek State Park.
|Trailhead:||N 40° 34.70'
W 79° 00.60'
|Trail Length:||6 miles|
|Hike Time:||3.5 hours|
|Hike Type:||Loop / Shuttle|
|Near:||Along US422 and
PA259 northwest of
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Yellow Creek State Park is a nice state park that offers a variety of activities. There is a large lake for fishing, boating and swimming as well as three trails within the park. The trails are of typical length for loop trails within state parks, and the elevation traversed is minimal. The trails are called the Damsite Trail, the Ridge Top Trail, and the Laurel Run Trail. All three trails offer excellent opportunities to take children hiking and they can easily be hiked in sneakers.
You can reach Yellow Creek State Park by taking route US422 west from Ebensburg. From the intersection of route US219 and US422, follow US422 west for 15.1 miles until you reach route PA259 on your left. Turn onto PA259 and you will enter Yellow Creek State Park. If you are coming from the north and west, just outside of Indiana, PA travel 11.2 miles from the intersection of US422 and route US119. At 11.2 miles turn right onto route PA259 and you are at Yellow Creek State Park.
The Damsite Trail is an out-and-back trail that borders the south east edge of the lake. It is the longest of the three trails within the park at just a little over 3.0 miles. I did not have the opportunity to hike this trail. Speaking to others that have, the trail is relatively flat with a nice view of the Yellow Creek dam at the end of the trail.
The coordinates for the trailhead are 40° 34.38' north and 79 ° 02.37' west. From the entrance to the state park, at the intersections of routes US422 and PA259, take PA259 south for 4.3 miles and turn right onto Hoffman Road. Hoffman Road is paved for the next 1.4 miles and then turns to a gravel road as it enters the state park. Follow Hoffman road to the end (6.6 miles from the park entrance) and the trailhead is on your left.
Ridge Top Trail
The Ridge Top Trail is the second longest of the trails in the park at 2.25 miles. The coordinates for the trailhead are 40° 34.27' north and 79 ° 01.19' west. From the entrance to the state park, at the intersections of routes US422 and PA259, take PA259 south for 1.4 miles and turn right into the day use area of Yellow Creek state park. Continue on this road for another 0.3 miles and you will see the trailhead on your left. Parking is available directly across from the trailhead or you can continue down the road another 500 feet for additional parking.
During my visit to Yellow Creek State Park, the Ridge Top Trail was the first trail that I hiked. The trail seemed to be of a decent length for a short day hike and the route of the trail, at least from the park map, looked to be a little more interesting than the other two trails.
There aren't any huge ascents on this trail, since it is only climbing to the top of a small ridge, but you will find some uphills and downhills scattered through out the trail. Some of them were steep enough to cause me to break out into a sweat on this early August day. With the hills and because of the length, I would highly recommend that you bring along a bottle of water; you'll be glad you did.
My overall impression of the trail in general was that it was average to just below average for a state park trail. The first mile of the trail was quite enjoyable as it meandered through the woods, up and down the side of the ridge. At the mile marker, and after the final ascent, you reach the ridge top. For the next 0.5 miles the trail is nice as you stroll through meadows and walk in and out of small groups of trees. However I found the last mile of the hike to be boring and not at all to my liking. The trail, even though it was in the woods, was straight and followed an old forest road. I thought it was a shame that I was walking down this old road when there was beautiful woods to my left and right that the trail could be winding through. If I had to do it again, I would hike to the ridge top and then turn around and rehike the first mile of the trail.
Laurel Run Trail
You can't miss the trailhead for the Laurel Run Trail. As you enter the state park, you will see the park office directly on your right. The trailhead is located right beside the park office.
This trail is the shortest of the trails at only three quarters of a mile in length. And it is basically flat as it follows Laurel Run to the lake. This is an excellent hike for kids, even as small as 3 years of age.
The trail was dry when I hiked it, but it looked like it could get muddy in the early spring or after a soaking rain. The trail follows Laurel Run creek for about half of it's length. There are benches along the trail if you wish to stop and just soak in your surroundings. My only derogatory comment about this trail is that part of it is relatively close to route US422. So even though you can't see the road and you get the feeling that you are in the wilderness, you can still hear the large trucks as they drive by.
So if you find yourself looking for an enjoyable family weekend get-away, I would recommend Yellow Creek State Park. Not only does it have trails for hiking that are easily managed by the young and old alike, but the many other activities at the park, such as swimming, fishing, and boating, will make for a weekend of fun and relaxation.